Ron Cashman, 6Platoon BCoy 3RAR
Life in a Firing Pit

Following the disaster which befell 'sixa' platoon during Operation Buffalo on hill 75 in 52 occurred the one act of mine which has bothered me till this day, though it was purely self-preservation at the time. When John Gill and I dragged Max Wilson to the bottom of the hill, and passed him to the stretcher people for attention; I realized there would most likely be more of our lads still back on the hill. With this worry in mind I took off back to search for any, and hunted through the scrub and along the trenches. The Chinese were conspicuous by their absence at this point in time, their own mortars were falling on the area and I think our tanks had 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 was doing a search for men who may have been left behind. Being of Chinese ancestry, 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 have to get off, the OC has ordered a withdrawal." Moments later a fair size group 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 remaining grenades in their direction, fired a few shots I think, and bolted.

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

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

The unfortunate beneath my backside was desperately clawing at me, his comrade in the middle was beneath my legs and the third was jammed hard against the end of the slit by the weight of we other three. Pure reflex action enabled me to point the Owen gun between my legs and shoot a burst into the fellow doing the clawing, then up with it and give the remainder to 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 to bring his rifle with fixed bayonet towards me. Looking back it was fortunate 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 his movements long enough for me to withdraw an American Carbine bayonet from my gaiter. I had carried this weapon as a means of last resort, 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 in his chest whereupon it stuck. He was screaming and struggling, I was trying to pull it out and finish him off, and being drenched by his blood all 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 with the bayonet, Wing Key at that moment reached the hole and putting his hand down yelled. "Get out." Or words to that effect. He grabbed me by the arm and bodily hoisted me out, leaving the Chinese lad screaming in a most terrible fashion.

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

That and the episode of Cloncurry when I listened to my mates shooting their 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", but sometimes the quick pay a price as well.

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

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