LAC Lofty Roberts and myself (Fred Neville) took McNab (as he was best known) out on the slops one night into Sale despite his protestations (he had been a ferocious drinker back at TECSCL and I was almost permanently his escort on many and various charges). The "Just a couple" turned into a raging session and we delivered McNab home, all expecting a huge welcome from his wife and a dinner. Wrong! We were met by a howling banshee with a 14" carving knife and chased into the street!! McNab was left on the doorstep all night.
He had also been cook in the Dutson range hut and had been splattered with a pan full of bacon and eggs some time before when some Boggie on Mirage A/G gunnery had mistaken the range hut for the target area and had let a burst of 30mm go into it. Three rounds through the hut, I think.
Poor bugger was obviously doomed and unfortunately died in a Vietnam chopper crash, pinned in/under the wreck. No doubt the resultant fire burnt more brightly when it reached him. He was a great guy and one of the happiest drunks I have ever met.
Duncan McNair was not the typical married RAAFie as we didn't know he was married until he introduced this beautiful blond woman as his wife to us one night. I have to call him Glen as most of my group of friends knew him and Duncan seems so . . . . well, formal and those that knew Glen would understand what I am saying.
Glen was a great mate and was an extremely loyal friend. Glen was on 37 Arm Fitts course in 1968 with me and there are still many recollections of bailing Glen out of late night situations, water fights in the brick blocks near the mess using the fire hose reels, or a food fight in the mess on the weekend, or on exercises here in Oz and flying beside you in 'Nam.
Glen was posted to Sale (he asked for it) and I was posted to 5 Sqn Canberra in May '68. We lost touch as you do but it was a pleasant surprise to see him drop in to the 5 Sqn hanger one day for an interview for a Crewman's Course. I was also applying and when the Sqn Ldr found out I knew Glen he asked if I thought he would be suitable. Naturally I said yes just for Glen. He was accepted and we then spent and extended time on course becoming helicopter crewmen. Extended because we had two fatals in the space of five weeks, identical but only single casualties in each one. It did little for our confidence though!
I did a couple of small trips with Glen after our graduation and I would be confident in saying I have a blurred memory of those. We also did the Shoal Water Bay exercise in Oct-Nov 1969 as it was our last major exercise before Vietnam.
I last saw Glen at my wedding four weeks before I left for Vung Tau but knew I would see him before the 12 months were up as we were in full rotation of crewmen. I think he arrived early 1970 but not sure.
Glen and I were what one would call silent mates as it was never necessary to verbally confirm that friendship. He slept in the next but one, bed from me. I played the guitar on a regular basis and Glen would always join in the singing if he was around. He also drank alot, just as everyone there did and it got to the stage where we nicknamed him Mr Walker, "The ghost who walks" the Phantom, you know. The reason? We were never sure if Glen knew where he was and would almost work through the day with his eyes closed. While we all had drummed into us, no drinking 8 hours before flying, no-one was game to tell Glen, but I don't think it would have made any difference to him.
One afternoon after Glen had been into Vung Tau all day (day off), he came back to the hut and promptly fell asleep on his bed. The duty crewman decided to have some fun and woke Glen and told him it was time to go to work. Glen dutifully got up, dressed in full flying gear, went to the mess and had a coffee and got into the vehicle to go to the "morning briefing". I am sure everyone in the compound was watching him. We had to wake him to get him out of the jeep and back to bed.
Glen's aircraft was hit by small arms fire from the Viet Cong. Chris Ellis, the pilot immediately called a May Day and turn the aircraft back towards Nui Dat but lost power almost immediately. He chose to put the chopper down in a dry paddy field but couldn't reduce the forward speed enough and the aircraft hit the paddy bank on the right hand side tearing the right hand skid off and opening up the fuel tank situated directly below Glen's seat. We were told that the fire was immediate and Glen breathed the flame into his lungs. He had severe burns to hands and face and even through the Novax suits we wore. He died a week later in a Tokyo burns unit from pneumonia caused by the damage done to his lungs. His wife was at his side when he died.
I have taken Glen's death pretty badly over the years and it has played a major role in my PTSD problems in the last ten years. Right or wrong, I blamed myself for his death as without my recommendation for the crewman's course I don't think he would have even gone to Vietnam. While I have worked through the issues and I do not sp much blame myself any more it is still difficult at times as I lost a most unforgettable friend. I have one final wish that may provide closure on this, I want to apologise to his wife and kids. I just don't know where she is.
For Lofty and Fred, you are so right, he was a great guy and THE happiest drunk ever!
Mt Crosby Nov 2003
I was recently in Canberra and visited the war memorial. I saw for the first time my once special friends name on the roll. Duncan Glen McNair. I decided to have a look on the internet for any available information on the whereabouts of his death as I will be visiting Vietnam this year. This is the first site I came across.
I have just read Fred Neville's and Richard McLaren's memories of Dunc and it appeared he never changed over the years. Richard I am glad you have stopped blaming yourself for his death as I am sure Vietnam would have been a venture that Duncan would have wanted to enter into. Do you ever remember Duncan blaming anyone for his misfortunes?
During his younger (wild) years I suggested that he may want to join the air force. I hoped this would give him some stability and he would be able to party a little less. He did join and did enjoy the camaraderie, but party less - no way. He was highly intelligent and could have done wonderful things with his life except for the demon alcohol. He was a great friend and always fun to be with . I am pleased to read that he is still remembered by friends