Skip to main content

Ian Granland OAM

Ian Granland OAM

Lance Corporal, Australian Army


Lance Corporal Ian Heyward Granland

104 Signal Squadron, Australian Army
Service number: 2792456
Rank on discharge: lance corporal
Honours/awards: OAM

"Our unit was in a rubber plantation. And for the first two weeks as I’d go on parade in the morning and get my name ticked off, get my rifle inspected, and then off to do your work. After about two weeks, the sergeant in charge of our little group said, “Signalman Granland, come and see me.”

I went over, he said, “You are now the sergeant’s mess barman.” And I kind of just shook my head, said, “Oh, righto.”

Twelve months before, I’m a policeman walking around arresting people, and now I’m in a combat zone as a sergeant’s mess barman."

In 1969 Ian Granland was in the NSW Police Force when he got called up for National Service. “I did my initial training at Singleton, then because I’d been a police cadet and knew shorthand typing, I was allocated to Signal Corps to train as a clerk. We were sent to a reinforcement wing at Ingleburn while we waited to go on corps training.”

“I’d been there about a week when the RSM from 1 Signal Squadron asked if I wanted to join the squadron as a regimental policeman. He said they were going for a three-month-exercise to Malaya, and that he’d promote me to corporal. I said I wanted to do something different.”

“A couple of weeks went past and the numbers in our wing were declining. The penny dropped that I was going nowhere, so I agreed to go to 1 Signal Squadron. They put me with a fella I’d done police training with, and they had us guarding the married quarters which were adjacent to the infantry training area.”

Ian didn’t want to spend his National Service guarding the married quarters, so he asked to go to Vietnam. He said he was willing to do anything in Vietnam, and he accepted the role of hygiene dutyman “to clean the showers, wash the toilets, dig holes, and generally be a dog’s body over there.”

Ian said, “Next thing I was on the bus to Canungra to do the jungle training course, and a month or so later, in February 1970, I was on the plane over to Saigon, and then another plane down to Nui Dat.”

“Our unit was in a rubber plantation. You’d go on parade in the morning, get your name ticked off, get your rifle inspected, and then go off to do your work. The job as a hygiene dutyman entailed cleaning the toilets, replacing the toilet paper, scrubbing the showers. Then you'd get some ancillary work, like digging drains, digging holes. I had a licence to drive an Army truck, so there would be times when I'd be asked to go and do this and that.”

After about two weeks as a hygiene dutyman, the sergeant in charge moved Ian to the Sergeants’ Mess bar. Ian said, “Twelve months before I’d been a policeman walking around arresting people, and now I'm a Sergeants’ Mess barman.”

“When I worked in the bar, I could sleep until eight, then I’d go clean the Sergeants’ Mess and restock the fridges. That would take an hour and a half, then I’d go back to my tent and sit around. At 12 o'clock the bar would open for lunch, and they would all come down for a beer and I'd have to serve them. They’d go back to work at half past one, and I'd clean up and go back to my tent. At four o’clock I'd open the bar again and then stay till finish. Finishing time might be eight o'clock, nine o'clock, midnight.”

“I’d have to replenish the beer stock every Thursday. I think it was worked out at two cans per man per day. So, say you were catering for a hundred fellas that would be 200 cans per day, regardless of whether they were out in the jungle, on R&R, or somewhere else. You’d get an allocation of VB from Victoria, Tooheys from New South Wales, XXXX from Queensland, Boags from South Australia, Cascade from Tasmania, and some terrible stuff from Western Australia. I think it was 10 cents or 15 cents a can. It was very cheap.”

“Anyhow, as the week went on, the VB would go first, the XXXX next, then the Tooheys, the Boags, the Cascade, and the terrible stuff from Western Australia would be the last to get drunk. By then, Thursday had rolled around, and off you again.”

Ian lasted for three months in the Sergeants’ Mess. “I pissed into pickles, and they said I would no longer be the Sergeants’ Mess barman, as if it was a demotion. It was good to be back to cleaning dunnies.”

Ian was struck by the heat in Vietnam. “When I got out of the plane at Tan Son Nhut Airport, the heat hit me. The heat was bad for me because I've got very fair skin. I ended up writing to my mother asking if she could get me calamine lotion. She sent me over a couple of bottles, and after a while my skin got used to the heat.”

Another thing Ian recalls was the poverty in Vietnam. “I’d never seen people so poor. They were living inside these little humpy-type things in what looked like flattened beer cans. The poverty just blew me away.”

“I didn't go out in the jungle that much. We weren't trained infantry soldiers, and I was very aware of that. Our unit CSM used to take a group out into the jungle for a night every six weeks or so, and one night they got shot up. I used to drive them out and then come back, but thankfully I never went out there.”

“We used to drive past little villages and huts and rice paddies to get out of Nui Dat, and they knew we were gonna come back on those roads. They could have been booby trapped or whatever. I've often thought about that. We would've been sitting ducks.”

Ian was in Vietnam from February 1970 to January 1971. “I was there for 11 months because one of the blokes in my tent was the movements clerk and he fixed it up so I could go home a month early.”

“I left Nui Dat with about three or four other blokes from my unit, and I had cases full of stuff. I had about 92 pounds of luggage and you're only supposed to have 20 or so. Our stuff had to get weighed before we got on the Caribou to go up to Tan Son Nhut, so I left out the stuff I didn’t want weighed. When we got on the Qantas 707 to come home, the captain says, ‘Gentlemen, we've got a problem, we're overweight. We've got two options, we can take the luggage off and have it reweighed, or I can stand here while we burn off some fuel. Everyone’s going, ‘burn off the fuel, burn the fuel.’ So that's what he did for half an hour.”

“We got to Mascot at about 11:00pm, and I'd organised with my brother to pick me up. I was amazed that for the most part the Army made no provision; you had to go and find your own bed. I came from Sydney, so I was okay, but there were blokes who had nowhere to go.”

“I got back on about 21 January, and I didn’t get discharged till about 22 April. I had about six weeks’ leave, then I was posted back to 1 Signal Regiment at Ingleburn. I’d read about blokes who they just let go, but that didn’t happen to me unfortunately. I lived at Matraville, and I rode my little motorbike back and forth every day for the next six weeks. I can't remember what I did at Ingleburn, I probably painted rocks white.”

“If your supervisor had nothing for you to do, they would arm you with a paintbrush and a can of white paint, and you would paint the rocks around the gardens and the Army buildings.”

Ian was at Glebe Police Station before he went on National Service. “They kept my name on the roster for those two years, ‘Constable Granland National Service’. I walked in the door, and I didn't know anyone.”

Ian went to the state clothing factory at Leichhardt and was fitted with a uniform, then he was back on general duties policing. “So, I was straight from painting rocks white into doing fatal accidents. It was like, get on with it. People didn’t care about Vietnam.”

“When I was at Glebe there were three Vietnam protest marches in the middle of Sydney, and I was allocated to those marches. They started down near Central Station and went up George Street. I remember looking from the top of George Street, and I had never seen so many people in my life. I reckon there were 200,000. There were probably 200 cops from all around Sydney, just walking, making sure there were no problems. It felt strange that I was doing this and wearing the ribbons as a Returned Serviceman.”

“Anyhow, this young girl had fallen over. She would’ve been 18 or 19 and she’d fainted or something. People were starting to walk over the top of her, so I pushed my way through, and I bent down and lifted her up and she opened her eyes and saw that I was a cop and then spat in my face. I let her drop and I got my hanky and wiped my face and went on with the march. That was 1971.”

“I think one of the problems is that we get involved in issues that we really shouldn't be involved in, like Korea and Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan. We should take a bit of notice of what's happened in the past, and let it influence the future.”

“I had wanted to be a Returned Serviceman. When I was a kid, I used to see these blokes with their medals on Anzac Day, and I used to think, I want to be one of those men, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to go to Vietnam. But if I had my opportunity over again, I wouldn't go into the Army. I didn't like it.”