Japanese Vessel in Australia to Load World’s First Hydrogen Shipment

Innovative development:

The world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier, arrived in Victoria, Australia January 20, 2022 on the first leg of its historic maiden voyage. The vessel left Japan in December, and after avoiding bad weather delayed its arrival at Port of Hastings, is now set to load its first shipment of liquified hydrogen as part of a demonstration project undertaken by Japan’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) Pilot Project.

During the pilot project, 99.999 percent pure hydrogen has been produced from Latrobe Valley coal and biomass via gasification, trucked approximately 80 miles to Hastings, cooled to negative 253 degrees Celsius, and subsequently liquified to less than 800 times its gaseous volume to create the liquefied hydrogen. The pilot project can produce up to 70 kg a day of hydrogen through a process that reacts the coal with oxygen and steam under high heat and pressure.

HESC’s vision is to produce hydrogen through this extraction process while capturing and storing CO2 via the CarbonNet Project. The goal of the Japanese-Australian partnership is to reach a commercial stage where 225,000 tons of liquefied hydrogen (LH2) is produced. According to HESC in the commercial phase, the project will contribute to reducing global CO2 emissions by some 1.8 million tons per year, while providing valuable infrastructure for other hydrogen projects in the region.

Published Jan 21, 2022 by The Maritime Executive

 

The RAN Fleet Air Arm in Vietnam – “Get the bloody job done”

The ubiquitous Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter is still arguably the most instantly recognisable symbol of the Vietnam War. Images of the ‘helicopter war’ feature prominently in books, films and documentaries – indeed, a granite-etched image of an Iroquois extracting troops forms the centrepiece of Australia’s National Vietnam Memorial located on Anzac Parade in Canberra.

Not so widely known though is the role that was played by personnel of the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA), in a war that depended heavily on tactical air movement of combat troops, supplies and equipment in what were eventually called air-mobile operations.

Between 1967 and 1971 the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV), was fully integrated with the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) flying Iroquois helicopters in both the utility and gun ship configurations. As a result of this unique relationship between the RAN and the US Army, the unit was officially designated ‘EMU’, for Experimental Military Unit. This was fitting, given that the emu is a native Australian bird, yet amusing at the same time because of the EMU’s inability to fly. The unit later designed its own unique badge and adopted the unofficial motto “Get the bloody job done”, which was to personify their attitude to air-mobile operations. In keeping with Australian Naval tradition many of the aviators also grew beards to distinguish themselves as sailors in a predominantly army environment.

RAN helicopter pilots were embedded with the US army 135th Assault Helicopter Company. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter seen here was used for transporting personnel.

The 135th AHC was initially based at Vung Tau and comprised two troop lift platoons, each with eleven UH-1Ds, a gun ship platoon with eight UH-1Cs, a maintenance platoon with a single UH-1D and a headquarters platoon. Six of the gun ships were equipped with mini guns, rockets and machine guns. The remaining two were fitted with the XM-5 40mm grenade launcher system, rockets and machine guns.

The role of 135th AHC was to provide tactical air movement of combat troops, supplies and equipment in air-mobile operations. This included augmentation of army medical services, search and rescue and the provision of a command and control aircraft capability.

It was not long before the Australians became fully operational, flying their first mission on 3 November 1967. By the end of November the company had flown 3182 hours in support of the US Army 9th Infantry Division and the 1st Australian Task Force based at Nui Dat, in Phuoc Tuy province.

In December 1967, the 135th AHC was relocated to Camp Blackhorse five miles south of Xuan Loc, in Long Khanh province. In February 1968, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive and Camp Blackhorse came under enemy attack by mortar. Skirmishes on the boundaries became frequent and the enemy mining of the road from Long Binh to Baria, via Xuan Loc disrupted supply convoys causing shortages of aircraft spare parts.

In response to the Tet Offensive, operations intensified with EMU aircraft frequently coming under enemy fire and being forced down. The RANHFV suffered its first casualty during a mission to lift out troops of the 18th Army of the Republic of Vietnam near Xuan Loc when Lieutenant Commander PJ Vickers, RAN, was fatally wounded while piloting the lead aircraft. He was to be the first of five RAN aviators killed in action during the flight’s four year deployment to Vietnam.

Throughout the RANHFV’s deployment there were many individual acts of bravery performed in the face of the enemy. One such incident occurred on 4 December 1971 when Lieutenant Jim Buchanan, RAN, was piloting a helicopter operating in the U-Minh Forest. He was engaged in the medical evacuation of a wounded crew member from a Government patrol boat when the group came under heavy attack from enemy forces. Another patrol boat, fifty metres away exploded due to a direct hit by a B40 rocket. Realising that the boat on which he was operating was disabled and drifting towards the enemy held shore, Lieutenant Buchanan deliberately hooked the skids of his aircraft onto the boats superstructure and towed it to a safe area although he was still receiving heavy automatic weapons and 82mm mortar fire. He was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Aircraft of the 135th AHC during air mobile operations in South Vietnam.

The gallantry and distinguished service of RANHFV members was recognised by the award of three Member of the British Empire Medals, eight Distinguished Service Crosses, five Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), one British Empire Medal, 24 mentions in dispatches and numerous Vietnamese and US decorations. 723 Squadron, RANHFV’s parent unit, was awarded the battle honour ‘Vietnam 1967-71’ on 22 December 1972.

The RANHFV ceased operations on 8 June 1971. During its four year deployment to Vietnam, over 200 RAN FAA personnel had rotated though the RANHFV in four contingents. Over this period they were continuously engaged in offensive operations, earning not only the pilots but also the maintenance and support staff of the flight, a reputation second to none.

RAN FAA crews also supplemented the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) 9 Squadron based at Vung Tau. Eight RAN pilots were attached to 9 Squadron which was also providing troop lift capacity for the 1st Australian Task Force, and resupplying troops in the field with food, ammunition, clean clothing and stores. An equally important role was aerial fire support using specially modified UH-1H helicopters dubbed ‘Bushrangers’ that were introduced early in 1969. The RAN detachment to 9 Squadron played a significant part in enabling it to meet its army support role in Phuoc Tuy Province during 1968 and into 1969, until the last of its pilots returned home in May that year. The eight man detachment to 9 Squadron RAAF was also recognised with the award of a DFC and three mentions in dispatches.

 

The war begins – the invasion of South Korea

North Korea, under Kim Il-sung, had been secretly preparing to invade South Korea for several years…

The Soviet Union (USSR) supplied weaponry, trained the North Korean armed forces and its experienced WWII generals devised the plan for the invasion. When the Chinese communists under Mao Zedong won their war with the nationalists in 1949, Mao too was able to assist North Korea. He sent back 20,000 Koreans who fought with the Chinese communists.

Joseph Stalin was at first reluctant to support Kim’s proposed invasion because he feared a major war with the United States of America (USA) might be the outcome. By early 1950 he changed his opinion, partly because the USSR had successfully tested its first atomic bomb in 1949. This would have the effect of making the USA more cautious in any response to any USSR military move. Secondly, Stalin had reason to believe the USA would not support South Korea if North Korea invaded. In January 1950 the American Secretary of State Dean Acheson implied in a speech that South Korea was not a vital area of interest to USA. In addition, the USA House of Representatives rejected a bill to send financial aid to the south. Though the bill was passed a month later, this also suggested to Stalin that America did not care much about Korea and would stand aside if the north invaded the south.

In April 1950 Kim Il-sung visited Moscow, and Stalin finally agreed to support an invasion. The plan was, to take all of South Korea in three weeks, before American intervention, should it happen, could be organised.

In mid-June North Korean units were secretly moved into position close to the 38th parallel while North Korea’s insurgents operating deep in South Korea intensified their activity. To counter the insurgents the south had to maintain a portion of its fighting troops far from the border. On 25 June, at 4.40am the North Korean assault began.

The communists advance towards Pusan

At 0400 on 25 June 1950 130,000 North Korean (KPA) soldiers supported by 200 tanks, SU76 assault guns and 600 artillery guns, crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea…

The KPA’s objective was to destroy the South Korean (ROK) army, capture Seoul and ‘liberate’ South Korea. In response to the invasion, some ROK units such as the 17th Regiment, the 6th Division and the 8th Division put up a determined resistance. A sea-borne KPA commando raid on the port of Pusan was destroyed. In contrast, the ROK units defending Seoul were squandered in futile piecemeal attacks against much stronger KPA forces, many ROK units losing over half of their strength.

On 27 June Seoul was evacuated amidst scenes of chaos, and soon thereafter the first KPA units entered the city. Despite at times fanatical resistance from improvised ROK units, the KPA offensive could not be halted. Very quickly UN airpower (including 77 Squadron RAAF) intervened, although it would take time to develop its full potential. Desperate to support the beleaguered South Koreans the US scratched together a force from its garrison soldiers in Japan, Okinawa and Hawaii. The first of these to engage the KPA was a 540-man battle group called Task Force Smith which, on 5 July at Osan south of Seoul, was driven back in confusion, suffering heavy losses.

While ROK units continued to retreat and resist, more US troops were sent into combat. At Kum River on 14-16 July, US 34th Regiment, which had already suffered one defeat, was forced into disorderly retreat and the US 19th Regiment was shattered. At Taejon between 19-21 July the under-strength US 24th Division was also routed by KPA attacks. The next reinforcement to arrive through Pusan, the KPA objective, was US 1st Cavalry Division which was also unable to halt the KPA.

On 25 July a battalion of US 25th Regiment was destroyed in an ambush. Elsewhere, US and ROK forces did better. The US 27th Regiment, inflicted heavy losses on the KPA, and ROK 23rd Regiment, with UN air and naval support, defeated the 5th KPA Division assault on Pusan from the north. These successful actions managed to hold firm the UN defence line. Four weeks after the war began, Pusan, in the south-eastern corner of the country, remained the only part of South Korea which had not fallen to the communists.

How was Australia involved?

The Australian government during the Korean War was firmly anti-communist…

Sir Robert Menzies the Prime Minister championed the unsuccessful Anti-Communist Dissolution Bill of 1950; however, when the Korean War broke out, Menzies, who was Eurocentric in his world view, did not support Australia committing military forces to the conflict. Sir Percy Spender, the Minister for External Affairs, was of a very different persuasion. Spender saw that Australia’s vital security interests in Asia and her diplomatic relationship with the United States were directly affected by the situation in Korea. It was Spender who pushed for an Australian military commitment to both fight communist aggression in Korea and cement a firm alliance with the United States. Spender’s Korean War alliance with the United States would eventually evolve into the ANZUS treaty. Spender made the decision to commit Australian military forces to combat in Korea without consulting the Prime Minister who was overseas.

Menzies, when presented with the fait accompli of Australian military action in Korea, adapted quickly to political realities and publicly proclaimed his support. There was very little political or community opposition to involvement in the Korean War within Australia. The Opposition Labor Party agreed that communist aggression in Korea needed to be answered with firm resolve, and in the wider community the overwhelming majority of people supported the war effort. Only a very small fragment of the Australian population, composed mostly of local communists, opposed the Australian commitment.

The Korean War marked a point at which Australia recognised that it was in Asia and not elsewhere that its vital security interests lay. The War was also the catalyst for the formalisation of Australia’s military alliance with the United States in the ANZUS treaty.

 

S.O.S. is not always what you think!

An Airbus 380 is on its way across the Atlantic. It flies consistently at 800 km/h at 30,000 feet when suddenly a Eurofighter with Tempo Mach 2 appears.

The pilot of the fighter jet slows down, flies alongside the Airbus and greets the pilot of the passenger plane by radio: “Airbus, boring flight isn’t it? Now have a look here!”

He rolls his jet on its back, accelerates, breaks through the sound barrier, rises rapidly to a dizzying height, then swoops down almost to sea level in a breathtaking dive. He loops back next to the Airbus and asks, “Well, how was that?”

The Airbus pilot answers: “Very impressive, but now you look!”

The jet pilot watches the Airbus, but nothing happens. It continues to fly stubbornly straight, with the same speed.  After 15 minutes, the Airbus pilot radios, “Well, how was that?”

Confused, the jet pilot asks, “What did you do?”

The AirBus pilot laughs and says, “I got up, stretched my legs, walked to the back of the aircraft to use the washroom, then got a cup of coffee and a chocolate fudge pastry.

The moral of the story is:

When you are young, speed and adrenaline seem to be great. But as you get older and wiser, you learn that comfort and peace are more important.

This is called S.O.S………. Slower, Older & Smarter.

Dedicated to all my friends who are like me, now realising that it is time to slow down and enjoy the rest of the trip.

AGE MAY WEARY THEM BUT DON’T PICK A FIGHT YOU WON’T WIN

By Ross Eastgate

THERE was a unique bond between the men who flew Australia’s early combat aircraft.

They trained hard, fought hard, played hard and on too many occasions in the primitive airframes they flew, died hard together.

The third spatial battlefield environment still is brutally unforgiving.

The bond was all based on trust with the occasional bit of superstition.

Lancaster crews would ritually have a final, nervous pee on their aircraft’s tailwheel.

Lucky charms tucked into a flying suit pocket, from a rabbit’s foot to a pair of the local barmaid’s knickers.

Unlucky for the rabbit perhaps.

However, the crews who were best placed to survive worked on practised skills, trust and absolute faith in their ground crew to keep their aircraft serviceable.

When and if they survived, lifetime friendships followed.

Take Townsville’s former Warrant Officer Kerry Shipp DFM and Wing Commander Jack Lynch as two perfect examples.

Jack is a flying legend, piloting in his career multiple types from Sabres to F111.

When Australia was looking to establish a helicopter capability to support Australian forces in Vietnam, Pilot Officer Lynch was a natural candidate.

Helicopter crews were a new mistering and there was much experimentation to find the right mix of pilot and crew.

Because aircraft might need to provide their own technical support while away from their home base, engine fitters were selected as crewmen, including door gunners.

LAC Kerry Shipp was selected for crewman training and he and his fellow South Australian Lynch developing an easy but strong bond.

Jack relied on Kerry and the other technicians to keep the aircraft serviceable, they in turn as gunners and aircrew relied on the pilots to get them through their mission and home again safely.

It was a win all round.

Recently Kerry Shipp had two major operations within three days to remove huge melanomas from his chest.

He is stoic but not well.

With hospitals under pressure, it seems beds for COVID patients are a higher political priority than difficult surgical cases.

Kerry has fought the good fight but has been sent or elected to go home.

Jack Lynch is fighting to have his old mate receive whatever he needs to provide the care he, and, just as importantly, his wife needs.

From his Brisbane home, he has pleaded for those with influence to step in for a veteran in need.

Don’t expect him to give up the fight easily.

 

 One percenters . . . .

American oriented but still good value…

 

One percenters . . . .

The 1% Age Group.

This special group was born between 1930 & 1946 = 16 years.

In 2021, the age range is between 75 & 91.

Are you, or do you know, someone “still around?”

Interesting Facts For You . . . .

You are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900’s.

You are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war that rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

You are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

You saved tin foil and poured fried meat fat into tin cans.

You saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.

You can remember milk being delivered to your house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

You are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of grieving neighbours whose sons died in the War.

You saw the ‘boys’ home from the war, build their little houses.

You are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, you “imagined” what you heard on the radio.

With no TV until the 1950’s, you spent your childhood “playing outside.” There was no Little League.

There was no city playground for kids.

The lack of television in your early years meant that you had little real understanding of what the world was like.

On Saturday mornings and afternoons, the movies gave you newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons.

Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party lines), and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).

Computers were called calculators; they were hand-cranked.

Typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage and changing the ribbon.

‘INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist.

Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on your radio in the evening.

The Government gave returning Veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

Loans fanned a housing boom

Pent up demand, coupled with new instalment payment plans opened many factories for work.

New highways would bring jobs and mobility.

The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands.

Your parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

You weren’t neglected, but you weren’t today’s all-consuming family focus.

They were glad you played by yourselves until the street lights came on.

They were busy discovering the postwar world.

You entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where you were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in your future although the depression poverty was deeply remembered.

Polio was still a crippler.

You came of age in the 50’s and 60’s.

You are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland.

The second world war was over and the cold war, terrorism, global warming, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

Only your generation can remember both a time of great war and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty.

You grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better…

You are “The Last Ones.”

More than 99 % of you are either retired or deceased, and you feel privileged to have “lived in the best of times!”

Amen! It’s great being part of the 1% Special Group!

And I’ll drink to that . . . yes it was good times . .

 

First C-130J Hercules upgraded to Block 8.1

Defence Contact

The first RAAF C-130J Hercules to undergo the Block 8.1 hardware and software upgrade has touched down in RAAF Base Richmond, Defence announced.

The initial upgrades were undertaken by Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force in the United States, with the remaining 11 aircraft expected to undergo upgrades locally at RAAF Base Richmond with the support of Airbus Australia Pacific.

According to Defence, the hardware and software modifications improve the accuracy of the Hercules’ navigation systems, especially during landing in remote areas across the Asia-Pacific region. It also includes safety upgrades ensuring the ongoing protection of the RAAF’s No.37 Squadron personnel.

The recent upgrades also provide enhanced friend-or-foe identification systems and guarantee that the aircraft remain in compliance with global air traffic management regulations.

“Block 8.1 will make it easier for crews to operate the Hercules in a range of complicated environments, from civilian airspace around airports through to airfields on the frontline,” Group Captain James Badgery, Officer Commanding the Air Lift Systems Program Office, said.

“Hercules’ crews have often been first on the scene during times of crisis, evidenced by the support delivered during the Kabul Airlift in August, and Block 8.1 will ensure the fleet can continue flying these operations safely.

“Airbus Australia Pacific has already commenced the first local upgrade of an aircraft to Block 8.1 standard at Richmond, and the remaining fleet will be modified as they become due for major scheduled servicing.”

 

ARE DRONES THE ANSWER?

By Alistair Pope

“The next war has already been fought – twice, and with many other minor practice runs, but our military has ignored the evidence and the results. Our continuing faith that these armoured drone targets will live long enough to reach the battlefield and fire a shot is touching, but misplaced … Read on and weep. The next war was fought using new technologies and tactics, not in our inventory.

The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020 was a territorial war initiated by Armenia against Azerbaijan to connect the ethnic Armenian enclaves.

The war was decisively won by Azerbaijan (with the assistance of Turkish drones). How did it happen against the superior armoured Armenian Forces? The Armenians committed 64,000 troops – and lost 4,900 KIA, 250 Tanks, 550 AFV & Military Vehicles, 270 Artillery Guns & 60 AA systems and 8x Arms Warehouses in 44 days. And proportionally, Armenian territory equivalent to the size of WA.

Read again the Armenian losses to drones in just 44 days …

Now cue to the Ethiopian-Tigray War, which Ethiopia was losing until Turkish & Saudi drones helped them stop and throwback the Tigrayan offensive and recover territory held by Tigray for years.

We have no armed drones, are not planning to get any and have therefore already lost the next war. Azerbaijan or Ethiopia could beat us.

Try and do what our ADF apparently cannot do and join the dots.

Drones are unfair! That’s why we stick with the good old tried and tested cold steel of the bayonet.

A Tribute to Our Caesar in Khaki and Jungle Green 

By George Mansford

Major General R.A.Grey AO DSO –

Posted to Valhalla 2O January 2022

Caesar was our God, and his Bible was to be read and obeyed. It included commandments on many essentials so critical in war. He was tough and demanding. Failure was not included in his dictionary.  He was never forgiving in regards to incidents of poor leadership, and always was his interest in the welfare of his soldiers, as well as an ability to recognise individual weaknesses to be rectified and strengths to be exploited.  Caesar never asked a soldier to do what he as a leader had not already done, and quite often led the way with soldiers who were yet to meet their first challenge.

He administered military justice with the wisdom and force of Solomon and more often than not it was severe. Always was his objective to achieve a very high standards of battle discipline, be it peace or war, and he did.  He was very much admired by his troops; however, as is the way when enduring physical and mental challenges in a harsh and unforgiving environment, there were a few who had different views. Their service was brief.

From a young Lieutenant in Korea commanding an infantry platoon, then later as Chief Instructor of the Battle Wing at Canungra preparing troops for operations in Vietnam, followed by commanding an infantry battalion in Vietnam and ultimately as a General in charge of Australia’s Field Force.  In all commands, he left huge footprints for all who would follow.  A further challenge confronted him when the government of the day selected him to command Australia’s Federal Police where yet again he was held in high regard.

So many soldiers who served under him, no matter when or where still remember him with much admiration and respect. Perhaps such reflection from far distant years is the most powerful accolade that any group of veterans could bestow.

Caesar Still Lives 

Major General R.A. Grey AO, DSO                          

A salute from all his centurions, living and dead

 

Find me the soldier who speaks of Caesar gone

Take his name, for he is so wrong

In dreams we follow him again into the fog of war, night or day

Look and you see him here, there, and everywhere, leading the way

 

Feel his sharp spurs to counter fear and capture pride

Laughter and camaraderie at camp fires with centurions by his side

See his torch of honour, love of country and duty burning bright 

A flame in our column forever and a day, and always in sight

 

Listen to the tramp of many willing feet marching as one

His stirring spirit going forward to the rhythmic beat of our drums  

When the bugle calls, he is there as our flag’s raised high

His legions, eager for life, yet when duty calls, ready to die

 

Have no doubts, our beloved Caesar will always be there

Mid the ranks of today’s warriors standing fast and soon to dare

Now go find me the soldier who says Caesar has gone

Take his name, for he is so, so wrong

                      Hail Caesar

 

ARTILLERY IN VIETNAM

Captain Mike Thompson arrived in Vietnam in early August 1962. A member of the first contingent of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), Thompson was the only artilleryman among the group of 36 officers and men to have been selected. He was the first Australian gunner to serve in Vietnam, but neither he nor his successors in the AATTV served with South Vietnamese artillery units.

Not until September 1965, three years after Thompson left for Vietnam was an Australian battery, the 105th Field Battery, deployed. Fortunately, the battery had not long completed a training exercise in air mobility, an aspect of the war in Vietnam that would become familiar to all Australian artillerymen who served there. Air mobility, usually involving helicopters, provided gunners with a quick, reliable means of moving their artillery pieces from one location to another; an important requirement in a war with no front line and in which the enemy could appear almost anywhere.

A member of the 131st Divisional Locating Battery with a radar controlled detector designed to locate the source of enemy fire. Once the position of, for example, an enemy mortar was detected artillery could zero in on the target. [AWM COL/66/0980A/VN]

The 105th Field Battery operated at first with the 1st United States Infantry Division and later in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade with which the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, was also operating. Not surprisingly the Battery soon began registering a number of ‘firsts’ Two days after arriving at Bien Hoa that September the 105th fired its, and Australia’s first, artillery rounds of the war. Later that year, during Operation Hump in November, it became the first Australian battery carried to an operation by Iroquois helicopter.

During January 1966 the Battery was in again in action, this time on Operation Crimp during which United States and Australian forces encountered an extensive Viet Cong tunnel complex. By the time Crimp ended on 14 January, the number of Australian dead in Vietnam had doubled from eight to sixteen. Numbered among those killed on the operation was the battery’s forward observer, Captain Ken Bade, who was attached to a 1st Battalion rifle company during the operation.

Not long after Operation Crimp the Government announced an increase in Australia’s commitment to the war. The battalion that had deployed in 1965 would be followed by a self-contained task force of two infantry battalions and supporting elements, including the 1st Field Regiment, the first time that the regiment had been committed to operations since its formation after the Second World War. From then on each Australian battalion had its own support battery whose commander was always located with the battalion commander.

The desperate fighting at Long Tan shortly after the Task Force’s arrival demonstrated very clearly the value of artillery support to an infantry force in peril. So dire was the situation and so close to the Australians were enemy troops that artillery was called onto friendly positions and throughout the terrible hours of fighting the guns kept up a constant fire as they broke up enemy attacks and struck at likely concentration and forming-up areas. Those who cleared the battlefield the following day estimated that half of the enemy dead had been killed by artillery. At Long Tan the infantryman fought for their lives, armoured vehicles played a vital role in the latter part of the battle but artillery, accurate and deadly, ensured that it was the heavily outnumbered Australians who prevailed. Long Tan confirmed that, as long as they were within range of the guns, patrols could be sent deep into enemy territory and in the years to follow artillery became an integral part of battalion operations.

One means by which artillery was able to operate in support of infantry patrolling outside the immediate vicinity of Nui Dat was through the establishment of fire support bases. Generally employing a battalion’s artillery, mortars and armour these bases allowed operations to take place well away from the main Task Force Base. Fire support bases could remain as centres for operations in a particular locale for months at a time and some, such as that at the ‘Horseshoe’ became permanent. Among the most well-known of many Australian fire support bases were those at Coral and Balmoral. Established in mid-1968 both came under heavy attack on several occasions, the fighting that raged around these bases became the most protracted battle fought by the Australians in Vietnam. At Coral, for the first time since the Second World War, gunners had to defend their artillery pieces in close-quarter combat.

Artillery continued to support Australian infantry until the end of the war. While it is possible to quantify the number of shells fired by Australian guns, the number of operations in which the artillery was involved and a host of other figures that can shed light on the type and intensity of the gunners’ war, the figure that perhaps best sums up the artillery’s contribution is one that can never be known; the number of Australians – members of the infantry, armoured corps personnel and engineers among others – whose lives were saved on operations because of artillery support.

The last Australian artillerymen, the 104th Battery, left Vietnam in December 1971. Fourteen gunners lost their lives during the war, among them three forward observers serving with infantry companies.