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 4 - Page 20 - Updated January 2007 - Next Page:- Ambushing 21/35

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  • Development Of This Site.
  • The Mine Incident.
  • Back To The Bush.
  • Back To NDP Brigid.
  • Images



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!

This is one of my favorite images of my images of Vietnam. It is the inside of Night Defensive Position BRIGID. Looking North it takes in CHQs Position. The ray of lights shine on a Hutchie with some Diggers.



This is second story I wrote on my experiences in Vietnam. This is perhaps the most difficult part of my whole site, to live through this day again and again while I wrote and rewrote. Trying not only to recapture not just what occurred, but how it smelt, sounded, looked and how I was thinking and feeling at the time. I know that is easy for established writers but this was a new experience for me.

When I sat down to write it, I found that the words, images and more strongly the emotions of the event just poured out of me and on to the key board of the computer. I have little written notes of my time in Vietnam, certainly none of this day, yet little was missing of the events of this day, the way I remember it anyway?

Some have told me that perhaps I have been a little too honest in what I have said? While in 2005 I could perhaps tone down what I first wrote in 1999, that would not be honest and would not give the full picture of what happens to a human being when they are faced with a life threating situation. You will note I have not said 'soldier' as you don't have to go to war to have your life threatened.   


 Out OF Luck?

Towards the end of 1970 3 Platoon's luck began to run out with a number of major incidents causing death and injuries. On the 27 October 1970, 3 Platoon lost its third Platoon Commander, Lt Rex Davies. Davies was KIA, in a clash with 2 Platoon in the Jungle.

Our first Platoon Commander went home at the end of his National Service and the second one was moved to work else were in Vietnam. On November 6th, two members of 3 Platoon, in an ambush position, were wounded by M16 fire from VC after the ambush was trigged. Result two seriously wounded 3 Platoon members & 2 VC KIA.

Then in December we had a run-in with an M16 jumping jack mine. It was early morning of the 9th December 1970, the Platoon had ambushed a track that ran from the Light Green into a local village, somewhere to the North of NDP BRIGID. After a quiet night we were moving back to Brigid roughly the same way we moved in. I was a bit worried about that. As this was unusual, as 3 Platoon rarely if ever moved along the same bit of country, twice, let alone a marked track, as it was asking for trouble. I was behind John Boundy, we were roughly in the middle of the ambush party as we got moving, in to single file formation, heading back to Brigid with hot food and a wash at the forefront of our minds.



As per the semi-open bush we were moving through, the patrol was well separated. I chanced a look around and I thought the Digger behind me was half asleep as he was right up my bum and hardly watching his arcs. I stopped and turned around he had no option but to do the same. I was very pissed-off. Angry enough to swing the muzzle of my SLR in his direction. We were not far out of Brigid, why relax now?

"I don't care if you come up with me, (on a mine) but I'm not going up with you, so back off". He just looked at me and said nothing. Turning around I started moving again making no effort to close the extra gap that had opened between John and myself, as the type of country allowed the distance. {{ I think of that distance sometimes, did it help save me from further injury?}}

With in a minute or so there was a Huge BANG. I saw a huge cloud of sand and dust fly into the air, hanging there then fall to the ground. I was thinking, 'RPG, someone's fired a RPG at us, so there will be automatic fire'. I tensed waiting for the sound of incoming rounds of an AK47.

I was down on my knees, facing to the left of our direction of movement. My head was hanging down. It was strangely silent, no sounds. My rifle had gone, my watch missing, my hands on the ground, like I was praying. Blood was dripping onto the back on my hand. The silence was finally broken."Mines, Mines, Mines". Someone yelled, "Mine Drill, do your Mine Drill. John is injured and I need Blakey up here to have a look at him".

We had practiced this drill ad nauseam back in Australia, first on the footy oval, all spread out, with someone selected as a casualty. Then it would be sprung on us unexpectedly in the bush, down on your knees, prodding, prodding, marking safe lanes. It was drummed into us that to run or move away was fatal. Other units had done so and triggered more mines, as the Cong rarely planted just one. This area of our operations was a bad area for them. Of all the training we did I hated the mine drill the most. This was because I knew that if we had to do it for real, we would have someone down, maybe killed or badly injured, like now!

I could see Sgt King standing up, beyond where John was lying face down, calmly directing others to maintain discipline, but not moving himself. The platoon worked as they had trained, Sgt King was awarded a Mention In Dispatches (MID) after our tour, I always considered it was for his calm and control this day.

John then started to yell, there was no doubt that he was badly injured. I got out my bayonet and started to prod, in 45% to the ground about 3" apart. I seemed to be doing everything in slow motion, for some reason, and my ears were 'ringing'. A Digger went past me prodding like mad. I had a fear of another mine going up. It was the bloke I had spoken to. Was it only a few minutes ago? "What are you doing?" I asked, "tying to get to John". "Well that's my job mate". I had the Platoon Medical kit and I knew it was important that I get to John as soon as I could, but ensure that the mine drill was done correctly, or else. I was shit scared.

"OK then", he went back behind me to get my M16, which was still lying on the track. "Come on Blakely get up here now". Sgt King trying to get me to get a move on. I felt that was a little unfair, as I was going as fast as I was able. At the same time I knew he was keeping control of the situation and letting people know that our priority was getting help to John. He was standing there having a smoke, looking relaxed.

The roar of a diesel engine could be heard and there was no doubt that who ever was driving the Track was gunning it to the max. An APC soon came into view, with other 'A' Company Diggers sitting on top.

The Track slewed to a stop about 20/30 yards off to the side of our track. A Ginger Beer jumped off the track with a mine detector. 'Right what do you want Sgt?' Sgt King pointed to John and then to me. 'I want him cleared first, then him, then the rest of that way'. Pointing behind me to where the others were still prodding. The Engineer swept in front of himself towards John. I said, 'All this side of him, as I will need to roll him over to check him out'.

The Engineer did that and then move to me and behind me. I was able to stand up and move the rest of the way to John's side. I had a quick look at his back, there was no obvious bleeding or rips in his shirt. I was joined by someone and I said "Give me a hand to roll him". This was done.

John was only groaning now and seemed to be half conscious. I was confused to the amount of bleeding, I was expecting to see more damage to his clothes, from the wire fragments that the mines contain. Pulling the bottom of his pants away from his leg I could see a deep wound, John groaned, I quickly let go. Opening a shell dressing I placed it over the area and tied it firmly. I was worried that he might have broken legs and wanted to reduce the movement as much as possible. I cleared his SLR and left the magazine off. I placed the butt of the weapon between his legs, with the muzzle near his boots, then tied a figure of 8 bandage around his boots to lock them together.



I placed other bandages around his legs and the rifle to keep them as still as possible. I could hear the 'Woca, Woca' of a DUSTOFF Chopper heading our way. I knew it would not be long before he was back in the hospital at Vung Tau. Someone produced a stretcher and we carefully moved John on to this. As the Landing Zone (LZ) was a little way off we picked him up to move closer, my right shoulder hurt, so I grabbed the stretcher with my left hand. Sgt King said "what's wrong with you?" I said "I don't know but it hurts".

After we placed the stretcher on the ground he grabbed me and ripped open my shirt to look at my shoulder, then said, “get on the Chopper”. As the M16 I was carrying is an automatic weapon and the Platoon would need it. I said to the Digger, who had been behind me, "give me your SLR". As he cleared the weapon for safety, for the Chopper, I took off all my ammo for the M16 and gave it to him, he also gave me my watch which having a rubber wrist band was cut right through, probably by flying shrapnel.

The Chopper landed and John was quickly put aboard, I got on. It had its own medic, so I sat near the door to keep out of the way. The noise of the blades and the concussion of the wind was making my ears hurt, so I placed my hands over them to keep out both.

The door gunner was looking at me with horror on his face, I could offer him no comfort. The trip seemed to take a while but I guess it was no more than 15 minutes. We landed at the Vampire pad of 1 Aust Field Hospital in Vung Tau. The Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) was there to meet the chopper, I had met him some months earlier. I tapped him on the shoulder, as I walked past, as his focus was on John, he seemed surprised to see me. I moved in through the doors and saw the welcome sign for a toilet. It was early morning and I needed to have a crap. Lucky this was a proper one that flushed.

A little later as I went through the doors of the Triage I heard a Sister say, "I thought that there were two Soldiers on the that Chopper?" I answered, "there was, Me". They literally picked me up and dropped gently on the gurney. Cutting my gear off and checking me out. "Where are you hit?" I pointed to the shoulder and the doctor removed some shrapnel and had a look at my nose, the shrapnel was too far in and he told me it would work its way out in time, which it did. I was lying flat on the gurney and a pretty Sister was stroking my forehead. The contrast with the quiet in Triage and calm manner of the staff, with 30 minutes or so ago, was amazing.

I tried to see how John was by looking over my shoulder but they would not let me. "He's OK, doing fine". I knew that he had every chance now that he was in the Hospital. After a while I was given an injection 'to calm me down', and I was moved to one of the wards. I was filthy dirty I asked for a shower. With a medic as a helper, because the injection was working I was able to have a hot bath instead and get back to bed. The first thing I wanted was a Red Cross telegram form, so I could tell my Wife, Helen I was OK, as I knew she would get some sort of notification from the Army and I did not want her worrying if they got the details mixed up.

I was not to know that the telegraph form would take two weeks to get to Wollongong and be beaten by a letter I wrote a few days later. When I was allowed out of bed the next day I asked to see John and I could see that he was in bad way, he was still very ill and did not know I was there. He had not lost his legs though, something I was very grateful for. I have never seen him again to this day even though I have looked for him from time to time. UPDATE, after some help from a mate I have been able to track John down in 2002 and I have talked to him on the telephone.

I had some visitors, Sgt King brought some of the boys to see me and check on John. I was grateful to see them and felt a little silly in pj's and wanted to get back to the Platoon, as I felt OK. I started to apologised to Sgt King for the slowness at doing the mine drill, but it was strange, I felt that he was embarrassed at yelling at me. Maybe because I was hurt to? He told me not to worry, I had done OK and to have a rest and get back on my feet. That was the only praise I ever got from him the whole 12 months of the Tour.

While I was at the hospital the atmosphere was quiet and the war seemed a long way away. Yet I was uncomfortable with the clean sheets and the lack being with the Platoon and perhaps letting people down? The hospital even had its own movies and provided the only humor of those days. Due to the conditions of Vietnam even small scratches soon became infected and sores were commonplace with Diggers in the field.

It seems that the conditions also made the need for circumcisions a common occurrence among Soldiers of the Task Force, who were operated on at the hospital. Due to the need not to split stitches, patients were given a spray of some sort to prevent an erection. At the movie one night, a mildly erotic one, from the back of the darkened room you could hear the ‘sissss’ of the spray cans. I remember being taken aback at the unlikeliness of the situation after the death and injuries I had seen during the tour. I pested a Doctor to get out of the hospital, as I didn't’t know why I was still there, he seemed surprised but signed my release and I phoned the unit. With a lift from a 7RAR land rover, I was taken back to 3 Platoon, which was now back at our lines at Nui Dat.

People were pleased to see me and made a fuss, I didn't know what to say. At lunch the OC, Father, Major Thomson was helping to serve the meal, and praised my efforts at the mine incident, I could only say, 'I did what I was trained to do', and moved on, I did not want any special attention.



We soon moved out again. It was getting close to Christmas and I guess the Government did not want any deaths or injury to effect the public in Australia. That is the only explanation of what I saw when we were landing at the LZ. We were in Slicks of Choppers and headed for a huge Landing Zone near the May Tau Mountains. {{ To see area have a look at map on 'enemy in Phouc Tuy' Page 14. X Marks the Spot! }}

As we were going in, a flight of Gun Ships flew over our slick, firing rockets and mini guns in to the jungle next to the LZ. The message came over the head set in the chopper that someone had seen VC near the LZ. The door gunner opened up with his M60 raking the tree line as the Chopper swept out of the sky to touch down. What on earth was happening are they inserting us, 'in-contact?' in to a hot LZ as they say in the movies?

I wanted to get off and get into cover as the Chopper was a big target. As soon as we got the 'thumbs up' I jumped, nothing happened my pack had caught on something on the door gunners M60 frame. I had to get off and quick, before the Chopper moved into the air. I slapped the gunners leg, as I could not reach behind me with all my gear, and pointed urgently to the pack. He was a big Negro, he picked up my pack with one hand and threw me away from the Chopper. I just went straight to ground and rolled on my side so I could see him and gave him a high 'thumbs up', which he returned with a big smile and a wave of the hand, as the Chopper left the ground.

The forward scouts were quickly on their feet moving to the tree-line. We were in section groups so it was relatively easy to get into formation. If we were going to be hit now I wanted to know how the Platoon was formed up. Everyone moved quickly into the tree-line to get undercover, the familiar quietness and smell of the jungle surrounded you. Out of direct sunlight you felt less of a walking target.

It was an anticlimax. The jungle allowed a bit of 'relaxing' from the type of work we were involved in around NDP Brigid, which was like 'shift-work', one of the things I had left my job for, to join the Army, what a joke! The interdiction work around Brigid such as ambushing tracks around the Long Hais and the fishing Village, Long Phuoc Hai, was difficult, trying to keep one jump ahead of the local Viet Cong meant a lot of night work. It fell into a difficult routine. Sleep during the day, if you could, it was stinking hot and you had to sleep undercover in our bunkers in case of mortar attack. Eat when you felt like it, if you felt like it, mainly USA 'C' rations. Although some of the boys used to buy fresh food from the local village and cook their own food. There was a full briefing in the afternoon, move out before dark. There was no brewing or hot meals during these night activities. Ambush some track going into the Village or the Long Hais, night after night; after night.

It was very tiring and due to rotations, bloke going on R&R whatever, patrols being 7/8 or 9 Diggers or less it was crazy. I remember one morning someone asked, 'who had moved through the ambush position and fell over the radio?' No one ever owned up? So who was it? Had someone moved through our position while we were all sleeping? I still wonder about that to this day!

With all the work falling on few and fewer Diggers, the blokes were loosing their good nature with the strain, yet we never talked about it to each other. We never talked about our fears or how run down we felt. We just carried on day after day, doing our best. Now back in the jungle I was calming down a bit, I was a little smug that I had got over the mine incident so easy, although I got the feeling that people were looking after me, without making it obvious. When the subject came up l was told about 'my good job', but I was still feeling guilty that I did not get my act in to gear as quick as I would have liked.

I felt that the rocket display from the Bushranger Gunships was not because they had seen Viet Cong, but to keep the VC away from the Company. That was unusual as well we were in a Company position, we did not do that very often on operations. As we were in a fixed position the Cong would have to walk into us and we had our usually tight triangle harbour setup. We also stayed there, instead of moving, so it was strangely ‘relaxing’, something I would never have expected to say about being in the Vietnam jungle. One day I moved around the position as far as Company Head Quarters, (CHQ) and bumped in to the OC, ‘Father Thompson’ and we had a chat about things. He was a Pom and had served with the Gurkars, still regarded with awe by the present day Digger, as he had the respect of all the Diggers in the Company.

He had decided to go fishing to supplement his rations and I watched in amazement when he detonated two grenades in this large pond and saw the stunned fish float to the surface; he said with a grin, "no worries no one will know out here". Certainly not your average officer. I worked with HQ once for a few days and I know that he could walk the legs off us 'young blokes'.


The jungle trip only lasted a week or so. Another unit knocked over a big unit of Viet Cong on the move and killed 21 of them, in a classic combined ambush of Infantry and APC’s. We were given a Warning Order, about moving back to NDP Bridget. The place was a flurry of packing Diggers as for once, some of them had gear everywhere. I guess as it was just before a 24 hour truce for New Year was due to start, we did not expect any movement by the VC. We were to to replace the Company now at Brigid so they could go and support the action after the ambush. So that was OK by us, typical of the VC not to respect a truce and get their arses kicked for it, stiff shit.

Soon back at Brigid we sorted our individual bunkers out, the other company had left it in a mess. They had taken all our spare food and equipment, there was a bit of moaning about this till the place was fixed up the way people liked it. Without much ado after making ourselves at home, 3 Platoon was tasked to set up an ambush in the general area of the mine explosion, I was a bit nervous but that was my job and I tried to put it out of my mind. We moved out of Brigid just as it started to get dark. As we moved out of the gate and around to the North I realised that we were moving on soft sand, the same as THAT morning.

My nerves seemed to go into overdrive. As we got further and further away from the safety of Brigid I had a overwhelming urge to scream and run back to Brigid. I tried to talk to myself to, keep putting my feet forward, left, right, left, right. Concentrate on checking the area, check the SLR safety catch. It was not working, I was very close to complete and utter panic.

All I could think of was stepping on a mine, in the soft sand, It was if my boby had a mind of its own. A feeling I have never had before or since and one I could not really explain. I could feel my whole body wanting to run, trying to turn me around, to run back the way we had come. The feeling was almost overwhelming.

Why didn't I do that, just run back inside the wire? I don't know? I know it was harder to keep going than to run away. Somehow I got to the Ambush Site, I know I was nearly out of control. All my smug feelings about being in control went up in smoke, I was absolutely terrified. I realised that I had been fooling myself. That day when I was kneeing on the sand, my life took a different dirrection, there was no going back. While I was aware then I was 'dealing' with my reaction to the mine explosion, it took nearly 30 years to understand from that point, I was a different person and nvere the man I should have been.

This is what perhaps seperates those who experience war and those who do not? While trying to ignore the maddness all around you and be yourself, events overtake you and your mind takes over to protect you from what it thinks are threats. However when you live in a 'normal' world, people do not react well or think of you as sane, when your training takes over and on automatic pilot your body, trys to defend you from what the mind thinks as 'danger'. This can be a noise, smell, words, an action of some kind. Before you know it your back in the Vietnam jungle, as if you have never left.

Setting up for the ambush I focused on my tasks and routine, keeping my mind busy. Trying not to think of anything but what I was doing. We were not moving around and I got hold of myself a bit. I slept little that night if at all, I just wanted the sun to come up, as I knew we would not move until it was fully light.

The next morning we moved back to Brigid and as the Platoon got closer and then moved inside the gate, I could relax for awhile. Being December it was only a few months till the Battalion would be going home. I needed to survive somehow, how? There was no-one, I felt, I could talk to about how panicky I was feeling, so I needed to depend on myself. I was a good Soldier by now, always "switched on". I just had to do it better.

I made the decision; "I would close myself up, shut my self off from everyone and every thing, take no chances to survive, till I could get on that ship and on my way home". After that I only once gave the new Boss (Platoon Commander) our forth Boss since arriving in Vietnam, an insight as to how I was feeling.

We were due to do some work in the Long Hais, which was full of mines, I asked him one day when we were alone, that 'could I be left off the list for the operation?' I never explained what I was feeling. He had only been posted to us after the death of Lt Davies and he did not know me or 3 Platoon well.

This would be tough as I was crossed trained as a medic, platoon signaller and as an M60 machine gunner, and now one of the most experienced riflemen in 3 Platoon. I rarely missed any sort of operation or ambush, but I had to ask him. I could not trust myself if we went to the Long Hais. When the list came out I was not on it. I could feel people looking at me, but no-one said anything. I felt down and lousy about quitting, but I felt if I went, I might let people down, maybe get someone killed. Later the operation was cancelled. It was too close to Christmas and the government did not want casualties.

Some weeks after the mine incident I was sent out of Brigid, by myself to talk to some Engineers using a doser to blow up mines in the area of our patrol that morning. While I was outside the wire, for some 20 minutes, they set off about 7 other mines in the area. Every bang made me jump, we had been walking around here for months. I gave the Digger in charge the information and didi back behind the wire.

During this time we started working with forces from the local area, trying to teach them some of the skills we had. Their discipline was terrible and their idea of an ambush was to get as much sleep as they could, although individually they seemed friendly enough. This might seem laughable, but even to me they seemed to be only kids. For the first time the realization that we might not win this war seemed very real.

There was no doubt that the VC & NVA could not deal with the Australian Soldier in Phouc Tuy. That we had as a force had done all that was expected of us and more. Even the French had never been able to control the movement of the Viet Cong, or Viet Min, in those days. We had control of the province at night as well as the day. How long would the Government pay for us to defend in a foreign country, particularly with all the dick heads in Australia, who knew little of what was going on but listen to the crap pedaled by the commos?

They should have come and talked to the people who’s country it was, who did not want the North or the Viet Cong to win either. People who had lost sons, brothers and fathers fighting to stop the North. I would have liked to see some of those dick-heads here, trying to help the Viet Cong they would have got an AK 7.62 short-round through their brains for their trouble.


What was the answer? I considered staying incountry to fight some more, I did not want to leave with the job half done. I did not look forward to telling my wife that I wanted to stay longer. Although now life in Australia seemed like a dream. Australia was a long way away, both mentally and physically. I had stoped telling anyone in my letters what was going on. As you could not put in to words the maddness of the place. I just wrote about the weather and basic boring stuff.

Also if I did stay there was the case of having to move to another unit. What if they did not have the skills of 3 Platoon, as a Private soldier it would be difficult to tell anyone to get their act together? Go home, was the decision, I could always come back if the war went on. Although I was a National Serviceman I enlisted for a further 6 months to make sure I could finish the Tour with the Platoon and go home with the Battalion.

A decision I have never regretted. It gave me some valuable time with the unit to decide what I wanted to do with my future. What does a Grunt do after a War?? I left Vietnam in March 1971 after being flown from Nui Dat straight to the the Aircraft Carrier HMAS Sydney. After two long weeks at sea, going around the western seaboard of Australia, I landed in the city of Sydney.

Unlike the wildly held belief that Vietnam Vets did not get "welcomed home", 7RAR marched through the streets of Sydney straight from the ship with rifles and fixed bayonets. I was looking forward to meeting any anti-war demonstrators as I was going to use the rifle on them as I was not going to be put down by scum like them. As it was, all we saw were lines of Sydney siders clapping the Parade and the Unit as we went past.

 I had no way of knowing at that time that Vietnam had changed me for ever; and another war was starting, which continues to this day. I was home thinking I was safe, with the future to look forward to. Little I was to know that Viet Nam had stolen my future years as it was if I had never left the place?

Sadly while still sering with the Battalion I took part in two funerals of former 7RAR Diggers. They had stayed in Vietnam and served with D&E Platoon. They were KIA on 12 June 1971. On of the Diggers killed that day was my Mate, MICK TOWLER. Being a pom we had nothing to do with his remains and I was not able to say 'goodbye' to him.

I Remembered Him on 29th October 2000; when I planted a Cherry Tree in his Honour at the Vietnam War Memorial, The CHERRY TREE WALK, at Bowral NSW.

  SEE The Page: 'Me After the War'. Also page: 'PTSD'. The March through Sydney had little effect on me that day. It was not till many years later when I finally Marched with 7RAR in Sydney on a ANZAC Day, through the streets of Sydney that my emotions overcame me; as I remembered marching on the day we arrived home.

 This is the full story about the Mine Incident and will not be added to!


© "Tony (oink) Blake". LEFT- A Day time shot of NDP Brigid. This is how we found it and it was before we put the bunkers on the perimeter. RIGHT: A semi night shot getting ready for a patrol.




[bunker battle 18] [night move - long hais 19] [mine incident 20] [ambushing the australian way 21] [Sky Images]

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