Bluey, Snowy and Mick were fishing down where the river took a sweeping bend around some rocky outcrops. It was Saturday afternoon in late summer, the sun was hot, the slight breeze was hot, the beer was getting too warm and they had caught absolutely nothing.
Bluey, who with much swearing, had finally put a new sinker and hook on his line after he had snagged a floating log, picked up his rod, stood up and prepared to cast his line out into a deep spot close to the opposite bank. He looked behind him and said to Snowy, who was sitting on a large boulder directly behind him, ‘Keep your head down Snow or you’ll get hit.’ He swung his rod over his head in a perfect cast and his line snaked out true and straight and he sat back down.
Snowy moved down to sit beside Bluey and said to him, ‘Blue do you remember the first time you said that to me?’
It was a completely different scene. It was cold, very cold; the freezing wind blew the snow showers almost horizontally. Lance corporal Mick Molloy blew on his freezing fingers and placed them back on the butt and the trigger of the Bren gun. Trying to remain as still as possible so as to not attract the attention of an enemy sniper, he blinked the snowflakes from his eyes and concentrated on the line of trees from where the last attack had come. Beside him, below the top of the pit, private Snowy Black was busy filling the empty magazines for the light machine gun with fresh rounds; his rifle propped beside him. He counted as he slid the bullets into position; just thirteen left. He knew that another sustained attack and they would very quickly be out of ammunition.
They had met just two days before when Mick’s original loader had been wounded and Snowy had been delegated to replace him. During this time they had not had time to properly get to know each other as they had been in constant action. Mick yelling, ‘Load’ and Snowy responding with a new magazine for the Bren had been nearly their only communication.
They had been sitting in this small pit that they had scraped out of the snow and rocky ground for nearly twenty four hours now and they were hungry and desperately tired. The first push by the North Koreans supported by hordes of Communist Chinese had dislodged their battalion from the valley that they had held close to the northern border. They had fallen back just five hundred metres to their rear positions close to battalion headquarters and dug in. Here they had repelled repeated attacks whilst on either side of them troops of other nationalities had retreated in total disarray.
It had been a surprise when the Communist Chinese had attacked as the rumour amongst the troops was that the North Koreans were defeated and they would soon be going home. Now the battalion was strung out along the ridge in whatever shelter they could find. They had suffered many casualties but had held their positions.
Mick and Snowy heard the slight noise behind them at exactly the same time. Mick tried to swing the Bren gun around and Snowy reached for his rifle. A muffled voice cried out, ‘Take it easy you blokes. It’s just us poor sods from the reserve area here to save your bacon. Now more over and let some real soldiers in.’
A silent figure slid forward and rolled into their pit. He pushed his scarf back grinned and said, ‘Bluey Jones at your service and I come bearing gifts.’ With that he pulled two full magazines of ammunition from one pocket and from the other three clips of rounds for Snowy’s 303 and two tins of bully beef.
Snowy stood up and went to take the ammunition but Bluey pulled him down just as a snipers bullet clipped the side of his helmet and sent it spinning into the pit. Bluey picked it up placed it back over Snowy’s blond head and said, ‘Keep your head down cobber or you will get hit.’
The fishing forgotten the three mates swapped memories of that time when they had first met. They never talked to other people about their experiences in Korea but on rare occasions like this they shared a few yarns and mostly happy memories. They had remained together through some of the worst fighting experienced by the Australian troops on the Korean Peninsula. Many times they had been tested to the limits of their courage and endurance. They became a single unit that instinctively knew how each other would react and many times this bond and trust had saved their lives. Their friendship became strong and enduring.
Mick stood up and stretched and said, ‘There’s a lot of fish in that bloody river but also too much water for the blighters to swim around in. Now, talking about liquid, a nice cold schooner of beer has my name on it at the pub. So, as the senior rank, due to my lance corporal stripe, get a bloody move on.’