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 war - fought in South Vietnam.  

Chapter 2 - Page 9 - Updated October 2013 - Next Page:- Oink a Digger 10/35

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 Site Index 




intro to oink 9

 oink a digger 10

  7 battalion PIGS 11

 platoon set up 12



 arrival in viet 13

contact with chq 14

 enemy 15

 odd angry shot 16

 advance contact 17

 mine incident 20

 ambush 21



  • How Homepage Became To Be Created
  • This Web Site
  • Images
  • A Soldiers Experinces
  • ANZAC DAY 1969
  • Flash Back to 1963
  • Australia
  • From School to Heavy Industry
  • Fitness
  • ANZAC Digger for this page


The Author with his wife

Oink pre Army in 1969

Taken at Fairy Medow Beach my local surf spot. I was a surfer for many years before joining the army.


How "A Grunts View" Homepage came to be created!

After getting on the net in 1997 I soon found many USA Vietnam Veterans who either served with Aussies or came to Australia on RAR during their Tour of Vietnam and wanted to know more about the "Aussie Vietnam War". I would be asked about the 'Aussie Factor' why were we so good and how did we work in the Jungle?

Also after years of pushing Vietnam to the back on my mind and "getting on with my life" even to the extent of cutting my overseas service out of my Resume when applying for jobs; it returned with a vengence effecting me 24 hours a day, some years ago.

After 12 years of faithful service in my then current job, during nagotiations for a major plant restructuring project, involving many millions of dollars I had been told by the Production manager I was not wanted. The joke of it was I had been the delegate for my union who had driven the restructering. I could see it was the only way for the company to stay competitive and for people to have local jobs and to earn a decent wage.

Starting a small business after leaving I was soon in trouble. I was now not able to walk out of my front door. For some reason I was now living Vietnam day after day. Every sound, smell, event and action impacting on me on a day to day to day basis was causing me to act as if I was still in the jungle.

Unkown to me at the time I had for many years a way of thinking and acting as a trained soldier, that was very hard for my family and those I worked with; but as I thought thinking and acting like that was 'normal'.



The web site started in a very modest way. Reading an Australian Military magazine called the AUSTRALIAN & NZ DEFENDER I saw some stories of Vietnam. I then decided to put pen to paper and put write down a few experiences. The saying goes everyone has a book inside of them?

In my case it has been a process of writing for over seven years now, to work these words out of my kaleidoscope of Vietnam images via my key board, to the computer screen. Even today many years later I am still adding to the information about our work in the jungle. Many times 'writing' with tears streaming down my face. I kept on writing over many weeks, determined not to run away from the hard truth of what I had gone through.

No longer was I safe, but once again on the hunt for the Vietcong. Feeling the heat, hearing the sounds, seeing the jungle and smelling the smells. To bring the stories alive I needed to place the reader in that place. Perhaps to help them understand what it was like to serve in Vietnam. In that difficult role as a front line infantry soldier, or Grunt as we used to call ourselves then?

The Navy can take you there. The Air Force can fly over, all it likes. It takes the infantry on the ground, in all types of weather to take, hold and defend territory before you can say you own it!

In the early days of the French in  Phouc Tuy Province it was said that they had the Province in day light and the Viet Minh, as they were called then, the night. When the Australians arrived we had control of the Province in the day and we owned the Night! The two stories  wrote for the magazine occurred in 1998. They were published in June of that year, with an eight page spread. It gave me the confidence to use the two stories as a base for the start of the Homepage.

This SITE is a continuation and development of those two stories. It contains the operational activities of Three Platoon, A Company 7RAR, during its 2nd Tour of South Vietnam and is supplemented with my photographs.



 As much as possible during my tour of Vietnam as a Rifleman (Grunt); I snapped lots of photos. Not aiming for anything spectacular, just a record of anything & everything that might be of interest to the folks when I returned home. The irony of this was, by the time I did return home unbeknown my wife had shown all my images to all the family and when I did hold a slide night, much to my horror, but understandably so, no-one was interested!

Most of my work is on Slide Film, with some prints. Some of those images have been included on this site to add some backup to the stories. Of my images I have 28 of the slides selected and stored in the Australian War Memorial, on file for future historians. These can be found using a search on the net sstarting with my name, 'tony blake', '7 Battalion', Royal Australian Regiment', and 'Vietnam.


My experiences as a soldier start with Rookies at Kapooka, which was the 1st Recruit Training Battalion, near Wagga Wagga NSW. That is coverd on this page Then straight to 7RAR at Holsworthy Barracks near Liverpool NSW. That is covered on pages:- 10 which is titled " Oink a Digger". Then on page 11, '7 Battalion the Pigs' and page 12 is titled 'Platoon Set Up'. This was not the normal routine for many infantry soldiers, as they went to Infantry Corps training at places like Ingleburn or Singleton after Kapook and then to a Battalion.

However I always thought I was lucky in going straight to 7RAR. As Holsworthy was only an hour by road from Wollongong and my family and my future wife. In September 1970 along with 'A' Company we were put through our paces at Canungra the famed Jungle Training School. I turned 21 years of age that month.

The Battalion left Sydney in February 1970, sailing to Vietnam on the aircraft carrier HMAS SYDNEY, to comense 7RAR's 2nd Tour. We returned to Australia in March 1971, again on the "Vung Tau Ferry" On page 12 Platoon Set up is a image of the Ship.

This page deals with my families's arrival in Australia in 1965. Four years later in 1969 joining the Army. Then after finishing recruit training at 1RTB, to be posted to 7 Battalion (PIGS) Royal Australian Regiment.


It is the crack of dawn on a very cold day, 06:00hrs. Recruit Tony Blake is standing on a parade ground at Kapooka, with a sheet wrapped around him, wondering what all the bugle playing was about. He asked a fellow recruit. "Its ANZAC DAY, its for all the Diggers who died fighting for Australia", was the reply, "What a great concept", I thought, "I've got a lot to learn".


 While it might seem indifferent to some, not be aware of Australia's MOST important day of the year, a short introduction might be in order. Meet Mr Ken Blake and Mrs Joan Blake, their eldest son Tony and his three brothers and two sisters. They have just arrived in Australia in April 1965 from England. Dad a World War Two veteran had moved the family to Kirkby after first working near London were I was born in 1948. Growing up I was always interested in the military. I was a member of the Air Training Corps and was involved in Drill, weapons handling and then flying. Travelling to Burtonwood outside Liverpool every weekend, which was a airfield used by the USAF during world war two, I was part of a Cadet Glider Program.

This consisted of being pulled by a winch along the runway. By pulling the joystick back it enabled the aircraft to climb and on a good day you could reach one thousand feet. The aircraft was a tandam set up and the student (me) sat in the front and the instructor sat in the back. The actual flying of a glider is quite simple as long as you remember a few basic rules. That is to keep the nose of the aircraft just below the horizon so that you don't leave forward speed and stall. This is a very interesting experince as the way to regain control of an aircraft in a stall is to push the stick forward to pick up air speed, then you can pull the stick back and start looking for a landing spot. As generally when you stall you loose air space and as you have no power to climb your hight is compromised and there is a need to prepare for landing.

The runway at Burtonwood was very long and the procedure was to cut away at the top of the launch and then complete two right hand turns to line up on the runway and land. The aim was to turn at no less than 100 feet and arrive over the boundry fense to land straight and in the middle of the runway.

Juggling the joystick and rudder controls to keep the aircraft level and control airspeed as you lost hight, it was a question as to how fast you lost hight to get on to the ground under control. As it turned out I did not manage to fly solo before I left the Glider School and I have not had a Glider flight since. So I hope one day to have at least another flight in a Glider and perhaps take controls once more? After a couple of weeks I was on the way to Australia and as beautiful it is coming down Sydney Harbour and arriving at the terminal, I don't remember much about it. I was not to know that within five years I would be sailing out of Sydney Harbour to go to war.


Before sailing to Australia I was still going to school. This was Ruffwood School at Kirkby near Liverpool and I ws in Darwin House. While I was an ok student I did fairly well at Social Studies, topping the class for many years in a row. This was the result of many hours of research of subject, a skill that I still use when writing about Australian Military History. Also I did ok at running and did well at the Mile or half mile events. This was due to the fact I was bullied by kids who used to wait for me on the way home from school and despite their best efforts, they never caught me. Back to that day when we arrived in Australia. After a bus trip from Sydney, we arrived at the Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel, near Wollongong. We were shown our huts, not unlike the tin ones at Kapooka, that many Diggers would remember, given a meal, and we settled down to our first night in a new country.

The next morning I went for a walk down to the beach nearby, the weather was brilliant, so unlike the cold weather left behind in England some four weeks earlier. Surveying the 'clear' blue sky, the clean white sand, washed by the ocean which also looked so clean and fresh, experiencing the warmth of the morning, without planning to but realising that I would probably not make it back to England, I made a commitment on the spot, to my new country.

"From this day forward, Australia is my country, in my heart and in my mind and i am here to stay". I was 16 years of age! After deciding I would not go back to back to school in Australia I found a job working shift work in the Port Kembla Steelworks. My first pay was £17 and I bought a surfboard. I taught my self to ride the board and spent much of my time riding the waves and chased girls like any teenager.

The surf was a big part of my life until I went in to the Army. It was a dream come true as I had been aware of surfing from watching early US tv shows and always wanted to as I had a number of boards and great times surfing the great beaches along the coast line at Wollongong.  To illustrate this I have placed a couple of images on this page. Above is the shot of me at the beach and below one with my mates classic VW and our Surf Boards!

Till I met Helen my future wife, for some reason I did not take much notice of events occurring in Australia apart from the daily TV news about the Vietnam War. In 1968 when my call up papers arrived to say that I was deferred from National Service, I had a big decision to make.

My Dad, Ken Blake was a Veteran of World War Two. Kenneth was a North African War Veteran in the British 8th Army who after fighting the early part of that campaign was wounded after stepping on a mine in 1942 and ended up as a Prisoner Of War. A Dedication to my Dad and what little I know about his service in North Africa is on the MEMORIAL PAGE. "Click" on RAR Memorial Cross Below.

I do not know much about his service as he did not talk about it. but I was always conscious of the fact that Dad had "done his duty" and served his Country. The image is of the Memorial page & it is a 'live link' to that page.

As Australia was now my country, it was certainly worth fighting for.

Sending away a letter to the Department of Labour and National Service, I received a reply on 3rd October 1968, registration number 11277385 together with a form for Volunteering for National Service. After talking it over with my girl friend, it was filled out and sent back.


At that time my family were living at Warilla. When not working shift work at the 36-inch mill at Port Kembla Steel Works (Shift work consisted of 3 shifts, the day shift (7am-3pm) afternoon shift (3pm-11pm) and the night shift (11pm-7am) I spent a much time as possible with my fiancee, Helen who lived near my favorite surfing beach in the Wollongong area. I had started work when I was 16 years old at the 36 inch Mill, in a section called the "Railbank. This was as the section made the rails for the State Railway department.

My first job in the place was as a 'Side Press Operator', which means I provided steel beams, RSJs; which had cooled out of shape, in to a Machine that would Straighten the steel, run by another operator who's title was 'Straightener' The smaller the steel beams, 6 x 5 inches, the faster you have to work to keep the steel up to the other operator. It was a huge culture shock, as a pommy school kid to be working with tough Aussie Men at 16 years old but mostly I was looked after. My favorite day was of course pay day and my first wage was the grand total of 16 Pounds (about 30 bucks). I spent it on a deposit for a surf board and my Mum took me down to the shop to do so. The other pay days I used to buy heaps of coke, chocolate, chips etc and stuff my self the whole shift while managing to run the four sets of rollers and the side press which was worked by hydraulics. Days off were spent in the surf at Fairy Meadow beach.

My first work day was a Thursday and having worked the Saturday day shift returned at 11pm to start my first night shift, on shift work. I was not to know in various jobs I was to worked shift work for over 30 years. After about a year I was given a 'promotion' to run the Straightener machine. There was a bit of a nack to runing this machine as you had to coordinate the rollers with the Side Press Operator. Otherwise if one section of the rollers were going opposite to the others the steel beams would stay out and not roll backwards and forwards through the machine, so you 'straighten' it. This was achieved by the left part of the machine rocked back words and forwards and the right side you controlled in and out. Then you would drop a plug, I have forgotten the correct name for it, either left or right and by 'hitting' the beam you could knock out the bends and have a straight beam.

Some times when you were a bit lazy and sent beams through that were not quite right, the forman would get the crane driver to pick up the offending lengths by magnified plates; and place them back on the Side Press Operators bed, so he would run them back though the Side Press again. The Cranes ran on huge gantry's above your head. It was advisable to watch them if they were moving carrying material; as it was possible for them to loose contact with the steel and 30 feet lenghs would come crashing down. The crane drivers were all 'New Australians', like me but from eastern Europe. They were the salt of the earth and could operate the cranes and their loads to within inches despite how difficult it must have been looking down from their cabins. While Port Kembla is still in operation the 36 inch Mill is long gone.

I moved to my next job when I was booted out of the Straighteners job one day by the General Manager. A cranky old bloke who was from the old school. I still have no idea when he told me to get out of the cabin and never go back in. When I was working my next job, that of 'Crane Chaser'. I was asked to cover the Straighteners postion when they were short but I told them what the General Manager told me and always refused to get back in the cabin and straighten steel! The crane chaser job was hard at first as you had a 'DOG' which hung from Number two crane by steel wire, and you would clamp it on to a lengh of beam. At the other end it was all level but at the back end the beams were 10 foot to 30 feet, depending on the order.

So it was a continuing effort to climb over the longer beams, to reach the next row. While I had worked in this area now for more than two years I had to learn the job from scratch as I had not taken notice of what realy went on outside my own job. Also it was a big effort to adjust to being always on your feet, after working sitting down, but it did wonders for my general fitness. I had some run in with my forman a Paddy Ryan. I think I was just a smart arse kid and thought I knew better. Yet when the Number 1 crane chaser left, he put me in the job and I was only 19 or so? This was better. The job required knowing the colours painted on the front of the beams as they went all over Australia. Also as the beams were level I was walking on level ground and not having to climb up and down, like the poor bugger on the other end.

My next job in the place was an attempt to give my self employment oportunities in the future as I took on the job of oxy cutter. Also attending TAFE for oxy cutting and electric welding. However it was a great surf that year and I spent more time in the water and not studying. I was working in the Billet Mill now and when the forman found out I was leaving moved me on to a job I thought I had a very real chance of injuring myself.

As I was so close to getting in to the Army I could not take the chance, so I thought bugger it after all these years they treat me this way, so I refused to do the work. The Forman took me to the cranky General Forman and he sacked me. Only the first of two jobs I was ever fired from. I don't know why I just didn't say I was heading for the Army and perhaps Viet Nam and I did not want to get hurt?

I only felt relief walking out of the Plant and clocking off for the very last time. Apart from having a break before leaving I could spend more time with Helen and my Family until time to get on the train at Wollongong station and start a new life.


To make sure that I was going to be fit for going into the Army I started a program of running to work or from work to home. Depending what shift the I was working, I would run home after day shift, or run to work when I was on afternoon shift. As well as continuing to hit the "wild surf" any chance that I could find. Some months after sending the “Volunteering” form in to the department, I was standing on the parade ground of Kapooka having my first but not last education about the ANZAC legend. Kapooka or 1RTB was the New South Wales Training Battalion for Rookies, set in the country-side near Wagga NSW.

KAPOOKA -"The Home of the Soldier"

The buildings at Kapooka where modern brick buildings with 4 soldiers to a room. The training at Kapooka was a mixture of fitness, teamwork, and a lot of bloody hard work. Personal drill is a good way to instill personal discipline. For the rest of the Kapooka story please go to Page 10 "Oink Becomes A Digger" by clicking on the link above - "Oink A Digger". To illustrate this story I have added a few images:-

There are four images with me at Kapooka. As a Rookie, with the weapon I carried while training there, an SLR. Then there are 2 images of the Kapooka camp. One showing my platoons barrack block, the other an area shot of the Kapooka Camp.

Sending away a letter to the Department of Labour and National Service, I received a reply on 3rd October 1968. Registration number 11277385 together with a form for Volunteering for NATIONAL SERVICE.

As I enlisted I expected to be a Regular Soldier but I was enlisted as a National Serviceman.

The Images on the left show the Form and the Medal is the National Service Medal.

A classic surf image me and my mate Claudio and his car with our surf boards, ready for another day hitting the wild surf.

© "Tony (oink) Blake"

A Kapooka pose shot with the favorite SLR

While on the right a shot during an very early meal break during a hike. The pouches were the same ones that became very sort after in Viet Nam.

Resting while on another hike around Kapooka

© "Army Kapooka"

A Platoon Block

© "Tony (oink) Blake"








16th BATTALION AIF. D Company Commander.

On 23 August the 16th Battalion along with the 13th Battalion and the 16th Lancashire Fusiliers were ordered to advance across a kilometer of open ground laced with enemy trenches and push the Germans from their defensive system, known as Courtine Trench. The 16th took up its positions as planned but the Fusiliers failed to link up.

Lieutenant McCarthy led a Platoon and bombed his way along Courtine Trench until confronted by an earth block, which the Germans were defending with two machine guns, one of which was firing along the trench held by the 16th Battalion. Setting two British soldiers to dig through the block, McCarthy took Sergeant F J Robbins, scrambled around the block and dropped into the enemy trench.

Sooting a sentry at another barrier, McCarthy found a machine gun firing over his head at the Australians. Shooting the gunners, McCarthy raced on and came up behind a German office giving orders to a crowd of his men. When McCarthy shot the officer the men bolted into another trench.

12 May 1917 at Bullecourt, France. © DJL

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