The CSM once cleared the mess when we were in Nui Dat between operations. It was done because of the racket after lights out I suspect. With respect for our CSM I have used a bit of poetic licence here, though he did have a way of explaining time. You never had 5 or 10 seconds it was always a precise time like four and a half second or 8 seconds; "Now move."

The CSM was the amalgam, the cohesive unit that made the company what it was, responsible for the discipline and coordination of the NCOs and ORs of the company.

There was singing in the mess and it was way past lights out
They were finishing of the cans from some forgotten shout
The guitar playing and the singing was in the drunken style
Lots of raucous drunken noise and then silence for a while

The clatter of the empty cans as they were slung into a drum
And then the tenth time of "Ten Guitars" with "Hoki Mai" to come
When the darkness was broken by a sudden beam of light
And a roar that gave the revellers the most horrific fright

It wasn't a light from heaven, but it was the wrath of God
That stopped the drinking and silenced the mob of 20 odd
It was "Pinky", the CSM, and his sleep time had been broken
And there's nothing worse than a CSM who has been woken

"What do you think you're doing, what's all this awful noise
You're not trained soldiers; you're a mob of drunken boys"
With a sweep of his arm, the cans were flung across the bar
There was utter silence; you could have heard a dropped guitar

And then in a voice that could be heard around the lines, he said
"You've got four and a half seconds to clear the mess and get to bed"
They slipped and tripped on cans that now littered the mess floor
There was panic when they were jammed getting through the door

And as they staggered out the CSM yelled out an awful warning
"You can expect to hear more from me on parade in the morning"
And true to his word, the company heard on parade the next day
The bar would open for an hour a day and that's how it would stay

Till we went back on ops, two cans per man, perhaps, per night
The sleepless CSM had really barked and now we felt the bite
But it made us wonder as we went about our daily tasks
The inevitable puzzling questions that every soldier asks

Was it the late drinking, awful singing, the singers or the song?
And how come the CSM is always right, and never ever wrong?

Peter M. Anderson, W3 Coy, 1969-70

Read more about Peter Anderson's Vietnam experience here.

Reference: 

© Peter M. Anderson. Not to be published or reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.

How to cite this page: 'Clearing the Mess - Poem', URL: http://www.vietnamwar.govt.nz/memory/clearing-mess-poem, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Sep-2013