Life in the CMF 1950’s Style

by Dan Winkel

Like all 18 year olds of my generation I had to serve 3 months National Service, compulsory full time service to complete Recruit Training.

The initial 3 months were followed by 3 years compulsory part time training with your local Citizens Military Force (CMF) Unit. At that time my permanent address was Gympie. Gympie’s CMF Unit was a Transport Company – Part of the Wide Bay Regiment.

Every year we did a two week camp at Greenbank as part of the Wide Bay Regiment. Mostly during that 2 weeks, we were trained to drive various different vehicles. As a farm boy, I had civilian licences for cars, light utilities, 3 tonners and 5 tonner multi axle vehicles. Hence I didn’t require Driver Training for any of those. However I didn’t have a motorcycle licence, so I spent much time under instruction on Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The first motor vehicle I ever owned was a 1918 Indian 4 cylinder bike. However I never rode it on a public road or possessed a driver’s licence for it. After doing my 3 months Recruit Training at Wacol, I was compelled to attend evening and weekend camps with the Gympie Transport Company.

It was only after I attended the first evening Parade and received my pay by way of a deposit in my Bank Account that I became aware that CMF pay was Tax free and 3 hours Duty constituted a day’s pay. The next big surprise was that a weekend camp constituted 4 day’s pay.

Camps commenced on Friday night and concluded some time after midnight on Monday morning. Hence the serving CMF soldier was paid a full day’s pay for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

I have always been a keen hunter and never missed the opening day of the Queensland Duck shooting season. Traditionally, the Duck Season opened on the May Day Holiday weekend. You can imagine how disappointed I was to find that during the first year of my CMF Duty, a camp was scheduled for that week end. I complained to my Platoon Commander that while I appreciated the extra money, I had always attended the opening day of the duck season.

My Platoon Commander was a fellow I knew well. He had grown up on a banana farm not far from our family farm. His name was Dershon Begeta. His parents had migrated from the Punjab in India in the 1920s. Dershon was about 3 years older than me and was a big, well muscled young man. As well, he had a High School education. It was no surprise to me he had gained Commissioned Rank.

Even so, we were still on first name terms. Dershon’s response amazed me. “Dan,” he said,”We will all do our share of duck shooting that weekend.”

Two weeks later, we all assembled for our parade and the CO., Lt Col Wolgar whom I knew to be a keen duck shooter, got up to address the assembled Company. He started off. “I am aware and you are all aware our DUTY as members of the CMF is to defend our Country in case of invasion. May I remind you, it was the CMF, NOT the Regular Soldiers who turned back the Japanese Invasion via the Kokoda track. We can and will turn back any enemy who dares to invade our country. However I am sure you are all aware such an enemy will not advance in 4 ranks. The targets you/we have all been shooting at during our initial training, represents an enemy advancing in 4 ranks. (Until then, I was unaware Col Wolgar had defended the Kokoda track.) His voice trembled.

He went on,”The F,,, Japs were not in 4 ranks on the Kokoda track and neither will any other potential enemy we may have to repel. Consequently, we need training, shooting at smaller targets and the ability to recognise a potential target. Our May Day 3 day camp will present such an opportunity to acquire the skill to hit targets travelling at up to 60 miles an hour and much smaller than the traditional 8ft X 12ft targets we have all used for training. The location of the Camp will NOT BE THIS DRILL HALL. None the less, we will all assemble here as usual on the Friday night at 1800 hours. We will use the trucks to transport us and all our equipment to the location of our Training Camp. We will be spending the weekend in the Tansey C.W.A Hall. The Tansey C.W.A Ladies will cater for us and our training in shooting at moving targets will consist of attempting to shoot some of the large flocks of wild ducks attacking/damaging the Barley and Lucerne crops in the district. A local farmer Bill Weir who sells down and feathers to the RAAF which are used to stuff flying jackets, will be present several times a day to pluck any ducks we manage to bag. Bill will keep and sell any feathers we may get. The Army has provided us with plenty of 12 gauge ammo. Bring your own 12 gauge gun. If you don’t own a 12 gauge, somebody may lend you his. Any questions??”

There were none. Apparently duck shoots were a regular part of our CMF training to defend Australia. And such a weekend CMF 3 day training exercise entitled all those participating to 5 days pay, TAX FREE.

The Company assembled at the Gympie Drill Hall at 1800 on Friday evening as required. WO2 Wally Inpie called the roll and formally handed the Parade over to Lt Col Wolgar, the CO. The CO. gave us a 10 minute talk on how it was we’re NOT going on a weekend duck shoot.

Although ducks would be shot, the exercise was about instinctive shooting, stealth, concealment and ambush tactics. Such tactics were employed by the C.M.F. Units who were able to repel the “nips” (Japanese) from the Kokoda track about 15 years earlier.

In view of the arduous nature of the training it was arranged that we would all receive 5 days pay. Although we were to return to the Drill Hall after lunch on Monday the final Parade would be Reveille at 6AM on Tuesday morning.

The CO advised we would ALL be marked Present at that Parade to ensure we were all paid for 5 days. Not quite what I expected but then I was just a Private. If the CO. said that was how it would be, I couldn’t argue with that.

We drove to the Tansey C.W.A. hall approximately a 2 hour drive away. The covered lorries were unloaded and we all set up our “blow up” mattresses in the hall. There was a room for Officers.

When we arrived the C.W.A. ladies were already preparing meals. A local grazier acted as barman. The hall had been declared Commonwealth Property for the weekend and consequently beer (and presumably other drinks) could be sold duty and sales tax free.

By the time I had set up my bed, Glen had several jugs of beer lined up on the Bar. I walked over to the Bar with Johnny Shepard, my lifelong mate and we asked Glen for 2 beers. His response was remarkable to say the least. He virtually spat out. “Go to buggery you two. I am NOT serving glasses of beer. Too much trouble to wash the bloody glasses. If you two want a beer, buy a jug.”

By that time Johnny Treasure and Ivan Worst had joined us. Ivan piped up,” OK. How much do you want for a bloody jug?” The response was “two bob” (20 cents). The bloody beer only costs 1/6 the other Zac(5c) goes to the CWA. We soon got our “mugs enamel” or mugs universal steel out and made short work of the first jug.

About the time I was approaching the bar to get a second jug, the CO. approached the bar and asked for a “glass of white wine”. The shelves behind the bar were well stocked with bottles of wine and spirits. Again Glen Ahearns response was, “Go to buggery. I don’t waste time serving plonk. You want a drink, it’s either a jug of beer or water from the tank. Please your bloody self Colonel.”

We could see from the shocked look on his face Lt Col Wolgar was taken aback. With that John Shephard stood up and walked over to the bar and invited the CO. to join us. He bought another jug and joined us. We had erected one of the tables FS we had brought with us. Before we had finished the second jug one of the C.W.A. ladies approached us and asked if we were ready for a meal. The response was, Yes we were. What was available?” Her response was “Steak or corn beef. Both with boiled potatoes and cabbage or garden salad”. I ordered the corn beef and most of the others ordered steak and chips or salad. Hence we ate with the CO. that night.

Breakfast, the next morning was served before 6 AM. Bacon and eggs or lambs fry and bacon. After breakfast, we all climbed into the covered lorries and were dropped off at various farms where we set about our training.

The C.L. returned at lunch time and we were driven back to the C.W.A hall where the C.W.A. ladies had lunch prepared for us. Most of us had some ducks. The bag limit at the time was ’12 per gun per day’. I had been at a particularly good spot and had my 12 at that time. While we were enjoying a beer and lunch the CO. circulated. He came to me and inquired, “How many have you got so far Dan??” I responded, “12 Sir, my limit for today.” He responded, “BULLSHIT Winkel. Go out this afternoon and get another dozen or so for those who have not been so fortunate.

Then there is dinner tonight. We are all eating roast duck tonight. We will need at least 20 good fat black ducks for that. Are your ducks all good fat black ducks?? I had to admit that I had 3 or 4 teal and at least 2 wood ducks. His response was “Not good enough Dan! Bring back at least another dozen tonight plucked cleaned and ready for the oven and NO MORE WOODIES.”

And that’s how we spent 3 days training to use the tactics which according to the CO. “Beat the Nips on Kokoda.”

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Frank Cordingley
Frank Cordingley
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