GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (XIII)

Shouting And Shooting

Many years ago, when I was at school, one of the best co-curricular activities to avail yourself of was cadets. Now cadets wasn’t just standing around, being shouted at by older boys and planning the day when you’d be old enough to do the shouting at some young boys of your own, although it was good to dream about that day. I relished promotion to sergeant, when that came in the second year, and thoroughly enjoyed teaching my men drill, sometimes for up to four hours, on the parade ground. This was my first encounter with passing on knowledge to a group and it was altogether more fun than I had anticipated.

By the time I was promoted to Lieutenant there was real scope to wield a bit of authority. We had some fun together, and members of my platoon still joke about the day I ordered them to wade through chest high water on a bitterly cold winter’s morning while on a bivouac outside Goulburn. We filled up the field hospital with hypothermia cases that day. But we laughed then, and we still do.

The best part of being a cadet was using the rifle range. It was important to shoot well and the boys were encouraged to practice whenever they got a chance, so that meant almost daily opportunities to shoot. We used live rounds and fired at targets placed at various points on the way to a wall in the distance. It was a wall to Professor Rostov’s art room, and as it was unsafe to use this facility while shooting was going on not very much art was taught there, and Professor Rostov left the school suddenly, in a huff, so it was said, and the room was converted into storage for cricket gear.

At university of course I joined the Regiment. Many of my good friends were there with me, and we’d been cadets, and so we joined the Army Reserve together. We hoped to continue the fun. And we did. For this was shooting and shouting, and drinking too. The Officers’ Mess became a haunt – in fact we practically lived there. I was standing next to “Thirsty” Eddie Burdekin the evening he downed eight draughts of claret from the silver regimental goblet (the record until then was three) and so gave rise to the striking of the Burdekin Medal, awarded annually to the most promising chap in the new intake of officers.

We got up to some shenanigans, as you can imagine.

Anzac Day was like a second birthday for those in the Regiment. My first Anzac Day we kicked off with a five course dinner, and drinks of course, the night before, and played a bracing game of nude rugby at Midnight. After reveille we spent all day ferrying the old blokes around. Many of them were originals, from Gallipoli, and we did our best to make sure they were comfortable, warm enough, and got them to the Dawn Service on time. We looked after them during the parade as well, and had a drink with them afterwards, not that they had an awful lot to drink, and got them taxis home at the end. And then the drinking really got under way. But it was all for the old blokes, and knowing they had a good day was what mattered.

Published in: on April 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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