Cobber Digger Mates

Peter Adamis 18 January 2017 (Updated 19 April 2022)

Those who have served the nation, worn its many uniforms and contributed to the security and longevity of this country we call home – Australians will not need to be told what the words “Cobber Digger Mate” mean. Better qualified, experienced and far more knowledgeable people than I can provide better descriptions of what the words mean. But having said that, the words do resonate within each and every one of us and brings out a range of emotions that describe who we are and where we come from and what our upbringing or environment has been. 

In this country, it matters little who you are and where you come from, as you will often hear those words being spoken in all corners of this country from one ragged shoreline to the very heights of our maintain peaks. You could be in the middle of the Simpson Desert, the Nullarbor Plain, and the Daintree forest, on many of the islands that surround our great island or continent whatever you please. Yes even down in the caverns of the many mines being carved out by men who are as tough as they come. You don’t have to have worn the uniform to understand the meaning of “Cobber Digger Mate”.

You will find the words spoken in places such Wagga Wagga, Orange, Sydney in New South Wales, the Glass Mountains, Cairns, Winton, Cooktown, Townsville, Charleville in Queensland; Eucla, Albany, Geraldton, Kimberley’s, in West Australia, Darwin, Gulf of Carpentaria, Katherine in Northern Territory, Hobart, Launceston in Tasmania, Echuca, Orbost, Portland, St Kilda, Apollo Bay, Ballarat in Victoria; Barossa valley, Alice Springs, Cooper Pedy in South Australia and yes you will find in in the Antarctica amongst the men and women who operate under those harsh conditions. No matter where you’re live, work and play, what status you have and what your environment is, the words “Cobber Digger Mate” being heard.

I have written this article not because I am anti American but to question how and why the words “Buddy” came into our vocabulary. I don’t have degrees in Behaviour, Psychology or even in Neuro Linguistic Programming, but what I do have is a rough knowledge of my environment based on my life experiences and of who I am and where I belong in this vast land of ours. I know what the words “Cobber Digger Mate” mean to me and how special they can be when being referred to as such. To me no higher complement can be given to a bloke and if you happen to be a Sheila (female)   and referred as “Cobber Digger Mate” then you have made the grade and considered as one of the blokes. Nothing is sacred and nothing would be hidden from you. Vice versa.

Some 16 years or so ago I wrote a very small poem on “Cobber Digger Mate” and what it mean to me. Although I have lost the original poem, I can still remember what the poem meant to me. At that time I was attempting to describe the emotions that were associated with those words and at the same try and invoke the feelings associated with them.  I found over the years that the words “Cobber Digger Mate” were associated with:   love of a friend, loyalty, friendship, bonding, reliable, tenacity, committed, always there for you, dedicated, enduring, compassionate, caring, never afraid, pillar of strength, valued, ethical, good, bloke, sheila, companion, tough, soft, It mattered little how you looked physically but what was in your heart. It was of no consequence whether you were ugly, beautiful, handsome, crippled, educated, poor, far away, mentally and physically impaired, what colour your skin was, what you had done in your previous life, what religion you may have and or where you came from. What mattered was what and who you were right here and now and whether you qualified for being a “Cobber Digger Mate”.

Although I took the words “Cobber Digger Mate” for granted, did not make a fool or was naïve when meeting new chums, it was because of the value I placed on someone I met and shared life with over a given period. There have been many times when those words would come back and bite but they were few and far between. What I can tell you is that if I did refer to you as one of the words “Cobber Digger Mate”, then if you truly knew me or who I was a bloke ten you would know you were a “Cobber Digger Mate” for life, no matter how the years may have separated. I will attempt to describe what I mean below and if it attracts constructive criticism it means that it is ok to be criticised by another who is either A “Cobber, Digger or a Mate”.

Recently as many would know a few of us congregated at Bendigo to see a mate of a bygone era off on his final journey. His name was Peter “Flash” Curtis. I first met Peter if my memory serves correctly in 1974. In short we lost contact with each other despite sharing some moments in the same Battalion. It was only in the recent years that we reengaged in conversation using social media and the old friendships came back again. At the funeral I met with Annette, Flash’s lovely wife whom I had not met before and yes I consider her a “Cobber Digger Mate”.  However I also met up with David and Rick Piggott, brothers who I met some 43 and 44 years ago. I consider them “Cobber Digger Mate” and their ribbing me is all part of being an Aussie. But on that day I all met up with “Smithy” of ex D Coy 6 RAR. When I saw “Smithy” gain after an absence of some 40 years, my mind just had flashes of good memories and I gave him a hug as I had thought that somewhere along the line he had passed away. (Sorry “Smithy”). Yes “Smithy” was a “Cobber Digger Mate”. 

When I was in hospital receiving treatment for cancer, I contacted one of my mates, Peter Hatherley to come and see me. I asked him to reconnect me with Greg Pike and Pup Elliot whom were a part of my life many years ago. Both were senior in rank but both treated as me as an equal and as a friend and the feelings were mutual. Now I write this because many people who I have met in life do not understand the high value of friendship I place on the relationship. Now if both of these two blokes read this article they will may begin to understand how much I valued their friendship. Peter Hatherley had the wonderful understanding of people in my environment at the time and as life took its many changes, Peter and I remained “Cobber Digger Mates”.  I must say that was very much overwhelmed by the mates of the past coming out of the wood work to wish me well.

Just a glimpse.             I have just provided only a tiny inkling of my world through my eyes of what “Cobber Digger Mates” mean to me and the above examples are but the very few I have met throughout life.  A “Cobber Digger Mate” once said to me many years ago, “Pete, I notice that you choose your friends and not the other way around”. The statement is true indeed to this day. These are but a few examples of “Cobber Digger Mates” to enable the reader who is not an Aussie what it means to have friends in life and especially those we consider as “Cobber Digger Mates”.  Those who translate this article using the Google translator provided on the website will get the gist of what I mean. I am but a man rich in “Cobber Digger Mates” and not in the material sense.

As for my other “Cobber Digger Mates”, they have not been included because somewhere along the line they will be woven into the yarns and stories that will be written as a perpetual reminder that we too once roamed this earth young, free, full of beans, afraid of no one. After all are we not Australians. I have not yet to begun to write about my “Cobber Digger Mates and Mentors. Blokes the likes of Maurice Barwick, Peter “Bluey” Roberts, Warrie George Mansford, Barry French, Barry Tolley, Wayne Whitrod, Peter McLennan, Doug Luik, Bob Bak, Dennis Dyce, Don Norman, Leon Tsongas, Nick Bantounas, Emanuel Vardakis, Jock Bryson, Mick Driscoll, Christine Ethel, Ron Lunt, Terry Styles Harold Eather, Bob Gladwin, Peter Flash Curtis, Dave and Rick Piggott, Michael Kroger, Bonnie Wasiu, Percy Meredith, Bob Peoples, Burt Franks, Mick Olsen, Graham Tucker, Sid Gleeson, Noel Greaves, Barry Fitton, Mark Stephens, Mick Hardless, Andy Pring, Jock Bryson, John Arena, Ron Lovelock and many many others who all deserve a mention. Maybe while I am in having a quiet beer under the shade of the olive trees in Pellana Lakonia Greece, I will get the opportunity to reminisce and write about them.

As always, apologies to purists for my poor grammar and savagery of the English language. I wish you all well and hope that this article does not cause ambiguity in the minds of those who read it. 

Peter Adamis is a Journalist/Social Media Commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an Industry organisational & Occupational (OHS) & Training Consultant whose interests are within the parameters of domestic and international political spectrum.  He is an avid blogger and contributes to domestic and international community news media outlets as well as to local and Ethnic News.  He holds a Bachelor   of Adult Learning & Development (Monash), Grad DipOccupational Health & Safety, (Monash), Dip. Training & Assessment, Dip Public Administration, and Dip Frontline Management. Contact via Email: [email protected]  



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