55th Anniversary – Battle of Coral / Balmoral – 13th May to the 6th June, 1968

Fifty-five years ago, in May/June 1968 Australian soldiers fought one of their largest, most sustained and hazardous battles of the Vietnam War. Units of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) confronted regimental-sized formations of the North Vietnamese regular army in fierce actions around Fire Support Patrol Bases (FSPB) Coral and Balmoral in what was then known as Bien Hoa province.

Over the following four weeks, in further actions around FSPB Coral and Balmoral, Australian soldiers accounted for over 300 enemy soldiers killed. They also captured hundreds of enemy weapons.

In return, 26 Australian soldiers died: two from 12th Field Regiment; one from 104 Signal Squadron; 16 from 1 RAR; 6 from 3 RAR and one from 161 Independent Reconnaissance Squadron. Over 100 Australians were wounded.

Australian Army units involved in the series of battles were later awarded one of the five battle honours approved for the Vietnam War.

A history of Australian artillery records that the attack on Coral was “the most sustained ground attack on an Australian field gun position since the Pacific war.

No 6 gun crew of 102 Field Battery at Fire Support Base Coral, 13th May 1968. 

The soldiers are, left to right: 3410998 Sergeant Maxwell John Franklin, 441126 Gunner (Gnr) Kevin Frederick (Ken) Walker, 4719292 Gnr Alan James Good, 217101 Gnr John Edward Schwarze, CP Staff 2786889 Gnr Robert John (Bob) Costello. AWM P02950.00

During the first enemy attack of the Coral-Balmoral battle, the enemy overran this 105mm M2A2 howitzer gun, which had to be abandoned. Sgt Franklin removed the firing mechanism from the gun, rendering it non-operational.

When the Australians later recaptured this position, the gun was useless because the ammunition bay was burnt out, and the position was showered with hand grenades.


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