WAR GAMES WITH OYSTER ENTREE AND BROWN MUSCAT By Martin Field In March 1964, a bunch of us Regular Army electronics technicians (2 Signals Regiment) were posted to provide backup for CMF* war games in the bush near Tea Gardens, New South Wales. On the Saturday after we arrived we were given time off so we headed in army vehicles direct to the Bulahdelah pub. It was my 19th birthday so the guys shouted me numerous pots. A few drinks later, pissed and full of foolhardy courage, we all decided to jump off the nearby road bridge into the Bulahdelah River. Luckily, nobody drowned. On the penultimate day of pretendingtoshooteachother manoeuvres, a CMF officer (i.e. a sweating redfaced jumpedup bank teller from Sydney) ordered us to work as kitchen staff in the officers’ mess tent for their farewell dinner the next night. ‘Nah,’ we said, ‘we didn’t come here to wait on weekend warriors.’ Or words to that effect. He went away muttering about undisciplined rabble and later came back. ‘What if we pay you?’ ‘Okay … Sir.’ (Cue limp salute here.) One of the entrées on the dinner menu was fresh local oysters – a dozen for each diner. My friend Bill ate a couple, said they were excellent and advised me to try one. I’d never eaten raw oysters before and was a bit iffy. But, with a squeeze of lemon and a crust of bread, I took the plunge. So did a few of the other kitchen hands, and we washed them down with vin very ordinaire and cans of beer we’d scrounged from the officers’ bar. I ate a few more and, by the time we’d plated up, each officer had been rationed to only six oysters per plate. When the catering lieutenant paid us, he sounded miffed: ‘I thought we were getting a dozen oysters each.’ ‘Quite a few were off … Sir. We disposed of them,’ explained one of the undisciplined rabble. We also nicked a flagon of McWilliams Royal Reserve Brown Muscat from the officers’ mess and consumed it for morning tea, as you can see for yourself.
*CMF – Citizens' Military Forces, now the Army Reserve.