FSB CORAL

By Walter Pearson

While I was enjoying the resort atmosphere of the School of Artillery in 1967, two men I went through recruit training with were off to the Infantry Centre in chilly Singleton. They were Chris Nisbet and Gordon Barrett.

To the best of my knowledge, this is their story.

Chris, pictured here at Wagga Wagga like me was also from Brisbane. Barrett was from Bowen in North Queensland. Both enlisted the same day as me, Chris five men behind me in the line for a regimental number Gordon was three. Chris was two years older than me; Barrett was three. Both were good soldiers; Barrett was huge and physically strong – just the ideal fellows to go to Infantry for an early posting to Việt Nam. Both ended up in 5 Platoon, B Coy 1RAR.

On 14 May 1968, the day after the first attack on FSB Coral, six weeks after arriving in Việt Nam, 5 Platoon was involved in two heavy clashes south of the base. In the first, the Scout and Section Commander in the forward section were wounded. Gordon Barrett, who had been the machine gunner, took over the section and rescued the wounded. He was awarded a Mention In Dispatches for his leadership and bravery. Later in the day, 5 Platoon was ambushed. Chris Nisbet was the Forward Scout and was killed instantly, his Section Commander was wounded. The Official History tells what happened next.

“Private Richard Norden of the leading section asked for covering fire and dashed forward under heavy enemy fire to the section commander, killing one enemy on the way. Having expended his own ammunition, he grabbed the automatic weapon of the dead Viet Cong soldier and fought off another enemy as he assisted the section commander back to the section. Although wounded, Norden again went forward under enemy fire and reached the forward scout, killing the Viet Cong who had been using the scout as a shield. Seeing the scout (Chris Nisbet) was dead, Norden returned to the section, collected grenades, and cleared the area, enabling the scout’s body to be recovered”.

Richard Norden had come over as a reinforcement in December 1967, served with 7RAR and joined its replacement battalion, 1RAR. For his exemplary action in May, Norden a country boy from Gundagai in New South Wales was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross.

Later in August 1968, in an attack on a bunker system on the border of Phước Tuy and Biên Hòa, Norden was among five members of B Coy wounded. Norden was hit with fragmentation in his right shoulder and left leg and repatriated to Australia a week later. After leaving the Army, in 1970, he joined the ACT Police Force where Richard took on the riskiest job there was – motorcycle traffic policeman.

On 30 October 1972, just four weeks before Australia elected the Whitlam Government on a policy of withdrawing all remaining Australian Troops from Việt Nam, Richard died in a traffic accident on his police motorcycle aged just twenty-four.

 

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3 comments

  • Warren Thatcher June 11, 2022   Reply →

    Thanks for the story .

  • Derek Smith June 11, 2022   Reply →

    That is a tragic loss on all counts. Such brave men all. RIP warriors.

  • Peter [Ollie] Orlinski June 12, 2022   Reply →

    Thanks for the Post ! All Great Brave Mates, I Remember them all so well. I can still see and hear the event in my mind to this day!.

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