Reprinted with the kind permission of W. L. ‘Shotgun' Perry
My section must have had some distinguishing features. We were posted to Saigon as guard for the NZ Embassy. We arrived at HQ V Force at lunch-time. Everyone was absent at mess except for two. One was Brownie Hamon of Gisborne, the guard-commander I was to replace. He was under armed arrest by a clerk holding a 9mm pistol. Being senior to them both I sent them off to lunch.
The NZ Embassy was guarded at night by a four-man guard. Directly opposite was the US Embassy. It was guarded by a company of US Marines with APCs; while the compound was protected by machine gun towers, barbed wire, a couple of tanks, and other assorted weaponry. We had been issued a six round pump-action shotgun.
It has been said that curiosity killed the cat. One of my men pried open one of the shotgun cartridges to see what the pellets looked like. They were nothing more the bird-shot. We decided the shotgun was to shoot the pigeons that were clearly in the employ of VC. I prudently ordered that the opened cartridge be left at the accommodation billet as the humidity would swell the cardboard shell and cause it to jam in the chamber. Giving orders and checking they are carried out are two separate things. I failed to check whether the errant shell was indeed left behind and somehow it was loaded into the gun along with the other five rounds.
The Embassy staff seemed to lead a rather social existence. An entire room was stocked with 'goodies'. The excellent cuisine and beer, wine, and spirits were intoxicating to behold. It seemed a great shame to observe left-over carafes of wine and liquors following various Embassy functions (you may now be noticing a certain similarity between this situation and the great Nui Dat beer heists described in Part 1).
So the next morning, following a nights 'heavy' duty and with a thick head, I unloaded the shotgun. True to form five rounds fell onto the carpet. Standard practise was to fire the action on the empty chamber. The firing-pin did what it was bid and came into contact with the percussion cap of the sixth round still lodged in the chamber. Calamity. Most of the glass in the front widow of the Embassy was blown out among the pot plants on the patio facing the US Embassy. Across the road sirens sounded, orders were shouted, and tank and APC engines revved up. Armed marines prepared to storm the NZ Embassy to kill the VC attackers.
Discretion is the essence of valour. With my hands raised over my head in total surrender I proceeded to the front gate to confront the marine commander. Humour in moments of stress is often good relief. "Did you kill the bastards?" he asked. "Sure did" I replied, "He's going to need more than surgery or prayers where he's going."
And so it was that. I too ended up in armed arrest with a clerk holding a 9mm pistol to my head (your turn to smile Brownie). An Aussie Brigadier fined me $30 and it was goodbye, yet again, to my LS&GCM. Some wit wrote a poem about my attack on the NZ Embassy, and the good Captain Kidd from Nui Dat whisked me away from Saigon and back into something I was more suited for.
Ross Miller – Sunray 5/2