Former deputy PM Tim Fischer dies

Much-loved former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died after a long battle with cancer. He died of acute leukaemia on Wednesday night. He was 73.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten said “Vale Tim Fischer. Doting dad and parent-carer, General Monash advocate, veteran, public servant, good Australian,”

Read other tributes here

Mr Fischer is survived by his wife, Judy, and sons Harrison and Dominic.

Opinion Ross Eastgate – Tim Fischer on course for his biggest victory

FORMER national serviceman and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been reported as being “gravely ill” in Albury hospital.

Mr Fischer, who as a 1RAR platoon commander fought in the Battle of Coral in Vietnam in May 1968, has made no secret of his decade-long battle with various cancers. His latest, possibly terminal battle is with acute myeloid leukaemia. He has previously battled bladder and prostate cancers and melanoma.

Tim Fischer claimed he was exposed in Vietnam to the defoliant Agent Orange, as were many of his mates.

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Former deputy PM Tim Fischer gravely ill

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer is gravely ill in ­Albury Hospital suffering from the effects of a 10-year fight with cancer.

Mr Fischer, who attended Xavier College in Melbourne, was conscripted into the Australian Army and served in the Vietnam War as a platoon commander and transport officer with the 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. He was elected as a state MP in 1971 as a 24-year-old, and held various roles in NSW parliament before resigning in 1984 to contest the western NSW federal seat of Farrer.

He served as Nationals leader between 1990 and 1999, and ­retired from politics in 2001.

Mr Fischer has faced a series of cancer battles in recent years, ­including bladder cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma and ­leukaemia.

Speaking last year of his cancer battle, Mr Fischer attributed it to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam.

“At least one specialist has suggested my immunity broke down a lot more quickly as a ­direct consequence,” he said.

The Royal Australian Regiment Association extends its best wishes and keeps the former member of The Regiment in our thoughts.

Read the full article in “The Australian

RCB Update 4/2019 – Action Changes Things

Facts from the Aust and Malaysian Governments’ records prove that RCB’s operational deployment (1970-1989) to protect the RAAF assets at Air Base Butterworth against the communist terrorists threat during Malaysia’s Counter Insurgency War (1968-1989) was warlike.

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Battle of Long Tan and Vietnam Veterans Day Speech

Michael von Berg MC OAM

President              

18th August 2019

Not wishing to be disrespectful but in today’s address I will not talk about The Battle of Long Tan which has been recalled many times over the last 53 years and now a film depicting the battle has also been produced. Unfortunately too little has been said of the men who served at that time and the conditions in which they experienced the sounds, the smells, the fears of the Vietnam War, so in today’s commemoration speech I will concentrate more on what makes the men and women of our Army so unique, and most importantly what drives these ordinary Australians to perform extraordinary things in times of war. The quotation I am about to read is an excellent quote from Maj Gen Michael O’Brien an ex 7RAR platoon commander in Vietnam but it could also relate to an artillery battery, a tank or APC squadron, a squadron of engineers, a chopper Squadron, or any other unit or sub unit that served in Vietnam.

“Australian Soldiers identify with their Battalion. It’s indeed their family: it leads, feeds, clothes, directs and exhausts them. Its veins are its Sections and Platoons, its limbs the companies. It has the capacity to inspire their actions, to drive them beyond exhaustion, at times to subordinate their loved ones and to provide a depth of male comradeship rarely achieved elsewhere. This exclusive club has demanding rules of entry and offers few amenities. It seems to revel in adversity and prosper in challenge. It has fickle moods: a sense of purpose may be cemented by a mascot or nickname while, in contrast, wide dissatisfaction can be spread by a single remark from the Commanding Officer. It has a formidable capability that is derived from the action of 800 men with shared aims and esprit de corps.” 

Much has been written about the battles, the incidents, the terrors, death and horrific wounding’s  suffered  during the Vietnam war but sadly not much has been written about the oppressive and stressful conditions our young soldiers had to endure, by day and night for almost a full 12 months tour of duty. And many went back to that hell hole more than once.       

Most of our war in Vietnam was in the jungle. The jungle can be your friend in terms of concealment. It can be your friend in terms of finding a place to hide in a LUP or a night harbor but it also offers the same level of concealment to the enemy.   It mostly in parts has an abundance of water except in the dry season, some falling as much as 2 inches in one hour which are monsoon conditions. It is a unique and difficult terrain in which to engage in war fighting and due to the oppressive conditions at times difficult to lead and importantly to maintain morale.   

On patrol the breathing needs to be quiet but with the humidity and the stress at times you have difficulty in catching your breath in particular if you are ascending a 1 in 2 gradient fully loaded. Every step can be a challenge due to the slippery slopes and tiring of legs and the pumping of adrenaline that is coursing through your body watching for signs of the enemy. You must remain alert and positive but the conditions seem to make your mind wander at times where you are worried more internally about your discomfort than externally and the likely enemy threat. The key for any commander in that environment is not to set an unrealistic or dangerous pace to ensure if confronted by the enemy the soldiers are in a state of readiness and capability to fight.

 The sweat drains all over your body where you are cocooned in your hot wet sweat. The worst and particular in a forward scout environment is the sweat running into your eyes and causing a distraction and no amount of patting your eyes dry with your sweat rag seem to make a lot of difference where after a while in country you just put up with it like swimming under water with your eyes open without a face mask or goggles. The spiders, the snakes, the bugs, the ants, the leeches and from time to time some bigger creatures are all a part of the jungles biodiversity. We were wary of them but we got used to them.

 The Bergen or back pack full of rations, water, ammo, batteries, and sundries is heavy and in the jungle with an ill-fitting Bergen it’s very easy to get a rash and in the humidity and wet just so slow to heal. Your clothing and boots (no jocks or socks) are saturated and your feet are getting water logged and each step is becoming more uncomfortable and painful but you have no choice. You simply must push on. A monsoon downpour makes it very difficult to maintain contact and communicating with the man in front through hand signals, but you must. The rain is coming down so hard where you know that the enemy won’t necessarily see or hear you but you won’t be able to see or hear them either; not an ideal situation. In fact it’s frightening. We come across a growth of “wait awhile” too broad a front to circumnavigate so we all need to cut our way through as carefully as we can with secateurs but no matter how well you cut you spend an enormous amount of time and energy to disentangle from this hideous and debilitating vegetation and at all times potentially being exposed to the enemy.

At times with the rain, the foliage, the sweat in your eyes is like being in a fog of war. So easy to loose concentration and when you do that you or your mates are dead. The sweat rash in your crutch and on your waist is starting to burn from the salt in your sweat and you can’t wait to give it all a bit of an airing. The heavy sense and pressure of the energy draining humidity is compounded by the jungle canopy where the heat and the steam is exasperated by the rotting foliage underneath from which there is no escape. In some places just extracting your boots from ankle deep mud and slush is a chore adding to your fatigue and the risk of losing concentration. Losing concentration will also lead to tripping; stumbling and falling which further drains your energy and can also give your position away. Bamboo clumps when you are forced to travel through are like a vegetable slicer where coming out the other side you’re bleeding from various parts of your body which is a magnet for the leeches and your clothing in parts is in shreds.  Jungles by nature are hilly with much defined creek lines but they can also be very flat and oppressive with water underneath. You can go days patrolling without seeing the sky, sun or moon except for a haze between the canopy vegetation. At the end of a day’s patrol thankfully without incident you are looking forward to harboring or lying up and enjoying a bit of a meal. A bit of shut eye interspersed with picket duties and after moving off at first light to another location and a light breakfast the whole previous day’s experience of patrolling in the jungle starts all over again. This routine is relentless and many times, our mates in support from our gun battery, mortars and engineers were also subjected to the same conditions. The boys in Armoured may have been slightly more comfortable and were always good for some water or a brew but they lived in constant fear of RPG’s, mines and IED’s. 

After a period of time operating in these oppressive conditions “you get comfortable in being uncomfortable” where any discomfort is just accepted as a part of our role as an Australian soldier who has lived with jungle warfare since WW2.  Leadership and maintenance of morale and a sense of humour is essential in a jungle warfare environment and there is never a lack of humour amongst Aussies even in the most dire of circumstances.  The jungle is your friend providing you observe all of the tactical training that you have had. It is the most grueling of all war fighting so you must be very fit to fight and you must fight to get fit. The hardest emotional memory we all have of Vietnam is not being able to mourn our war dead. Due to the nature of the war, the vegetation and terrain, the memories we share of our war dead is a body bag containing one of our mates being winched up through the jungle canopy to a hovering chopper. No time to mourn, no time to reflect, safety catch off and back into search and destroy mode, where self-preservation mode over rides any thought of sorrow or mourning. And many wonder why for years we were non tactile, cold and difficult, in particular with family and friends.   

This is very much our war through the eyes of us on the ground doing the hard yards with our supporting arms or any others who had to endure these oppressive conditions on a daily basis. It is now some 46 years since the last troops came home from Vietnam and its superfluous to engage in the political dialectic about the pros and cons of the Vietnam War but what I can say is that the many young men and women who went off to that far-off place full of hope, pride, and seeking to make a difference did so with valor, determination and a certain apprehension but never did I see them waiver or falter in their mission. Many of us have memories about our times in Vietnam and in my case I am not consumed by the bad memories which I tend to quarantine in a safe place. I am more focused on the good times and there were many, of watching ordinary young people from different backgrounds working together as a team, enjoying each other’s company and very importantly looking after each other’s backs. People often ask me what I got out of Vietnam to which I respond quiet unashamedly that it made me a better person in character and spirit. It made me look at life a bit differently and made me focus on what is important in life and my values. Working and sharing the events of that war with the most incredible people who have become brothers for life. Some people have great difficulty in understanding bonds that have been forged through war and the spirit that exists within these men and that unbreakable bond, sharing those similar values. Values now considered by some being old fashioned and dated but in the minds of these men and women who served, their values are timeless and sacrosanct. That is what today is about. You can have your battles, contacts and incidents but you can’t have them without people. People who are prepared to put their bodies on the line fighting for something that they believe in, and that fight goes on today with so many fighting for the veterans and their families and many other voluntary pursuits, be it CFS, SES, sport, Legacy, RSL and so many others. Although this presentation today was about our war, I can confirm that the young men and women of today’s Army are doing it just as tough in different circumstances, in a different war in a very hostile environment and when it comes to our young men and women in that war the spirit, the values and the mateship is just as enduring.  Sadly some families today will be mourning for those that did not come home and others who have since passed.  Today like Anzac Day there would not be one person in this room who has not been touched by war and it’s after effects in some capacity. It is this that brings us together here today. To remember and respect all who have served in whatever capacity from the Boer War, WW1 and WW2,, Korea, but in our case the lot of the soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam, and more recently the years of peacekeeping, which should be more appropriately termed lifesaving in the lives they preserved, to the desert and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan and in particular to honour and remember those that did not return.  

Lest we forget

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Address – Kel Ryan

Given at Goodna Brisbane 18 August 2019.

Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen, All

A special thank you and welcome to that dwindling band of warriors and spear carriers who fought in the Vietnam War.

It is a truism that the Gallipoli Campaign of the WW1 was central to defining Australia as a nation which stood ready to stand with allies on the battlefields across the globe. As this is so, the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan on the 18th August 1966 defined those men and women who fought in South Vietnam during the period of 1962 to 1974.

Please forgive me a moment to tell a personal ‘war story’ as a lead into my understanding of the Battle of Long Tan and of the men who fought there.   

I was called up in July 1965, in what was referred to as the First Intake of National Servicemen.  I arrived in South Vietnam in early May 1966 as, Regimental Number 3786861 Private K. D. Ryan Sir! I was a Rifleman in Nine (9) Section, 12 Platoon D Company 5 RAR. On 24th May 1966 D Company along with the rest of the Battalion was inserted by helicopter into the area known as Nui Dat, it was to become our base and a familiar geographic location all too quickly. 

This insertion was code named Operation Hardihood and was to last two weeks as we, and then 6 RAR, cleared the area of enemy in ever increasing circles. It was monsoonal as few of us had ever experienced, humidity, clay soil, rubber plantations, jungle, constant picquets, four hours sleep a night, constant movement, enemy sightings, enemy contacts, mosquitoes, strange noises at night, rotting clothing and swift running creeks and rivers. Very different from the training areas we had experienced just a short time ago. Those first two to three weeks were a test for us and sign of what the future was be.

Fast forward to 18 August. D Coy 5 RAR returned to Nui Dat base from a two-week operation. This involved securing and a cordon and search of Binh Ba, a Catholic village of 5,000 people to the north of Nui Dat.  This village was to be the scene of a major battle three years later.

As we were cleaning up and getting ready to attend a concert where Little Patti, all of 17 years of age, and Col Joy and the Joy Boys were performing, a battery of gun opened. Nothing strange! Then another battery began firing, then another and finally the American 155mm gun battery opened fire. A different sound and with this we knew that something serious was happening.

You would have to read the chronology of times and events to fully understand the chaotic nature of what transpired between 3.15pm when D Coy 6 RAR, comprising 108 men, entered the Long Tan Rubber and 7.10pm when relief in the form of A Coy 6 RAR and APCs arrived. In that time:

  1. D Coy fought an estimated 2,000 enemy. 
  2. Fought in torrential rain against constant human wave assaults from different directions of 100 to 200 NVA troops at a time.
  3. Many of the men ran out of ammunition.
  4. Platoons became separated from each other and from Company headquarters.
  5. Radio communications was lost at times as some radios were hit by gun fire.
  6. Individual soldiers became separated in the melee as leaders tried to keep their men together as they sought to move back toward company headquarters while under constant attack.
  7. Some wounded had to crawl back to where they thought the main body had moved to in the dark and torrential rain. Some had to play dead at times due to the proximity of the enemy.
  8. The RAAF helicopter pilots, and crew flew in ammunition in conditions unlike any they had ever experienced. Flying low they dropped the ammunition after identifying smoke was sighted.
  9. When the helicopters were in the air the guns had to stop firing for fear of knocking them out of the game.
  10.  Men on the Gun Line back at Nui Dat collapsed from exhaustion and from the toxic fumes which could not be dissipated because of the lack of wind.
  11. In all a total of 24 artillery guns were to fire over 3,000 rounds into the Long Tan rubber to save D Company 6 RAR. 

At 7.10pm the enemy began to disperse. D Coy 6 RAR regrouped slowly and along with those arriving from Nui Dat moved to a clearing just outside the rubber. Evacuation of the dead and wounded began with both Australian and American helicopters operating through the night.

But many men could not be accounted for – they were still in the rubber plantation!

At that point the Battle of Long Tan was thought to have been a disaster – a defeat.

105 Australians and three (3) New Zealanders entered the Long Tan Rubber at 3.15pm that day. 17 were KIA and 24 WIA. One member of 3 Troop I APC Squadron died of wounds some days later.

No one knew the extent of the enemy casualties.

While all of this was going on D Coy 5 RAR had been warned to move at first light on 19 August to fly to that same clearing.

To clear the battlefield D Coy 5 RAR and D Coy 6 RAR and elements of A Coy 6 RAR did a sweep through the Long Tan rubber plantation, on foot and in APCs. The primary task was to locate the missing Australians. This sweep began at 8.45am.

It slowly became evident that a major defeat had been inflicted on the enemy. The official enemy dead was put at 245 KIA. It is known that there were many more who died but the enemy carried them away to be buried elsewhere.

At 10.45am, as one writer commented, elements of D Coy 6 RAR “come across the final 11 Platoon position and discovered the remaining 13 missing, all dead, still in the firing positions with their fingers still on the triggers of their weapons, facing outwards towards the enemy. The rain has washed them clean and they all still seemed to be alive”.

D Coy 5 RAR moved through the rubber and slowly followed up the enemy for some days after that.

Having been a bit player in such an event I am often at a loss to describe it, to put into words the actions of the men of D Coy 6 RAR.

Truly, legends are made by brave and decent men.

To find these words I turn to that other defining event in Australian history – the Kokoda Campaign of WW2.

Between 26 – 31 August 1942 the Battle of Isurava took place along the Kokoda Track. It was a decisive battle as we fought to halt the Japanese advance toward Port Moresby. 99 Australians were killed and 111 wounded.

If you stand at the ISURAVA Memorial and look to the north, up the valley, with the ridge lines to the West and the East, with the EORA Creek, down below and to the East you can visualise where the Japanese came from.

The lessons I speak of are there to your front on four pillars that read:

COURAGE

ENDURANCE

MATESHIP

SACRIFICE

They are qualities that I see in the men of D Coy 6 RAR as they fought a decisive battle against an enemy determined to cause a humiliating defeat on the Australians.

Yes, war is terrible, and it invariably solves nothing. Out of it though we as a nation has gained, yet again, an example and qualities to live by:  

COURAGE – to venture beyond the norm

ENDURANCE – to remain focused on the end game.

MATESHIP – to tolerate and to respect those around us.

SACRIFICE – to accept disadvantage and discomfort.

To these qualities I would add – RESILENCE – these men stayed the course.

The Battle of Long Tan remains a defining event in our national story.

Our tribute to our Vietnam Veterans – The Military Shop

This Sunday (18 August) is Vietnam Veterans’ Day. In communities across Australia, veterans will gather to remember mates, share memories of service and again, for many, relive the darkest days of Australia when these brave young men returned from war to be set upon by hostile protesters. To commemorate and remember their service, we share with you some of the Vietnam stories that we have published over the year.

To view the article click here

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Legacy Remembered

TOMORROW Australians across the country are encouraged to commemorate the service of all those who served in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians should pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that was displayed throughout the battle and wider war.
“Almost 60,000 Australians served during the Vietnam War, and tragically 521 of them died with a further 3,000 wounded,” Mr Chester said.
“Tomorrow, 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day and the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where we remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to all those who served.”
The Battle of Long Tan took place in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan and is widely known as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers, who faced wet and muddy conditions due to torrential rain and the loss of their radios.
We also remember the actions of more than 100 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were vastly outnumbered, facing a force of 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops,” Mr Chester said.
“Tragically, some 18 Australians died and more than 20 were wounded. This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier.
“This Battle formed a significant part of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a decade long campaign.”
Later today Minister Chester will attend the Vietnam Remembrance Service held at the Sale RSL Sub Branch, laying a wreath to pay tribute to all those who served in the Vietnam War.
The legacy of Australia’s Vietnam veterans is still felt by those in the ex-service community today. Vietnam veterans were vital in the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, now known as Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Long Tan Bursary scheme which provides education funding support.
Open Arms has been operational for more than 35 years and is a life-saving service that provides free and confidential counselling, group treatment programs, suicide prevention training and a community and peer network to support mental health and wellbeing in the ex-service community.
Tomorrow, applications for the Long Tan Bursary Scheme 2020 academic year will open. The scheme provides funding to help eligible children, and now grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans, meet the cost of post secondary education.
Thirty-seven bursaries, each worth up to $12,000 over three years of continuous full-time study, are awarded annually to successful applicants across Australia. Applications close on 31 October 2019.
To find out if you are eligible for the Long Tan Bursary scheme, please visit the DVA website HERE.
To find out more about Vietnam Veterans Day, please visit the Anzac Portal website.
If this anniversary causes distressing memories or feelings for you, or someone you know, please call Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au HERE

Brendan Nelson to leave Australian War Memorial

The Morrison government will kickstart a nationwide search for a new head of the Australian War Memorial, after former Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson announced his decision to step down.

The former opposition leader and Australian Medical Association president has led a nearly $500m refurbishment of the Canberra icon and been a vocal advocate for the War Memorial during his tenure.

He will leave the role of AWM director at the end of the year when his term is up. A recruitment process will start in coming weeks to find a replacement.

see the full article in “The Australian

Vale – Ken Dunn

Ken passed away on Sunday. We mourn the departure of our fellow RAR warrior and friend.

His funeral will be held at Gregson and Weight  Funeral Home 5 Gregson Place, Caloundra on Thursday, 15th August @ 1:00 pm.

His Australian military service was predominately with the Royal Australian Regiment in 3 RAR (Old Faithful) in Malaya (during the Emergency) in Borneo (Indonesian Confrontation) and in Vietnam (1967-68). He returned to Vietnam in 1972 with AATTV

Ken finished his military career as RQMS 8/9 RAR at Enoggera Brisbane.

Ken was an active member of the Planning Group for the establishment of the RAR’s National Memorial Walk which is recognised as the spiritual home of the Regiment

Rest in Peace noble warrior your duty has been done.