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

Chapter 3 - Page 13 - Updated October 2013 - Next Page:- Contact With CHQ 14/35

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[contact with chq page 14] [the enemy in Phouc Tuy Province page 15] [the odd angry shot page 16] [advance to contact page 17]

ARRIVAL IN VIET NAM - Start Of The VIET NAM TOUR February 1970

 Site Index


 arrival in viet 13

contact with chq 14

 enemy 15

 odd angry shot 16

 advance contact 17


  •  Sea Voyage
  • Arrival at Vung Tau
  • Nui Dat
  • 365 Days and a Wakey
  • Ammo, Ammo Everywhere
  • Basic Webbing & Water Bottles
  • Cups Canteen Steel
  • Operations
  • Wedding Image

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!

 ENEMY IN PHOUC TUY PROVINCE - PAGE 14 - Contains a MAP of the Province. 


Boarding the air craft carrier HMAS Sydney was organised chaos. Boarding with numbers in our slouch hats we were shown our sleeping areas, (mess) then we dumped our bags & weapons and moved on to the flight deck for a last wave to our families. I have a few photos that show Helen & her family on the dock. Some with me lined up with A Company, as the ship slowly moved away from the dock & into Sydney Harbour ready to start the journey.

One of the photos I kept with me the whole tour is one of Helen out side the Church on the day we were married only four months earlier. That is on the page below. The image was one I carried that the whole year in my shirt pocket.

The ship was huge and to keep us busy there was physical training by PT instructors every day. Then there was the shooting off the end of the ship at balloons, to keep on the ball with weapon handling. My personal weapon was the SLR. After nearly two weeks sailing around the coast of Australia and then northwards we arrived off the coast of South Vietnam. I wrote some words about the arrival at Vung Tou Harbour that was published in a book about HMAS Sydney, called "The Vung Tau Ferry", here are some of those remarks:........

"The darkness as the ship got closer to Vietnam heightened the sense of danger and "Blackout" was rigged......i just had to get outside and take a look at Vietnam. Getting out on deck, not the aircraft deck but the deck outside our mess (sleeping area) making sure the 'blackout' curtains were in place, where I spent some time with a sailor who was 'on watch'. We discussed some of the anti-Vietcong measures taking place. I did not feel comfortable apart from being trained to hunt on land I felt like a sitting duck, if someone wanted to have a crack at us how could they miss?..................."

Next morning in the clear light of day the anxieties returned waiting to land on shore. We landed to the words "365 days and a wakey to go". Meaning we had a full year to go before we were back here waiting to return to Australia. Each day a count down of the 365 until the last day 'a wakey' to leave South Vietnam. We were given 20 live rounds only enough to fill one magazine. I quickly filled the magaize and placed it on my SLR. I picked up my gear and with the other members of the platoon made our way to the landing craft and we were soon on our way to land. It was hot and sticky and the strange smell was getting stronger. Quickly getting off the landing craft we moved to the waiting trucks and got our gear aboard.

No one was saying much. Looking around trying to see what the place looked like, our welcome was very low key. In fact no one in cooee was interested in us at all. I wonder what the VC would have done if they knew we only had 20 rounds of  ammo each per man? We had arrived in South Vietnam Feburary 1970 for 7RAR's 2nd Tour. Would we maintain the Battalions reputation as a Top Unit? Only time would tell.


Arrival at Vung Tau

Soon the trucks were loaded and we started our journey to Nui Dat. I was looking around trying to take in all we were seeing. The new smells took a little getting used to. A smell that stayed with you the whole of the tour and not something that was ever mentioned during training in Australia? Passing a nearby unit there were lines of Koreans lined up in Karate suits carrying out Karate drills. Once out on the open road there was green as far as the eye could see. With people working in the fields wearing black pjs and conical hats just like we saw during training at Canungra and Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. So it was a bit confusing at first were these the VC we had been warned about?

Also on the way to the Dat here and there you could see old forts, the type you see used by the French Foreign Legion in movies. These were used by the French till they were defeated by the Viet Min in the 1950s and had to leave. I wondered then if that was to be our fate in Vietnam? The people we came upon mostly ignored us? Don't they know we are here to fight for there freedom? Others were busy in the fields and did not even glance over as the convoy moved along the road past them.


Finally after a drive under an hour we pulled up to the front gate of the famous Aussie Base, Niu Dat. We moved through the base and continued Much of the area at Nui Dat was built under Rubber trees. The tropical atmosphere of mildew at the Dat attacked clothes, tents, paper. The smells of the place included the blend of the fetid vegetation in the rubber plantations, the hint of village sewage, dried fish, a cocktail of the sump oil used to lay dust on the roads of the Dat, body odours, cordite after a fire mission, and the tangible humidity. A powerful mix that took sometime to get used to, although you could never totally ignore the smells. There are a few images on the bottom of the page taken those early days at Nui Dat.

At any time day or night the guns would sound, firing missions in support of troops in trouble or 'harassing and interdiction' (H&I) designed to strike terror into any Viet Cong in range. I know this works as we were on the wrong end of fire missions over two days and it certainly struck terror and horror in to our hearts.

This story is told on the Bunker Battle page 18. Small arms would also sound during the day as units kept up the skills of its soldiers on the range at the Dat. In the dry the red earth would erupt in to fine invasive dust and it covered and stained everything and everyone. In the wet the red earth turned in to sticky mud. Australian Forces at the Dat went under the name the "1st Australian Task Force" (1ATF) and was the largest force employed in the field in a war zone since the second world war or since, so far. The units consisted of 3 Infantry Battalions, a squadron of Armoured Personnel Carriers and Tanks. Fire support came in the form of a field regiment of Artillery using 105 mm field guns.

Then there was the Engineers, Signal units, Supply units, Transport, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Aviation support came from 161 reconnaissance flight, flying Sioux helicopters, made famous by the MASH TV show and fixed wing Cessnas. The Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) also had a unit at the Dat and last but certainly not least the Medics. 

At the 'DAT' we were took over 'lines' used by 5RAR for its 2nd Tour. We were lucky and very grateful they had looked after the place and left us a pile of their old gear. From the pile I managed to get hold of some Brit WW2 44 patten ammo pouches for my webb belt and got rid of the USA issue ammo pouches. This was achived by cutting the slits in the back of the pouch so it could be mounted on the US web belt. The top of the pouch had a metal square clip, to fix to the Brit webbing. By using the hook on the US shoulder straps and a bit of tape it was possible to have the pouch fitted to your US web belt and have it 'sit up', so it was easy to open and remove SLR magazines.

I also picked up a metal "A" frame that I could use with a back pack, although it would be some weeks before I finally used it. We had a look around the area and found the Mess building for meals when at the Dat and more importantly the Other Ranks (ORs) wet canteen, or the BOOZER. The deal for beer was "two cans per man, per day, perhaps".  The toilets were very basic and not much use if you were the shy type. In an shed that was covered against flies and not much else, it was 6 or so pans over a large hole, It was said to be careful in dropping anything down the pans as other units had left ammo, smoke grenades, anything they did not want were all thrown down under.

Our tent for part of 7 section 3 platoon was near the wire on the far left side of the Platoon's position in the old 5RAR lines. It was a system of interlocking defensive pits and bunkers, the most important of which were armed with .50 caliber Browning machine guns. The wire was supplemented with claymore mines and the area was carefully registered with defensive fire targets for mortars and guns. The tent our home for the next 12 months consisted of four beds and four steel lockers, with a few Playmates from Playboy suck on its doors, to remind you what you were fighting for, and a small table.

We had a look around the 'A' Company area and sussed out the Canteen and more importantly the wet canteen, but I did not drink in those days so it was not a place I visited very often, except to get a few goffers, a strange name for cans of soft drinks? There is two images of this area on the next page use the red letter links to have a look. Beyond the buildings was the road than ran through to Battalion Head Quarters, beyond that the outdoor move house and at the end of the road, Porky Seven the Landing Zone (LZ) for Choppers.

The cook house was near the canteen and the showers which were no more than a shed with camping buckets on long lengths of rope. So you would untie the rope let down the bucket, fill it with water. Pull the bucket above your head and tie off. Then it was just a case of wetting your self and soaping up, to let the rest of the water go to rinse off. The lengh of the shower depended on home many buckets of water you were prepared to go and fetch, as using the fire buckets was frowned upon. Around the place were lengths of mortor cases burried into the ground. These were known as the piss-a-phones- and the name says it all.

Click Here to see IMAGES that relate to these stories.



A sign greeted us from the now Vietnam Veterans of 5RAR, "No one's got 365 and a wakey" WE DID!! From ground level to 2/3 feet above the beds, sand bags protected us against possible mortar attacks. As it turned out we spent little time at Nui Dat during our tour. When our gear arrived I put the steel trunk under the bed (I still have it to this day) and rigged up the mossie net over the bed. The Diggers would say:-"at Nui Dat you could hear the mosses take off at 17:00hrs (5pm)". So as soon as the sun went down so did the sleeves on your shirt to combat the nagging bites.

One of the issues today for Vietnam Veterans is the amount and type of tablets that we took every day during our Tour "to prevent malaria"? Were we used as guinea pigs.................? Every morning at the Dat the Platoon held a parade to ensure everyone had their anti-malaria tablets, Dapsone and Palladrin. In fact it was a chargeble offence not to take them. When in the bush the section co mmander who give them out.



The next day the ammo arrived. After the very safety attitude in Australia the amount of ammo around was staggering. Boxes of 7.62 rounds for the SLRs and bandoleers of magazines for the M16 and link upon link for the M60 machine gun together with boxes of M26 grenades. Claymore mines an anti-personnel type that we used to trigger an ambush, or for rear defence, it was curved and on the front the words "Front Towards Enemy".

Later in the tour I would be selected to set them up for the platoon when ambushing near a track. The key to your own safety was to keep the "clacker" , which was the trigger which enabled the mine to explode, with you at ALL times. So that whe you were in the ambush position and in the process of setting up the mine, the FIRST action was to take the Clacker and put it in your pocket. The mine would be put in place, next to the track or in front of your position. Then you would walk back unwinding the cord which delivered the electrical charge, to the gun position. Then and ONLY then would you attach the clacker to the cord. Of course when you were packing up the Clacker would be the FIRST item that would be disconected. Again placing it in your pocket when collecting the cord and mine!

There were boxes of rounds for the M79 grenades launchers. The USA equivalent to the enemies Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) the M72 light anti-tank weapon were issued 2 to a section. The M72 built to be carried by an individual soldier and when required fired from the shoulder position. It was called the M72 in those days and you still see them in action movies today but the weapon has a new name. It was designed to be carried by one soldier, then fired and the tube to be destroyed.

I took four grenades and had 2 of them loose on top of my SLR magazines and 2 on spigots with the ballistight (?) cartridge to fire them with. The Platoon Standing Operational Procedures (SOPs) did not allow the grenades to be hung off the out side of your gear. What you see in movies is Gung Ho and can be dangerous. Many soldiers were killed and injured when the grenades were caught, and the pins pulled out having the grenades explode. The training of 3 Platoon related directly to the experience of Sgt King the Platoon Sgt and two of the section commanders Cpl Pepi Tura and Cpl Abb Paulett, all three had served in 7RAR during its first tour, we were lucky to have them and their experience.  


The Battalion put out a little book with the following rules.

# Clean and protect your weapon always. Examine your ammunition frequently. Check and clean your magazines. # Soldier in pairs; look after your mate; be loyal to your leaders. # Be ready to move at a moments notice. Keep your equipment handy at all times. Keep your gear packed. # Tell no lies in battle. All information must be accurate or your sub unit may suffer. Exaggerate to your girl friend later but NEVER in battle. Take no unnecessary risks.

# Stand to properly. At night you must be able to have confidence in your sentries. # Make a fetish of cleanliness and take pride in your appearance. Shave every day. Clean your weapon, clean yourself, eat, clean your area. # Be aggressive but not rash in attract-be stubborn in defence.

These "Rules" originated from those used by 'Rogers Rangers' in North America in the 1760's. They were more directly derived from the rules issued by 'Made Mike Hoare' to his 5 Commando in the Congo with a slight alteration to their order.



Basic Webbing carried your ammo and water bottles. The basic idea was if you had to drop your Big Pack there would be enough food, water & ammo on your belt kit to keep you going a minimum of 24 hours.  See Images On Next Page!  The webbing consisted of a 'pistol belt' supported by straps that came over your shoulders and attached to your belt by clips and another strap and clips that went to the top of the ammo pouches. The idea of the straps was to have the weight of the belt was carried by your shoulders and not on your hips. Having equipment riding on your hips could cause them to become red raw if not done correctly.

As the gear was USA issue it was all module. The ammo pouches were made to fit the small 5.56 magazines of the M16. Being in modules if any part became damaged or worn, simply un attach the damaged part and put on a new one.

However In my case the ammo pouches were old WW2 issue bren pouches left for us by 5RAR. They were great for the SLR magazines along with grenades. So I carried 3 full magazines of 7.62 of 20 rounds, in each pouch plus two fragmentation grenades in each, two on spigots, see page 7 Battalion (PIGS).

Not forgetting the full magazine on the SLR a total of 20 rounds, with two rounds numbers 19 and 20 being 'tracer'. To tell you that the magazine was now empty. This was the frist line ammo, that is the mimimum ammo carried for the SLR by Diggers. This was set by 6RAR after their experinces at the Battle of Long Tan in August 1966. A smoke grenade would also be carried on your gear, either webbing or pack. It was the ONLY type of grenade allowed to be hung of your gear. Also a small matter, but an important one was the gap at the front of the belt between the Ammo pouches to allow you to lie FLAT on the ground.

Critical when someone is firing live ammo at you. Pointed out to me by one of the Cpls who had been in Vietnam with 7RAR and a suggestion that I followed on the spot.



Water was all ways a critical factor in the dry season. I had 3 water bottles on my basic webbing in water bottle carriers and a further 3 on my Big Pack. The water bottles carriers had 2 'Cups Canteen Steel' on my basic webbing and the one on my Big Pack.

The one on my big pack, this was used for cleaning teeth & shaving. Yes shaving! A 7RAR S.O.P. However in those days I could get away with dragging the razor across my stubble without hot water, and cleaning my self up.

One cup canteen steel for brews in a set place. Any long stop it was a case of, light HEXIE, poor water from big pack bottle (only) in to cup canteen steel. Heat water add coffee, milk and sugar, stir quickly. See images on by clicking on link on this page, which will demonstrate the type of equipment explained here and how it was put to use.

Put away gear, NOW. In this way if you had to move it was only a matter of putting the cup back on the water bottle, ready to pack it away ready to move. The other cup canteen steel was for cooking rice and other such food.  A good meal was rice, add chocolate & sweet condense milk & stir till all melted & eat. Cleaning was a bit of a problem if like me you tended to burn the bloody rice? 



To let us see what was available when "the shit hits the fan", the Battalion was invited to a range shoot. The full range of support was shot on the range in a fire power demonstration. From a few M60 Machine Guns to Tanks & APCs firing their main weapons, even a few claymores were fired off with figure eight targets as an arming point, they were shredded to bits as the steel ball bearings did their job. Artillery was fired to drop on to the range in front of us. Gun Ships flew over to fire their mini guns and to top it off a Canberra bomber flew over and dropped a bomb on a distant hill. Very impressive. To get our feet wet we had a few local patrols in Company strength.

One patrol at night was a bit scary when we came under the notice of "Puff the Magic Dragon". This is a WW2 plane rigged up with mini guns and search lights. The mini gun was still in development in Vietnam but I am sure many of you have seen them in modern movies when the Chopper fires them at a target? We were told urgently "Don't look up".  while they tried to get someone on the radio to let the pilot know we were in the area. Great all the way to Vietnam to be shot up by a Yank WW2 war plane. "Puff" had a fearsome reputation in Vietnam and lucky for us we did not become a target that night.


This image was taken after we left the Church on our Wedding day.

This is the actual image that I placed in an old bank book cover all the rage in those days. Then I sealed it with sticky tape and carried it in my shirt pocket for the whole tour. Against the rules of course!

The only time it was damaged was when I dived in to the Song Rai River after another Digger who went down and did not come up!

All these years later I still have it. © "Tony (oink) Blake"

NEXT PAGE - Contact With CHQ - Page 13 - Has the following stories and information:-






The Battlefields of Gallipoli:- MONASH GULLY; PLATEAU 400 & HELL SPIT. 



23rd BATTALION - KIA 1st September 1918

During the attack on Mon St. Quentin patrols failed to clear a number of enemy strong points. Pte Mactier single handed, in daylight, jumped out of his trench closed with and killed a machine gun garrison of eight men with his revolver and bombs.

Then threw the machine gun over the parapet. Rushing forward about 20 yards he jumped into another strong point held by 6 enemy who surrended.  Continuing to the next strong point he disposed of an enemy machine-gun which had been enfilading our advancing troops.

He was then killed by another machine gun at close range. It was due to his exceptional Valor that the Battalion was able to move to its 'jumping off trench' and carry out thesuccessful operation of capturing the village of Mont St. Quentin.    © DJL



  CHAPTER THREE STORIES  Images on Arrival - Page 32

[contact with chq 14] [the enemy in P/T Province 15] [the odd angry shot 16] [advance to contact 17]

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