Brisbane, QLD, Australia

10 Dec, 1999

John Ray

In the Army

Something I did when I became a full-time student was to join the Army Reserves (the C.M.F.). I joined the Psychology Corps. Since the head of the Psychology Dept. (Prof. McElwain) was a Colonel in it, this was probably the one good political move I ever made. I actually did it for the experience, however. I was above conscription age so also had no need to do it to get out of conscription. In my honours year every male student but one was in the Psychology Corps. The exception was a Methodist minister (Henry Law) who obviously had other duties on Sunday.

I greatly enjoyed my time in 21 Psychology Unit -- particularly the one camp I went to (at Tin Can Bay). It was like being paid to go on a camping holiday.

We had there our first experience of army sanitary arrangements. With perfect good sense, the army does not make allowances for privacy in such situations. When you have to "go" in battle no privacy may be available. So you need to get "broken in" to primitive arrangements.

In Tin Can bay the "restroom" consisted of a number of "thunder boxes" set in a semi-circle with no partitions between them. This lack of privacy did have a considerable constipating effect on a number of my "brothers in arms". I have chronically loose bowels anyway, however, so I was not held up to any degree at all. I just blurted away, rather to the envy of some of the others, I imagine.

One occasion when I did surprise myself, however, was when we were all in the back of an army truck returning from leave in town. In good army style, our leave had involved much beer. And beer consumption can suddenly hit you hard with an urge to "go". So I did. I stood up at the back of the truck and peed it all out on the road as the truck bounced along. I would not be able to do it sober. Nobody else did likewise but I have always had a rather weak bladder so maybe their need was not as great.

I think my performance did earn me some kudos, however.

I learnt a fair few things in the Army. I reached the rank of Sergeant but I am sure Rod Hardaker (my former Sergeant Major) will tell you that I must have been just about the most inefficient Sergeant in the Australian Army at that time. That clumsiness again. Rod is the only ex-army mate I have kept in touch with over the years.