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  The Hydraulics
     
     
    In all theatres of war New Zealand soldiers have been renowned for their ability to scrounge, steal and otherwise acquire the means to live as comfortably as possible under the conditions.

Victor Company was the proud inheritor of a fine art, and of a long and noble tradition.

Almost as soon as we arrived in Nui Dat it became glaringly obvious that labour saving machinery, and defence stores such as corrugated iron and timber, were not there for the ordinary foot soldier. They could be seen in the vehicle parks and stores dumps, but were available only to the base-bound elites, or so it seemed.

A mere challenge.

Some of the boys noticed that American troops seemed to have unlimited access to these Australian-owned stores. So in short order the boys had borrowed an American truck and some American uniforms, as well as some American accents, and a truckload of stores were liberated from the Australians in no time at all.

We also found out that for a carton of beer we could divert any engineering machinery we wanted from its intended job for the day. Front end diggers really make short work of trenches that are supposed to be dug by hand.

Those Australian sappers became our best mates. They had unlimited access to a cornucopia of labour saving devices and materials. One of them even offered to build us a shower with hot and cold running water, for a small beery consideration. He was building one for the brigadier commanding the Australian Task Force, and could easily order twice as much materials. Great idea except we couldn't work out how to camouflage an exact copy of the brigadier's little luxury.

The company also had an excellent relationship with a US Coastguard base a few hours drive to the coast. Victor Company soldiers spent time with them on the patrol boats, and I remember spending a night or two sleeping in the air-conditioned comfort of a patrol boat, after a meal of real steaks, washed down with copious draughts of Beams Choice.

That relationship brought us another truck, consignments of real steak (like gold in Nui Dat), access to the PX (US Services supermarket) and as much extra beer as we needed.Once again the Australian brass were not at all impressed. Beer was strictly rationed you understand.

Our esteemed Quartermasters, Staff Sergeant Joe Field and Sergeant Puku Parker were worth their weight in gold. It is said that they didn't issue a thing from their own store, but found what we needed in everyone else's stores, Australian or American. We lived relatively well.

So, while the Viet Cong called us the "Black Scarves", the Australians named us, with just a tinge of envy, "The Hydraulics".

Lift anything.

See also "Forked off at Nui Dat" by Ken McKee-Wright

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