Story 12  - The 0.35 Percent Poem

By Michael Guillot

Michael Guillot working SIGINT

 

In May of 1966, some tried and trusted men,
Drove out the gates of 7 Sig, would they be seen again?

Jim Rayner drove the lead vehicle, unit on the way,
Followed in another, driven by Clarrie Day.

They boarded HMAS Sydney, a lovely two-week cruise,
With Jim parading Clarrie, they kept on board amused.

Deposited at Vung Tau, by sturdy landing craft,
Back to being army, no more fore and aft.

Eventually to Nui Dat, allotted a small space,
In a rubber tree plantation, with scorpions, rats, and snakes,
They had to make their home, a place to hang their hat,
Got rid of pests with Mongoose, could not find a cat.

A few more men would join them, initially fifteen,
To secretly ply their trade, hidden from mainstream.

With tents to use as set rooms, blankets to block the light,
These highly experienced Op Sigs, worked through the day and night.

Housed in a barbed wire compound, with code pad security gate,
You had to know the number, or be let in by a mate.

It was not just the operators, there were other trades as well,
To keep the unit running, and pass on good intel.

Clerks to keep the records, Tech Maint to fix the sets,
Comm Cen staff and linguists, all served with no regrets.

Some men would fly with ARDF, some work in SSL,
No matter what your job was, you strived to do it well.

The stories are abundant, some are legendary,
Dick Shafer’s plane crash-landed, rather him than me.

Bloo Hancock worked in Commcen, he had a daily job.

At lighting up the choofer, he certainly was a nob,
Each morning he would light it, we’d wait with abated breath,
The bloody thing would blow up, Darryl avoiding death.

John Gehle promoted religiously, Jim Danskin named him Pope,
Created Vatican Guineas, horse and jockey filled with hope.

Kanowski and the rubber trees, with machette in his hand,
Attacked them all quite viciously, none of them still stand.

So many stories to be told, no time to tell them here,
They often become folklore, when we crack a beer.

Garth Brown was a technician, Glen Trussell was a clerk,
Len Scott taught boomerang throwing, to Yanks in their carpark,
We had a visit from Sadie Lean, he came in through the wire,
Jack Hooker was the SSM, his face went red with ire.

214 men did enter, through that code pad gate,
The work performed both day and night, results beyond debate.

Trevor Richards the first officer, presided over the troop,
Trevor Williamson and Larry Osborne, the last to join our group.

Almost 60 years have passed, many men have gone,
There are still those remaining, to pass the stories on.

Ted Blacker was the first to leave, he watches from above,
Others since have joined him, we remember them with love.

If you are last to leave us, all we ask you, mate,
Is leave a nightlight burning, change the code and lock the gate.


Michael Guillot
2nd May 2024


Footnotes

1. The title of this poem, .35%, is the percentage of the 214 men of 547 Signal Troop when approximately 61,000 served in South Vietnam over the period that would become known as the Vietnam War. The small number who served in 547 Signal Troop from inception in May 1966 to 23rd December 1971 worked day and night to provide intelligence obtained on Viet Cong activities and troop movements. ARDF, SSL, set room staff, and processing (code breakers and linguists) all worked long hours, without complaint, and with little recognition. Without the support of Orderly Room, COMCEN, and Tech Maint, the job would not have been able to be done. 
No matter what their tasks were, the officers and men performed them well. There are too many men, and too many stories to cover in a simple poem. Each group, across those years have different heroes and villains (good villains). Some stories might be a tad embellished as the years roll by. One troop member we sadly left behind was Beauregard, the Mongoose and Troop Mascot.

2. Today, the work of 547 Signal Troop is diligently, passionately, and professionally carried out by the current Troop members. When our time comes, we can rest peacefully, knowing that these men and now women carry on where we left off. 

Beauregard the Mongoose


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