Posted On 03 May 2024
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This entry is part 18 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#29


It was only at breakfast that we remembered to take a photo of the troops. From left, they are: Kate Colwell, camp follower; Peter Colwell, Trooper #20; Lionel Camm, Trooper #5; Wayne Thompson, Trooper #32, and Yours Truly, Officer Commanding.

“Sir, you are an army—we are a traveling whorehouse,”
Captured French soldier to his Prussian captor

It was a dark and stormy night… but we didn’t care. We were safe and dry, not to mention warm, in front of the fi re in the Great Western pub in, er, Great Western, Victoria. Apart from providing regular top-ups of beer and tasty local red, Chip, the publican, came around to take our orders for dinner and several of us opted for the old, tried and oh so true pub favourite, the chicken parmigiana. It took a while – the black-clad chef of the Great Western does not do fast or even quick food – but it was well and truly worth it. The chicken with its golden coating hung over the edge of the plate on three sides, or maybe even four, and hid a treasure of crispy chips and equally crisp salad. I couldn’t fi nish mine, and neither could some of the others.

“Was the food all right?” asked a seriously concerned Chip.

“Mate,” I said, “we mainly come from the city. We just can’t eat that much!” He seemed reassured, but now a little worried about us.

The occasion was, of course, the First Manoeuvres of the 1st Platoon of the Bear Army. Numbers were small, but the last

thing I would ever want any trooper to feel

is an obligation to do something

they didn’t want to do. That’s not what the

BA is about.

So what is it about? I threw that question into the conversation as we were settling back after our attempts to climb Mt Parmy, equipped with only knives and forks. The almost universal response was “umm…” This is definitely a low-pressure force. I know that I don’t want us to raise money for charity, for instance – there are many other motorcycle organisations which do that. I want us to be as laid back as we can be. As laid back, for example, as parts of the French army (see the quote at the beginning of this story).

Taking our cue from Frederick the Great*, that an army marches on its stomach, we not only dined well but breakfasted well, too – across the road from the pub, where inflation has inserted its grubby digit and increased the price of a pair of bacon and egg sangas from $5 (at my previous visit) to $6. Still a bargain.

We did debate a few ideas but in the end we pretty much came back to “umm” again. So this question has been put back to be discussed at the 1st Platoon’s second manoeuvres, in NSW in June. In the meantime, when Chip began to make noises about closing the pub, we repaired to Lionel’s room and the bottle of amazing Single Malt whisky. Thank you, Lionel.

And so to bed, and a good night’s sleep in the Great Western’s comfortable beds before we rose, bright-eyed and bushy tailed (good whisky does not give you a hangover unless you drink tumblers full of it) and headed off for the general store across the road from the pub which offers bacon and egg sangas. They’re not brilliant, but you can’t argue with the price and the bloke behind the counter graciously took our photo for us.

Although the total establishment of the 1st Company of the Bear Army has been set at 250, there are still vacancies. Drop me a line at if you’re interested, or read about it in the past few issues of MOTORCYCLIST. You will be very welcome, especially if you have good taste in Single Malts…

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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