Early October marks 50 years since three local boys ‘won’ the lottery and entered National Service together, and the milestone is being marked with a special week-long reunion at Sawtell.
Perry Condrick is eagerly anticipating the gathering, although he’s the only one going of his fellow Nashos recruits. David Hickey passed away some years ago and John Rodgers is unable to attend.
They were among the 10th Nashos intake, when marbles were drawn from a barrel to determine the birthdays of the next lot of 19-year-old conscripts. His number had came up in the first intake but he was able to defer in order to complete his motor mechanics qualification. Timing wasn’t great when he eventually did go, however, being only 20 days into his marriage to Barb.
Mr Condrick said in those days the recruits were informed via letter, and most were accepting of their fate.
The three Tenterfield schoolmates did their recruit training in Singleton before moving on to driver training in the Transport Corp in Bonegilla near Albury in Victoria. Mr Hickey then went to the Woodside army base in South Australia before being posted to Canungra for jungle training and heading to Vung Tau for his 12-month Vietnam stint.
Mr Rodgers saw out his two-year posting at the Randwick base in Sydney, while Mr Condrick went to the Ingleburn base in Sydney, and also undertook jungle training in Canungra. Transferring to the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Section he served overseas at Nui Dat for 12 months before returning to South Head at Watsons Bay awaiting discharge.
While out on patrol in the Vietnamese jungle one day, Mr Condrick came across three more Tenterfieldians: brothers David and Edward Haidley and Peter Smith.
“It’s amazing that, for a small town, we had five men from Tenterfield all in Vietnam at the same time,” Mr Condrick said.
He took hundreds of photos during his overseas posting, but didn’t have a camera on him that day to record the occasion.
Mr Condrick returned to work in machinery sales at Hay’s Garage, Mr Rodgers became a wardsman at the hospital and Mr Hickey worked for what is now known as the Roads and Maritime Authority.
There were 400 men in the 10th intake who saw service in Vietnam. Around 80 are booked in for the golden reunion including a couple from Mr Condrick’s ‘hut’ in Vietnam. Of the 18 who called the hut home during their posting, only seven are still living with many lost to cancer.
Mr Condrick is not sure if there’s a connection to their National Service, but said a lot of toxic substances were dropped on them in Vietnam.
“We got a fair dousing of chemicals,” he said.
For the three Tenterfield boys in the 10th intake it was their first time out of town.
“We enjoyed it,” he said.
“It was quite educational and we learned a lot of skills and made a lot of mates.
“You have a different relationship with those you serve with than anyone else. We saw a lot of tragedy but prefer to put that behind us and remember the good things.
“Instead we tend to talk about the funny things that happened, and there were plenty of those.”
(Based on research undertaken by 10th intake Nasho Richard Barry.)
All men aged 19 were required to register for compulsory National Service. A total of 804,286 men from all over Australia registered.
Between 1965 and 1973 a total of 63,740 were called up and enlisted in the army. The 10th intake covered men who were born in the period from January 1, 1947 to June 30, 1947, and also included men who had been granted deferment from prior call-ups.
Men who defaulted the scheme were sentenced to imprisonment for two years, receiving a criminal record.
There were approximately 1954 men in the 10th intake from across Australia, of which 670 were from NSW and 340 from Queensland. After 12 weeks basic training at one of five bases depending on their home locations, the recruits nominated to which corps they wished to be posted, although it appeared to have little influence on where they ended up.
Eight men in the 10th intake are known to have been killed in action. The number of wounded is estimated at around 100, with many continuing to suffer from war-caused disabilities including PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Most intakes including the 10th had the option to extend their service by joining the Australian Regular Army for three or six years and forego National Service benefits. Alternatively they could extend their National Service for an addition period of three months to two years without jeopardising those benefits.
Officially members of the 10th intake were discharged in each state’s commands on October 3, 1969 having completed two years’ service, but were required to serve an additional three years’ part-time service in the Regular Army Reserve.
“It was very difficult for men to delve straight back into civilian life and to pick up from when they left their jobs two years previously, especially those who were heavily involved in combat service days before,” Richard Barry said.
“We must be a clever lot, because there are at least six 10th intake blokes who have been awarded the OAM (Order of Australia Medal).”