Vietnam Veterans Day Services 2023 - 50th Anniversary Of The End Of The Vietnam War: Collaroy, Narrabeen, Palm Beach
photographs for Collaroy, Narrabeen and Palm Beach Services by Michael Mannington OAM, Community Photography
The annual Vietnam Veterans (Northern) Chapter Commemorative Service, a branch formed specifically for Vietnam Veterans in our area, held its 50th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War March, Service and get-together on Sunday August 20, 2023 led by Mark Ferguson OAM, Vietnam Veteran.
This was a combined March and Service this 50th year of all Northern Beaches District Council of Sub Branches.
The Address at the Vietnam Veterans (Northern) Chapter, was given by Bob Lunnon, President of Forestville RSL Sub Branch and President of the Northern Beaches District Council of Sub Branches. Bob served in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), joining Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) in 1964 and, upon graduating, was appointed to Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC), serving for six years, intertwined with his travel industry employment.
Bob's Address runs in full below.
The Vietnam Veterans (Northern) Commemorative Service was attended by Mackellar MP Dr. Sophie Scamps and Pittwater MP Rory Amon, Mayor Sue Heins, and the Northern Beaches Police Area Command.
The Knox Old Boys Pipe Band led the March, followed by Vietnam Veterans and then other sub-Branch members. A commemoration service commenced at 11am at the Club's cenotaph.
Presidents and representatives of every Sub Branch in the Northern Beaches District Council of Sub Branches laid wreaths as part of the Service.
As a prelude to this 50th end of the war year, stories from, about and by Vietnam Veterans were shared. All of these are listed at placesofpride.awm.gov.au/news, including Pittwater Online's 2023 precursor, Vietnam Veterans Day (Northern) 50th End Of The War March At Palm Beach - All Welcome, All Belong Anniversary
This year Deborah Carter, President of Pittwater RSL Sub Branch, along with photographer and Pittwater RSL Member Michael Mannington OAM, attended Services at Collaroy Beach RSL Sub Branch, led by John Fairless, President Collaroy RSL Sub Branch, and at the village's chapel for the War Veterans Village [Narrabeen] RSL Sub-Branch, led by Bob Durbin, Chaplain and President of The War Veterans RSL Sub Branch. His pictures from these solemn Commemorations run below this Issue.
A Service was also held at Manly cenotaph on Friday August 18, attended by Warringah MP Zali Steggall, Manly MP James Griffin, Pittwater MP Rory Amon and Mayor Sue Heins.
At a Vietnam Veterans’ Day service at the Martin Place Cenotaph in Sydney on Friday August 18, RSL NSW President Ray James OAM, on behalf of the League in NSW, apologised for the mistreatment of veterans who returned home from the conflict – and reaffirmed the League’s pledge to stand for all veterans now and in the future.
His apology speech runs in full below.
by RSL NSW President Ray James OAM
“When I returned from each trip to Vietnam between 1966 and 1971, I came home to my family. I was then and still am very lucky to have my family around me – because I also came home to people demonstrating against the war in Vietnam, and against those who served, sacrificed and even gave their lives.
“Many of those we are commemorating today, who served, who sacrificed, didn’t have a community around them to provide ballast amid that public opinion.
“Some were spurned by veterans of previous conflicts, turned away and refused membership by some RSL sub-Branches in NSW. Those who were turned away were left isolated, without access to key support services or a network of like-minded peers.
“Today, I’m here to commemorate 50 years since the proclamation to end Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. To recognise the service of all Australians in that war, and honour the sacrifices they and their families made.
“I’m here as a veteran of the war in Vietnam who remembers that sacrifice, and I honour my mates today.
“But I’m also here as President of the RSL in NSW – and for the first time, I’m here to reckon with the past and to address a wrong.
“When veterans needed the League the most, the RSL community in NSW let them down. For those injustices and for our misjudgement – we are sorry. To the veterans who have been at the receiving end of hardship and negativity – we are sorry.”
Improving the future
“Today, we recognise the dedication of the Australians who served or were involved in the war in Vietnam. Some 60,000 fought in a protracted and challenging conflict; others never left Australia; all made an indelible contribution.
“These past weeks, I have attended several vigils.
“In Thirlmere Cemetery I joined more than 150 mourners at the grave of Ian James Thomson, a much-loved 22-year-old who was killed in action in Vietnam. Ian’s family and his company commander, who had been by his side when he was killed, honoured his sacrifice and remembered his bravery.
“At a vigil in Rookwood, my wife Pauline and I saw two other veterans, RSL sub-Branch members, placing poppies on the graves of those who had served and lost their lives.
“As representatives of a community of veterans in this state, we are already doing better than we did in the past. But we recognise that we must continue that focus on being better. We must continually work to ensure that the experiences on home soil that tested some Vietnam veterans’ tenacity, rather than offering comfort, are not repeated for veterans of recent conflicts and in the future.
“We know that this apology does not erase the past – but it could improve the future. Together with our charity partner RSL LifeCare Veteran Services, and in collaboration with smaller veterans’ charities throughout the state, RSL NSW provides support and services to benefit veterans and their families.
“RSL NSW above all remains a member-based non-profit, welcoming all veterans.
“But more must be done, and soon. The ongoing Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide shows a stark need for veterans’ support services to be prioritised at a policy and organisational level, and for institutions to improve their management of current and ex-serving personnel at every stage of their careers and lives. The League’s submissions to and reflections on the progress of the Commission reflect our steadfast support for its findings.”
Standing for veterans
“We must not let those experiences of some veterans on their return from the war in Vietnam be repeated for the veterans of today’s generation.
“And so, the RSL in NSW reaffirms its pledge to be and stand for all veterans, no matter the length or nature of their service, and regardless of whether they are RSL sub-Branch members. We will work harder to provide a warm welcome to all veterans and their families, and affirm their trust in the state’s largest ex-service organisation.
“We will do better.
“Many of our 27,000 members are leaders who act in service of their communities. A great many of today’s members are veterans of the war in Vietnam, who we’re here to honour today.
‘Those veterans, our members, have devoted countless volunteer hours – tens of thousands of hours – over the past 50 years to ensure that the League in NSW remains a home and support for veterans and their families.
“And still, with all that they do, our members ask me – ‘how can I help?’.
“It starts with a promise, and it starts today; I promise that RSL NSW will not repeat the mistakes of the past. I encourage all veterans, whether you are a member of the League or not, to be a part of this commitment.
“Start with a promise of your own – to continue your service. Where you once served your country, you now serve your community of fellow veterans. Embody the League’s principles of mateship and camaraderie by lending a helping hand to your peers.
“And I encourage the wider community – the friends, relatives and colleagues of veterans – to take up this promise. Reach out and connect the veterans you know with support and services available to them at their local RSL sub-Branch.
“The Returned and Services League in NSW strives to be a place of protection and safety, of camaraderie and union, where every veteran is welcome and no one is left behind. We all have a part to play in achieving that.”
RSL NSW welcomes veterans of any age – and from any conflict – to join the organisation. Access support services and become part of a like-minded community of peers.
VIETNAM VETERANS’ DAY COMMEMORATION LUNCHEON
SUNDAY 20TH AUGUST 2023
PALM BEACH RSL SUB-BRANCH
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF THE VIETNAM WAR
PRESIDENT, NORTHERN BEACHES DISTRICT COUNCIL
Good afternoon, One and All. I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather today. And pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. I extend that respect to First Nations peoples here today.
On behalf of our 10 RSL Sub-Branches on the Northern Beaches, I extend a very warm welcome to all Vietnam Veterans, to all veterans, our distinguished guests, and to all of you here today.
It is a great honour for me to have been asked by Mark Ferguson, President of Palm Beach RSL Sub-Branch, to be your Guest Speaker today at this Vietnam Veterans’ Day Commemorative Luncheon. My current role is as President of both Forestville RSL sub-Branch and the Northern Beaches District Council of RSL NSW. This role then results in me being a member of the RSL NSW District Presidents’ Council which meets 5 times a year, and the RSL NSW District Presidents’ Council also meets 4 to 5 times a year with the RSL NSW Board. So, in that context, it is my privilege to deliver this commemorative address for our national Vietnam Veterans’ Day where we honour the 523 Australians who deployed to Vietnam and who were killed in action or died in the theatre of operations. We also honour and thank the 60000 Australians who served in Vietnam, and the 3000 who were wounded in Vietnam.
With 2022 representing the 60th anniversary of AATTV deployment to Vietnam, and 2023 being the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, it was more than appropriate for the Vietnam Veterans’ Vigil to take place nationally on Thursday 3rd August, with a plan to hold a vigil at the gravesite of as many of these 523 Vietnam Veterans as possible. Also, to lay a wreath with wattle and rosemary on each grave as part of the Vigil.
Our Northern Beaches District Council of 10 sub-Branches, including Palm Beach RSL sub-Branch, decide to become involved in this Vietnam Veterans’ Vigil. Our research found that three of these 523 Vietnam Veterans are buried in the peaceful surroundings at the Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery, on the Northern Beaches. They are Major George Constable, Warrant Officer Class Two Arthur Robertson and Leading Aircrewman Noel Shipp, whose faces you see on the front page of the Order of Service and whose gravestones are on the back page.
Major George Constable, Warrant Officer Class Two Arthur Robertson and Leading Aircrewman Noel Shipp
I would like to say a few words about each of them, not with me as a Vietnam Veteran, but as the son of a WWII veteran. I was born in December 1945 at the end of WWII. I was either a love baby, or a leave baby, when you think about it. The first 17 formative years of my life, while still living at home on the lower north coast of NSW, were consumed by my father’s post-War RSL activities, with annual commemorations, veterans’ funerals, and a myriad of community activities each year. Being a veteran became part of my DNA in my early formative years.
So, to our Vietnam Veterans’ Vigil on 3rd August at Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery, which some of you here today also attended. The three Vietnam Veterans who we commemorated were as follows. The first was Major George Arthur Constable. He was the most senior Australian officer to be killed in action in Vietnam. He was born in Kyogle on 24 March 1937 and entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in January 1954; six months after the Armistice was signed ending the fighting in the Korean War-70 years ago. He graduated from Duntroon in December 1957 into the Royal Australian Artillery and served in a number of gunner appointments, but he also learnt to fly and became a part of that small group of Artillery officers who were air observer pilots. While still a gunner, because the Australian Army Aviation Corps was still to be established, he was deployed to Vietnam as the officer commanding 161 (Independent) Recce Flight. He was killed in action on 23 May 1968. He was shot down by enemy ground fire while flying visual reconnaissance over a 1st Australian Task Force road convoy which was returning to Bien Hoa airbase from Fire Support Base Coral. This was during the period of the Battle of Coral/Balmoral, Australia’s most significant unit action of the Vietnam War. He was survived by his wife Annette and daughters Nicole and Deanne.
The next was Warrant Officer Class Two Arthur James Robertson who was born in Shepparton on 15 January 1937 and joined the Army in September 1958. On completion of his recruit training, he was allocated to the infantry and served as a private soldier on operational service with 1 RAR in Malaya, during the Emergency, between 1959 and 1961. His battalion returned to Sydney in November 1961 and moved into Holsworthy Barracks, where he remained until November 1963. He was then sent as an instructor to 1 Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka. He was subsequently deployed to Vietnam as a young WO2 on 27 April 1967, as part of the famous Australian Army Training Team Vietnam or AATTV, whose role was training and assistance to South Vietnamese forces. Sadly, he contracted malaria while operating with the South Vietnamese and died in Saigon on 5 December 1967. He was survived by his wife Jennifer and daughter Tracy. It was fitting that Jennifer and Tracy, who live on the Central Coast, were able to join us for the Vigil, we asked them to lead a poppy laying tribute on a table in the Chapel covered by the Australian flag, then all present also laid a poppy, as part of our RSL Tribute.
Finally, Leading Aircrewman Noel Elvin Shipp, who was born on 24 December 1944 and joined the Royal Australian Navy in January 1963. He served in a variety of shore and sea postings until in July 1967 he volunteered to become an aircrewman and was promoted to the rank of Provisional acting leading aircrewman. In 1968 Noel Shipp was posted as a member of our 2nd Contingent to the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV), which was integrated with the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company, flying Iroquois (or Huey) helicopters in utility and gunship configurations.
Noel Shipp became a helicopter door-gunner with the 135th’s gunship platoon. In this role he flew numerous missions providing suppression fire for troop-lift helicopters and he also participated in frequent ground assaults on enemy positions and troop concentrations. On 31 May 1969, aircraft of the 135th were extracting elements of the 7th Infantry Division (Army Republic of Vietnam) from a pick-up zone in Dinh Tuong Province when they came under intense fire from automatic weapons. The aircraft in which Shipp was flying immediately began making rocket attack runs on the enemy position. With complete disregard for his own safety, Shipp hung outside his aircraft, exposing himself to rocket back blast and intense enemy fire to bring more effective fire to bear on the enemy. At this point of the action Shipp’s pilot was hit by enemy fire and the gunship rapidly lost altitude before crashing and exploding in the jungle below. All four crew members were killed. During the entire run, up until the moment of impact, Shipp was seen delivering devastating fire into the enemy positions. He was survived by his wife Gloria and son Darren.
His memory is honoured to this day by the RAN, which in 2012 named one of the recruit training divisions at HMAS Cerberus after him.
After the Vigil in the Chapel, we broke into three groups to move to the gravesites of these three Vietnam Veterans. We had arranged a piper to be placed between the three graves, and the piper played the Lament, with the sounds permeating the solitude of the cemetery. At the completion of the Lament, each group simultaneously laid a floral wreath of wattle and rosemary on each grave, laid by veterans, one a Vietnam Veteran, one a gunner, one a serving Naval Commander.
At the grave of Arthur Robertson, his wife Jenny and daughter Tracy also simultaneously laid their wreath. Photos recording all of this have since been uploaded to the Vietnam Veterans’ Vigil website, with photos from all other Vigils around Australia, to be retained in perpetuity to commemorate Vietnam Veterans’ Day, and the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery also provided us with a video link of the Vigil in the Lorikeet Chapel, which we have provided to all of our sub-Branches on the Northern Beaches, including Palm Beach RSL sub-Branch, along with photos from the Vigil in the Lorikeet Chapel, and at each of the three graves. If you are interested, President Mark Ferguson can provide you with the links for the Vigil and the photos.
Additionally, we had a professional photographer in attendance at our Vigil, his name is James Mott. David is working on a project called Silent Burden, which is a video interview and photographic series which aims to document the experiences of veterans while they are deployed, and their lives post-service. David is wanting to hear from veterans who are willing to share their testimony for this series, with an aim to publish stories for educational purpose, to gain insights and understanding of adversity, and to ensure these stories are not lost in time. It will include a filmed interview, and a one hour studio portrait session. If you are interested, I have James Mott’s contact details, and you can then make direct contact with him by phone or email, so please see me later.
These three Vietnam Veterans buried at Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery were all very special Australians of whom we should be extremely proud. Because, while our Nation in many ways is almost unrecognizable from the Australia they left to go to Vietnam, there is one constant. That is our honouring of those who have made the supreme sacrifice in the Defence of our Nation, and in the pursuit of freedom and democracy in all lands.
On behalf of our Northern Beaches District Council, I end by thanking each of you for being here today for this Vietnam Veterans’ Day Commemorative Luncheon. Thanks also to you, Mark Ferguson, as well as your Palm Beach RSL sub-Branch Committee and members, for organising the march, service, and luncheon today, to commemorate Vietnam Veterans’ Day, on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Thank you all for your service.
Lest we Forget.
Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch
March and Service at Barrenjoey Road Cenotaph, Sunday August 20 2023
Mark Ferguson OAM, Vietnam Veteran, one of three founders of Vietnam Veterans (Northern) President Palm Beach RSL Sub-Branch, and President Vietnam Veterans (Northern)
Bob Lunnon, President of Northern Beaches District Council and President, Forestville Sub-Branch.
Salvation Army Chaplain, Major Phillip Cardew.
Vocalist, Squadron Leader, Anna Williams
Bob Head, Vietnam Veteran (1.CDO Coy), Director of Palm Beach RSL/Palm Beach RSL Sub-Branch. From 1965 the Commando Companies contributed numerous instructors, including from their reserve part-time component, to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). Two lost their lives with the AATTV, with Warrant Officer Class II John Durrington being killed in action, and Warrant Officer Class II Ron Scott dying of wounds. Whilst serving with the AATTV, Warrant Officer Class II Ray Simpson, formerly from both the Special Air Service Regiment and the 1st Commando Company, was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action in the Kontum Province on 6 May 1969.
Bugler, Matt O’Brien
Committee organising Vietnam Veterans (Northern) Day 2023
Northern Beaches District Council of Sub Branches Presidents
Avalon Beach RSL Sub-Branch Members, including Vietnam Veteran John McInerney OAM
Vietnam Veterans who attended Vietnam Veterans (Northern) 50th Anniversary of the end of the War
War Veterans Village [Narrabeen] RSL Sub-Branch
Held Friday August 18 2023 in the Chapel
The War Vets RSL sub-Branch, under the auspices of the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) NSW Branch and the Northern Beaches District Council of RSL NSW, is committed to the welfare of Serving and Ex-Service Members of the Defence Forces (NAVY, ARMY, AIRFORCE) and allied veterans, their spouses and dependents.
We do this by providing support in time of need and bereavement and by promoting regular engagement and camaraderie within our ranks through meetings, luncheons, social and official functions.
We interact with the community through the promotion of ANZAC Day Services and Remembrance Day Services, many other RSL NSW commemorative events, schools, cadets and other community outreach. Fund raising events include, ANZAC Day Appeal, the Poppy Day Appeal and other special activities.
We take pride in our monthly newsletter “Dispatches” with news, interest items and upcoming events.
We are based in the RSL LifeCare ANZAC Village (“The War Vets”) Narrabeen where we meet monthly. There are dedicated Memorials, a Chapel, a must-see War Museum, interaction with a Lawn Bowls Club and public access to an excellent Licensed Restaurant within the village.
Our Geographic area is centred on Collaroy Plateau and surrounding areas. However, membership is not restricted to these areas, nor to residents of the village. We seek and welcome applications for membership without regard to place of residence.
Bob Durbin, Chaplain and President of The War Veterans RSL Sub Branch, led the Commemorative Service
Commander Arthur Skene, Royal Australian Navy Retired, Vietnam Veteran, served May 1965 to June 1966
Allan Burrows, Vietnam Veteran, serving with the Royal Australian Navy, Member of The War Veterans RSL Sub Branch
Shirley Beggs, Service Member, The War Veterans RSL Sub Branch
Brian French, Vietnam Veteran - The War Veterans RSL Sub Branch. Brain was born in Wynyard Tasmania in 1951 and served with the Royal Australian Navy aboard HMAS Sydney from October 1970 to October 1971. On 29 April 1965 a decision was made by the Australian Government to commit an infantry battalion to serve in South Vietnam. HMAS Sydney III subsequently received orders to make preparations to transport the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) to Vung Tau. Sydney undertook three voyages to Vietnam in 1967, four in 1968, three in 1969 and two in 1970. Her busiest year, however, was 1971 when she deployed to Vietnam on six occasions. More at: https://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-sydney-iii-part-2
Geoff Green, Vietnam Veteran, Vice President Forestville RSL Directors. Geoff served for two years in the Royal Australian Army, which included service in South Vietnam. He spent 22 years in the NSW Police Force, mainly in the area of Criminal Investigation. He was also a Law Lecturer at the Detective’s Training Course at the Police Academy. His time in the Police included nine years as the Head of the Legal Division of the Police Association of NSW.
Ted Samojlowicz, Vietnam Veteran, Member and Treasurer Forestville RSL Sub Branch. Conscripted as a National Service man in 1967, Ted's service included a tour of Vietnam in 1968-69 as part of Headquarters, Australian Forces, Vietnam (Army).
Collaroy RSL Sub Branch
Held Friday August 18 2023
John Fairless, President Collaroy RSL Sub Branch, leads Service
Pittwater RSL Sub Branch President, Deborah Carter, wreath of Australian flora
Councillor. Ruth Robins, Narrabeen, wreath of mixed white flowers
Collaroy RSL Sub Branch Veterans
The Knitting Girl and Care Package at Collaroy Beach, sculpture by Richard Stutchbury