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ANZAC journey

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About Victor Churchill Dale.

Vic Dale is enjoying an active 'retirement' with his wife Julie in Coolgardie, Western Australia. He spends time as a tour guide for school groups, telling the stories of Coolgardie’s history and opening the eyes of this generation to a previous way of life. He also travels around the state promoting his written work, and capturing images through photography, that reflect the Aussie character and enhance the poetry that he writes. Vic continues to write with a passion, looking through the window of our time.

Biography

Note: This is an abridged version of Vic Dale's Biography. The full version is available in his latest book, 'Talking to an Aussie'.

Vic Dale with Family

On the seventh day of May, 1945, the Allied and German generals sat down and signed the peace treaty to end World War Two. On the same day, in far away Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, I was born.

My parents lived around the Kalgoorlie-Coolgardie districts for several years. My parents were working a small gold mine down on the red lakes east of Coolgardie. In 1948 the Goldfields received a ‘big rain’ over a few days which caused a lot of flooding. I was told we were in Kalgoorlie during the rain and when we were able to make it back to the red lake, the gold mine and the camp were all under water.

Soon after that the family moved to Salmon Gums, a farming area in the south east of the state. My father had farmed there in his own right and was one of those who walked away from their farms during the Great Depression. Change was again on the horizon and for reasons that I do not know; we moved back to the Goldfields, this time to Coolgardie.

Those early years around Coolgardie were the best years of my young life. It was here in those special years that I was able to build a beautiful relationship with the Goldfields woodlands and things of nature; a love that I have never lost. Well my good years were coming to an end. No more a free soul of the bush, but one now that had to have the discipline of schooling. I started at the Coolgardie State School, but I wasn’t programmed for mixing with other kids. In an act of desperation, my father took me down to the nuns at the Catholic Convent School.

Well the winds of change were blowing again and movement was afoot to have us boys taken from our parents and placed in a welfare home. My father had a daughter from his previous marriage who had a farm in Corrigin and I’m told, to avoid us boys being put in a church run home, it was decided we go live on the farm. Down at the farm our horizons were broadened. I suppose looking back on it all, it was one of those building blocks that were shaping our lives.

Back in Coolgardie, our parents were in the packing up stage. After many months of preparations and trying to save a bit of money, they eventually set out for Merredin, a distance of nearly two hundred miles by horse and cart. We all came together again at Merredin.

A young Vic Dale

My age became a problem at school. A new headmaster felt I was doing well enough to jump a whole year and miss the last year of primary education. On some subjects I was holding my own, but on the important ones like maths and English I was left floundering. At thirteen and only a couple of months into high school, I pulled the pin and left behind what I was to regret for the rest of my life.

I took a job with a local machinery dealer and I thought that was okay till they started talking about an apprenticeship and I would have to spend time at night school. Next stop was the local dry cleaning factory. I stayed a year but the money wasn’t growing at the same rate as I was, so I left. Well the next time I really hit the jackpot. Five quid a week ($10.00) with board and keep thrown in. This job was on a farm working for a bloke who was a single man. Bill Townsend had survived six years of war as a sailor.

There were many good people who came into my life in those years, but sadly it was only in the later years that I was able to understand this. On Reg Carr’s advice, I left town and went back up the bush again to work. Bill Townsend did some share farming up at Waralakin on some new ground. After the crop was put in I was left on my own up there for a month or so to do the root picking.

Over those years I did several stints working at various wheat bins. I’d also been following the shearing sheds around a bit and fancied myself on being a shearer. When the right moment came, I put it on Harry Lee for a learner’s stand. Harry agreed to my request on the condition that I enrol to a shearing school. Well I must have gotten excited that night with the pen because I wrote an application to the shearing school and another one to the army. Yeah you probably guessed it; the one for the army came back first. Funny isn’t it, just the stroke of a pen can change the course of your life.

I went down to Perth to do my interviews and test for the army, and I was accepted. Rookie training didn’t fit too well with me; I wasn’t then, and I’m still not, akin to someone shouting at me. From there I went down to the infantry training centre in Ingleburn. Everything from my childhood to my teenage years seemed to fit into what the army wanted of me. Life was really good at Infantry Centre. It was during this time that I met and fell in love with a beautiful young lady from Sydney. We went out together for the whole time I was at Ingleburn.

Vic and friend

Well we were finishing our time at Infantry Centre and would march out of there as infantry soldiers. They packed us into rail carriages and bundled us off to Brisbane for Jungle Training. Back at Ingleburn we were allowed home on pre embercation leave. Time went quick as it does for the young and too soon it was time to go back to the army. We flew out of Sydney on civil aircraft bound for Darwin, stayed overnight then boarded a RAAF Hercules plane for Vietnam. We landed at Vung Tau air base which was an American military air base. In no time at all we were loaded along with our kit bags onto a military open back truck and driven out to Nui-Dat.

We were very quickly put to patrolling the immediate countryside and in short, we were to wait until the battalions needed us. We were at Reinforcement Wing for about four weeks when word came through, we were going over to Seven Battalion. The battalion was constantly on the move and in general we would come back to the battalion base at Nui-Dat and rest for two or three weeks then it would be back to the jungle again. The longest stint I ever did was six weeks in the bush. We were always on the move and I wouldn’t like to think of the miles we walked in that country.

Well my time with Vietnam was coming to an end. I had developed tropical ulcers on my legs and large cysts had formed on the back of my neck. I was driven down to Vung Tau and spent the night at the military hospital then the next day I flew out with others to a hospital in Malaya. I was at Butterworth for seven or eight days and when they had a full plane of sick or wounded we were flown to Sydney. I ended up another week at the Ingleburn Army Hospital. After a week there, they bundled us into a flight for Perth.

Around this time I was to meet a very lovely young lady who was to become my wife. My father died in this time and while in Western Australia to be at my father’s funeral I applied for a compassionate discharge on the grounds of supporting my elderly mother. This in time was duly granted. I had a lot of trouble being a civilian again. Vietnam had wound me up and put me in the fast lane, I was travelling much quicker than the people around me.

1970 saw me with a young wife and a brand new baby daughter head for Kambalda. Over the next few years I worked hard and played hard. We eventually bought a small business and I was considered by some to be a young man who would do well in life. However by now my nerves were twitching at even the sound of a telephone. I was spending more and more time away in the bush and I didn’t want to be around people. The fast lane and the slow lane were about to collide. I was at the lowest point of my life and I slowly watched everything disappear. The business was gone, our money was gone and my family was gone. I lived the next few years a recluse in the bush trying to find answers.

In time I moved back into town and started work underground at the North Kalgurli mines. All in all I spent twenty years living on adrenalin and alcohol; the adrenalin kept me in the fast lane and the alcohol slowed me down enough to touch the normal lane. It was at this time in my life my oldest daughter who was around ten years old came back to live with me. This was a silent blessing because it was a beginning of a new focus. The family law courts brought my wife and I together to settle our financial differences, then we each went our own ways.

The world was still going around and I was still on it and I was searching for answers. I had to wait another eighteen years for the real answers. I, along with all Vietnam veterans, shall forever remain grateful to the courage the people of Sydney showed when they organised the welcome home march of 1987. I didn’t go over but it was the single most important event that changed the way Australians saw its Vietnam Vets. Help did arrive and it came in quality, so thank you Sydney and thank you Australia.

It all came by way of chance that I obtained a photograph of a young Filipina woman who I thought looked pretty good. After some time I wrote to her and was quite delighted in the answer. After corresponding for 2 years we both felt we could make this relationship work and so we got married. Today I can truthfully say I don’t think I would have made it without her. The marriage gave us a daughter and more reasons to fight my demons. We sold the house in Boulder and opted for a quieter lifestyle in Coolgardie. My problems were still there but for the first time I had my hands on the steering wheel.

Life takes us down several roads and I believe they are all for good reasons. My mother was in her eighty seventh year and dying of cancer. I would sit at the bed end and I could communicate with her. She kept telling through mental telepathy to write. This did puzzle me because I had always felt you would need a good education to be a writer. A very fine lady by the name of Kathleen Stanick introduced me to meditation. Meditation was to open my perception and for the first time I could hear my inner self. So writing was made easier for me and I soon realised I didn’t need the education.

The gold mines on the Golden Mile were all closing down and were making way for the new super pit and a hundred years of history was being swept away. I like many hundreds of others had to change careers. When the first winter came after the mine closures we bought an old Austin truck and a couple of chainsaws and went wood cutting. I ran into a friend of mine who was managing an open pit mining operation and he informed me he had a fellow there who had a water cart (truck) on the job but he was often drunk. Well the crunch came and Bert told me if I could turn up there in two weeks with a good working reliable water truck I had a job.

So I packed up a very little girl, a wife and headed into debt. We spent a few days in Perth, bought what we wanted then came home to a new job. Throughout the 1990’s, the Goldfields enjoyed the ride on a gold and nickel boom and so we were carting a lot more sand and gravel to Kalgoorlie-Boulder. This meant bigger and more machinery. It was also a time when I gave a lot of my time to community. One such commitment which gave me and others a lot of joy was the revamping of Coolgardie Day celebrations.

Vic & his wife Julie

Well the machinery has now all gone. So have the community commitments. The little girls grew up and went their own ways and today we travel in the slow lane, but you know I did listen to my mother and today I enjoy the status of a poet. I have self-published short stories and poems of Australian life and have also put my pen to music. My work has been presented to the Governor General of Australia and her Royal Highness the Queen of England. My writing has bought comfort and joy to many people and in return my life has been enhanced by those many wonderful souls who have come into my life and guided me just when I needed them. My life is within a divine balance. When I was young I learned to understand the beauty of nature. As a young person I saw the hopes and dreams of the poor and I shared their tears and their laughter. I fought in a war beside the finest men of our land. I worked underground and felt the fear and the sweat of Goldfields miners and we laughed at our own mistakes. I grew into the blessing of wisdom and was able to give it back, and above all, I was accepted by my own people.

Yes my mother was right after all, it seems I have more to write.