Mum just did things around the place. As I grew up I grew up in Scotland and of course I grew up in wartime Scotland because by the time I was three World War II started. And hence from 3 to 9 we were at war. Obviously I have little recall as a youngster but I do recall, one morning being on my Dad’s shoulders looking at a back of a place called Dudley Terrace. And the back of
the building which had been bombed by the Germans. And this apparently was in 1940. And I was looking at this and I should recall a lone pipe with a loo hanging on the end of it. My Dad was then 35, and of course beyond the age where he was likely to be called up. However this, the fact that the Germans bombed our street rather incensed him. So he went off and joined up. And he went off and my uncles were away and so
during that period I - all my heroes were people who were off fighting the Germans. And I distinctly remember in our house - you weren’t allowed to swear. But if every now and then you said “Bloody Germans” they were chastise you, but you could get away with it. And so when I was 9 he came back and not long after that he bought a shop. And we had that shop until we came to Australia
in 1955. And I went to school at a state primary school and then I went to a Grammar School, I suppose it’s equivalent; called Leith Academy which coincidentally was the home of the first ever golf club house. Not St Andrew’s but Leith, and it was established around about 1528. The rector was Doctor McKee. And I recall him wandering about and I often wondered if he was the original rector.
When I left school, I should have stayed on but I couldn’t be bothered - I then worked in Dad’s shop for a while and then became an apprentice, which I hated, Brendis Electrical Mechanical. And so when my Dad announced we were coming to Australia, I was able to get out of being an electrical mechanic. I in fact wanted to join the army.
So we arrived in Australia and I said I wanted to join up. I had attempted while we were in the UK [United Kingdom], I was just 18 at the time but somehow rather he managed to forestall that one. I arrived here, I said I wanted to join the army. Because my heroes had been soldiers. My Dad had been away, my uncles, all those sorts of things. My family demurred, you know.
“You’re not going to join the army”, and I was under 21 so I had to get their approval. So I took off and I went to Queensland and worked in a sugar mill for a while. Then I came back and said, “I want to join the army.” They said, “No.” I said, “Okay, goodbye.” And they said, “Hang on a second, hang on a second. At least if you join the army we’ll know where we you were.” So I joined the army in, let’s see, 1st March 1956 and
for a three year enlistment. Went to Malaya for 2 years during the Emergency, came back from then, got out of the army very briefly. In fact from about the 28th February 1959 until the 25th May 1959. In the interim I had come back, and I thought, “Now you’ve been in the uniform service, perhaps I should go in another one”. So I went in the fire brigade. I did the recruit training at the fire brigade.
Topped the recruit training course I might add and, we were just about to have our graduation parade. And we were being briefed on what we had to wear and so forth. And this fellow said, “Pardon me, and you wear medals.” And we didn’t use the term dickhead in those days but he implied that that’s what we were - “And none of you have got any medals.” And of course I did. I had a
general service medal with class Malaya. So the next day I turned up with my medal on. And he said, “What’s that?” And I said, “That’s a GSM [General Service Medal] with class Malaya.” He said, “Where’d you get that?” I said, “I just told you, Malaya.” “What were you doing there?” I said, “I was a digger in an infantry battalion.” And of course he said, “An Australian Infantry Battalion?” So I gave him a nice burst and said, “Yes an Australian infantry battalion.”
Promptly at the finish of that day went off, called in - I had the Monday off I think. On the Monday I went down to the recruiting office, re-enlisted and joined the army again. Where I served in the regular army from 25th May 1959 until about the 12th February 1979 leaving the regular army as a major. And then
my life unfolded slightly differently. I became secretary to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne for a couple of years and then I was director of training at Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, the Victorian Automobile Association. Then I ran my own business for a while. My last 10 years of working life was as a services’ member of the Veteran’s Review Board which hears cases on appeal against the
[Department of Veteran’s Affairs] by veterans. And that was an interesting time. I resigned from the Veteran’s Review Board about 5 years ago and from there to here, that’s where I am now.
which was 2 RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] in fact back to the same company - B Company. And perhaps I should just go back a little. When I enlisted, they wanted me to join the intelligence corps and I wasn’t very happy about joining the intelligence corps, I wanted to be an infantryman. And I recall they interviewed me for intelligence and deliberately being,
a little vague in my answers. And they didn’t then want me for intelligence. Maybe that’s a reflection on me but never mind. So I went off to the infantry and we did our training in Sydney and up in Canungra. And eventually went to Malaya in March of 1957 where I was in B Company 2RAR. When the battalion went home, we were on operations then - when the battalion went home we stayed
behind, continued operations and eventually were joined by the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment [3 RAR] and I stayed on with them until I came home in February 1959. And of course to be discharged. I then re-enlisted, went back to 2RAR and usual training again, by which time I had made lance corporal I think, maybe corporal. We went off to Malaya again 1961, 1963; The Far East Strategic
Reserve. Which for the main part, although it’s eligible service under the Veteran’s Entitlement Act, was really garrison service. We did have some six months in operations in the Malay-Thai border area and we also spent an interesting period up in Thailand itself in a place called Ubon Ratchathani which is a not far from the Laos- Cambodian border.
We came back from Malaya in 1963 and a number of things happened. I was selected for a thing called the ENTAC. Now ENTAC stands for Engin Téléguidé Anti-Char [‘Char’ meaning tank]. It’s a French guided missile and we were introducing it into service. And I was selected from the trials team for that and later, after completion of that part of it became an instructor at the armed corps on this particular
weapon. By this time Vietnam was starting up and by 1965 the 1st Battalion went off. I tried to join them but I couldn’t. And I was at Puckapunyal, first at the recruit training battalion as a sergeant and then back again armed centre as an instructor. At this time the 7th Battalion had been formed and was at Puckapunyal. And
I managed to wiggle my way in there. There was a fellow called John Barnes who will still not forgive me for that. John came over to armed centre, he was in the anti -tank platoon of the battalion, came over to armed centre to do the ENTAC Course, on the 106 RCL [Recoilless Rifle] course. Anyway I explained to John that if he did well on this course, he was a corporal at the time, he would get his third stripe and become a sergeant as I was
and he could come over there as an instructor. Well John did well and the next thing was he was posted in my place and I was posted as a sergeant in the 7 RAR [7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment] and off I went to 7RAR where I became the company sergeant major, CSM of training company. My company commander was a fellow called Doug Clively. Dunc was an old soldier whom I’d met first when I was in the airborne platoon in 1960 at
Williamstown. I’d been in the airborne platoon for about 8 months then I broke my ankle so that finished that. And Dunc had been commissioned and as a lieutenant was the company commander, I was company sergeant major as a sergeant and we trained our blokes for Vietnam. In fact one of the nice things about all of that is that people in X Company, training company that went over there all came back alive.
Some of them with bits missing, but they all came back. They were distributed throughout the battalion, I was very proud of the way they - we trained them very very hard. Dunc had a saying. “A gallon of sweat is easier than a drop of blood”. And so we worked their butts off day and night and it paid off. It paid off. So eventually the battalion went off to Vietnam.
And I was on the advance party, joined what was called Recon Platoon [reconnaissance platoon] , which was a 5 RAR’s [5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment] anti-tank platoon. Went out with them and in fact within about 3 days was in contact. Which made things interesting. I thought to myself, “Hmm, going to be a long year”. The battalion then came up and we commenced operations. Throughout the year
my platoon, my platoon, the fire assault platoon, worked in various roles, mostly under the direct command of the CO [Commanding Officer] who was Lieutenant Colonel Eric Smith. And we did tasks as directed by the CO. We did some reconnaissance tasks, mostly we went out and secured landing zones for flying of the battalion and specific individual tasks for the CO. I was with Fire Assault
platoon until about January 1968 when I went off to 5 platoon B Company to replace A.D. Browning by which time I’d had a platoon commander, several platoon commanders and they’d all moved onto other things. And then I got a fellow who looked like he was going to stay with the platoon until the end of the tour. And I must confess I was a bit peeved about all of that, because I’d commanded
the platoon for most of the time and as far as I was concerned this was my platoon. So anyway we had some disagreements and, off I went to B Company, just in time for the Tet Offensive which was to say the least a bit interesting. The completion of the Tet Offensive or our part therein, came back did a few operations and then came home. One thing that sticks in my mind because I had this bloke’s name mentioned just the other day.
Frank Frigerio. Frank was one of my lance corporals. He was a national serviceman [compulsory military service scheme]. Good head, good head. And about 4 days, 3 days before we were due to come home Frank and I were coming in the advance party. We’d dug in outside, what was it, Baria. Dug in outside Baria and just at last light some shots were fired. And they came from inside the village,
inside the town. And I scuttled over to where Frank was and got in his pit beside him. And I said, “Hang on Frank I think I want us to draw - they want to draw our fire into the village”. “And we’re not going to get, just hang on.” And a few more shots came, it got dark, settled down and off we went. I went back to my pit, we spent the night as we would. Anyway about 3 days later, 4 days later we were back home.
Frank came from Ballarat, oh Bendigo I think. Anyway he told me about walking into the pub on the Saturday after he got home. And one of his mates said, “G’day Frank haven’t seen you for a while, where’ve you been?” Frank said, “Oh just got back from Vietnam.” He said, “Oh yeah right”, he said “Didn’t see the footy team last week did you?” And Frank said, “No I’ve been in Vietnam.” And he felt alienated, was not that they were being deliberately
wrong, deliberately spiteful or anything. It’s just that most of us you only talk about the things you did last week and last month and the last few months. And Frank felt very alienated and I must say I felt for Frank. Because there he is one day in contact in Vietnam, the next day he’s having a beer in his pub, difficult stuff. Different for us regulars because after leave, and I spent most of my time
with a bloke called Ron Seek with whom I’d served in Malaya and in Vietnam. And Ron and I heartedly got stuck into the booze, had a thoroughly splendid time, went back into the army, which was our life , where people understood and empathised with you. So got back from Vietnam that time and I was posted to the army apprentice school. I was still a sergeant.
Did that for about a year and thought, “Bugger this I’m going back to Vietnam”. And there was a unit called The team, the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam. Largely operating the length and the breadth of the country as advisors. I wanted to be one of the team. They were seeing as being the cream. So I volunteered for the cream. Accepted, did a bit of training and went back to Vietnam. Very interesting year there.
Quite a bit of action. Quite a bit of action. Up in the north at a place called Quang Tri, we operated out of Quang Tri, which is the province which is at the northern end of, what was then South Vietnam and had the demilitarised zone running across the top of it with North Vietnam on the other side. And I recall when we were up on the DMZ [Demilitarised Zone] , you look across at the large flag they had, on the other side which was on a pole
I suppose in those terms, a hundred feet high, with this big flag. And you’d watch the rain storms coming in, from the west. And as they came in apparently the bloke who looked after the flag, the North Vietnamese, was under strict orders it wasn’t to be got wet. And you’d see the storm coming in, down would come the flag, the storm would sweep through and then up it’d go again. During that time as I said
I had about 8 months with the 1st Battalion 4th. 4/ 1st or 4/ 1st. 1st Battalion, 1st ARVN, ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] Regiment. Working and living with Vietnamese on my own. And they were first class. It took away, it took away any racism or prejudice I had against Asians. Because these blokes were my mates. And when things were going bad, they looked
after me as much as I looked after them. And I’m very pleased about that because it really has made a difference. I still go to Vietnamese veteran’s functions and I talk to them about the young Vietnamese that are here, the Australian Vietnamese and how young Australian Vietnamese should made sure they grasp what’s come from their background, their strong family values and all the other skills. Vietnamese really are a very moral group and the family is very
very important. And so I still get a lot out of that. When I finished my tour, in fact I came home on R&R [rest and recreation] to attend my brother’s wedding. And I was going back and some 2nd lieutenant was giving me a hard time because I’d jumped the queue in the wait to get on the plane. And my plane was going to Da Nang, everyone else was going to
Saigon. And he said, “Sergeant major, sergeant major.” and tapped me on the shoulder and I said, “Yeah what do you want?” And he said, “Do you realise you’ve jumped the queue” blah blah blah. And I said, “For Christ’s sake I’ve got to get to Da Nang, I’ve no time to stuff around here. You’re all going to Saigon, that doesn’t leave for 3 hours, Da Nang leaves in 20 minutes, I’ve got to be on it.” And he gave me a little bit of a reprimand and I thought to myself, hang on a second, ‘cause I was a warrant officer at the time. In my army I’ve got to do what that
bloke tells me ‘cause he’s a lieutenant and I’m a warrant officer. I thought, “Bugger this”. And they’d just introduced a new scheme called the Admin Tech Officer’s Scheme, where they would commission selected sergeants and warrant officers and the like. So I, I thought, “That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do”. So I applied for that while I was in Vietnam, was
interviewed in Vietnam. And there’s a little story there because, in the Australian army we use code words when we’re talking on the radio. For example, the adjunct is “Seagull”, and the medical corps is “Starlight”. And up in I Corp where we were the Australians were largely “Zulu”, that was the call sign, Zulu. Anyway I’m out in the scrub
and there was a call from - in at Quang Tri relayed through our headquarters and then to me. Now I could talk with our headquarters but I couldn’t talk to Quang Tri. And I could hear what was going on. And this bloke said, “Eddy Baja” or whatever our call sign was, “I’ve got a message for your Zulu.” He said, “Apparently
Starlight’s been talking to a Seagull and the Seagull says the NT is a go.” And the other man said, “What the hell does all that mean?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I’m just passing on the information.” He said, “Could you tell your Zulu.” So he said, “Zulu this is…” whatever it was. I said, “Zulu over.” He said, “Some guy’s got a message from a Seagull and Starlight says the NT’s a go. Over.”
And I said, “This is Zulu, roger [OK], out.” And just left it at that. And after a while he said, “For God’s sake when you get out come and tell me what this is all about.” And what had happened is our adjunct, the bloke who looked after the administration of the unit was Seagull. He’d spoke to a medic, warrant officer in Quang Tri, Ron Roney, saying, “Yeah they’ve checked it, and I can apply for the commission”. But the Americans didn’t understand all of this. It reminds me of one other time.
Barry Young who’s sadly gone. And he was there and this American had been talking to him. And he said, “Mr Logan, I’ve just been speaking with Mr Young.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “He said he’d see me in a fortnight.” I said, “Yeah.” “What the hell kind of vehicle’s that?” He just didn’t understand a fortnight meant two weeks yeah. So I was interviewed in Vietnam for a commission and I’ll never forget because when I was in Malaya
the first time, I had been on guard, had just come back off stand down. We used to go to Penang for two days stand down. I’d just come back from stand down. I was half pissed. And this bloke said, “You’re on guard tonight.” Now if a bloke’s been drinking you don’t put them on guard. And I said, “No you can’t put me on guard, I’ve
been on the piss.” And he said, “Sorry about that Jock” because in those days it was Jock, “You’re on guard.” And I said, “All right.” So I was on guard. Now very early in the peace in Malaya I had been involved in a riot. We - it was coming close to independence. And four of us - Buck, Timsy and another bloke whose name will come back to me. Slim,
Slim Callahan. We had gone into town into the Queen’s Bar at Kuala Kangsar, and we were having a thoroughly splendid time. And there was a big crowd gathered outside. Mostly Malays, who were cross about something or rather. And I don’t think Slim Callahan made it any better. He abused them or did something. So when we came out the bar there were all these people.
Waiting. And we walked through them and we got about 30 metres past and they’re after us. We all had a beer bottle in hand and I remember we threw that and then went for the lick of our lives. And we beat them out of town and then this car came from town, several times and tried to run us over. And what they actually did was ambush us on a bridge because we went further. And I got a cracked skull. And a broken nose out of it.
Big Buck broke his ankle. Slim Callahan had something wrong with - Kevin Tims I think also got knocked around. Anyway there was an investigation into it and the soldiers had been drinking. Just before I left Malay on that tour, I was having a drink in what’s called the arms corps where we kept all the weapons. And the duty officer came in and I was found to be in possession of alcohol so I got 14 days
stoppage of pay for that. So when I was up to be commissioned I was being interviewed. Now this is, 9 almost 10 years later. And he said, “Now I feel there’s some problems with alcohol, Sergeant Major.” And I said, “Well what do you mean sir?” He said, “Now when were you last drunk?” And I said, “Oh last night.” He said, “Oh yeah and before that?”
And I said, “Probably the night before. Yes” “And before that?” I said, “8 weeks ago.” He said, “Why 8 weeks?” I said, “Because I’ve been out on an operation for 8 weeks, I came back and I’ve been on the piss for 2 nights.” He said, “Oh, Oh right.” I said, “But look. The last offence I had was somewhere about 1959, 1960. Here we are in 1969 , actually 1970.” I said, “It’s 10 years.”
I said “I was a private soldier now I’m a WO, Warrant Officer.” He said, “Yes yes” he said, “We’ve still got it there.” I said, “Well, you must recall it sir because you gave me the award.” He said, “Did I?” I said, “Have a look.” And he had been the 2IC [Second-in-command] of 3RAR and he said, “By God so I did.” He said, “How are you?” And of course we, you know we were fine, it was square one. Anyway
I was commissioned, came home and was commissioned. And stayed a couple of years at the Jungle Training Centre training people for Vietnam and in fact I was there when our commitment finally pulled up which was on the 7th December 1972. Story about that one. When I’d been a very young digger in 1956 at the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra
there was a fellow called, Gil Lucas who had been, I think in World War II a Korean soldier. Oh and another one, Fred Lomas. Fred had been a commando in World War II, and he stood there when he had- given me introductions to tropical warfare he said, “In the last show” and then went on. And that impressed me. So
after the 7th December, I think it was about the 9th December when, pull out in 1972, pull out was finally announced I was there giving the introduction to tropical warfare. And all of a sudden we’re out of the Vietnam War. So I stood there with my arms folded and I said, “In the last show, the one that’s just finished.” And then went on from there pulling a Fred Lomas. I had two years at Canungra and they were good years. Then I wondered what we were going to do. And I had a feeling
then that by the end of the century many of the resources that we had were going to be gone. I had a feeling that, I think in the seventies many of us did or some of us did, a feeling that resources would be gone. And I saw that if that were the case then Japan would once again be a threat. Because Japan has got no resources of its own.
And they went to war in 1941 over resources. The ABDA agreement. Australia, Britain, Dutch, America had stopped sending Japan oil and stuff and I figured - and they went to war over it. And I figured, “If we’re going to have the same situation at the turn of the century then I’d be in my sixties, what would I be able to do?” The short answer was nothing because of age. So I thought, “What if I learnt Japanese?”
And at least be a linguist. So I applied to attend the language school which was a year course and was by selection. I got through that. But then they determined to send me to do Thai, study Thai. And I’ve often wondered why and I suspect it was because I think we were thinking in those days, and of course this was before we pulled out of Vietnam. We were thinking of setting up some advisory teams in Thailand
to go across and help bring back downed US [United States] aircraft and stuff like that. And if you had a Thai speaker it’s always much better. But of course by the time all of this unfolded the war had ended. But nonetheless off I went and did a year at Point Cook studying Thai. There I graduated with a credit, had a year taken up my life, because it was pretty intense. And was then promptly posted to
Papua New Guinea. Where you’d be astonished at the number of people that don’t speak Thai. Including after about three years me. Had three good years in Papua New Guinea, loved that. Was mostly involved in training Papuan New Guinean officers who were good blokes, they were good blokes. Then I came back from there, had a year in a staff posting and then my last year in the regular army - by this time I was a major -
was the staff officer responsible amongst other things for ceremony and protocol. And for example, I organised Sir Robert Menzies’ [former Australian Prime Minister] funeral. And that was an interesting year. And then I looked around and I thought, well hang on a second I’m a major. My form of commissioning meant that I couldn’t go anywhere else and I think I was 41 at the time, maybe coming up for 42.
If I stayed on to the age of 55 I’d be a major for what, 15 years. I thought, “Oh bugger this”. So I pulled the pin. And I got a job as secretary to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. And then, they’re the parts.
There was Mum and Dad when I was born, I was born obviously in 1936 and Dad went off to the war. When he came back and during the war of course, it was an interesting time because there we were in conditions of some privation. Things, little things like lollies and so forth just weren’t available. We didn’t
notice it, we didn’t notice it because, I was surrounded by love basically. My Mum and my grandma and my aunties and all those people. So they gave us whatever it was they had. I never forget we used to get powdered egg. And this powdered egg, dehydrated egg came from the States. And my granny was making, I don’t know an omelette or something. And she said to me, “Logie” ‘cause that’s my family name.
“Logie this is the egg the cowboy eats.” And I remember thinking to myself, “Oh boy, cowboys eat this”. I thought Hopalong Cassidy was worthwhile - if he has to eat this shit. And then Dad came back in 1945. He’d been badly burned in the desert. And when he came back he - he was an interesting man.
He was a man who never drank, never smoked and I never heard him swear in his life. But having said all that he wasn’t a wowser [killjoy]. He wasn’t a wowser. If you walked into my Dad’s house he’d offer you a drink. And you shouldn’t ask for a whisky because if you’d ask for a whisky you’d get a tumbler full. He’d say, “Oh you’ve got a decent drop of whisky.” But that was his style, he just
a generous man but didn’t do those things himself. I always - as time went by and I was on operations and things were going rough I could always hark back on the fact that my folks were who they were and I could always say to myself, well what I’m doing, would my folks be proud of it or not? And that sustained me a lot of times.
A lot of times that sustained me. Then as I say Dad came back and we were all hard workers. In fact I say, quite tongue in cheek, I say I started work at the age of 9 because when he came back and bought this little shop, cost him 400 pounds, amongst other things it had papers. And I used to deliver papers morning and night 7 days a week in Scotland. And Scotland
in the winter when you’re delivering papers is not a great deal of fun. And I did that until I started work which was at the age of 15. So I reckoned I started work at the age of 9. And one of the reasons on reflection, one of the reasons I left school was because if I left school and got a job I wouldn’t have to deliver those bloody papers. So I
left school, got a job as an apprentice. And started to live a little. And I was going out on a Saturday night at a place called the Palais and there would be a gentleman there called Big Tam. Big Tam Connery who we know as Sean Connery. And he would be up there and I saw him, I don’t think I ever spoke to him but I saw him. He’d be up there with the
body builders and on the opposite side at the Palais there’d be the Americans who were stationed at the air force base outside Edinburgh. And I, I noticed reading his biography, this bloke says, “And Sean grew up in Edinburgh that had Coconut Tam, one of the eccentric characters.” I have up on the wall here some photographs taken
in the 1860’s in Edinburgh. I got them from the National Museum in Edinburgh when I was over in the UK not so long ago. And one of them’s of Coconut Tam. And if he was taken in the 1860’s he would’ve been somewhere like 120 by the time Sean Connery saw him. So there’s a little bit of licence with the way they do it. I was enjoying it, the job I didn’t like much being an apprentice electrical mechanic, or electrical engineer
as they said in those days. We belonged to a company called King and Company which was established in 1871. Which when you work it out was very early for electrical stuff to be in. They wired the first house in Scotland. And life just went on until my Dad determined that we’d come to Australia. He, like a number, like his brothers and my …
Okay basically yeah. So Dad like many of his contemporaries and the people in the family, because they had been overseas they had seen what the world was like. And very sensibly they thought there were greater opportunities for their kids overseas.
And so they exploded, went everywhere. Johnny Murdoch, my aunt’s sister, a Burma veteran, he went to Canada. Maggie and Dad went to New Zealand and then here. Bob and Pat both came to Australia and we followed them. And my Dad’s other brother Bob, he came to Australia also. And so they went everywhere. And when I think
back on it, my Dad was 47 when he and Mum came here. For people of that age that was a very brave decision to make, to come all the way out here. And to come way out here and find their son didn’t want to stay anywhere near them, wanted to get away.
over the Commonwealth basically and when they had enough they’d ship them up to Kapooka form a platoon of about 30 odd and start training. So that first few days, week or so, whatever it was, I couldn’t quite work out what was going on. And then we got on the train and off we went to Wagga, to Kapooka. And of course in those days you had to change at Albury, get
across and then we got into Wagga in the middle of the night it seemed where this barking corporal grabbed us all and took us out to training. Settled in and then we had a day of “Hurry up and wait”. Going to and fro, and here and there, getting kitted out, getting injections all those sorts of things that are part and parcel of just joining the army. It’s an interesting philosophy I looked at it,
what basically you do, because later on I became one of those, those corporals and sergeants - you get them in there you basically bring them down to nothing and then rebuild them into what you want them to be, it’s a bit confusing. And then we started and then once you start training you start to see the purpose of all this. I remember it was 3 weeks before we got rifles and we were really looking forward to it - so three weeks of
drill etc etc. Physically, whilst it was demanding it was never too demanding. I always managed to handle it, it was never really a problem. It was interesting, one of those things that up until basically I went on operations and until I’d been on operations for a while, I was always concerned I wasn’t going to be able to hack it. I thought, “Maybe I won’t be able to hack it” but I didn’t have any
problems really, no real problems. So recruit training started, working very, very hard, eating anything that wasn’t nailed down - about the only thing I wouldn’t eat in those days, with four legs, was a table – and, you know, put on weight and became very fit and enjoyed it, thoroughly enjoyed it. I was entirely in my element. Here I was as a digger [soldier] I had a weapon, I had a rifle and a
bayonet and I could march and do all those things that was required on me. Go on the range and shoot and do night stalks and it was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And that lasted for 3 months and after 3 months they sent us the corps allocation and I’d mentioned that at one stage they’d wanted me to join the Intelligence Corps and I deliberately flunked that one because I didn’t want to be in intelligence, I wanted to be an infantry man.
The role of the infantry is to close with and kill or capture the enemy by day or by night regardless of terrain, climate or weather and that’s what I wanted to do. It sounds a bit boys on paper stuff but that’s what I wanted to do. Then we went off to Sydney and that opened my eyes because here we were in the flesh pots of Sydney, they weren’t really very good flesh pots but they were flesh pots as far as I was
concerned. I had a lovely time. One of the blokes that was there was Joe Bray, Joe Bray came form Hay in New South Wales and had never seen the sea. So the first – because we arrived and went into Liverpool, Holsworthy, we’d not actually been to Sydney itself. The first leave we had, we were stationed at Ingleburn, we got in a train and got into the city, got the Bondi
tram I think it was, got the Bondi tram down to Bondi and took Joe to see the sea. And he looked at it and he said “Geez, it’s big”. And then he went down and he tasted it and he said, “Geez, it’s salty”. So that describes the sea, it’s big, it’s salty. And during that time we were training, specifically training as infantrymen. Our NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] were
corporals and sergeants who had served in Korea, some of them in World War II, and so I rather liked them. I rather liked them, thought they were all right. I worked very hard – I used to love going to town and on weekends I’d go into town and I always had two bob left so that when I came through Central Station you could buy either a big bag of oranges or something like that.
Come back and on the Sunday – get back late on the Saturday night, and on the Sunday wouldn’t go to the mess hall, I’d eat this fruit that I had because it was just fabulous. And then on the Monday of course we’d be back into it again - things that stick in your mind. River crossings, we learned to do river crossings where you get your gear off and wrap it up in your poncho, put it in the river and go across. The Georges River in
July at first light. There’s a word in the crossword that you don’t see very often called gelid which implies, “freeze your nuts off” but it’s not icy, and it’s not ice, but it is icy and you’d get into this and the water would slowly rise up your legs, it would hit you and over you’d go, I still recall that. Another time we were in
Sydney and you couldn’t go over the arch in those days, well you weren’t supposed to. We got up there, we climbed up, we climbed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and down the other side and that was fabulous, that was just fabulous. We were young and we’d had a bit to drink I suppose but not much. You used to go into town and go to the Civic and get half whacked [drunk] because that’s what everyone
else was doing but it wasn’t a great thing in my life I don’t think, not at that stage – and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Then we went off to, after about three months, we’re now in about September/October 1956, went to Brisbane and to the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra. We were posted to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment and detached down to Canungra. And Canungra was the,
you’ve probably heard about it, world - well certainly Australia famous Jungle Training Centre and it had been re-opened by a group of World War II veterans who were highly decorated and hard as nails and they trained us and we were there – I was there for about six months until I went to Malaya. And that was great we did things like the four-hour march and this was through the
scrub and the jungle – the four hour march, eight hour march, twelve hour march, twenty-four hour march. The twenty-four hour march, we went down by train to the Queensland/New South Wales border and were supposed to get a truck up to Wiangaree but it was so miserable and wet the trucks had given up so we marched for six hours up to the top of this ridge, settled down until midnight, midnight Monday we set off on our twenty-four hour
march, led by five second lieutenants who’d just graduated from Portsea. At two o clock we’d been marching for 14 hours and at two o clock the next day someone picked up his slouch hat which he’d lost at two o clock that morning so we’d gone in a great big circle and we got lost. And the commandant at the Jungle Training Centre was one Ted Sarong, General Ted
Sarong, he was following us and after about two days, three days he appeared behind us and said “Do they know where they are?” And they said “No”. And I remember he gave us a can of mixed fruits and we opened that and shared it in our last section. And then he disappeared again and he was just keeping an eye, making sure that we didn’t disappear. It took us from Monday until Thursday. And back in we came
and then went to Canungra. And after four days of that we immediately walked down to the pub which is over the hill and down the other side about two or three miles I suppose, got on the grog and then walked back again. Talk about being fit, we were certainly that. We did that until February/March and then I had leave and went off to Malaya for the Malayan Emergency.
too many things to learn and so the treatment we were given by the NCOs was pretty good. In fact, when I became an NCO myself and I went to recruit training and that sort of thing, I used the same approach to my diggers as those blokes had used toward me. That is that, you know, they might be new to the game and they don’t know what the hell’s going on and you’ve got to keep bashing them into shape,
not literally but figuratively get them into shape, but they’ll be all right, they’ll come good, they’ll be fine. And they were and they do. It was great fun when I was running recruit training and I had 40 diggers. I’ll never forget it. Checking them in the morning “Get on parade, get on parade” and they were always dragging late and “Get on parade, get them on parade”. “Right dress, open order march, right dress”. And you’d go along and you’d inspect them and all you’re looking for is a
hat badge, belt buckle boots and make sure the boots are clean and that they’d had a shave, blah blah blah. So I’m checking, badge, belt, boots, badge, belt, boots. Come to this bloke, badge, belt - no boots. “Where are your boots, recruit so and so”. He said “They’re in the hut, Sarge”. “Why are they in the hut, why are they not on your feet?” He said “Because you came into the hut and you said get on parade right now and I didn’t have them
on”. He was a bit slow and I remember I had to walk around behind him because I just about wet myself laughing. Then I said “Let’s get clear, you get up at 6.30. You do this, you do this, you do this, you do this. By the time I come along at 7.45 you have your bloody boots on and they’re laced up and they’re clean, is that understood? “Yes Sarge”. “All right, now get out”.
They’re great fun. Another kid couldn’t do left and right turns. He’d been a boxer and every time he turned he sort of swung around in a fighting pose. So I took him aside and I said “Now look, I get paid $90 a week. The government are spending $90 for me to give you tuition, you’ve got to pick this up”. So he learned to do the
left and right turn. He said, I remember at Eddie’s march out he said, “I think it was that special training, Sarge, I can do left and right turns can’t I?” And I said “Yes, you can do left and right turns, on you go”. Great fun - and that’s what it was when I was at Canungra. At one stage we used to go up to Brisbane for leave or for the weekend when we weren’t actually out in the scrub. And we used to drive these American deuce and a half,
two and a half tonners and the bloody drivers on those Brisbane roads and down toward the Gold Coast, Canungra which is on the way to the Gold Coast basically, were terribly drivers and these things used to go boom, boom and I went on one of them and clump, fractured my coccyx, you know, that little tailbone in your spine. So the next few weeks was out in the scrub with this fractured coccyx and an
orange ring cushion that I used to carry around with me. You know, we’re getting all camouflaged and stuff and I’ve got this orange ring cushion. It was interesting, up until October I think, well, when the Olympics were on 1956, there was no television and there was no radio per se really. No one had radios, there were no transistors, I’m sure there were
transistors but we couldn’t afford them and so we didn’t have radios, the canteen, boozer, that was probably our main thing but we were out in the scrub a hell of a lot. Fit as fleas. We used to get to go to the Gold Coast – that was great, that was when I first found women “woof”- wonderful. These young ladies were up on holiday from Brisbane or whatever – fabulous time, yeah, great fun. And then we went off to
Now in order to ensure that they didn’t work they would assassinate rubber workers. And so - who had bugger all to do with anything. And so in that regard they were terrorists. They would blow up buildings and police posts and things of that ilk, similar to what is happening in the Middle East now, but without the suicide effects. The suicide bomber effects.
So that was what it was seen - it started - Malaya became important to the Brits at the turn of the century when rubber which the Brits stole from South America - stole and brought the trees over and planted them in the Royal Gardens at Kensington and then transplanted them in Malaya and started the rubber industry. And that became very important because with - the rubber industry rose as did the car.
With the tyres. The - Malay of course was governed by - was a colony of the British. And when the Japanese invaded in 1941 1942, a group set up called the MPAJA, the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army. Largely run by a group of people who were socialist/communist in their
outlook in life. So that is a way of breaking the thrall of the colonial stuff. And in 1945 when the war ended, World War II ended, they thought that Malaya would become self-governing and independent but in fact it didn’t happen. And so in 1948 - around about May I think the first steps were taken when they massacred some rubber planters at Sungei Siput.
One of the areas where we were. And that started the Malayan Emergency and by the time we got there, the thing had largely been controlled and the only CT’s that were left were hardened folks, the remainder sort of people. I must say they were bloody good soldiers, they were first class soldiers and they could live out in the jungle on the smell of an oily rag.
And they were good. And we were chasing down the remnants of them. Every now and then we met them but largely it was a time of operations ranging from 2 weeks to say 8 weeks. We’d go out in the scrub and we would, we’d chase them and hunt them down. Periodically from time to time we met them. In June 1957, I think it was about June
we had - up on the border there were some clashes and we had two killed and four wounded. The blokes that were killed were Jackie Potts and Benny Hallard. I’ve never known Jack and Bennie but I carried their coffins. And one of them had lay, well both of them in fact has lain in the jungle for quite a while. Several days. And I’ll never forget carrying their coffin, I could smell what seemed to be like
wet blankets and it was the smell of Jackie Potts and Benny Hallard. And to this day now, the smell of wet blankets brings me right back to that time. Right back. We wandered about the jungle in small groups, sometimes three, sometimes four and we really were part of the jungle. It’s where we picked up many of the
skills that became useful in Vietnam. Because when you are such a small group as that and you’re operating several days just as a little group like that, you really don’t disturb much of the jungle. You don’t disturb the vegetation, you just slither about - and in the 2 years I got some fabulous glimpses of wildlife. Things like a troop of
gibbons, just lazily going from point A to point B. Through the trees I saw a tiger on several occasions. Wild elephants would come and wild elephants. And I’ll never forget one time in about August 1957 we came upon an elephant, an aunty and a calf. You know normally there’s the female and there’s the aunty
and the calf. And we were, we came upon them and coincidentally they were going in the same direction as we wanted to go. And of course an elephant doesn’t veer left or right but it’s going in a straight line and it does over the crest of the mountains and down and it just - and we followed them for about - oh God knows how long, maybe 20,000 yards. And it kept looking back to see if we were following them.
Saw a black panther one day. We were moving through the scrub and I noticed the bloke in front of me pointing his weapon up at the tree and sort of covering as he went by. So I did the same thing and I didn’t know what I was looking - and all of a sudden I looked up and there was a black leopard or a panther just lying on this branch, just looking down. Fabulous stuff. And so we got to see wildlife and we
were part of the jungle. It was an interesting time because we, we learned so much about living in the jungle that it was a great benefit when we went to Vietnam. Other things that stick in my mind. First time we went on leave we went on leave to Ipoh. And this bloke said, “Let’s go and have some
curry.” An Indian joint at the market. So we went there and I’d never really had curries. And about 4 of us and they brought out all these curries. And of course they were expecting me as a new one to try them and go, “Oh God that’s hot”. And I went, “Oh gee that’s good.” And I, I don’t believe in reincarnation and so forth but if I was to - yet I’ve eaten this
before, in a previous life. I just got that feeling. I’ve done this before and I still love curries. And you know there were Indians, there were Chinese, there were Malays, it was a polyglot population, it was great to see all these people about. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was demanding because we’d - we’d go out for 14 days
it’d be the first 14 days carrying, up to 14 days rations. And we’d - always on the first day we’d climb and climb and get in to establish a base camp. And the sigs, the people, the signallers who used to carry, they’d always - you’d sort of think, oh I’d wish the sig would hurry up and collapse so we can have a break. Because he’d be carrying more than anyone else and finding it very difficult.
In terms of weight probably around about, ooh in kilos maybe 25, 30. Not as heavy as we were in Vietnam, not as heavy. Although sometimes very close. And we learned to be absolutely ruthless in how we cut down weight. People even cut their toothbrushes in half.
So they wouldn’t have too much weight. We knew exactly what we had to carry and exactly what we didn’t have to carry. It was there I found an interest in cooking, strangely enough because we’d have one man ration packs and there’d be a can of something in the morning, normally beans with a bit of bacon or something in the can. At lunchtime you’d have a Mars Bar, a block of chocolate, some chewing gum
an Oxo cube and some Thai Hong lollies. And then in the evening a can with some rice and you’d cook yourself an evening meal. And - I’d never cooked anything for myself before. And it was there that I started to enjoy cooking and quite often if we were moving out through the rubber plantations the Indian workers would commonly have a little patch where there were chilli bushes. And I would go through the chilli bushes and pick them and stick them in my basic pouches.
So that when I got out there I’d have chilli’s with whatever I was eating. And developed a love of chillies. And so that went on basically for the two years. We had contact from time to time - the one that sticks in my mind most is I think around about February 1958. We were out in an ambush. There was a section of us, probably about 7.
And Fred Walland got hit. We had a contact and Fred Walland got hit. And the round went through his leg and actually meant that the bottom sort of part of his leg was waggling where the top wasn’t. And was in a great deal of pain and screaming. And we’d given him some morphine which we carried and that didn’t have any effect. And we were about 5 miles from a British camp.
And a bloke called Taffy Morgan and I said, “Well look, we’ll go and get help from the Lincolns from the camp.” So off we set. I remember I had an Owen gun and a magazine with about 30 rounds, 25 we carried even though they held 30. And I had another one in my hip pocket. I’d fired one in the fight that we’d been in. I don’t know what happened - I had four magazines - I don’t know what happened to the fourth one. But anyway out we out
and Taffy Morgan who was with me had a magazine, a rifle magazine plus the one on his weapon. And we got clear of the jungle - it was dark and we hit this slope going down and we tumbled down the slope. And when we came to, when we got at the bottom I had only one magazine that was on my weapon and Taffy had only one magazine too. And of course it was black as could be and there was no way we could do anything other than just keep going. So
we went on with one magazine and Taffy turned out, one round. And we went off through the scrub in the baluka [elephant grass] and eventually got to the Brit camp. Got in there and told them what happened and we went back again to rescue Fred and get him out. But I’ll never forget I, I had a set of new greens, I’d just got them out of the store, Q store [quartermaster’s store]
before we left. And then the ambush, I wasn’t doing much, just sort of back and forward a little bit. And the next day when we’d finished they were, I’d had a pair of sort of like PT shorts on underneath and these greens and from there where the PT shorts were they were white and worn through. So in one night I’d absolutely ruined this set of greens because of the
the stuff we’d walked through. It was a tough night.
came down this bit of a ridge and there was a spur. And around the spur were what looked to me to be dug out positions. Now there were, you know trenches that had been filled in through time and debris and so forth. But if you looked carefully you could see the set up and you know, we would set up in the exactly the same way and I looked at this and I thought, “Well there’s
a pit there, there should be one over there”. So I walked over to where there was and there was a slight depression and you could see - and there should be one there and when you went over there there was another one. And that was all raised. And the rest had gone. Oh if you went to Singapore you would see, there were riots there in 1952 or something and there were bullet holes
in the lampposts and things like that. And every now and then you’d see that sort of thing. But most of the fighting was done out in the jungle in World War II so there wasn’t that much, evidence and houses and so forth. Interestingly enough when I looked at - when I was in Singapore for example and I passed through there and came back - had a bit of leave. The people that were there at that time.
There were still old ladies going about with bound feet. And in fact as I look back over my life the place that’s changed most is Singapore. The people are taller, they’re much better dressed, the place has changed incredibly. It’s a really hygienic worthwhile thriving metropolis. And it was always bustling in those days but it was
a pretty grotty place in comparison. And the people were not nearly as tall as they are now, you know the good food has made a world of difference to them. Mmm interesting that. In our area where we were operating, in Perak, we basically knew the people we were after. There was Ar Hon and Lan Po and people like that. And you would, you’d have a
briefing before you go out and you’d say, “Oh we’re still after Lan Po. Is his wife still pregnant?” ‘Cause Lan Po’s wife was pregnant, always, always seemed for the two years I was there she was pregnant. I don’t know if she ever actually was pregnant but you know, that was the sort of thing. It had got to the stage where we knew who our specific enemy were. And every now and then you’d get what was called a CEP. A CEP or SEP - Captured Enemy Personnel or Surrendered Enemy
Personnel and they would lead you back into where the CT’s were. There were a couple of interesting things. Around the time of Malaya’s independence, which was August 31st 1957 we were in CX Company and we were out in the bush on operations and we came upon a camp. And they had an Auster Spotter [bi-plane] and he’d spotted a camp, so we assaulted this camp
and destroyed it. And there was no-one in it. We did that, burned it and so forth. And went back up the hill. Next thing he came over and said, “Oh, you’ve just destroyed a camp, I’ve seen where the smoke coming down. That wasn’t the one I meant, there’s another one a thousand metres further down.” So back we went down and we came off this ridge and we were down the side of the ridge and we came up the side of the ridge doing the
silent assault. And I’ll never forget as I was going up there, it was as if I was shot twice. And I thought, “Christ and it was actually a couple of hornets that had stung me”. And what really got up my nose was I couldn’t say anything ‘cause we were in the midst of this assault. And I … and the bee stings are this side of the head. Up we went and cleared it and there was no-one there either.
And we had, what we call, “Willy Pete’s” - white phosphorous grenades. And someone’d say, “Throw a Willy Pete in there and set this thing ablaze.” So I pulled the pin, threw it in. We had these grenades for quite a while. The primary went off;– “Phoomf” but the main grenade didn’t go off. So someone else threw in a grenade and it did go off and it started the thing burning. So then the sergeant
Alan Seal said to me, “Jock you go down there and act as sentry.” So I went down the side, across this stream and was acting as sentry and then, when we’d finished all this he called me back and so I came back across the stream, and climbing back up pass this hut that was ablaze. And all of a sudden the grenade I threw in exploded. Now the white phosphorous, you’ve seen those things in the movie when the white phosphorus explodes. I could
see this coming toward me. And I reckon I took a world shattering leap backwards into this creek. Because once you’re out of oxygen you’re right. Whilst all this phosphorous came down and just about got me. Fortunately it didn’t. Little incidents. Oh and the same operation. We had - there were 18 of us on the operation, we had a firm base of 4 and 14 of us went out on the assault.
And there was a bloke called Teddy Ravensworth who was in the assault, who was in the firm base. And he was waiting there and Teddy carried a shot gun. He was a forward scout carried a shot gun. Anyway Ted told me about, he could hear this noise of something getting closer so he lined the shotgun up. And through the scrub from the scrub emerged this great big elephant. And Ted said, “I looked at the elephant and I looked at my shotgun.
The elephant looked at me and looked at the shotgun sort of twaaa, and turned and walked away.” He said, “Thank God for that.”
frequently. I think in the two years we were there we did six months on the Malay-Thai Border. And we in fact went up to Thailand near Ubon Ratchathani to conduct an exercise. Theoretically it was an exercise called Dhanarajata but in fact it was in response to the incidents that were going on in Laos and certainly the increase in action in Vietnam.
June 1963 we were up there and Ubon’s about ooh, 40 k’s from the Mekong which is the boundary between it and Laos and just at the south is Cambodia. By that time we had advisors in Vietnam, the team, training team originally starting off as - purely as advisors, they soon developed a combat role. But by this stage
we in the Australian Army were well aware of what was coming up in Vietnam and in fact were training for Vietnam in Malaya before there was ever any commitment. So when I came home in 1963 and of course missed out on confrontation which was in Borneo in 1964, 1965 which I was a bit cross about.
We had not long been back when National Service started. Now National Service contrary to common belief was initiated in order to counter confrontation which was Indonesia-Australia, as the buying of the F111’s was. However once National Service started there emerged the fact that we were going to commit troops to Vietnam.
And Australian combat troops particularly and in 1965 the first battalion went up there, working with the American 173 Airborne Brigade. By 1966 it was determined Australia would have its own area of operations and Phuoc Tuy province was selected for a number of reasons. One is I believe that it wasn’t that far from Vung Tau. Vung Tau which you’ll commonly hear referred to as Vung Tau was a port
facility. And should Australia, which was only about 15 kilometres from the edge of Phuoc Tuy province, and should Australia run into difficulties then there would be a ready egress from Vietnam through Vung Tau. And I suspect that’s why Phuoc Tuy province was selected. It was a very dangerous province, it was controlled by the Vietcong 5th [VC] Division. With 274 and 275 regiment and each of those regiments had
three battalions plus heavy weapons. There was in addition D445, a local battalion as with D440, supporting all of those. Where C Company, C123, C120, C119 and various other nominations. In fact, in that province which had been a hot bed of Vietminh insurrection first in - during World War II and then later when General Gracie and the 99th India Division
went there in 1946, 1947 was still a hot bed of insurrection. The VC had a very strong hold. 5th VC Division controlled that province and in came the Australians. They established themselves at a place called Nui Dat. Nui Dat is an old volcanic feature as much of the terrain in Nui Dat is.
And soon had the 5th and 6th Battalion there operating as a task force. Early in the piece their primary task was to establish the base and to gradually, on the spreading ink blot system, establish control throughout the province. They had not long been there when the VC decided to take them on. VC and North Vietnamese by this stage decided to take
them on. And so we had the Battle of Long Tan in which Harry Smith and the 122 blokes or whatever it was of D Company took on a very substantial number of VC and NVA [North Vietnamese Army] and, not to put it, more than plainly beat the shit out of them. We lost something like 19 people and they lost somewhere in the vicinity of 250. And it showed
the Vietcong that we were in their province and we were going to stay and it also made them very wary of travelling through the province because in fact, not long before the Australians arrived, in about 1964. the South Vietnamese army suffered one of their heaviest defeats in Phuoc Tuy Province when at a place called La Gom not far from task force and a Vietnamese airborne regiment was absolutely decimated. And then all
of a sudden the Australians had entered the situation and things changed. Now tactically whilst there were some problems we used the skills that we had, that we gained in the Emergency and Confrontation to apply them to that situation. To beat any insurrection you need three things. You need a reform of the government
and allowance of those demands to be accepted where they can be. The second thing is you need a sound civil administration backed up by a good police force. And the third thing you need is a military arm to carry out your policies. There were not enough concessions
given to the VC and NVA. There was not a sound civil administration and the only thing - with a good police force and the only thing that really worked was the heavy military arm aka the Australians. I think many of us recognised this, but the people running the war didn’t appear to. For example in Malay as we talked about before we separated the guerrillas from the population. They tried that in Vietnam with the
strategic hamlets program. And sadly often Americans, it seems to me, think if a program’s going to work at X figure, X times 10 will make it work ten times better. And that’s not so, that’s not so. Often. And so they tried that with the Vietnamese in the strategic hamlets and it didn’t work, it just didn’t work. So anyway back
to Phuoc Tuy province where the Australians are. We’re in there and we’re establishing some sort of control over the province. Our operations in the main were designed to tackle main force and keep us away from the civilian population. When I first went in there in 1967, we started conducting
operations around villages and the like. And what we did was cordon and search. We’d - my platoon, we’d go forward, secure a perimeter, guide the battalion in, they would - overnight - the next day they’d move in and check the, the particular village. There was a very famous photograph up in - which sort of is the theme of Vietnam of the bloke calling in the
helicopters and half a dozen diggers squatting on the side of the road waiting for the choppers to come in. That in fact was Operation Omara and those troops were in my platoon, from 5 Platoon B Company. It was a one day cordon and search operation. We went out that morning did our cordon and search and we were back in Nui Dat that evening. And all in all it was a successful operation, a bit like going to the office and back again.
Two things that come out of that I think are worth mentioning. One is that it was quite carefully planned and each platoon and section, that’s roughly 30 odd in a section, roughly 10 were given an area that they must search. Now they did that and then they regrouped and moved on. And 2 A Company fellows were doing their little search and they came upon a “shop”. Now when I use the term shop
it’s a bit loose because it was about a metre square and it was about 5 shelves and a little bit of cardboard in front of it. But that was the shop. And in the shop there were some bottles of Ba Muoi Ba. Ba Muoi Ba is the Vietnamese beer. 33 Ba Moui Ba. So the diggers decided this was a good thing and I’ll give them their due, they plonked some money on the little piece of board that represented the counter and heartedly got stuck into the Ba Muoi Ba.
As the battalion cleared it became obvious there were a couple of A Company blokes missing and so they went back through to see where they were. Eventually they found these diggers quite pissed. They had got into the Ba Muoi Ba. So they, they loaded them onto the chopper, threw them onto the chopper in the evacuation and they spent the night in the dug out slammer [jail]. And after the next day they were fronted before the commanding officer and he gave them both 14
days stoppage of pay. And when they got outside the battalion orderly room, the Regimental Sergeant Major, Alec Thompson said to them, “Well you understand the punishment?” They said, “Yes Sir.” He said, “Now what do you think about all that?” And this digger said, “It’s worth it sir, we’re going out in the bush for the next two weeks.” And the other photograph I think you missed is, Lang Phuoc Hai was a fishing village. And the fishing fleet was out and came in at 11 that day. And as they were
unloading the thing, they brought off this fish which was about ooh, three quarters of a metre long, gorgeous big fish. So I bought it for about the equivalent of 80 cents. I bought this thing. So when they took the photograph of these helicopters coming down to land they didn’t take the photograph of me running towards a helicopter with a large fish, which we took back to Nui Dat, the cook stuffed and baked and it was just delicious for our supper that evening.
But back to the war. Throughout 1967 the task force got a bigger grip on things. We had a reasonable fight at Suoi Chou Pha in August of 1967 and that was an interesting fight because A Company of our battalion came upon a VC/NVA Company.
And the first platoon in contact made up against this VC platoon. And Jake O’Donnell being a smart operator thought to himself, ah ha this fight’s engaged here, I’ll slip a platoon around the right flank, to get around the VC. Coincidentally the VC commander faced with his position, which was exactly the same, thought, “Ah I’ll slip a platoon around the left flank”. So they - the next thing we’ve got two Australian platoons in contact.
So Jake then decided, “Alright, I won’t let them get away with it. I’ll slip a platoon around my other flank”. Just coincidentally at the same time as the VC commander and so you had two well trained forces engaging each other. And, the result of that fight was, we think we cleaned them up a bit. But it was just an example of how main force, enemy main force troops were starting to skirt the province and
only coming in from time to time, not very often. Where once upon a time Phuoc Tuy province belonged to the VC.
20th of January and the word was that we were going to have a break in camp which mean that we were going to be filling sand bags and digging things but we were going to have a break. And all of a sudden the CSM said to me, Company Sergeant Major said, “I’ll need a strength, stat” (the strength of your platoon for operations) “I’ll need it
by this afternoon”. I thought, “What the Christ is going on? I thought we were going to have a break?” Anyway, at Battalion briefing at Porkie 7, Porkie 7 was a landing zone, a helicopter landing zone, and it was called Porkie 7 because we were the 7th Battalion and we were the pigs (that’s another story). So we got there and we got a briefing from a bloke called Roger Peditt, you’ve heard me talk about Johny Peditt, Roger was his
brother and he was a captain in the intelligence corps and Roger gave us the briefing on what was to be the Tet Offensive. And I thought when I heard this briefing I thought, “Shit” we’re up against 273 Regiment, NVA Regiment, 274 and maybe 275, 88 Alpha which was an artillery regiment and ancillary troops and bigger than anything we’d tackled
before and we were going up to Bien Hoa province to fight them. So I decided I would keep a diary of that operation and that diary is now in the War Memorial in Canberra. But it was an interesting operation we started on – I think they sent up a ground convoy on the 23rd and we flew in on the 24th,
26th something like that, it might have been a little bit later because we were on the ground before the Tet Offensive actually started and it appears that what happened is that the NVA had come in and they had swept past where we landed so we weren’t there in time to intercept them, just some stuff still coming through and we had several days of fighting there. And then
we got a bit of a lull for a day or so and then we got them on the way out and that was very intensive and we were fighting every day, most of the day. We were up against the NVA and they were good, they were good. The couple of things that come to mind, I was a platoon sergeant at this time and I had a platoon
commander called Wally, Wally – anyway, Wally and I were sweeping in an assault and Wally had been carrying an M79 grenade launcher and we’d knocked this bloke over who had an AK47 and I said to Wally, I said “Wally, for Christ sake stop carrying that grenade launcher because it doesn’t arm for about 40 ft”. I said “You want
something you can fire” and I gave him the AK47 and I said “Use that”. And so he did and anyway we were having this attack and we got separate and I heard the burst of AKs and I went “Bang, bang, bang” and it was Wally, fortunately I missed him. Wally Harris – I didn’t tell him that until some years later. He said “You rotten bastard”. So at one stage we’re
attacking these bunkers and I pulled the grenade and the pin and I’m trying to throw it in the bunker and of course it’s very deep, I couldn’t get it in so I check that side and I couldn’t get it in there and the other side and I said, “Now what the hell are we going to do with this””, and there was this burst of fire and it went “Crackle, crackle” right past me and I thought, bugger it, and hurled it in and off it went. Anyway, someone said “There’s someone in that bunker, I
saw them go in”. And I said, “Well, we’ll grenade buggery out of it”. And Wally said “No, no, I’ll might go in and see if I can get them”. I said “Wally, for Christ’s sake, blah blah”. So anyway, Wally went in and I take my hat off to Wally, to get this bloke and I said, “Hang on a minute, Here’s my 9 mil” because he didn’t have a pistol. And in he went and there was a
bloke in there. He said “I can see a bloke”, and Peter Stokes who’s a mate of mine, he was a company commander and he said, “Save him if you can, Wally”. And I said “Shoot him if you can, Wally”. He said, “I can see his leg sticking out”. So I said “Lean around the corner and shoot him up the ass”. Anyway, Stokes is saying “Save him if you can” and Wally jumps on this bloke and dragged him out, he was an NVA soldier, with a little nick in his chin. Oh that’s right, before that
Wally had said “Throw in a smoke grenade”. I said “Wally, if we throw in a smoke grenade it will take ages to clear blah blah blah”. “Oh, throw it in”. “All right then” so I threw it, it went off and this poor bloke when we dragged him out, still alive of course, had yellow where the smoke was around his lips and he’d been breathing it in and he had a little nick on his chin, I reckon that was my grenade. Dragged him out and sent him on his way,
got him out on the chopper and apparently he blabbed and said we were in the midst of 275 Regiment which we knew very well by that time. There were a couple of really sad things happened there. One of our blokes had gone on R & R, you know, you’d get five days R & R when you were in Vietnam, one of our blokes had gone on R & R and he came back and there was no LZ [Landing Zone] so the chopper was above the trees and they winched him in
and as they winched him in, the winch snapped, the cable snapped and down he came. And if he’d gone a little left or a little right he’d have been all right but he landed right on the edge of a pit. And Charlie Murdoch he was a medic, Charlie Murdoch was our medic, he was a good medic and Charlie’s saying, “We’ve got to save him, we’ve got to save him”. And Wally’s saying “No, he’s gone”. The poor bastard was gone, you know, he had blood coming out of his eyes and all the rest of it and Charlie’s saying, “No, we can save him”.
“No, Charlie he’s gone”. And he was poor bugger, it was very sad, very sad. And then we had a – it was a tough old day this – we had a patrol clash. 4 Platoon and 6 Platoon were out, and we were 5 Platoon and we were manning the company perimeter and 4 Platoon came up unexpectedly on our perimeter and I had just got word,
“Zero Alpha this is 2/1”, which is 4 Platoon, “We are 600 metres from your position”. Zero Alpha said “Roger 2/2 echo over”. And I was 2/2 you see, I said “2/2 echo”. I put the handset down, I had a brew, had a sip and just got up to go to brief my blokes and what had happened was that they were actually on the edge of the perimeter, now we’d had the NVA walking in on
us throughout the previous few days. 4 Platoon had come right up on us and they could see movement, some movement, which of course was us. So what happened was the forward section, he spread his section out into an assault formation. My blokes, which there was 3 of them, saw they’d moved into assault formation and thought, “Shit, here they come again”. So they opened up with a
Claymore. The next thing it was “2/2 contact we’re out, 2/1 contact we’re out”. And I thought, “Oh shit” and I go “Check fire”, and the firing petered out on both sides and we’d hit six of 4 Platoon, we didn’t kill any but we hit 6 of 4 Platoon. Out of the first 7 we hit six of them and there was a
young bloke, Mad Tag, the machine gunner and he’d been hit in the mouth and blood was trickling down his chin and he was still manning his machine gun and I said “How’re you doing” and he managed to say “All right, sir” and I said “Good work”, because you know he’d got stuck in and he was on the other -what was then the other side briefly and he got stuck in and the volume of fire that came in; I thought
“Shit” that’s what it must be like fighting us, because we put up quite a significant volume of fire. Quite often the volume of fire that came back would be heavy but often it wasn’t really low because it’s the low shots that get you, but this fire came back and it was ground stuff, you know. That’s why I slithered in the hole; “Contact we’re down”. And it was our blokes and I thought, shit, no wonder they don’t like us, our fire is very deadly.
And you know we knocked over 6 of 4 Platoon. And this young Mad Tag, a Western Australian bloke he is, I met him and his wife many years afterwards and she was talking to me. She said (I think his name is Graham) “He’s still very concerned that he fired on his own blokes”. So I had a word to him and I said “Look, you acted in the best way a digger could, you did a first class job”.