A Diggers viewpoint of being at the sharp end. Gained while serving with 3 Platoon - 'A' Company -7 Battlion (Infantry) Royal Australian Regiment, as a Rifleman in Australia's longest ever war - fought in South Vietnam.  

Chapter 3 - Page 17 - Updated January 2008 - Next Page:- Bunker Battle 18/35

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  • new21.gifMaterial 
  • Platoon Medic
  • Night Shoot At NDP Brigid
  • The Night The Sky Lit Up
  • NEW Images Two of DUSTOFF Choppers  
  • The image on the right was taken at the hospital when on the medics course.  

THE BULLET will take you to an incident that is referred to in this story. Images related to the following story lines will load at the bottom of the page while you read the stories!

The Bayonet with the wreath is the Australian Army Badge for WARLIKE OPERATIONS, and it is called the "INFANTRY COMBAT BADGE". (ICB)  

"Advance to Contact". This title come from some of the training we did in Vietnam of a nature that had not changed from World War One and can be seen in the Movie Gallipoli. In that the Company would move out of its base position and move to a 'start line' were the Platoons would line up. At a given signal we move out with the order 'Advance to Contact'.  


 In parts of my story on other pages I talk about treating people with the platoon med kit. This is how it came about that I was the medic for 3 Platoon. While all soldiers are taught basic first aid and how to put on a shell dressing 7RAR wanted people at Platoon level who could do a bit more. At the stage when we arrived in country the Platoon Sgt carried the medical kit and it was decided to change that arrangement.

The medic for the Company a trained Medical Assistant who was a member of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. A trade and posting I held after the War. After volunteering four of us, one for each platoon and a spare, we went to the 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau for two weeks and on arrival were directed to the "Q" store to drop our weapons and ammo.

When we put our grenades on the counter we cleared the place in about 5 seconds. Much to the amusement of us dirty, sweaty Grunts. They only came back when we assured them the grenades had the pins well in place. Then we headed off for a very welcome hot shower. The instructor for the course was the RSM at 1 Aust Fld, WO Class One Blue Mellowship. I met him again when I transferred over from Infantry to Medics after the war. See page "My Service After The War "

He was a great bloke who related to us very well and both groups got a lot out of the course. So much so we were invited back for further experience as we had not been able to get into the wards or in to the operating theatre. Of course we all wanted to come back, who would not? Clean beds to sleep in, hot food, not out of tins and showers with hot water, flushing toilets. So it came about that some weeks later I returned to the hospital and tried the trick with the grenades again but this time no one reacted.

The second course allowed us to be on hand when the DUSTOFF choppers came in and I was there a few times when a number of badly wounded Diggers came in to TRIAGE. Two DUSTOFF lifts stick in my mind. One was a group of Diggers who had 'bunched up' close to a track and someone had detonated a huge home made mine. The mine was full of nails, nuts and bolts and they caused horrendous wounds. The second lift was about 5 or 6 Diggers who had been hit by a burst from a AK$&. As they were all in a line they were hit from the ankle to the chest.  

The TRIAGE; is the system of sorting wounded that you might have seen on the TV show MASH about the Korean war? Its a lot different seeing the mess of skin and bones that mines or bullets can do up close. The whole room is organised chaos with a doctor checking each Digger, now a patient, to see who would get in to the operating theatre first due to the nature of their wounds. Despite the terrible wounds inflicted on these young men I never heard any screaming or complaints from any Digger while they waited in pain, for their turn in surgery.

 Twice that I can remember I was invited into theatre to witness surgery to deal with gun shot wounds and mine injuries. Two of the operations involved the removal of a hand and a leg for two Diggers, something I can still see clearly after all these years. The experience although difficult, was to harden me up to deal with wounds on the battlefield. Debriding the cutting open of bodies to track the route of bullets through human flesh and bone.

That was not the last time I visited the hospital returning on the 9th December 1970 on a Dustoff chopper when John and I were wounded. See page: "Mine Incident"

There is no doubt that the surgeons were magicians, the sisters angels and the medics hard and effective workers in the wards. ?


During my Tour a couple of times we were left without a RAAMC Medic for A Company and I was moved in to the CHQ RAP to man it until a replacement was found at Brigid and Nui Dat. Although I always went out with 3 Platoon, only working with CHQ the time described above.  For some weeks I also carried the platoon radio on ambushes out from Brigid, till I managed to convince the Sgt that doing both jobs if we had wounded would be difficult. So I gave up the radio the day we moved out for an ambush on the Long Hai Mountains.

 See page: "Night Move on The Long Hai Mountains".

Later in the Tour Sgt King even got me to carry the M60 for 3 days late in the Tour when a gunner went home. I was amazed and asked "why me"? The answer was you are the most experienced and you have fired it, said with a smile. This was in reference to an incident at Brigid which I will call "night shoot"


 It was not often we worked with other sections but at Brigid there was a need to man the position at night while other sub-units carried out ambushes towards the Long Hai Mountains. On this night myself and Gary the Platoon Sig worked with Pepi's section. All I can remember about the day and evening is being woken up just before 0400hrs, by Gary and slipping on my boots and grabbing my SLR as I walked the few yards to the booth that was set up with the M60, as the piquet post. As soon as I stepped up to the Gun, I heard a loud pop, and a fizz, to my left a flare had gone off in the wire and what looked like an arm moving, backwards away from the light.

I was lucky as I was looking away and it did not effect my night vision so I could see the Gun to bring it in to action. We all knew of the Viet Cong's skill in penetrating wire at bases. I started to yell for Gary, thinking as he had just gone to bed he would be awake and be able to move back to me quicker to give me hand. As I can see it today, I saw movement pull away from the flare and wanted to get the Gun firing as quick as I could. Lifting it up and pulling it around I hit the safety catch and pulled the trigger. NO ROUNDS!~!

I was amazed and now bloody terrified. I am sure if it were possible my heart leap into my mouth and for a mili-second I was stunned. I knew I had to get moving and do something right away! My heart was pounding so loud. I was exposed standing in the booth with a weapon that was not working for some reason? My yelling for Gary got a bit louder. I cannot remember now how to carry out an Immediate Action on an M60, but I know I did it in record time then. Expecting some fire at me in the mean time, finally I pulled the bolt back I fired. Finally I had the great feeling of relief to hear rounds leaving the barrel and seeing the tracer rounds hit the area around the flare.

Just then the Section Commander arrived in the booth and I stopped to tell him what I had seen. "Keep going" I did so laying down the rounds away from our position at Brigid. With the butt of the weapon in my shoulder it was good to see the rounds hit the area. If anyone was out there perhaps having second thoughts about catching Aussies asleep? When it was all over Pepi asked me why didn't I use the M16 that were left in the booth instead of moving the M60 away from its position pointing at the gate? He pointed down against the wall and for the first time I saw a number of M16s standing upright against the side of the booth.

While I was thinking 'Thats what you get for working with another section, no bloody instructions given to the next piquet.' I told him my thought was to get maximum fire going and the Gun was the better option, anyway if they had come through the gate I would have been able to switch targets. (now that I had got the Gun working) I never thought to ask why the Gun was not set up to fire as it should have and why it required an i.a., to get it working?

That was the longest few seconds of my life and I can understand when faced with a critical situation some people just freeze and are unable to do anything to help themselves. Fortunately with my training and knowing I was the only one awake protecting my mates, I was able to keep going and finally get some rounds down in the area of what I had seen?


At Brigid the change to the bays on the perimeter was for me a bit stressful as it resulted in some strange effects. The bay was built up from just a sleeping bay to a 'T' shape to include a fighting bay and two sleeping areas. With an open area at the join of the top of the 'T' with the I, so that you could look out to the surrounding area and keep a check on what was going on. With my view being sand, sand and more sand.

One night the sky lit up with all sorts of tracer fire from the small base next door of the ARVN troops, flying across the inside of Brigid. I grabbed my webbing and SLR and climbed out the front of my bay and on my hands and knees made my way to the gun pit up on the left hand corner of Brigid. Thinking about that night when I started to write this account the other day I thought how stupid can you be? It was lucky that no one saw me as I might have been shot crawling around the front of the pits.  

There with a couple of other Diggers we had a few bets as to what was happening with the ARVN. The firing stopped after 20 minutes or so and I made my way back to my bunker to go back to sleep. Next day we heard that one of the local troops had shot off his toe by accident and so everyone had decided to get in to the act and fire off a few rounds. Bloody typical of the stupidity of Vietnam. Such was every day life during the Tour; you never knew what sort of madness would arrive next.  

Tony is in middle facing camera with sweat rag hanging off shoulder.

Tony at 1 Australian Field Hospital during 1970 while on a medics course for 3 Platoon, with other members of A Company. The course was only for a week but it was an intensive time with many battlefield skills taught to deal with bullet and mine wounds. We are all cleaned up ready to leave hospital after our Medic's course. ALL images © "Tony (oink) Blake" The Chopper is on of the dedicated and brave crews flying a DUSTOFF Chopper takes off from VAMPIRE Pad at 1 Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau. (1AFH)

Left another DUSTOFF Chopper. Right the new 'Medics'. Ready to leave, Vung Tou. Tony on right of photo, with Terry Howard on back right. Tony and Terry had served together since Kapooka.




[contact wait out 14] [the enemy in P/T Province 15] [the odd angry shot 16] [advance to contact 17] [Sky Images]

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