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 19 - Updated January 2007 - Next Page:- Mine Incident 20/35

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Night Patrol with Mine Dectors in to Enemy Held area.


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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!


This is the first story I ever wrote on my experiences in Vietnam. It appeared in the Military Magazine Australian & NZ Defender in June 1999. When I sat down to write it, I found that the words and images just poured out and on to the key board of the computer. I have little written notes of my time in Vietnam except perhaps in a few letters from myself to my Wife. This story gave me the idea and some hope I could commit my tour of Vietnam to print.

So it eventually became the very first page and the start of this Homepage.  Although some of my stories have been 'cleaned up' that is spelling corrected and slight changes to the text, like taking out Army speak and replacing it with english, this story remains very much as I wrote it that first day.   


The high pitch whistle of the Mine detector, was getting on my nerves. It was bad enough trying to sneak into the Long Hais to set up an ambush position without the screeching sound advertising our position, any Viet Cong in the area MUST hear the bloody thing.

Despite the dark I could see the Ginger Beer (Engineer) up front of the patrol sweeping the plate of the mine detector left to right, right to left across our 'track'? I thought we never travelled on tracks? We did later on in the year on the way back from a night ambush and it nearly cost us our lives, when a Digger stepped on an M16 Jumping Jack Mine. For Story & Photos; see page: Mine Incident.

It was September 1970, how do I remember that? It was a day or so before my 22nd Birthday. Great! I had spent my 21st birthday at Canungra the Jungle Training Center doing nearly the same thing, 12 months earlier.

I was a member of an ambush party from 3 Platoon A Company, we were moving AT NIGHT, into an ambush position, at the base of the Long Hai Mountains. The mountains were the home of Charlie (Viet Cong) long before the days of the French occupation in the 1950s. 'Father' the Officer Commanding (OC) 'A' Company, must have had a brain wave about meeting the Viet Cong on his own ground? Earlier that afternoon we had left NDP BRIGID (see MAP on Advance To Contact Page), loaded like a pack mule. Each Digger with 5 days of rations and all the water we could carry. Brigid was situated near the fishing village of, Long Phuoc Hai. We moved a few 'clicks' (1 click = 1000 meters) towards the Long Hai Mountains during the last bit of day light.

There was no problem with map reading here, the Long Hais dominated the country side for many clicks with its bomb scarred features. It was well known for its deadly mines. As other Battalions of the Task Force had found to their cost over the years. The M16 Jumping Jack Mine taken from our own minefield. One of the biggest stuff ups of the war resulting in many Aussie battle casualties.

We could see a lot of locals in the area moving live stock. The locals could see us and would warn any Charlie in the area so we needed to wait for night fall to move to our real position. Finally after dark, and well after the start of curfew, we started to move again directly towards the Long Hais. Fourth in position behind two Ginger Beers and our platoon sergeant, Sergeant King, I was praying for deaf Viet Cong, or at least one who would check first before opening fire. At least with the mine detector we would not step on one of our own mines. WEEEEEEE. But that noise was annoying. Extremely so as we were used to moving in complete silence.



"WEEEEEEEEEE" I distinctly heard an answering whistle. It had come from the bush to the left of the track, but maybe 10/12 yards forward of our position. The lead Ginger Beer swung around with an astonished look on his face. Sergeant King hit him on the shoulder and pointed to a small open space on our right and swung his arm around in a circle. The track went under a couple of trees that formed a 'archway' over the track and the sound had come from within the bush on the left. The Engineer moved forward, and then chucked a right turn, we followed in his track. He desperately attempted to clear as much of the open area as he could, with the detector. if we triggered a mine here it would be absolute chaos. Sgt. King pulled and pushed the rest of us into position.

There was no time to give the enemy signal, 'thumbs down'. Doubtful if anyone could see it anyway, in the light/darkness we had. However the urgency transmitted it's self to the rest of the patrol and we were all down on the ground in a matter of a seconds. But in NO recognised formation. If they caught us here we would be in deep shit. The area was no bigger than a cricket pitch, relatively soft bush grass, surrounded by thick dense scrub. The only way out was by the track, either the way we had come, or forward towards the 'whistler'.

As we were lying close to each other a few whispers asked, "what the hell is going on?" With the Diggers close to me I could tell them about some one giving a whistle from the trees. A few moved to bring their weapons to bear to our left flank. They could not fire as Sergeant King was still on our left on the track, he had not moved. Sergeant King had seen action against the Indonesians and this was his second tour of Vietnam and it showed. He was armed with an M16 automatic rifle. With hand signals he directed a Digger, also with an M16 to move to him.

As it was not totally dark we could see them move forward towards the place of the 'whistler'. Who ever it was, they might be wondering the reason for the holdup. It was well known that the Viet Cong communicated with 'whistle signals'. At least on the radio, so with any luck they might not think that Australians would be crazy enough to be walking on the Long Hais AT NIGHT!

Separated only by the width of the narrow track, King on the left the other Digger on the right. With no detector it could have been deadly. I thought it was one of the gustiest actions I had seen. Both had automatic weapons. Both men moved forward, a step at a time, they used the high step, it looks a little comical, but no one was laughing. I don't know who fired first, but next second both of them poured a full magazine of 5.56 rounds into the area.

Ejecting the empty mag and slapping a second one on the weapon, they opened fire. Within a few seconds four magazines of 80 rounds had hit the area. Still on their feet both men had sprayed forward into the area on the left of the track. What had they seen or heard? We could do nothing but keep our heads down in case of return fire. Thinking about it later I was amazed at the discipline exhibited by the other Diggers, no wild shooting or any calling out, only the patrol radio operator was talking. He carried the platoon's 25 sig set, our life line to the Battalion.  


"Three Zero Alfa, Contact Wait Out". The sig let Company Head Quarters, (CHQ) into the picture. We might be in the shit now and if we needed help, they would be ready to give it to us. Have you ever heard the sound of something bashing through the scrub without worrying how much noise they were making? Well we heard it then and I can remember feeling very pleased. It sounded like a couple of people and if it was Viet Cong, who the hell else would it be, they knew artillery fire would be on its way. They were running for their very lives.

"Anybody got spigot grenades?" the Ginger Beer wanted to know. "Yes me" I said. I had taken part in a support weapons course in Australia, so now, a chance to fire the bloody things, after carrying them for months. Quickly I cleared the SLR, and made it safe. I was very careful about that after I had heard a story that someone had fired a spigot grenade from an SLR, without taking the ball cartridge out of the weapon. Nasty.

I chambered a ballastite cartridge, this would provide the propulsion for the spigot grenade. Positioning the angle of the muzzle to fire through the gap in the trees, and hopefully in front of the sounds of the VC scrub bashing, the Ginger Beer took the grenade off me & placed it over the muzzle, "fire" I pulled the trigger, Bang, off it went! Quickly I placed another cartridge in to the breach and placed the butt on the ground. "Fire", the grenade arched up and over the trees. In all we shot off four grenades.

We strained to hear the 'Bang' of the grenades. Unlike the movies, grenades do not explode in a ball of fire. The M26 grenades are fragmentation grenades. A length of wire, serrated, that is 'cut part way through' is wrapped around an explosive. The wire shreds, along with the casing of the grenade, and the effect is designed to kill or cause very nasty injuries. Excitement over for now, we admired the 'pop sshhhh' of the artillery rounds arriving overhead. As they broke open to give us light. A very bright yellow light, on the area with 'para flares'. Only thing you have to worry about is the canister. It has to go somewhere.

Hopefully it will not decide to fall in your area. Australian Gunners work over time when you need help and these flares were 'right on target'. Popping overhead and thus the canisters would drop away from us. Sgt King and the other Digger rejoined us, what were we going to next? I put a magazine back on the SLR and put a round up the spout. I was more interested in getting as much water down me as possible. Despite being night time, it was bloody warm and I needed a drink. I ripped out a water bottle and poured the water down my throat taking great gulps of it. Nearly choking, as it over flowed out of my month and on to my neck and shirt.

Surely Father would pull us out now? Not much point going in now that they know we are here. I was thinking! Sgt King was taking to 'Father' on the radio. I was willing him to pull us out. Yet I could just hear 'Fathers' modulated pommy tone over the handset, "Yes I think we can proceed with the ambush plan". That was that then! A few more days on the Hais. I instantly regretted the amount of water I had used.

The last flare fizzled out and darkness soon returned to the area. We waited a while to allow our night vision to re-establish, and for a few fast beating hearts to slow down, mine included. On a signal we started to shake out in to patrol formation. With the Ginger Beers leading, we formed up again and started moving. At first we moved under trees making the 'archway'. I tried to look in to the area to see if there was a sentry point but it was too dark. Looking back towards the other Diggers along the track I wanted to see what the nogs had seen? Although you could see shapes it was not possible to see if there were friend or foe. Perhaps this had saved us from a burst of AK47 fire? After that we seemed to move up the feature slightly, then across the mountains.  


Looking up you could see the outline of the Long Hais against the night sky. I always hated working in the areas near the Mountains but to be on the bloody things seemed like madness. My heart was in my mouth all the way. After about an another 'click' we stopped. Sgt King and I did a recce of an area near a well worn track junction. We seemed to be in a area closer to the ocean on the southern area of the Hais. No doubt on a track system that would lead to Lang Phouc Hai the local fishing village.

Now off the track it should be safer but the area was given the once over for mines, just in case. I then moved back to the waiting Diggers. Giving them the 'thumbs up', they filed past me through to were Sgt King placed them in the Ambush setup he wanted. I followed checking our track behind us for any unwanted visitors.  I was placed in position to the right of the ambush position. You could see the track through the light scrub, similar in fact to the sort of training we had done constantly in Australia.

But in this area and situation in the VCs backyard our noise discipline would have to be of the highest order. Living in your mind day after day. The sounds of silence. The first thing was to 'stand to'. Wait, watch and listen in case we had been picked up.

So all focus was on the track. I have no idea of the time but it must have been well after midnight. We then re-adjusted the position to place out claymore mines, but no trip flares this time. Then after 'stand down' it was time to get your own area fixed up. Moving very slowly and deliberately to unpack gear and lay out beding without making a sound. Pack off, Gat (rifle) ALWAYS within arms reach. Bedding placed out. In this case only a silk inside the 'blow-up' cover as it was very warm this time of year. Then try and get some sleep until your turn on piquet on the M60 machine gun.

The rest of the five days were a bit of an anti climax. It was a strange way to work. No noise, everything done slowly and deliberately. At no time did we stand on our feet, having to roll over close to your gun pit, to have a piss. A couple of events set the pulses racing as someone reckoned they could hear movement. "Thumbs Down". ENEMY. Your mind seemed to scream it in your head. Your heart would thump. Mouth dry as sand paper. Down on the deck, quickly and quietly as possible. Getting a sight picture on the track area. When it was clear that no one was coming our way the 'thumbs up' sign would be given. Slowly everything would return to normal. Your heart would go back to normal till you could not hear it. The ache in the stomach would ease till you could ignore it. You would tell your self, we have the advantage. They cannot see us. We are the hunters they are the prey. More on Ambushing on page: "Ambush in Vietnam".

At the end of the Ambush period when it came time to move out it was agony. Trying to get legs moving which had not had weight on them for 5 days. The blood flowed and muscles started working again. Trying to ignore the pain as we moved ever so slowly away from the dreaded Long Hais. At least the pack was lighter as we had eaten every bit of food we had brought with us and most of the water.  As we moved out of the area we made our way past an old house perhaps used as a temple? Someone made the remark on a short stop it would make a great ambush position. You know we even did that during our Tour?

 I had spent another of my birthdays in the scrub. That made it birthdays number 21 and 22, I am still waiting for the parties I missed. I could only hope that my 23rd birthday would be some where better?   



A mine field was laid from Horse Shoe down to the sea. A distance of many miles. This mine field ignored the rules of war. It was never covered by fire or watched by the local South Vietnamese Forces who had neither the skills, number of men or the interest to do so.

The result of which the VC. 'lifted' and removed many hundreds of the mines and used them against Australian Forces. Many of the Battalions including 7RAR, suffered many casualties because of the damn things. The Vietnam Veteran Federation based at Granville NSW are working on a project that will tell the story of the mine field. The mine that 3 Platoon patrol detonated was near to a small stream; after a night ambush we were returning to NDP Brigid.  For full Story & Photos; see page:- Mine Incident Page 20



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

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