Walter Kleszcz

Walter Klszcz

DLS 1958 – 1962

Apprentice Barber – Archie Zorba’s barber shop in Perth WA

Worked in Wally’s Barbershop in Midland for a year before being called up

When called up, I was told my call-up would be delayed to age 21 because I was of “foreign descent”.

In 1969, I started nashos and was sent to training in Puckapunyal for 3 months.

After that training, we were told they wanted 97 volunteers to go to Vietnam.

The “carrot” was that those who volunteered would get an $8,000 housing allowance at low interest on our return. To me as a 21-year-old, that was exciting.

Those of us who volunteered bypassed the Core Training and we were sent to Holdsworthy for 9 months training in preparation for service in Vietnam. They wanted 3 guys to carry M60 machine guns and I was the 3rd one selected.

In Holdsworthy, the intro from the sarge was, “my name is Sergeant … (name withheld to protect the innocent!), if you stuff up, I won’t put you on report, but I’ll take you out the back and thump the shit out of you.”

One of the Army “rules” was: “no hands in pockets, no folding arms, if it doesn’t move, polish it, if it moves salute it”. Also, “Hurry up and wait”.

I remember the Brigadier asked us a question, “what do you use an extended line for?”. One of the guys answered, “emu bobbin’”, i.e. picking up rubbish!


In 1970, I went to Vietnam and joined 6 Platoon B company 7 RAR as a soldier. I carried the M60 for the whole of my time there.

In Vietnam, we carried our weapons, a full supply of ammunition plus rations and water. Mine consisted of the M60 machine gun weighing about 27 pounds; 100 rounds of ammo in the weapon weighing about 10 pounds, plus another 2 x 100 rounds of ammo around my shoulders and 100 rounds in my pockets as well as 5 days rations and 10 water bottles.

I remember one time when we pulled out of the bush and were at a Horseshoe Fire Support Base. We were in the bunkers, manning guns, artillery and mortars in the horseshoe. There was an MP at the gate. Our Sergeant had us clean up our bunkers, chucking our crap into a 44-gallon drum. One guy decided to set it alight, and it exploded. Instant Red alert. Sergeant Jock, age about 30, a well-built guy, had to call the Major at the fire support base and explain that the drum was meant for papers, but someone had thrown ammunition or C4 explosives into it. The whole fire support base was put on alert. No one was injured but our guys thought it was hilarious, we had a bloody great laugh.

Horseshoe Fire Support baseA fellow soldier was going on R&R leave to Australia and he didn’t have a belt for his civvy pants. I lent him my 27-inch belt. I didn’t get it back until he gave it back to me 40 years later when we met at a Vets’ reunion. How we change over the years, now I couldn’t fit that 27-inch belt around my neck let alone my waist!

In service, there were times when I could hear my heart thumping so loud that I thought “they can hear that”. I knew it was only me.

Experiencing fear was a phase you go through at the time.

We all had nicknames – mine was “Kraut”, then there was Wog, Tulips, Pogo (a pen pusher), Puppy Dog (a big guy), Lilly Bell, Rockhead, Mumbles, Fingers, and the Arab. We still call each other by our nicknames. My friend “Wog” who lives in a WA country town still says, “how’s Mr M60”.

My service was for 390 days and I returned to Australia in 1971.

Lifelong friends

I have lifetime mates and I still see the Sergeant. Five mates from Vietnam are all in Perth, and we have mates in Vic and SA.

We have get togethers from time to time and there was a reunion not that long ago when our mates from Vic and SA came to WA, some with their wives and partners. We had a lunch reunion at the Bayswater Hotel.

I live in Gidgiegannup. My house was destroyed in the massive fire on the 1st Feb 2021. It burnt 10,900 hectares (27,000 acres) and 86 building. I lost everything except for my mobile phone and wallet, a pair of shorts and a 1958 Chev. All my military badges were found burnt to a crisp and have, fortunately, been replaced.

My overall experience was that I was raised in Australia for 21 years, I had never experienced much, lived normal teenage years playing in the creeks and gutters of Swan Valley.

When you’re young you’re bulletproof but Vietnam was something different.

I have no regrets.