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Subject: For All Nails Nr 65 - Southern Cross

Hue, Annam, Indo-China - 14 January 1973

Serjeant Major Liam Molloy, First (The Prince's Own) Australian Dragoons,
was not, all things considered, one of his Royal Australian Majesty's
better bargains while in barracks.Successive Commanding Officers had made
it their business to ensure that Molloy spent as much time as possible
dragging his aging frame through the jungles of South-East Asia and the
minimum amount of time being bored in the neat, white-washed, tidy,
/military/ quadrangles of Silver Mountain Camp or Fort New Liverpool.
Molloy, when bored, was fearsome, a one-man wave of drunkenness,
misbehaviour and cavalier flouting of vital military regulations. In the
field, Molloy was equally fearsome, but a somewhat greater threat to the
enemy of the day than to the Corps of Military Constables.

Molloy's chest, on the rare occasions he wore a dress uniform, was a blaze
of colour, attesting to the countless campaigns he had taken part in since
his first enlistment in the fading days of the Global War, with, at the
very top of the triple row of ribbons, the  discreet scarlet-and-blue of
the Bronze Cross, the ultimate decoration for valour, still awarded by the
King-Emperor in Britain, through his nephew in New Liverpool, to gallant
soldiers of the armies of what had once been the United Empire.

Over the years, a crust of equally problematic old soldiers had
accumulated around Molloy. Of similar character to him, they had melded
into the Reconnaissance Troop of the First Dragoons and had marched from
end to end of the jungles of Burma, Malaya, Java and now Indo-China,
spitting, farting, moaning and killing their way through the wreckage left
behind when the Germans had withdrawn and the Siamese had made their brief
bid for empire. Molloy had killed Shan tribesmen, Siamese Regulars,
Javanese Muslims, Siamese mercenary-service Laotian irregulars, Montagnard
villagers, Japanese and German regulars and Vietnamese insurgents with
indifference and loathing.

Molloy's Regiment, formed part of the Australian Security Force, either a
large brigade or a small division, based in the Annamese capital of Hue.
Molloy and his men had, characteristically, sorted themselves out a billet
in a godown on the Perfume River and made themselves comfortable in
between long patrols in the hinterland.

The troop had just returned from a two-week patrol which had taken it in a
large circle inland into the Highlands and back to the comparative
delights of Hue. A period of intensive relaxation had ensued and the more
enthusiastic members of the troop, notably Lance Corporal "Bowler"
Higgins, had been retrieved from the loving custody of the Provost
Marshal's Office after their attempt to bridge the Perfume River, using
only the naked and trussed bodies of Military Constables as caissons. Once
fully recovered from their refreshments, Molloy and his men had been
despatched to Princess Victoria Aeropark for fallscreen refresher training
and to the ranges to re-zero their Krag-Metford rifles. Molloy was
becoming bored and his troops were becoming restive. It was obviously time
for another patrol.

Colonel the Honourable Bruce Matuchewski, the Chief of Intelligence of the
Annam Field Force, was the fortunate individual who had overall
responsibility for all "scouts, observing officers and Secret Service
matters" - which number included Molloy's troop, which had not served as
conventional armoured cavalry for a number of years. Molloy's skills and
aptitudes ran in other fields than vehicle maintenance and machine cannon
operation. A request from the Royal Australian Military Mission in Madras
for a liaison and security team to assist the Political Department at the
High Commission [1] - essentially the seat of Australian political and
military influence in the former nation of India - provided him with an
opportunity both to find entertainment and distraction for Molloy's troop
and make the Problem of Molloy someone else's. The fit was optimal and
within 48 hours, the Reconnaissance Troop was en route in a heavy cargo
dirigible on the long dogleg flight south to Port Cook [2] and then West
to Madras.

Molloy and his troops were greeted on their arrival at Madras Aeropark
some days later by a stocky figure in dark green, who introduced himself
in a strong Australian accent as Havildar-Major Lalbahadur Pun of the Free
Indian Army.

Pun and Molloy regarded each other warily. Molloy, from his six feet four
inches, regarded the barely five foot six inch-tall Goorkha and saw
something he recognised. Pun was obviously into his mid-forties - and
therefore a veteran of the original Free Indian Army, which had withdrawn
to Australia with the government in exile after the crushing defeat by the
Germans - and had equally obviously kept busy about the business of
discomfiting the King's enemies in the mean time.  The kukri on his hip
was not scabbarded - the much-honed blade was naked, indicating that Pun
had yet to sheathe it, having probably drawn it in 1941 - and thus that he
considered himself still to be at war - and the cheerful grin under the
cold eyes suggested that this was a kindred spirit.

"We're going to be working together, Serjeant Major. There are a number of
research projects my team and I have been involved in which we're going to
be taking forward together. I think you'll enjoy them".

Molloy smiled. This showed all the signs of being an entertaining and
instructive tour.

[1] For a full account of the Australian intervention in the power vacuum
in India in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the curious researcher is
advised to see "Southern Cross over Hind" by Professor Dame Brooke Allison
, late of Shrewsbury College, Oxford,[3], Wellesley College, New
Liverpool, 1986.

[2] OTL Singapore

[3] Dame Brooke's magnum opus, of course, was "The Angels of the Narrows"
- an enthralling account of the four unsuccessful German attempts to
accomplish an invasion of England during the Global War. The Professor's
analysis clearly demonstrates that the German aspiration was doomed to
failure, even had they, as suggested by a revisionist faction within
Australian historical thinking, concentrated the Hochseeflotte in the
North Sea, rather than deploying it to the Indian Ocean in support of the
Assault on India.