Monday October 24, 2005. Australian Soldiers lament the passing of Fred. Old soldiers and their younger colleagues are teary-eyed at the demise of a trusty old friend known as Fred, a comrade since the days of Vietnam. Fred is the army-issue can opener, bottle opener and spoon, a shiny all-in-one implement manufactured in the hundreds of thousands and included in every one-man ration pack issued to Australian soldiers since the 1960s and maybe much earlier. But in an age of ring-pull cans and heat-in-the-bag main meals, the Fred is no longer needed. His retirement prompted a ventilation of sorrow in recent letters to the Army newspaper. "From opening tin cans to cleaning fingernails or personal assault weapons to a makeshift screwdriver, the humble Fred has served well," wrote Captain Brian Tuohy of the Townsville-based 3 Brigade. "It has never been decorated, mentioned in dispatches or given a Commanding Officer's Commendation. It has gone about its business, serving the Australian soldier, sailor and airman in every conceivable country and operation in the world without the recognition it so rightly deserves." Major Justin Bayley, defence logistics manager and senior food inspector, replied in the newspaper that the Fred was being dropped so funds could be diverted to new and better items, including an expanded menu range, sports drink powder and tuna with crackers. "We are trialling much sought-after items such as beef jerky and self-saucing puddings. Sadly, these products don't come cheap and with essentially a fixed budget, I have to introduce changes so that we can re-invest money we save for things I know our soldiers want." Lieutenant Colonel Sean Ryan said it wasn't just a money issue. "The fact is the Fred is redundant in the modern ration pack," he said. "Modern technology has meant that the army can take advantage of more innovative packaging solutions such as the ring-pull cans to give the soldier in the field greater culinary delights and simpler preparation." Not all soldiers were convinced. Major K T Cook of Bandiana, Victoria, said he was moved to solemnly inter his Fred in his backyard. "A few words were said and tears glistened in my eyes as Fred had been my faithful companion for more than 30 years," he said, querying whether a ring-pull could ever serve as a screwdriver, for fingernail cleaning or for scraping mud off boots. Similarly, Private Raymond Khoo of the defence languages school said his Fred had always been a important tool in the field. "It was used widely, including the opening of cans to importantly the cleaning of weapons and other things limited (only) by ones own imagination or needs," he said.