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.

 

DIGGER DOWN

Many of those who served with the 1RAR Group during 1965-66 will remember well the OC of 3 Field Troop RAE, Sandy MacGregor.

Yesterday, Sandra MacGregor, Sandy MacGregor’s wife, advised as follows.

Unfortunately, this afternoon, Sandy lost his balance and had a fall.  He is now in hospital and will be there for a while.  His head and arm were bleeding, but worst of all he broke his hip.  He was in such agony – I could see it on his face.  The hospital now has him on extremely strong pain killers, including morphine.  He now must have a hip replacement and my greatest fear is that he will have to go off his blood thinners to have the operation.  Going off his blood thinners for too long was what caused him to have his stroke almost 2 years ago.

 Just when I thought I could breathe a sigh of relief because he was in the same hospital only yesterday having a prostate biopsy and had to go off his blood thinners for a few days.

Could you please pass this on to the other Sappers?

Please join me in wishing Sandy a speedy recovery.

Ray

6 RAR BOOK AVAILABLE NOW

THE HISTORY OF THE

SIXTH BATTALION

THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT

Volume 1: Vietnam Era 1965 to 1970

By Lieutenant Colonel Fred Fairhead (Rtd)

  

This book of 160 pages tells the story of 6RAR from the day it was raised on 6 June 1965

 until the end of its second tour of duty in Vietnam 

when it was established as of one of the finest battalions ever to go to war.

“This history is about no ordinary soldiers for it is about Infantrymen who served in the

 Sixth Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. Whether they served 

in the barracks or on the battlefield they have all contributed to the making of this story.”

“In the beginning, the Army created the Sixth Battalion and St George,

the Patron Saint of Soldiers was most pleased with what he saw.”

“The finest Infantry Battalion I have ever seen”

Brig SP Weir DSO, MC. Comd 1ATF, 25 April 1970

 

Vietnam Operations that are described in detail are: 

First Tour: Enoggera, Hobart, Long Tan, Vaucluse, Finding ‘Dodo’, Ingham, Tamborine, Bribie and Portsea.

Second Tour: Lavarack, Mundingburra, Long Tan, Burnham, Marsden, Gisborne and Townsville.

Order Form

Either return the form to the address below or email the details to [email protected] 

Price: $45.00 which includes postage ($15) and inscription by the author.

($55 for overseas orders)

 

Name: …………………………………………………………..…….

 

Postal Address: ………………………………………….………………………………….

 

……………………………………………………………….…………Post Code …………..

Service Details ………………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………………………..

 

Number of Copies:  ……….x …………..= $………… 

Payment Options

  • By EFT to:  MF and DK Fairhead; 

BSB: 105-073; 

Account Number: 285110541

(Please ensure you mention your name and 6RAR History)

  • By cash or cheque (Payable to MF Fairhead) posted to:

24 Hamilton Street, Erindale SA 5066

 

 

2RAR MEMBERS NEEDED

Freedom of Entry March this Saturday – Your battalion needs you!

If you have served in the Battalion, whether that is during the 2 RAR or 2/4 RAR period, whether you are no longer in defence or 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐭 get along and make the veteran Division as big as we can possibly make it.

If you live in Townsville you have no excuse but to put on a 2 RAR or 2/4 RAR polo (not a necessity but would look good), enclosed shoes, no medals and come down and march from the challenge point. It’s only a few hundred meters but it’s a very important distance that demonstrates the common bond that members of the Battalion share.

Be there on the side of the road towards Jezzine from Strand Park at about 8:30am

Show the Battalion you are still ‘Second to None

Cheers

The Curator

Email – [email protected]

MB – 0419749198

Army establishes new health brigade

Defence Connect

Army has taken the first steps towards establishing a new health brigade – the 2nd Brigade – which will return to Army’s order of battle in 2023 after being disbanded in 1946.

Four health battalions will be raised in early 2022 in Darwin, Adelaide, Brisbane and Townsville before establishing the 2nd Brigade the following year.

The restructure has been informed by the Army Health Capability review, which began in 2018. As part of the review, the Directorate of Army Health worked closely with key health stakeholders across Army, including 17th Sustainment Brigade and 2nd Division.

The capability review was the most significant review of Army health capability since the 2010 Combat Health Restructure, according to Director of Army Health Colonel Toni Bushby.

“Implementing the outcomes of the review will initially see the establishment of four multi-function health battalions, which will ultimately provide a fully operational health brigade,” COL Bushby said.

“This will enhance Army health capabilities and increase our ability to attract and retain qualified health professionals across all service categories.

“The establishment of regionally based health and allied health units headquartered in Brisbane, Adelaide, Townsville and Darwin, and enhanced surgical capabilities in both Brisbane and Adelaide, reflect the geographical spread of the bulk of the current and future force.”

With a large part-time workforce, Army Health has embraced the Total Workforce System, and the establishment framework has been modelled with this in mind.

According to the 2nd Division’s Senior Health Officer Colonel Andrew Whitworth, the integration of the part-time health workforce from the 2nd Division and 17th Sustainment Brigade was a fundamental enabler.

“Forty seven per cent of Army’s health workforce are Reserve or part-time personnel, most of whom bring specialist skills with them from the civilian health system,” COL Whitworth said.

“The integration of the part-time health workforce into the multi-function health battalions will increase the opportunities for training, placement and advancement. They will also become part of integrated teams, bringing their specialty skills with them to provide support across the spectrum of Army health services.”

The move towards a dedicated health brigade will see the closure of current health units and sub-units in order to raise the four new health battalions.

The new structure would include adjustments to all the existing deployable unit structures within Army, following the closure of the 1st Psychology Unit on 19 November, according to COL Bushby.

“The incredibly valuable work of Army’s psychology specialist will continue, with existing detachments transferred into the health battalions,” COL Bushby continued.

“We will increase the number of permanent psychology officer positions in Army and strengthen Army’s investment in preventative mental health initiatives.

“We will also see the retirement of 1st Close Health Battalion, 2nd General Health Battalion, 3rd Health Support Battalion and medical companies from Army’s Reserve brigades and Regional Support Force medical detachments.

“In their place, in 2022 we will see the raising of 1st Health Battalion in Darwin, the 2nd Health Battalion in Brisbane, the 3rd Health Battalion in Adelaide and the 4th Health Battalion in Townsville.

“While this is an ending of sorts for the current units, the storied history of health services in the Australian Army will be carried forward with pride by each battalion.”

Commander 17th Sustainment Brigade, Brigadier Craig Dobson added that care had been taken to ensure minimal disruption to deployable health capabilities as the transition to the health battalions commences.

“The newly established health battalions will stay under the command of 17th Sustainment Brigade in 2022, ensuring we remain responsible and responsive for health support through this transition period,” BRIG Dobson said.

“In addition to the high level of health support we have come to expect from our Army health capabilities, the new structure will re-allocate dental and preventative medicine assets to Darwin, Townsville and Adelaide, to enhance support to Army units and Garrison Health.

“This evolution paves the way to establish 2nd Health Brigade as Army’s health centre of excellence in 2023. With enhanced command and staff planning functions, the brigade will generate combat health capability to support joint, coalition and interagency operations.”

 

REMINDER – SYDNEY 1RAR MEMBERS

A quick reminder for all former 1RAR who are in Sydney or the surrounding areas.
This Friday, 26th November, meet & greet drinks at Penrith RSL Club commencing at 1800hrs. All are welcome will be good to see you all.
Special thanks to Craig Youll for getting this started. Hope to see a good roll-up.

𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐄𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐬𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐞 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞 – 2RAR

  • 𝟐 𝐑𝐀𝐑 (𝐀𝐦𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐛)
  • 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐄𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐬𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐞 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞
  • 𝐒𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝟐𝟕𝐭𝐡 𝐍𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫, 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏

This year marks 50 years since 2 RAR has been granted Freedom of Entry to the City of Townsville in 1971. This will be a unique activity as the Battalion would like veterans to join in the march, after the challenge. Veterans from all periods of the Battalion’s existence are invited, which includes 66 AIB, 2 AR, 2 RAR, 2/4 RAR and 2 RAR (Amphib).

𝘊𝘰-𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘐𝘯𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴.

𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧: The Battalion will step off at 0900, from Strand Park, all veterans to be waiting between the challenge point and Jezzine Barracks by 0830. Those that cannot walk far position yourself closer to Jezzine Barracks. There will be at the rear of the Battalion an extra OC and CSM commanding Guard 3 for veterans and this is where the veterans will fall in at their own pace from the side of the road as the Battalion Marches past.

𝐃𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬: For Ex-members 2 RAR or 2/4 RAR Polo’s are encouraged to be worn with Slacks or Dress shorts and enclosed shoes

𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞 𝐀𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐲: The Battalion is inviting any ex-members of the Battalion to come out to the Battalion for a BBQ and a beer with the current soldiers of the Battalion. The Edgar Towner V.C. Club will be open from 1100 till 1700.

To register to attend the BBQ on base please email Mal Gray at [email protected] to be added to the list at the front gate where there will be a soldier waiting to check your name/s off to allow entry.

Important – Please include:

Full name (and full names of any family attending with you)

Mobile

Years of service in the battalion (Example – 1984 to 1990)

Please have on you Photo ID for all persons 16 and Older

To read further about the history of freedom of Entry and see the TCC website please follow the link below

https://www.townsville.qld.gov.au/…/freedom-of-entry

Please think about travelling and being there for this one, get out there and show them you’re still ‘Second to None!’

 

1252 Thomas James Buckley – 1RAR

Hi Ray,
My wife has a deceased veteran relative, 1252 Thomas James Buckley,  who served with 1RAR in Vietnam in 65-66. He was a Captain there although he made Major much later. He was also awarded a DSM.
I can’t find any more information about him. Can you help? Particularly with details of the DSM citation. Any books about that tour might also be helpful.

Regards,
David  [email protected]

If you can assist David please email him at [email protected]

 

Remembrance Day – East Keillor RSL

RSL Flagbearer for the Remembrance Day service. 1RAR Malayan Emergency Veteran of the 1950’s. “True Blue”. Eddie Barton (MMG Pl/Anti-Tank Pl, Support Coy 1959-63).

P.s Ray, Can this be circulated. I  may find some vets of my era.

Thanks Eddie

1RAR BRISBANE OLD BOYS

A friendly reminder, the 1RAR Brisbane Old Boys Monthly luncheon will be held on Sunday 28 November 21, at the Gaythorne RSL.
The lunch is open to all EX 1 RAR members, your families and friends. If you’re attending, can you please RSVP by Thursday 25 November 21.
This will be the last luncheon for 2021.
Date: 28 November 2021
Time: 12:00 noon
Location: Gaythorne RSL
534 Samford Road
Mitchelton, QLD 4053
Stay Safe
Paul Anderson