In 1966, Tim Overall started an economics degree.
In 1966, Tim Overall’s number was called.
It was the call for military service for the Vietnam War. He received a letter at his family home in Canberra.
“My first reaction was to ring all my friends to see if they’d received a letter. None of them had.
“In that sense, I felt a little isolated, but philosophical about it and prepared to accept the challenge.”
The family had a military background: Overall’s father had served in the Second World War and an older brother was in the regular army, so the family’s reaction was that it was ‘the call of duty’.
Besides, when you got conscripted for Vietnam, there was a clause to let you finish your university degree first.
But how could your university life be the same, knowing that war was on the other side of it?
The time of Overall’s enrolment in the 1960s was also a time of protest on campus.
“I remember President Lyndon Johnson visiting the city, and I wasn’t participating in the protest, but I was caught up in the crowd of thousands on Northbourne Avenue.”
“It was difficult at times, because I was challenged by people, friends and people I was currently at university with as to what I was going to do: was I going to join protests? Was I going to burn the call up notice? Or was I going to comply?”
“I was going to comply and I guess a minority of my friends and associates found that difficult to accept at the time, and I lost one or two friendships. Equally, I gained the respect of other close friends.”
“I was very mindful of what was to come, you’d watch the evening news on television with keen interest and alarm, because the war was raging and it had television news broadcasts each night.”
“I was determined to graduate at Uni in the shortest possible time. So I really just focussed on achieving academically, which didn’t come easy for me.”
“I remember one Professor saying ‘well, you’d better come and see me every Wednesday at four o’clock for the next couple of weeks for help’. I just put my head down and got on with it.”
“After the final year exams I was notified to attend the bus stop, which was just near the University actually, and there was a whole busload of us being farewelled by mothers and fathers and sisters. We all got on the bus and headed off to Wagga.”
By the time that the graduation rolled around Overall had been in Wagga for basic training for a number of weeks, but managed to get some time off to return to Canberra, complete with crew-cut to hide underneath the mortarboard.
“I look at this picture of the day now and I just think: innocence.”
“Whilst we knew that the war was a real issue, and the community and population was split, we, at that age, didn’t understand a lot about it and what it meant, and how horrific it was for those that served.”
Overall was selected for Officer training, but by the time that he had finished that, there were no positions in infantry battalions. He became a platoon trainer, actually teaching those who would be deployed to Vietnam.
“So my ‘Vietnam’ experience was a lot of luck and timing.”
“Still, the army, along with my time at University has influence every step of my career since then.”