Ross Eastgate’s reflections.
Jock passed away on 29 March 2023 in Brisbane, aged 92.
He served in Korea with 3RAR 12 Jul 1953 to 06 Sep 1954.
He served in Malaya with 1RAR during The Emergency.
He was the Pioneer Sgt in 2 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn in South Vietnam 7 May 1967 – 21 May 1968.
In the early 1970s he was at the PNGDF Training Depot at Goldie River.
Born in Ayrshire, Scotland he had a brogue you could cut with a chainsaw.
He also had a wicked sense of fun.
In 1973-1974 I was a newish RMC graduate posted to Goldie Rive as the Instructor Signals.
The Army reintroduced the Bren LMG recalibred to 7.62mm as an interim section support weapon.
WO2 Merv Kirby (1RAR Malaya and Vietnam) was tasked with teaching the subbies to shoot the weapon.
He served with 1 Sect, 1 Platoon A coy 1RAR in Malaya, and was given the task by LTCOL Digger Campbell MC, a company commander with 1RAR in Malaya and in Vietnam, first tour..
Merv had been an infantry instructor and my shooting coach at Duntroon, and was a mate, as much as a new lieutenant formerly RMC cadet and a crusty infantry warrant officer could be mates.
Jock Lindsay took me aside and mentioned that Merv, the section Bren gunner, had lost the Bren when their canoe overturned while returning from patrol, had nearly drowned trying to hang on to it, and was super embarrassed about the incident.
Before I went to Duntroon, I had been CQMS of my school cadet unit, responsible at age 16 for the school armoury of about 400 weapons, including .303 Lee Enfield rifles and Bren guns.
I was pretty familiar with both weapons.
Before Merv started the lesson, I politely asked if I could first look at one, and Merv allowed his favourite subby to strip the weapon and put it back together in about a minute, before firing the action (last step) and jumping to my feet.
“Well done Sir!” an obviously impressed but not really surprised Merv said.
“Not only that Mr Kirby,” I responded, “But I’ve never lost one!”
“Get off my range Sir!”, he said, and took a lot of apologising to calm him down.
“Wait till I see that traitorous little Scotsman!” was the second last word in the incident.
“Digger” Campbell, although amused, had the last word.
He gave me two extras for unwarranted cruelty.
Merv and I served together again when he was RSM Canungra, but that’s some other stories.
He was killed when the driver of another car fell asleep and drove into him.
Valhalla will be a grand place at the moment.