Extract from an interview with Claire Hall, 17 March 2011
Reproduced with permission of Bryan Lichtwark
[Picture of Sergeant Su and Bryan Lichtwark]: That is Sergeant Su my interpreter – and he didn't interpret just for me, he interpreted for other people as well but I never had another interpreter so I always refer to him as my interpreter. And he was a lovely little guy, really really nice person. That's just us there eyeballing the students when they first got to us.
[Picture of Bryan and Sergeant Su talking to the group]: In fact, we're doing a demolitions thing here; you see on the ground this white cord, which is actually detonating cord. And I'm explaining to them how you make up a ring main, which is what you use to get explosives linked together so that when you detonate the thing they all go off together. And that's what that is on the ground, and that's what I'm explaining to them here.
But you can see how attentive they are, they really clued in aren't they. Are they? Once again, being an Asian it's bloody hard to read sometimes what they're thinking.
This guy always looks at bit askance at me [laughter]. But they turned out to be nice guys – well I assume they did because whenever we were off duty I always could mix and mingle with Sergeant Su of course – one or two could speak a bit of English, not many.
[Picture of Bryan Lichtwark pointing to wire]: Right, we're on the same lesson. In fact, all of these [photos] are all about these same lesson, which is probably not a bad thing. So what I've done there is, just me going on pointing out the various aspects of a ring mains and how you do these things, with suitable nonsensical bloody captions beneath [the photo]. They got very badly paid these guys, they got, probably if they got $20 a month they'd be lucky. And that's $20 US; they may not have even got that. That's why that caption is there, 500 piastres would be a bloody fortune to them – to us it was about $2.
[Picture of Bryan Lichtwark holding detonating cord]: And that's just another little funny one, that's showing them how you connect detonating cord to TNT slabs. And of course, they liked chocolate too.
They are all look very very attentive there.
They seem to following what you're saying because they're listening to Su remember, they're listening to Sergeant Su. They're following what I'm doing. They do seem to be quite – they're not looking in other directions put it that way. So one assumes that they are taking it in. I actually got them to do it later on.
[Picture of Bryan Lichtwark holding detonating cord – landscape shot]: That's a continuation of the same lesson. And there's Mr Dubious again. But I don't think he's dubious at all – he'd been around that guy actually, he'd seen the thick of it.
Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage