A 5 RAR CHARACTER - SGT 'PADDY' CAHILL
All battalions of our regiment have had characters that stand out and are revered as icons of their battalion. In the four battalions I served with there was SSGT Frank "Dinky" Dean, the long serving CQMS of A Coy 1 RAR. Frank was a master of having the perfect 100% Q Account at every annual stock take. It just happened that way! 7 RAR had SGT Dave Willis who was the guru of the transport platoon which he preferred to run without the interference of an officer. ‘Willis’ the pig, the 7 RAR mascot was a legacy of Dave's service not to mention his passion for wearing boots GP, even in mess kit and civilian clothes. Dave carried this into 5/7 RAR after linking.
5 RAR had SGT Frederick Bernard ‘Paddy’ Cahill who was the iconic Sergeant cook of C Coy on both tiger tours of Vietnam. Paddy had a typical Irish temperament and was entirely devoted to looking after the men of Charlie Coy. On his first tour he had to establish the initial kitchen at Nui Dat in deplorable conditions, in the wet season and without hard standing. He did this cheerfully and with his cooking team would produce his famous bread rolls or "paddy buns" that would be inserted into operations by resupply helicopter, to add a bit of variety to the combat rations. Paddy would normally accompany the resupply mission. This continued throughout his second tour. I got to know Paddy well being a member of C Coy in Vietnam and then later as a member of 5/7 RAR.
Paddy was born on 3 July 1921 at Ennis, County Clare Ireland. He enlisted in the British Army on 2 September 1941 and served during WW2 with the Green Howards and the Royal Berkshire Regiment reaching the rank of Corporal. His awards included the 1939-45 Star, the Burma Star and the War Medal 1939-45. He discharged from the British Army in January 1947 and then enlisted in the Australian Army on 22 April 1952. During the Korean War, Paddy served at various times with 2 RAR, then 1 RAR and 3 RAR in both Korea and Japan.
In September 1957 he rejoined 2 RAR and during a seven year tenure he served in Singapore and Malaya. Postings to 2 Recruit Training Battalion and 3 Training Battalion followed before joining 5 RAR on 23 March 1966. After his first tour of Vietnam, Paddy served at the Infantry Centre at Ingleburn before rejoining 5 RAR on 28 June 1968, again as the Sergeant cook for C Company. He was an original member of 5/7 RAR (when 5 RAR and 7 RAR linked) on 3 December 1973. This was to be his final unit.
At the time of linking I had transferred from 7 RAR to 5/7 RAR as OC A Coy and then Bn Second in Command. The battalion cooks were brigaded under Admin Coy commanded by MAJ Greg Negus (a 5 RAR 1st tour Vietnam veteran). In early 1974, C Coy commanded by MAJ Brian Green was warned for service as Rifle Company Butterworth and undertook intensive training in preparation. Paddy naturally expected to be the Sergeant cook for this deployment, however he was not as fit as he could be and was over imbibing a little.
On being told that he would not deploy with C Coy, Paddy marched himself into my office with the RSM in hot pursuit and ‘demanded’ that I overturn this decision as I should know full well that Charlie Company was Paddy's company and that he had to deploy with them.
Regrettably, I told him that I would support Greg's decision. Paddy turned and stormed out of my office but under the RSM's ‘guidance’ quickly returned to offer the appropriate departing salutation. Paddy would not speak to me after that!
At the end of 1974 I was to be reposted and being Supervising Officer of the Sergeant's Mess, the RSM invited Tina and me to be farewelled at a Dining-In-Night. On the day, the RSM advised me of our arrival time and that a Sergeant had been nominated to be our host. We arrived at the appointed hour and there was Paddy at the entrance ready to host us. He presented us with six crystal glasses (suitably declared in our assets!) which we have to this day. All forgiven.
Awards received by Paddy during his Australian Army service were the Korea Medal, the UN Service Medal (Korea), the Vietnam Medal, the National Medal, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, the Infantry Combat Badge and the Returned from Active Service Badge. Paddy discharged from the Army on 21 April 1976 and passed away on 14 August 1983.
Defence Archives have recently advised that Paddy is qualified for other awards that have not been issued since his passing. These are the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with Clasps Korea, Thai-Malay and Vietnam; the Australian Service Medal 1945-75 with Clasps Korea and SE Asia; the Australian General Service Medal for Korea; the Defence Force Service Medal with First Clasp and the Pingat Jasa Malaysia. Regrettably we have no knowledge or contact with any of Paddy's family so that these medals can be claimed.
Paddy was a proud tiger and iconic character who was always devoted to the 5th Battalion. He is still fondly remembered at Charlie Company reunions of both tours of Vietnam.
After this article was published we discovered that on 26 January 1976, Paddy Cahill, was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). It is also possible, but yet to be confirmed, that Paddy was awarded the National Medal on 14 July 1977.