August 19 - 25, 2012: Issue 72     

 Vietnam Veterans (Northern) Annual March and Service
Palm Beach – 12th of August 2012

Last Sunday marked the 10th year of the annual March and Service held by the Vietnam Veterans (Northern) at Palm Beach. Initiated by Mark Ferguson, President of Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch and now ably led by Peter Rumble, President of Vietnam Veterans Nthn. this annual get together of Veterans, their families and friends is attended by folk as far away as Wangi Wangi Sub Branch as well as those within Pittwater. Vietnam Veterans (Nthn.) patrons Hon Bronwyn Bishop and Hon. Robert Stokes along with members of the Dee Why and Pittwater RSL clubs, the National Servicemen’s Association and family members commemorated the loved ones and mates they had lost along the way in a moving service outside the Club Palm Beach (Palm Beach RSL). There is always a sense of another family that is these people themselves when they gather together for this day, and 2012’s March and Service was no exception.

As always Hon. Bronwyn Bishop gave a moving address reiterating her determination to ensure that those who were sent to Vietnam are recognised for their Service as much as any other generation of Australian men and women who have served or serve in our Defence Forces. As this lady stated “No other group can be ordered to do an action that may result in their death. Others may make a judgement of will. So it is vital that those who served then and those who serve now are recognised for all they do.”

The Hon. Bronwyn Bishop attended a service in Vietnam a few years ago at Long Tan, where a cross was raised on August 16th 1969 to commemorate the battle fought there by Australians. Ms Bishop spoke with one of the many Australians who fought in this conflict and who now, due to their treatment after coming home, choose to live in Vietnam instead. This gentleman was preparing the area for the Anzac Day Service to be held the next day and in doing so would be contributing to this memorial in the only way he can as he could not, or as he stated “Can’t come tomorrow. Can’t do it.” There is still a lot of pain in the men who were sent to this conflict and then vilified for doing so on returning home. There is still a lot of silence. The disabilities and emotional pain suffered have been compounded by what came afterwards.

Yesterday, 18th of August, at the War Memorial in Canberra to mark the 46th anniversary of Vietnam Veterans’ Day and the Battle of Long Tan, an anniversary closing ceremony was conducted at 5pm in the Commemorative Area. The Battle of Long Tan (18 August 1966) took place in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, 27 kilometres (17 mi) north east of Vung Tau, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The newly arrived 1st Australian Task Force had established its Phuoc Tuy operations base in 1966 at Nui Dat, a piece of high ground surrounded by rubber plantations. On the night of 16/17 August 1966, the Viet Cong fired a barrage of shells into Nui Dat, wounding 24 Australians. On 18 August 1966 D Company of 6RAR was patrolling the area of the Long Tan rubber plantation when the lead platoon (11 Platoon, commanded by 2Lt Gordon Sharp, a national serviceman) encountered a small group of Viet Cong who ran. An hour later, at about 4.08pm, the main body of the Viet Cong 275 Regiment was encountered. The Viet Cong attacked with mortars, rifle and machine gun fire.

This conflict between Australian forces and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army units was a battle between the 108-man D Company,  6 RAR and a force of over 2,000 Vietnamese people (some sources state over 2500), from the Viet Cong 275th Regiment, reinforced by at least one North Vietnamese battalion and elements of D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion. The Australians were backed up by artillery fire from the Nui Dat camp.  Australian losses during this battle were 17 killed, one died of wounds and 24 wounded; approximately one third of the initial force engaged. A high proportion of the dead and wounded were National Servicemen, a statistic which drew criticism in Australia where conscription was becoming increasingly controversial. The Vietnamese losses were over 500, although some sources cite a journal kept by a Viet Cong Commander and documents found by 1 ATF during Operation Marsden in 1969 listing Vietnamese losses at Long Tan as 878 killed, died of wounds or missing and 1,500 wounded. D Company, 6 RAR was awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry on 18 August 2011.

The Hon. Bronwyn Bishop speaks for many of us in closing her address; "I want to thank you. We have a huge obligation to ensure the freedom for which you fought we prove worthy of. I want to thank each and every one of you who wore the uniform, who honoured the flag and gave selflessly of your selves."

Michael Mannington’s Volunteer Photography Public Gallery

Mark Ferguson, President Palm Beach RSL Sub Branch and Peter Rumble, President of Vietnam Veterans Nthn. relaxing after a great lunch.

Hon. Bronwyn Bishop was delighted to be presented with a cap. 

Photos by Michael Mannington and AJG, 2012. 

Left to right: Shane Hines, Gary Everitt, Peter Rumble (President Vietnam Veteran's Nthn.) and Nic Parker.

Prayers were read by John McGuigan 

Scott and David from Wangi Wangi RSL Sub Branch 

President Peter Rumble and Superintendent Doreen Cruickshank, Local Area Commander, NSW Police – Northern Beaches