Early in 1955 I was drafted into the Australian Army to undergo my National Service Training, or Nasho as we called it in the ranks. My fellow inductees and I assembled at a pick up point in Brisbane and were bussed to a camp called Wacol out in the badland boonies.
The second we stepped off the bus we were ordered to take off our clothes – all our clothes. We were then paraded past doctors whose job it was to see if any one of us was afflicted with a loathsome disease.
Next we were issued our army clothes. That included one of those Aussie slouch hats and a pair of rugged looking boots.
By the time I pulled on some clothes and stuffed the rest into a duffel bag I realized that I was getting behind the rest of the gang. Outside on the parade ground I could hear screaming and yelling as the sergeant and his underlings forcibly turned chaos into military order by pure intimidation.
Hurriedly I pulled on my boots and ran to join the ranks. When the sergeant called for silence you could hear a pin drop. As our hearts pounded he made his way down the line of raw recruits examining each one for faults in stance or clothing. I trembled when he paused in front of me and did not move on.
Suddenly he bellowed, “What is your name, private?”
“Well, Private Thomas, are you sure you know your right from your left?”
“Private Thomas, look at your boots.”
When I looked down I could see that the boot on my left foot was pointing south while the one on my right foot was pointing north. I had the boots on the wrong feet! At this I was sharply ordered to sit on the ground in front of my fellow recruits and get those boots right.
I don’t remember much of what else happened that fateful day but there was one positive outcome. Everybody in the whole damn platoon knew my name.