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November 10, 2016

We shall remember them

Remembrance Day is commemorated every year on 11 November. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare during the First World War. In many parts of the world, people observe a two-minute silence at 11.00am every 11 November, to remember those who lost their lives during WWI as well as in more recent conflicts.

At our Services this year, we will especially be focusing on those who gave their all for their country during the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1973. 50,000 Australians, including ground troops, air force, navy personnel and nurses served in Vietnam. 521 did not return and 2,400 were wounded.

The Battle of Long Tan

This August marks the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Long Tan. One of the most significant Australian actions of the Vietnam War happened on 18 August 1966, when Australian soldiers fought against a Viet Cong and North Vietnamese force in a rubber plantation close to the village of Long Tan. The Australian operations base at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province was fired upon by the Viet Cong with mortar and shell at about 2 am on 17 August 1966. On 18 August, D Company, 6 RAR Battalion, numbering 105 Australians and a three-man New Zealand artillery team, was sent into the Long Tan rubber plantation, all coming under heavy machine-gun fire and mortar attacks from Viet Cong – estimated to be at least 1,500 and possibly 2,500 troops.

Against overwhelming odds, D company endured wave after wave of attack until, after almost three hours of intense fighting by D Company, reinforcements from A Company arrived in armoured personnel carriers (APC). Ammunition was distributed and the wounded were tended. Early in the evening, B Company also arrived and engaged the Viet Cong. Soon after that, seven APCs arrived, having risked skirmishes with the Viet Cong along the way. The extra fire-power finally stopped the Viet Cong, and all firing ceased. There were 18 Australians killed – 17 from D Company and one from the 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron – and 21 wounded. The Viet Cong insurgents left 245 dead and many more wounded. In later years, it was found out that D Company had run into a reinforced regimental force waiting to attack Nui Dat. The Battle of Long Tan lasted just one afternoon, but it came to symbolise Australia’s 10-year involvement in Vietnam. Vietnam was Australia’s longest involvement in a twentieth century war with approximately 60,000 personnel serving over more than a decade.

Picture: Battle of Long Tan – The Day After

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