The next morning I said goodbye to my Father and Mother and to my wife. Today was the day I joined the Australian Army. My wife would follow when I was settled in. “Make sure you say goodbye to Uncle Foster. You might not see him again.” That was my father. He didn’t know I had been in to say goodbye the last five or six days. Often a father isn’t always the one a son relates to. I walked in to Vic Barracks (Headquarters for Southern Command) and went through a few formalities. I forget everything from that time. It was all a blur. I was given my instructions and sent on my way. RAEME Training Centre, Bandiana. City of Wodonga on the Murray river. Three and a half hours if you don’t stop to say goodbye to an uncle.
I stopped to say goodbye to my uncle.
-Good Morning Uncle Foster. I am now officially a Lieutenant in the Australian Army. –
-I’m glad to see you. –
-So this is the last part of the story about me joining the Australian Army.
The last interview was in Canberra. They paid for me to fly up and they had no idea that it was the first flight I had ever made where someone else had picked up the tab. If I didn’t get the job I would have at least got a free flight to Canberra and back. Russell Offices in Canberra houses the Defence Department. I had no idea where it was but the Com Car driver knew. I was ushered into a room with a lot of people in Army uniform. Some had scarlet flashes on their collars. All looked very serious and big time. One man was in a civilian suit and he said nothing.
I don’t remember any of the questions or any of my answers. No idea at all. Except at the very end when the guy in the suit just looked at me and asked, “So, what were the guys like to work with on the railway shunting crew?”
Sgt Moroni in Melbourne had warned me. ‘There will be someone from ASIO on the Canberra board. You’d better hope he doesn’t ask you anything.’ When I filled in my application form I did not include the bit about working on the Railways. It was two months out of my life. It was of no significance. The ASIO guy just nodded and smiled. ASIO. England has MI5 or MI6. America has the CIA. We have ASIO and the Signals Directorate. It doesn’t matter what the letters stand for. They are the spooks. He knew I wasn’t a Communist. He knew I had only worked there for two months. He knew I hadn’t put it in my application. He just nodded and smiled at me, the Smarmy Bastard. All he was doing was letting me know that they knew everything.
– I told you there’d be a question about Communist Organisations. I said that was relevant. –
– I know you did, Uncle. I know you did. –
What I did not know was that I was going to meet that smarmy smiling bastard later. I was going into the Army to teach English and History and Maths to apprentices and they set the spooks onto me. I was going to meet him again. And take the smile off his face. Or so I hoped.
– And that is it. Uncle. I love you. I’m off! I’ll see you later.
– Goodbye lad. You’re the last person I have to say Goodbye to. I can go now. –
I didn’t register what he said. I kissed him on the cheek and got in my car and went to Bandiana. I rang my father when I got there. I was a married man and had been to Europe and back, but he still wanted me to let him know I’d arrived safely.
– I’m here Dad. I made it. –
– That’s good John. Uncle Foster died about three hours ago. I hope you got to see him. –
-I did, Dad. Thanks. –
I must have left him about three hours ago. That’s what he meant when he said ‘I can go now.’ He hung onto life until I had said goodbye.