History of 55 (1969 to 1970) by Jim Powell
I think the first sentence in Keith Tomkinson's article, in the January 1996 issue - admitting that his memory is somewhat diminished, is extremely relevant. Someone once told me that when you turn 50 years of age, three things happen to you. The first is that memory goes. I've forgotten what the other two were.
However, I do remember my first day in SVN. I couldn't believe the heat from the tarmac as I stepped out of the plane and that feeling of 'what do I do now?'. I also distinctly recall the smile all over Keith Tomkinson's face when he officially 'handed over' the reins of 55 EWPS and then darted off hurriedly to pack his gear.
Doug Laver was 2IC at that time and he was replace by Dave Moreton. There were plenty of flamboyant characters in the unit during my time in the country. Some of them actually made my stay more bearable. As these characters left, the system seemed to replace them with equally talented and likeable members, all of whom added something to the "Fighting Fifty Fifth". The Orderly Room was generally perceived as 'F' troop of the Fighting 55th - I guess you could not argue with that.
The operation of the stores and workshop element of 55 EWPS never seemed to cause any problems. I guess that is a reflection of the dedication and hard work by everybody and the importance we all placed on customer service responsibilities.
During 1969/1970 the MV Jeparit continued the re-supply run to and from SVN delivering the much needed items from Australia and returning the down-scaled items to Penrith. Sometimes, I believe there was more that just down-scaled stock items being returned via Penrith - but that's just a rumour. Well how else could you get all that stuff back to Australia, surely you weren't expected to carry it back!
The issues and receipts function of the lower yard were sorely tested at one time when we received countless truck loads of cement arriving day and night until the cement literally filled the lower yard.
This was caused by a standing order with the American Supply System for approximately 2,500 bags per month - which was supposed to be on the basis of 'fill or kill' - if they had stock they would issue, if they didn't have stock they would cancel the order. However, because it was for the 'Aussies' they sent us all the backorder for about six months in one delivery - what chaos! We ended up giving the cement away before the weather spoilt it.
Whilst we had our share of dramas I think you would agree we also had our share of good times. I left SVN in October 1970 replaced by Tony de Bont.
After 55 EWPS I was posted to Singapore for two years and then on to Perth. I transferred from Engineers to Ordnance in 1975 and eventually resigned in 1979 after 22 years service.