|I photographed this particular Caribou at Luscombe Field, Nui Dat in 1970.|
20th July was the 47th anniversary of the first moon landing.
On that day, Neil Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11’s lunar module on to the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquillity and uttered those famous words.
Most of us, on the day, think back to where we were and what we were doing at that moment.
I was in the Putty mountains on exercise with 7 RAR, preparing for tropical warfare in freezing sleet.
The exercise finished on the evening before the day of the landing, and we were allowed to put our hootchies (2 man tents) up to provide shelter overnight.
This was not allowed when we on a tactical exercise, and we had been sleeping in the open on groundsheets. It was bloody cold.
It was so cold in fact, that the digger sharing my hootchie and I had the bright idea of hanging a blanket up across the front of our tent in an attempt to keep the howling westerlies out. They’re experiencing much the same weather down South as I write this.
It did help in providing a little cover from the lazy wind, but when we struck the tent next morning, the blanket eerily stayed in place. It had frozen solid, as it had sleeted during the night.
A RAAF Caribou was to take us out that morning, but the crosswind was approaching a strength which would render the take-off from the small dirt strip unsafe. It was whilst we were waiting for the aircraft that we were told of the moon landing, when the news was broadcast on the battalion net.
From memory, it did not raise much excitement with us. When you’re frozen to the bone, it’s difficult to get excited about news events, no matter how significant.
The aircraft landed, we got on board, and we lined up for take-off. From where I sat, with my back to the fuselage, I could see the pilots struggling to keep the aircraft on the strip as the wind caught the Caribou’s enormous tail.
We were the last flight out that day, as the wind freshened, and all aircraft were grounded until it abated.
The fact that we were last flight out was in hindsight at the time much more significant to us than the moon landing.
It meant that the platoon sergeant, who was scheduled on the next flight, didn’t arrive at Holsworthy barracks until the next day.
We had 24 hours of bliss as there was no one there to harangue us to perform useless tasks in the interests of being seen to be busy.
That’s what I remember most about the moon landing.