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 2 - Page 12 - Updated JANUARY 2008 - Next Page:- Arrival in Viet Nam 13/35

[site map] [Chapter One]  [Chapter Two] [oink a digger 10] [7 battalion 11] [platoon set up 12[Chapter Three]

PLATOON SET UP July 1969 to February 1970

 Site Index




site map1

site intro 2

orderly room 3

announcements 4

books 5

student page 6


memorial 8



intro to oink 9

 oink a digger 10

  7 battalion PIGS 11

 platoon set up 12



 arrival in viet 13

contact wait out 14

 enemy 15

 odd angry shot 16

 advance contact 17



 bunker battle 18

night move 19

 mine incident 20

 ambush 21



 end of tour 22

 service 23

my case 24

 PTSD 25



arrival two 32



  • Platoon Set Up
  • What is a Platoon or Section?
  • Officers & NSO ranks
  • Exercises In Australia
  • Shoalwater Bay - Night March
  • Leaving For Vietnam
  • Formations:-
  • Stagged File Formation
  • Arrow Head Formation
  • Images 
  • ANZAC for this page
  • Next page in the story is:- "Arrival in Vietnam"- Page 12  

Oink on the docks in 1970 ready for the 'Big' adventure.

 What is a 'Platoon' or 'section' i hear you ask?

As i will be talking about 'SECTIONS' or 'PLATOONS', many times on this Site we had better look at what they are and how they are structured.

The SECTION is the smallest INFANTRY combat unit in the Australian Army. Except of course for Special Air Service units, (SAS). For Vietnam the manning of a Section on paper was 10 soldiers, on paper. A Corporal (Cpl) was the 'section commander'. The section is split in to 3 groups. The 'scout' group 2 soldiers, lead scout and his backup, weapon, usually the 5.56 M16.

The 'gun' group the fire power of the section. The gunner carries the 7.62 M60 belt fed machine gun. The links over Digger's shoulders you see in Vietnam photos are of 100 rounds. These links were spread around each section in addition to those carried by the Gunner and his number two.  The number 2 carrying his personal weapon the 7.62 Self Loading Rifle (SLR said as 'slurrr'), the third member of this group is also the Second In Charge (2ic) of the Section, rank of Lance Corporal, Lance Jack or 'Diggers batman'. The personal weapon of the 2ic, would be either the SLR or the M16, depending how many M16's alocated to the Section. As the 2ic would also carry the M79, a USA made grenade luncher, which fired 40mm rounds. The rounds were a number of charges. High Explosive (HE) Splintex, this round was made up of many steel darts, and parachute flares, used at night to provide illumination.

While we were told by 5 Battalion (TIGERS) Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR) briefings, sent back to us from Vietnam, that the illumination round fired from the M29, was not much chop. However after using it a few times in ambush situations in Australia, our platoon liked it. It was used many times in the same situation in Vietnam. Its quite comforting to see the light swinging down on the end of a small parachute lighting up the area. These briefings were part of the 5RAR & 7RAR working relationship.

As 7RAR had replaced Five Battalion in Vietnam in 1967 and we were due to do so again in 1970. Any reports made by Five in Vietnam were sent directly to our Battalion and used by us to prepare for our Tour. The other four soldiers in the section are riflemen. Their personal weapon is the Self Loading Rifle or SLR said as "SLRRR". Ammo for the SLR was carried in seven (7) magazines of 20 NATO 7.62 rimless rounds.

Six mags would go into the ammo pouches on your basic webbing and one mag on the weapon. The ammo pouches were World War Two issue 57 Patten webbing. See , Also between the section the soldiers would carry claymore mines, M72 rocket  launchers, smoke grenades. The layout on the move would be (scouts) (section commander) (gunner-number2-2ic) (riflemen). Each of the three sections would be laid out this way on the move.The Platoon is made up of 3 Sections. With its leader a 2nd Lieutenant as Platoon Commander, called "Boss" or "Skipper"in the field.

He did not were his "Pips" of his rank in the field. You certainly did not salute him. Unlike what you see in some Vietnam Movies. His Signaller, the Platoon SIG. He carried the vitally important communication with the Company and Battalion via the Platoon radio. Last but not least the Platoon Sergeant.

That makes 3 X 10 = 30 Diggers plus the Boss, Sig and Sgt, in Platoon Head Quarters, (PHQ).= 3 + 30 =33 per Platoon. This is on paper only. For many reasons a Platoon worked incountry well under strength. Below are the Infantry Battalion Ranks.

NON Commissioned Officers

  1. Warrant Officer Class One
  2. Warrant Officer Class Two
  3. Staff Sergeant
  4. Sergeant
  5. Corporal
  6. Lance Corporal
  7. Private Soldier.


  1. Lieutenant Colonel
  2. Major
  3. Captain
  4. Lieutenant
  5. Second Lieutenant


Exercise WILD FURY was held from 11 to 15 August in Holsworthy range, to practice combined work with Choppers and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). The weather matched the name with continuing rain all week. Exercise KING KONG was held from 24 to 31st August at Tianjara, down on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) it was held in cooperation with the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam for its own rotation to Vietnam.

 Canungra Jungle Training Centre

Canungra Jungle Training Centre or JTC was next. The famed Australian Jungle Training Centre set in the wilds of Queensland was a must for anyone going to Vietnam what ever their job or Corps. For the Diggers of "A" Company it meant being rotated through the Centre in September. A lot of time was spent firing on the ranges at Canungra. Some being snap shot lanes.

These were lanes cut into the jungle with pop up target and two Diggers would go along and when the targets "popped" up you were expected to get 2 rounds on target. This was the first time I was able to use and fire the M16 with live rounds. It was also the first time I was 'under fire', as the Centre had a range that you advanced across with a WW2 Vickers machine gun firing over our heads. It was a very clever way to get Diggers used to rounds flying around as you went about carry out platoon tactics and personal weapon drills. Weapon handling of course is the stock in trade of the infantry soldier and two range practices at Canungra stick in my mind.

First was the sneaker range, were two of you would walk along a hacked down area in thick scrub rifles at the ready and with the Directing Staff (DS) behind you the targets would 'Pop Up. You were expected to get off two shoots, on target before it disappeared. All very realistic and a very different type of training than just shooting at figure 8 targets on the range at 300 meters, as the pressure is on YOU to perform. The second practice was a section shoot, with live rounds.

That is the whole section, 10 Diggers on a start line with the M60 in the middle advance to contact and at a given signal we all opened up on targets to the front. Then with different parts of the section moving forward you would stop firing and start when the targets were clear. A great test. To be able to concentrate on your own target and rate of fire, reloading. Then move forward while watching the rest of the section. No wonder the high quality of the training at 'BATTLE WING' at CANUNGRA Australia's top jungle training school, is still spoken of today, over 30 years later.

In fact I turned 21 while at Canungra and I am still waiting for my birthday party. Little did I know I would spend my 22nd Birthday lying in Ambush near the Long Hai Mountains, in Phouc Tuy Province. While I was at Canungra Helen and her family were busy arranging our Wedding Day. As I had not much time up in the Army, so I was lucky to have a few days off so the wedding could take place. Then for us to have a few days together before rejoining the Battalion. As soon as I arrived in Wollongong after Canungra arrangements were well in place for the wedding, which took place on 4th October 1969.

Below are a few thumb-nails of the Wedding Day Click on them to see the full size image.

Irene; was Helen's Bridesmaid, is in the red dress. She is next to my Best man TONY PRATT. Tony was also a member of 3 Platoon. I was devistated to hear that TONY died some years ago.


The time spent at Shoalwater Bay was well spent. During the year 2000, I drove past the area during a trip to Queensland. It took an age and that was at 100 kilometres per hour. Even from the road the area that I could see was massive. However back in 1969 my introduction to the area was a night march with the platoon that was extremely difficult. We had left the platoon position and started walking. The night way extremely warm and the pace was quite fast for walking in the dark. After only a short time I began to feel the effects and had difficulty putting one foot in front of the other. However I forced myself to keep going, I was going to finish tonight come what may.

On a previous exercise I had failed to finish it exercise. This was due to twisting my ankle, but it was not as bad as I made out. I had the shits over the continuous walking and wanted to have a break. So I dropped out and had a couple of days living back at base. I did not want to drop out this time as I realised that if I did my reputation would not recover.

So I continued mile after mile after mile. Just concentrating on putting one foot forward and then the other. I had a go at 'singing' the words of some Beatles songs I knew to take my mind off what my body was going through. It was clear to me that if I allowed myself to 'give in' I would be at risk in Vietnam by not having the mental strength to overcome difficult situations. It was many months later and in Vietnam before I came to understand that my condition was caused by a failure to adapt to the hot conditions and not drinking enough water to prevent cramp or heat exhaustion. Its something to day I am aware of if working or playing sport in very hot weather, plenty of fluids.

Perhaps it had something to do with my pommy background and coming from a cold climate? What ever it was it is a problem I have had when involved in hard yakka so I need a good intake of fluids. Later in Vietnam I found a number of time that I had a difficulty with loosing body fluids in the hot and humid climate and needed lots of water and salt to maintain my fitness. I am sure now that was the reason.

As by the time we were working in Vietnam I was as fit as I was going to be. As at no time during the Tour, as bad as the conditions in Vietnam were, was I in as much distress as I was that night. Nor did I have to continually use my mind to fight my body to stay in the game. The mind however was a different kettle of fish. I was very grateful that Members of the platoon pitched in to help me by taking some of my gear.

But I did not surrender my personal weapon, the SLR. Finally about 0400hrs we stopped our position a stunning feature, that gave us a tourist viewpoint over the Queensland bush. When the sun came up we could see for miles. When I heard other Diggers in the Battalion had dropped out, I was very pleased with myself that I had stuck at it this time and had arrived at the feature with the platoon. Knowing I had stuck with it despite how bad I felt. I knew that walking would not worry me in Viet Nam.

After the frantic pace of the night march the relaxing nature of the platoon position was just excellent. From the height of the feature we could see how close the water was. I longed for my surf board so I could  get into the water. Little did I know that; being so far north there was no surf due to the Barrier Reef. However I did get to see a magnificent mating flying display by a pair of Peregrine Falcons and I was disappointed that I did not have a camera. It was a time that made me decide to carry a camera while in Vietnam.

One of the features of the exercise was a Village set up as a Viet Cong Village. People walking around in Black PJs and with the conical hats that the Vietnamese wore. We did a cordon and search, operation moving in to the Village early in the morning and moving through it as if it was an unfriendly one, as most of them turned out to be, incountry. I seem to remember a lot of attention on the correct searching of bodies in case of booby traps. While this was a feature of Battalion activities in Vietnam at that time, I cannot remember after all that training, 'A' Company taking part in one cordon and search while incountry. As the tactical situaltion had changed and we worked with different methods.

The time spent at the BAY was the longest exercise in Australia and it mapped the sort of activities that we would face in Vietnam. As the Battalion was tested at every level from the Very Top to the last Digger and found to be "fit, well trained and confident battalion with good leaders at all levels", as assessed by Major General Sandy Pearson.


Some of the ideas 7RAR had in those days would not be seen out of place in todays ADF, but then they were considered a "little way out". For example, all of our SLRs and M16s were painted with green and brown camouflage paint.

The Battalion held a Church Service and Fairwell Parade on 7RAR Parade Ground at the Holsworthy base on 4th February 1970. Helen came to watch but this time as my wife.  

The Advance Parties left Australia on 10th February and 17th February to ensure that the arrival of the rest of the Battalion in Vietnam would go as smoothly as possible. The rest of the Battalion were to move to Vietnam aboard the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney on the 16th February 1970.

We were bused down to the docks from Holsworthy with all our gear. It was good that our families were allowed their last contact with us by being on the dockside with us. A couple of the photos taken at that time are on this page. We then boarded the Sydney and said goodbye for 12 months, waving as the ship moved away from the dock at 1130 hours and into Sydney Harbour for the voyage up north.  

Our marksmanship was tested on the voyage as we did Company shoots of the back of the Sydney at balloons thrown into the water. HMAS Sydney docked at just before dawn at VIETNAM in the harbour of Vung Tau on the 27th February 1970. It was going to be a long year before we would be back on board and on the way home to Australia. Some of the Battalion would not be coming home.




FORMATIONS    {see diagrams below}

 The Platoon would move in a FORMATION dictated by the type of country being moved across. If it was close country difficult to move it would be, SINGLE FILE. For example, (7 Section in the lead ) the Boss & Sig ( 8 Section) (Platoon Sgt) (followed by Section 9).

The last Digger in the last section was called "Tail end Charlie" and he was responsible to ensure that the platoon was not being followed by the bad guys. In open types of country the Sections would move in different formations such as STAGGERED FILE and ARROWHEAD.

The Platoon would also be in this formation. Thus is open country the Platoon would be well spread out to be able to give it self as much security as possible if the shit hit the fan. Staggered file is basically side by side, but the solders are not opposite each other. Space between soldiers is the name of the game. 



Direction of Travel, North.












RIFLEMAN (tail end charlie)



Each section would adopt this formation as would the Platoon depending on the type of country the Platoon was travelling in. The section commander would move up to the 2nd Scout to pass on information or compass baring.

On the move there would be absolutely NO talking. Only hand signals were used to pass messages between the Diggers. It was important that the signals went up the line or down the line.









                    Section Commander                                Gunner 

                Number 2                                                               2ic 

        Rifleman                                                                           Rifleman 

   Rifleman                                                                                                      Rifleman    


THUMBNAILS. To see full image, click on individual image & use Browser back button to return to page.

Helen Tony (2).jpg

Helen Tony (2)


HMAS Sydney  © "Daily Telegraph"

This image given to me by my brother Andrew a few years ago, shows 7RAR on Parade, as the HMAS Sydney moves away from the dock in Sydney, for a long 12 months Tour of Duty in Vietnam.

tony pratt.jpg

Tony Pratt



Walking Out Of The Church Together on the 4th October 1969.









  Next Page Title: "Arrival in Vietnam" - Page 13 

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