Daryl Bristowe - Trip home on HMAS Sydney

Running time
5 min 50 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


And another thing that I remember, which is true, when we were told we were coming home, we got on Caribou aircraft at Nui Dat, they flew us down to Vung Tau, the battalion, 800, 900 men, on the airfield and they were shunted out in the shuttle service, out to the Sydney that was out there. Your baggage, so normally they would hold nine people. I think someone even sat next to the door, gunners on the side and five across a seat and some were sitting on the floor, closest to the pilot and the co-pilot but I sat there.

There was a raffle. Support company lost which meant they went on first, which meant they were down, down, down in the boat. I sat there for about two hours as they called the names out. It got down to two people and guess who the two people was, me, stupid. Then they called the other person's name and I thought "Oh my god, what's Mum going to say if I don't get on the boat." And he said, "Who are you?" I said "Bristowe, sir." He said, "Get on the bloody helicopter."

Someone was looking after me because when I got on, I got on last on the boat. Now, hang on, wasn't last, I ran like hell when he said get on. I passed the people the names had been called to make sure I was on the helicopter. I don't know if you've been on an aircraft carrier but you've got the flight deck, the hangar deck. Adjacent to the hangar deck but on the outside, but not over the ocean, there are little compartments, so I was in one of those little compartments in a hammock. It didn't matter which way the ship was going, I was always level. If the ship was doing this and believe me, the ship did that as well as that, I was always level. The disadvantages were I couldn't put the hammock up until eight o'clock at night.

To amuse ourselves for the 10 day voyage, I did one duty, I cleaned the petty officers showers. 10 soldiers, one mop, one bucket. So I think I touched the mop once, and then after that, I said "Done" and then after that we went back and watched the movies and there was a very suggestive movie. Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris or something. And of course, the Navy projectionist made sure that we saw everything we needed to see multiple times. Stop, reverse, stop, reverse, stop and play. And each time, he got the same result.

We were then told your kit will be inspected before you arrive in Port Adelaide. I had smuggled back because I had a friend who loved ammunition, I had smuggled back the complete set of 50 calibre bullets but no powder and just the projectiles and the cases. When I was carrying the M16 there was a detachable bipod, you squeeze it, over the barrel and then you put it down again. A lot of boys brought back magazines that weren't appropriate at the time in Australia. I also brought back two tiny smoke grenades. After the person got lost, there was a person that got lost for two days, he was so frightened, he didn't yell out when the helicopter kept looking for him.

You know the old 35-millimetre cartridges that the old film used to go into? The screw top little metal ones? Well they had these personal smoke grenades that it only goes for five seconds or 10 seconds. It's only the same size as the cartridge and when I came back with my camera around my neck, I could get into trouble smuggling in something now. In the two little pouches, I had these two little smoke grenades and everybody thought they were film. But I brought those back and I was able to give those to my mate. When he passed away, when they went through the house, it went to the Olinda or Sassafras RSL but I managed to bring that. But when we were told that everything was going to be checked, the 1200 soldiers went to the deck and I'm sure the ship was like no end, so in the middle of the ocean is a complete set of 50 calibre bullets, one detachable M16 bipod and numerous magazines floating on the water.

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