Veterans' Stories

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Christmas Day

by Ramon J. Mason 24592 3RAR & 1RAR

It was Christmas Day, 1951. We in B Company, 3 RAR, had Just finished Christmas lunch, honoured by the presence of Josh Francis, the Minister of the Army.

'Dickie' Henderson from B Coy, Rick Annesley from A Coy and I had already drunk our two bottles of weak Japanese beer and were looking forward to a boring afternoon. It was sleeting and raining quite heavily. Rick suggested we 'borrow' a jeep from the vehicle compound and drive to the Pommie N.A.A.F.I. at Castle Hill, about five miles away, to buy some beer. We arrived at the N.A.A.F.I. at about 1430 hours and proceeded to have a few beers. At about 1900 hours we decided to leave after buying a case (24 bottles) each.

By this time it was snowing. We had only travelled about a mile down the road when the jeep stopped and refused to go any further. We flagged down a Kiwi truck and got a lift back to camp. In the process of transferring the beer from the jeep into the truck, Dickie dropped his case and broke 12 bottles. It was pathetic to see a soldier cry. We assured him we would share equally the remaining beer, which cheered him up no end.

When we got back to the lines, everyone seemed to be in bed except 'Bluey' McGrath. He was sitting by the fire sucking on a bottle of rum; so we joined him.

About 0300 hours we retired to our hootchies. Rick was last seen staggering off through the snow towards A Coy. I had two bottles of beer left and before I entered my hootchie I thrust one into the snow; God alone knows why. The other I took to bed with me.

When I awoke in the morning, badly hungover, I drank the bottle I had with me. Then remembering what I had done with the other bottle, I groped in the snow and found it. I then pulled the cap off and tried to drink it, but of course it was frozen solid.

I walked into Dickie's hootchie with the bottle in my hand and asked him solicitously if he would like a drink. He answered something like he would kill his mother for one, so I handed him the bottle and headed for the door. I just managed to outrun the bottle which he threw at me, but not the invective that followed.

First Published in The Voice, February 2014