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 14 - Updated October 2013 - Next Page:- Enemy in Phouc Tuy Province15/35

[site map] [Chapter One]  [Chapter Two] [Chapter Three] [Chapter Four] [Chapter Five] [Chapter Six] [Arrival Images]

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


 Site Index



site map1

memorial 8



  • Basic Webbing, Big Pack & Rations.
  • Sleepng Gear In The Jungle.
  • The Hutchie
  • Operations
  • Patrol Orders
  • My First Major Operation ...CONCRETE 1
  • 'Contact With CHQ'!  
  • IMAGES at bottom of page.
  • Image Right! This is one of a few images I have with me in a Jungle setting.

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. 

This page has a number of images to illustrate these stories. They have been placed at the bottom of the page so they can load as you read. They demonstrate the basic gear of an infantry soldier in the jungle in Vietnam. Also the rations carried by an infantry soldier.


The subject of Basic Webbing is covered in detail on the last page, Arrival in Vietnam - Page 13, with some images placed on a second IMAGE page. That is page 13A Arrvial Images.

There is a link in the site map area above! In the images below IMAGE 2: there is a shot of a set of webbing laid out. The BIG PACK again was USA issue and had a big area at the bottom half to carry your bed roll. IMAGES 3: As my 'bed roll' was in my bum pack this area was used for other gear.

The top part of the Big Pack was divided up in to 3 area, two side pockets and a centre larger area for rations. On the outside it had webbing sowed on to be able to attach water bottle carriers. I had mine rigged to carry 3 water bottles, with the one 'cups canteen steel' mentioned earlier, for cleaning teeth & shaving.Very important NOT to get them mixed up.

Later in the tour I changed to using a US 'A' frame. This had 3 water bottles at the top, an ARVN pack at the bottom. It could be rigged to carry the platoon radio set and or the platoon medical kit. Which for some weeks I carried both during my tour. Have a look at the new image below as it is one of the 'A' frame & ARVN pack!

RATIONS:- For images of cooking and heating water on page before this "Arrival in Vietnam IMAGES page 12a". Rations were very important remember the saying "An Army marches on its stomach?" Well we had a fair choice and mostly it was made up this way. Operation requirements for each five days. Below is an image of the Aussie Rat-Pack. IMAGES 1



On the left is a Ration Pack. Called a Rat Pack by the Diggers. On the right one of the best army products. The tin/bottle opener. This as you can see is fitted to my Dog Tags so it was always handy. © "Tony (oink) Blake"  

To carry Five days rations was a heavy load. Of that 3 days of USA issued "C" rations, or RAT PACKS. This was made up of 3 tins per meal in a small box of light cardboard. The count was:- 9 tins per day, 27 tins for 3 days. For the coffee and tea drinkers two days of Aussie rations. Some of the stuff was packed for WW2 and disgusting. However the sugar, condensed milk was a life saver, as was the CAN/BOTTLE OPENER. Many Diggers carried these on their dog tags. (See Images above IMAGES 1)

Only a little one but very effective and most Diggers carried one on their dog tags, as I did. Also useful was the "dog biscuits". Also a "breakfast block". Hard as nails but coated with cheese and jam it was a passable snack. Even the plastic rappers for the ration packs were never thrown away and used to store gear in to keep it dry. Gear such as Books, letter writing gear and the like. Later in the tour when I was carrying the Platoon Radio, the handset was wrapped in the plastic cover during the wet season. It was ok to sort out this stuff at Nui Dat and take your time, and go to the next tent to swap the odd tin, but in the jungle it was a very quick having. We had a lot of practice at sorting, selecting and packing.

BURN, BASH & BURIED: What was left over was burnt and bashed and then buried. This was to prevent the VC digging it up and making any use of it. Once we had just carried out a re-supply and having packed our gear and refilled water bottles, we were sent to the Horse Shoe.

A very long walk in extremely hot conditions with little shade with a heavy load. It was a platoon of very tired and pissed off Diggers who arrived close to the Horse Shoe, well after last light and I had no problems getting my head down and sleeping.



In Australia the sleeping gear was very basic and changed little from what was used in Korea over 15 years earlier. It was a Blanket, a blow up cover, this had 3 separate black plastic blow-ups that were "blown up" and placed inside the sections and when finished it looked like one of those water beds used at the beach. A "silk". (A soft material sown like a sleeping bag)

IN Vietnam the blanket was left behind at base. The 'blow ups' were too dam noisy, to much air needed and I was too bloody lazy to blow them up when I could be doing something else, like sleeping. The more gear you carried the heavier it was. However the blow up cover was a very handy bit of gear.

With the stitching removed it made a great outer "sleeping bag". With the silk inside that. All this could be rolled up and placed in the bum pack for times when you were part of an ambush operating away from the platoon. The bedding was warm, light, quick and quiet to get in and out of. A critical feature of life in the jungle as we lived in a world of Silence. My improvised 'bed roll' was also quick and easy to get out of, rolled up and placed into the bum pack. Just because you lived and worked in the jungle did not mean you could not be as comfortable as possible. In fact the ground for the most part is as comfortable to sleep on as any other surface; once you get used to it.  



Here are 2 examples of gear ready for bed. The Hutchie on the ground, pack at the top. On the right the SILK has been added & is used like a sleeping bag. When raining the Hutchie is brought over to cover the sleeper. The pack is a pillow.

© "Tony (oink) Blake" 



The HUTCHIE is a large square of material used as a tent. It had eye-lets & clips that you can use to join 2 together so that in a 2 man pit, the area covered by two hutches was a good one. Two Diggers and all their equipment. If you look at the photo below can see a hutchie in place under my gear. In the early days of our tour, your bed space would include a hutchie tied to a couple of close trees. But soon they were not put Up by the platoon, in the jungle. It reflected too much light and looked shiny you could see through the bush. I used it in a better way. In the very hot weather I used just the silk to sleep in and to keep the mosses away. In colder weather the cover & the silk and in the wet season a hutchie.

The hutchie would be placed on the ground spread out. The cover & silk along the right side, with the big pack at the top. (facing the enemy) Once in bed, the rest of the hutchie would be pulled over you and your gear. The big pack and basic webbing would be at your head, both used as a pillow and ensured that when you woke up at night, while your eyes adjusted to the darkness as you could not see your hand in front of your face, you had to KNOW which part of the perimeter you were facing.

Your weapon would be next to you under the hutchie There is nothing as black or as scary as waking up in the middle of the night in the jungle trying to work out which direction is the enemy? The old saying "you could not see you hand in front of your face" was very true in the jungle. Some of the habits I picked up in those days stay with me even today and woken by a noise I am able to wake up, and analyse what is going on and take action. More on this subject on the page: Ambush in Vietnam.


Then soon enough we were due to leave the next day for the first Operation. The boss said I would be staying behind with the rear party. Somehow in all the heat I had picked up a cold and feeling under the weather. I was really pissed off that after all the training and getting ready to 'do it' for the first time, the cold resulted in being left behind with 'rear party', the old, bolds and bludges.

It would be the last time I would ever be left behind for an operation. The rear party had to man the guns in the Company area, so that the area was not left undefended, even in 1970 the lesson of Long Tan was not ignored. The rear party would also carry on the piquet during the night and do odd jobs for the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). The one result of this was to work with the RSM on a few jobs, with him working along side us digger, to discover what a Soldier's Solder the man was.

Warrant Officer Class One Reg Bandy, Veteran of the Korean War, member of the AATTV and on his second Tour of Vietnam, was every inch what you expect from an RSM of an Infantry Battalion. While he still scared the living day lights out of me, my respect for him, pitching in with the work with us, just went sky high. I have been lucky to meet him a few times since Vietnam and he still has that 'RSM' manner!

The time the Battalion, Company and Platoon were out bush went quickly and I was glad to see them return to Nui Dat. Three Platoon had a contact early one morning and killed 2 Viet Cong, the first enemy KIA's of 7RAR's second Tour. During that time I was at least to be able to get my feet wet outside the wire on a local TAOR patrol. The TAOR's were conducted on a regular basis by all units at 1ATF and it aim was to keep the VC away from Nui Dat. TOAR meant 'Tactical Area Of Responsibility'.


To ensure that there was a standard to brief units going out on Operations they had a system of patrol orders, based on "SMEAC". All junior NCOs were taught this.


Enemy forces - strength, position usually a grid reference, morale, reaction expected on contact. Movement and attitude of locals. Friendly Forces in the area or backing your unit up, support weapons, armour, artillery. In one Operation we did we were support by the Guns of a nearby Navy Destroyer. Attachments and Detachments anyone added to the unit or soldiers going away on courses or R&R. Maps, Air Photos


A clear statement "3 Platoon is to patrol" etc


General outline of how mission is to be carried, such as movement by APCs. Time out and aticipated time of return. Strength and composition of patrol. Time out and anticipated time of return. Method of movement in patrol area. Routes out and in, including nav. details. If choppers are to be used, loc stat and state of LZ and actions on arrival. Boundries.

Possible bounds, RVs and action on short and long halts. Formations. Action on contact. Action if ambushed. Action on encountering obstacles, including mines and booby traps.

Action by individuals if lost. This did happen to a couple of 7RAR Diggers during their tour. Details of fire support. Rules of engagement. Rehearsals and Debriefing.


Ammo, dress, equipment, medical, feeding etc. Rations; this was important as on a 4/5 week operation, we needed to know when we would be resupplied, so we could break down the ration packs as listed above. Then we would throw the left overs in to a pile and Diggers would sort through it to get the goodies they liked. Dress and Equipment: change of clothing, large or small pack, bedroll, maps, compass, insect repellent, mosquito nets, filter bag, water sterillizing kit, anti mite fluid, anti mallarial drugs, foot powder.

Weapons: type and distribution, grenades, (rifle & hand) hand held flares and smoke. Medical: cas evac, shell dressing, first aid kits, medical assistance and equipment. Special Equipment: saws and machetes, cameras, binos, night visual aids, wire cutters, explosives, tracker dogs, marker ballons,dropping zone marker panels, nylon rope. Inspect all equipment for serviceability and rattles, personnel for correct weapons and equipment, notebooks, mail etc.

COMMAND AND SIGNAL:- Location and movement of CHQ etc, signals, codewords, nicknames and passwords. When I was the Platoon Sig it was my job to pick up the latest codes and carry them .

Radio: times of opening, spcial instructions, frequencies (normal, air, alternative), net indentification signs, codes and passwords. Check and test sets, antennae, morse keys, batteries.

Ground/Air Comms: dropping zone panels and dropping zone letters allotted, frequency, ground/air signal code. Patrol Seniority List: Synchronisation of Watches.



OPERATION CONCRETE 1 - 19th April to 7th May 1970.

Its task to destroy those elements of D445 located in the TAN RU, an enemy nickname for the area between Nui Dat 2 and Xuyen Moc, in an area of Operations called 'PENNY'.

How did we leave Nui Dat? By truck, track or chopper? No we walked. For my first operation I could not believe it we walked out of Nui Dat. At night! To top it off I had been changed to work as the Forward Scout for 7 Section. I was shitting myself. Here I was on my first major operation outside the wire in Vietnam and with many months of training in the section as a Rifleman I was now acting as the Platoon's forward Scout.

We walked for miles again, in the middle of the night. It was very similar to the walk we did during training while in North Queensland. For this story go to page 7 Battalion The PIGS:

The night move was made all the more difficult due to the poor rigging of my basic webbing. For some strange reason I had changed it from the style I had used in Australia and it was not working. Making it a much more difficult move out of Nui Dat than it should have been. Sgt King told me I looked like a 'Christmas tree' with every thing hanging off me. Although lucky for me he was more amused than pissed? At every stop I worked on my gear as quickly as I could, till at least it was as comfortable as possible.

I remember the blackness as we stumbled along hanging on to the Digger in front. What was the reason for this? If there was any contact with the Vietcong there would be little we could do about it. Still 7RAR did not do things like other people and as our skills were as good in the jungle as the VC so lets try something new? As hard as I tried I was not a very good forward scout. Trying to get used to working in the jungle and pick up skills I had not been trained for, must have drove my Section Commander nuts, but he did not pick on me or seem to get angry.

One of the little ideas past on to us by 5RAR was the use of garden SECATEURS, for jungle cutting. While we trained with the issue machete in Australia, called tree beaters by some, soon after arriving in Vietnam they were never carried and letters home requested, "please send garden secateurs ASAP". We cut our way across Vietnam with garden type plant cutters.

The system of resupply in the Jungle is as shown in Vietnam War movies, the chopper comes in, throws out gear tied in sand bags the Diggers unload as fast as possible and the Chopper flies away. The jungle sounds quickly returning. The sand bags would be issued to each platoon, then section. Then we again would open the rations to sort it. Packing away five days of rations, swapping anything not liked for something better.

Then what was left was burnt, bashed and buried to stop the VC from using any of it. Another item if you were lucky that came on the chopper and very welcome, was mail. Mail from home was looked forward to with a passion and despite the danger I carried my letters till I could pack them away back at Nui Dat.

I still have a few letters written by my wife and a few of those I sent her; from 1970/71. The choppers also brought some goodies from Nui Dat like fresh bread rolls and a carton of milk. Living on ration packs cause the stomach to shrivel up. So after the milk and the roll you were so bloated it was in fact painful and you could not eat anything else. It was during this operation on the 23rd April that 3 Platoon had a successful ambush when at 0300 hrs a group of Viet Cong walked along a dry creek bed the Platoon was set on.

It resulted in one VC KIA, identified as Nguyen Van Luong, a platoon commander in C3 of D445. More on this subject on the page: Ambush in Vietnam.   Finally this operation finished I was happy enough about how I handled it but not about my gear, there had to be a better way? At least I would not be a forward scout on the next Operation as the Section Commander sacked me from the job when we moved out of the Jungle!~!  



This Operation was carried from 8th May to 11 June and A Company was moved to the HORSESHOE to carry on ambushing. This resulted in the company ambushing a whole village on the 13th May and a contact which is covered in detail on the page: Ambush in Vietnam.

While I was not with them at the time. On the 1st June, 3 Platoon with Sgt King as the Platoon Commander, had a contact with some nogs west of Phouc Hai Village and had a running gun battle with the enemy for 300 meters. Working from the Horseshoe also saw our biggest battle to date and the death of one of the Diggers in A Company. This is covered in full on the page: Bunker Battle.

Re-enforcements turned up on the 6th June, about 16:00 hrs we had little time to even find out their names and fit them out with gear before moving out in to the jungle. The next day patrolling close to the coast south east of Xuyen (said as Swan) Moc, a nasty surprise was waiting for us.



Three Platoon was strung out in single file moving along a feature that was wooded. Coming to the edge of the trees there was a open area to our front and to our right. The platoon propped to give support to a section that moved 90 degrees to the right, from our forward direction, across to another set of trees. I was sitting near Platoon HQ on the slope of a small bank and Garry the Sig was listening in to CHQ. Garry was 3 Platoon's Signaller and was a top bloke and a great radio man and worked well with our first Boss Macca, who had returned to Australia after getting to the end of his 2 years as a Nasho, who I missed; Macca was a great Boss. You could clearly hear CHQ talking about seeing movement, it was a quiet day and you could hear the chatter from the hand set between "Sunray" the "A" Company OC and sentry from CHQ.

Although it did cross my mind they might be looking at us, I discounted it as the sentry said they saw "3 figures with packs go to ground". As I looked across I was able to see a whole section of 9 Diggers from our Platoon leaving the trees to walk across open ground for 200 meters, so it could not be us?

"Blakey have a look at this will you? A Section Commander had sore hips and blisters from the weight of his gear, he was standing on the bank above me. "Ok drop your strides". I could hear the OC's voice coming over the radio and he was getting cranky because he was saying "shoot" a lot. I was having a look at the blisters and thinking about what I could put on them when all hell broke loose. CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK CRACK.

An M60 opened up and the rounds went straight over our heads. I dived down on my face, head first to the bottom of the slope. "Shit, Shit, it MUST be us that CHQ was looking at?" I heard Garry give "Contact wait Out" over the radio. It was clear we were the target. "Cease Fire, Cease Fire". The call went out over the radio and at our position. "Blakey Blakey, over here now". I knew that someone was wounded and I had thoughts of blood and guts, I struggled to untie the platoon med kit off my pack. I had a new pack set up and had fixed it up a little differently so I could carry the platoon medical kit. I was cursing, trying to undo it, why had I tied it on so bloody tight?

I finally got the first aid pack off & ran over to were Sgt King was standing next to a wounded Digger. He was lying face down, PAT one of the new blokes, he was not moving nor making much sound. I moved his shirt to find an entry wound about the middle of the back and to the right of the spine. He had been shot with a 7.62 round. I was careful not to move him. Strangely there was little blood coming from the wound. "Stay calm stay calm", I was saying to myself. "Get a field dressing on". I looked up at Sgt King, he shook his head at me and started talking to the Digger. "Your ok mate, just a graze".

I took his guide and started talking to the Digger in the same vain. Opening a dressing I managed to place it over the wound and pull the ends around his body to keep pressure on it. The "DUSTOFF" call had gone out and one was on the way, we kept talking to the Digger. WOCCA WOCCA WOCCA.

We heard it coming before we could see it a Digger went out of the trees and stood with his arms up. The Vietnam War being the Helicopter War. Even today many Vets react in many ways to the sound of choppers and in particular the Iroquois utility helicopter, or HUEY. The chopper came screaming in over the far trees almost turned on its left side, as it dropped in to the open area, it straightened up and headed for us. It landed side on to our position, a soldier jumping out with a stretcher. We carefully put Pat on the stretcher face down and put him aboard the chopper. It lifted up and swung directly over the open area to a point of trees about 300 meters away in a straight line from us and dropped down again, to pick up Sapper Pitt from CHQ.

Shit no wonder they could see us but not clear enough to make out we were Aussies. Soon the chopper lifted up and picked up speed along the clearing and then lifted up in to the clear sky. Who ever that Yank was he and his crew had increased our blokes chances of survival, by his awesome flying and determination to get to us and DUSTOFF our Diggers.

 It was time to take stock and collect ourselves. It was just after 15:00 hrs, Pat had been with us less than 24 hours and now on his way back to Australia. He was lucky, diving to the ground had caused the round to hit him in the back. It was found in hospital that the round had come out via a wound in his buttock. Had he been standing it might have been a much worse wound? I was very shaken; looking around it was clear a few felt the same way. Blue had a smile on his face "they are lucky" he said pointing over at the other tree line and CHQ, "I was just about to fire". He was putting the covers back on his M72 Rocket Launcher, if that had been fired it might have meant more wounded Diggers. Blue had come from 5RAR and was very switched on and was one of those who had returned fire at CHQ.

Was it good luck or bad luck in the gun fire two Diggers had been hit? Good shooting in one way; over 300 yards, in a few mad moments two soldiers hit & badly wounded. What had gone wrong?

Looking at the map the area had shown a much larger gap between the trees well over 700 yards, not the 300 that we could see out of the trees, nearly a fatal error. "Saddle up", was the order "we need to find some place to harbour before dark". Garry was on the radio and the CO's chopper arrived as we moved off and we were able to give Pat's big pack and weapon to the pilot who would take it back to Nui Dat. For some reason the Boss was pissed off with Garry. Why I have no idea? How the hell he expected us to struggle along with Pat's gear while carrying our own is a mystery.

Garry had done a good job, one the old Boss would have expected him to do. Nor would Macca have reacted that way, we were supposed to be a team? What a shit of a day, yet it had one more sting in the tail. When we had moved to an area to harbour for the night we were taking off our gear when one of the new blokes was kneeling down fiddling with his M16. The Boss was right next to him taking off his webbing in fact I think he leaned back slightly as he did so. BANG.

The M16 fired a round that must have missed the Boss by not very much. I thought he was going to strangle the bloke who could not speak. "What the fuck are you doing?" the Boss finally managed to say to the bloke who just could not give him an answer. It had been a very bad day! Maybe tomorrow would be better?

By way of postscript to that day, I was told later by the bloke with sore hips, that the M60 rounds had hit the ground between us as I dived the other way! He also never asked me to fix his hips again. I wonder why? When I was given the platoon medical kit I was able to attached it to a new set up on an 'A' Frame. After Pat got wounded I never tied the medical kit on to my gear again.

The action above was not the only time A Company had a contact with one of its own sub units. One major contact in November 1970 was to result in the death of 3 Platoon's Commander, Lt Rex Davies and the wounding of other diggers. On another occasion I nearly shot a member of CHQ one morning, when Headquarters were moving out of a harbour position. That story is onPage: The Odd Angry Shot



Our THANKS goes to ALL DUSTOFF Pilots and Crews, both Australian and United States of Aemrica, who flew in support of the 7RAR Grunts during both Tours. 1967-68 & 1970-71

Image of DUSTOFF CHOPPER over Phouc Tuy Province 1970


 On the left ammo pouch there is a 'Toggle Rope'.  The Bum Pack is the small centre pack. Under that is a hutchie secured by the straps.

The two ammo pouches can be seen. They hold the magazines with bullets that go on your personal weapon. These are the small US ammo pouches for the M16. Carrying the SLR, which had larger magazines  This webbing has two water bottles, also it demonstrates the shoulder straps laid out.


The left image (below) shows the BIG PACK. The right image (below) is the Pack and how it would sit on top of the smaller BUM pack which sits on the basic webbing. © "Tony (oink) Blake"

This gear was at best all we had during the tour and it was carried every where in the jungle. The Big Pack at times could be left in a Fire Support Base or a position, it was a relief to travel with out it.






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 the successful operation of capturing the village of Mont St. Quentin.    © DJL




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

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