Ch.3 Is you?

“I’m gonna walk up to his gate
And see if I can get this thing straight
Cause I want him and I gotta have him.”

– Dinah Washington

When we arrived back in Sydney, I knew that I didn’t have much time. The medics would be leaving to travel back to Randwick that night and Lt Holland would be travelling back to Canberra the next morning. I had to get him alone now and then…? I didn’t know, I’d just have to just seize the moment when it came.

But after we drove back to Penrith barracks, they opened the mess, and I found out that the officers were now expected to man the bar and serve all the soldiers as a sign of thanks for our hard work. I thought that I might have been able to find a moment alone with Lt Holland before I had to leave, and that we could have at least exchanged numbers now that we had finally spoken and that he had shown some real interest in me. But now it seemed like I had no chance. From ecstasy to agony in a heartbeat. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

Moreover, we were still on duty so neither of us could openly flirt or act like normal people in front of the Company. And with him serving drinks from behind the bar, I couldn’t get near enough to Lt Holland to talk and still be out of earshot of other people. The army that I loved so much was suddenly cruel with its rules and regulations. Worst still, only Lt Holland and the 2IC seemed to have been stuck with bar duty while 2Lt Highman and the Company Commander were free to move about the mess, talking and drinking. I sat near the bar, moping, pretending to chat to people but I suddenly didn’t care about them anymore. What could I do?


When we got back to Penrith, we were given dinner and I met up with Greg who had driven back from Queensland with the Company stores truck. Now that the camp was all but over, Greg finally confided in me what he almost let out that night we spoke about girlfriends whilst we’d been in the field. Apparently, the other female Private, Sue, had had a crush on one of the soldiers and was planning to make a move on him sometime during the camp. But he had been one of the unfortunates who’d gotten injured in the first week of camp and had been shipped back to Sydney early. She had then acquired a new target – me – which is what he had almost blurted out that night in the field. During his nine-hour drive back to Sydney with Sue, he’d subsequently learnt that by the time Sue had adjusted her sights she had competition. Sue had said that by the time we had entered the field, all three of the girls had agreed that I was cutest officer. And while there wasn’t any kind of “fuck Jeremy pact” Sue had told him that she had decided to hit on me on the last night of the camp. She hadn’t done so because she hadn’t been brave or drunk enough on the night, and I had left the mess early before she had had enough Dutch courage.

It seems that the girls had been chatting amongst themselves on camp and Greg, through his medic connection, had gotten briefed in this earlier. His admission to me in the field about someone being happy I was single had no doubt come from that. I guessed that that someone had been her though I had thought it might have been the corporal the way that she had been staring at me.

After dinner, the officers were then told, by the CSM, that we had to run the bar so the other ranks could relax. That didn’t bother me, but I noticed that Pte Benaud was staying as close to the bar as she could whilst not leaning on it. Always just within sight of me but not close enough to talk without everyone else listening in. I was like she was waiting for something. I really wanted to talk to her now that I was single, and she had been so much fun since the football game. So, when I finally thought I could slip out I made an excuse and went straight to her.


Finally they told us that the bus taking us back to Randwick was ready to depart. But, just when I thought I’d run out of hope, they started passing around contact sheets with everyone’s in the Company’s name and number. Lt Holland’s name was Jeremy – divine – and I had his phone number!

And then, as if it had been scripted, Jeremy stepped out from behind the bar and quickly worked his way across the room toward me. This was it, I had to say something now; the bus to Randwick could leave at any moment. I told him that I wished I that could stay longer but that he should call me up next time he was in Sydney so we could catch up. As casually as you could imagine, he said that he would like to and that he would be up soon.


Pte Benaud and her unit were leaving that night to go back to Randwick while a few of us were waiting till the next morning before we departed back to Canberra. As we were saying our goodbyes, she appeared distressed. She said that she was disappointed that she couldn’t stay and mingle with her new friends but luckily, she had my number and that she would now have to remember to call me Jeremy. She also said that I should contact her next time that I was in Sydney, and we could meet up. I had been planning to come up to Sydney soon to visit my friend Tom. I told her that I would definitely call her then which seemed to make her very happy.

After everyone had left Penrith, a small core of officers and senior non-commissioned officers remained. We were invited to the sergeant’s mess for a few quiet drinks where the CSM told me that while at the camp he had observed Alison following me around like a “puppy dog” and that the medical corporal was also ripe for the picking, if only I’d asked her. He’d known the medics where heading back to Randwick that night and, after watching us talk on the plane trip home, he’d decided to put me behind the bar when we got back to Penrith. He didn’t want anything happening between us that night. Subtle and effective, but I guessed he’d not reckoned on the contact lists being handed out. Or maybe he had. Either way, we were no longer his concern.

If I hadn’t been told any of this by earlier Greg, I would have genuinely been stunned. I had no inkling that anything was afoot until that last night in the field. And if I hadn’t run on to that football field who knows what would have happened.

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