The Death of Ralph Niblett

Suddenly the platoon came under withering small arms and machine-gun fire. The ferocity of the enemy fire was stunning.

My soldiers started returning fire but they had trouble getting their heads up to locate a target. In addition to the bullets flying around, the enemy were firing rocket propelled grenade rounds into the trees above our heads and raining shrapnel down upon us.

Ralph Niblett had been hit in the chest quite badly and was lying on his stomach in a semi-conscious state. I then noticed that Ralph's number two on his gun was also not moving. I moved over to check him out. It was one of the new men in the platoon, who had only been with us a few days. He had been shot in the head and was dead.

Ralph was a Victorian and due to return to Australia in only a couple of weeks time. He looked up at me and said that he didn't think he was going to make the VFL grand final. One of his best mates, Pte ‘Jethro’ Hannah was kneeling next to him and told him not to be silly and that he was going to be OK. Ralph just looked straight into our eyes and said, ‘No I'm not, I'm stuffed.’

I noticed that Ralph's eyes glazed over. I knew then that we had lost him.

Adapted from Gary McKay's In Good Company, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1987, pp 160 - 164