Ready for Patrol


Ron Cashman, 6Platoon BCoy 3RAR

Life in a Firing Pit

Following the disaster which befell 'sixa' platoon during OperationBuffalo on hill 75 in 52 occurred the one act of mine which has botheredme till this day, though it was purely self-preservation at the time. WhenJohn Gill and I dragged Max Wilson to the bottom of the hill, and passedhim to the stretcher people for attention; I realized there would mostlikely be more of our lads still back on the hill. With this worry in mindI took off back to search for any, and hunted through the scrub and alongthe trenches. The Chinese were conspicuous by their absence at this pointin time, their own mortars were falling on the area and I think our tankshad shifted back to cover our withdrawal! In any event I came across Sgt.Major Wing Key, B.coy. CSM who had no right to be up there. He also wasdoing a search for men who may have been left behind. Being of Chineseancestry, it took a lot of courage to expose himself like that.

In any event we looked as best we could then he told me."Cashie you haveto get off, the OC has ordered a withdrawal." Moments later a fair sizegroup of Chinese materialized on the top of the hill near the main trench,and I couldn't agree more with his wisdom. Thus we tossed our remaininggrenades in their direction, fired a few shots I think, and bolted.

The ground was very treacherous, being covered by craters, trenches, andsome low scrub. For this reason ours was a steady departure, skippingobstacles as we went. My path took me through a patch of this scrub, andit was there that I ran into a Chinese fighting pit; literally.

There were three occupants in this hole which as memory serves, may havebeen 6' long and 18" wide, perhaps smaller. Whatever the case it becamevery crowded upon my arrival, and by the Grace of God I had landed upontwo of the men with the third jammed at the end of the slit by ourcombined bodies.

The unfortunate beneath my backside was desperately clawing at me, hiscomrade in the middle was beneath my legs and the third was jammed hardagainst the end of the slit by the weight of we other three. Pure reflexaction enabled me to point the Owen gun between my legs and shoot a burstinto the fellow doing the clawing, then up with it and give the remainderto the fellow in the middle. Though it seemed forever at the time, this all happened in a few short moments I should think!

Time enough anyway for the third fellow to disentangle himself, and try tobring his rifle with fixed bayonet towards me. Looking back it wasfortunate he had the bayonet out, ready to use, in the narrow slit trench the bayonet kept him from easily getting the rifle around to deal with me. It restricted hismovements long enough for me to withdraw an American Carbine bayonet frommy gaiter. I had carried this weapon as a means of lastresort, for quite a time, and I reckon that's what it was.

His momentary delay in bringing his weapon to bear gave me the time to lunge at him with my 'fighting knife' and bury it inhis chest whereupon it stuck. He was screaming and struggling, I wastrying to pull it out and finish him off, and being drenched by his bloodall at the same time. He was only a lad really, 18 at the most.

He fell back onto the bottom of the slit with myself still struggling withthe bayonet, Wing Key at that moment reached the hole and putting his handdown yelled. "Get out." Or words to that effect. He grabbed me by the armand bodily hoisted me out, leaving the Chinese lad screaming in a mostterrible fashion.

Together we ran the remainder of the way off the hill, and joined up withthe rest of B coy. at the creek. From that point on I have no memory ofcrossing the valley, and reaching our lines. Apparently we were mortaredalong the way, but all that I could clearly recall were the screams of theyoung Chinese lad.

That and the episode of Cloncurry when I listened to my mates shootingtheir last shots as we left them, are indelible in my mind forever.

Such is war. They say that there are only "The quick and the dead", butsometimes the quick pay a price as well.

Bert, this is it as best I can remember. Wing Key had a very vividdescription of the incident the following day, he had a ringside seat youmight say. Ron

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