My Life Story - Vietnam 1967-68 - The Battle of Coral and Balmoral
My Personal Pages

This is the story of my experiences at the battle of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral in May 1968. This is not a history. It is simply the events as I remember them.


This was the biggest battle Australians fought in the Vietnam War. It was the biggest in terms of the number of Australians involved, the size of the enemy force, and the number of Australians killed.









After Operation Pinnaroo, I was given a new job. I was transferred from Anti-Tank Platoon, to be a part of a new sub-unit known as Fire Control Centre (FCC). The composition of FCC was to be three radio operators from 3RAR and three from our supporting artillery unit, New Zealand’s 161 Battery. It was to be led by a Sergeant. We would work in the battalion command post whenever the battalion went out on operations. We would work on a 24 hour, two-on four-off roster. Our job was to work with 161 Battery, and with our own mortar platoon, to co-ordinate the battalion’s firing missions, with particular attention to our response to incoming fire.


It was common practice for members of Signal Platoon to be detached to various parts of the battalion, and sometimes these detachments could be for a short period. However, I had become quite attached to Anti-Tank, and was not particularly happy about moving. My disappointment was somewhat tempered when I was told that my selection for FCC was an indication that I was under consideration for positions of greater responsibility, and possibly for promotion. This seemed to be confirmed when I was put on a cadre course to obtain the necessary subjects for promotion to Corporal. The course was held in the couple of weeks between the end of Operation Pinnaroo and the beginning of Operation Toan Thang. I don’t remember how many subjects there were, but I do remember that I got the top marks for all of the subjects that had a formal marking system. Most of the other candidates were already acting corporals, doing the course to formalize their field promotions. By the time our tour ended, I would be in the unusual position of having topped the cadre course, while somehow managing to be the only person on the course who was still a private.


Unfortunately, I had a problem with the Sergeant who was my new boss. He showed disturbing signs of incompetence, as well as being a hopeless drunk. Before the start of Operation Toan Thang, I went to the RSO and told him about my concerns. I was worried that this bloke could get us into trouble out in the bush, or that I might be forced into a position of insubordination because I may have no confidence in his leadership. This is exactly the sort of thing no officer wants to hear, and I was advised to bite my tongue and toe the line on this first operation, and that the situation would be reviewed when we returned to base after the op. As it turned out, the problem solved itself when, on the eve of departure for the operation that would take us into the biggest Australian battle of the Vietnam War, in which FCC would play a vital part, this bloke got blind drunk, fell into a weapon pit and broke his arm. I never had to serve under him in operational conditions, and he was never replaced. FCC remained under strength, and was never led by a Sergeant.




This is me at FSB Evans, near Long Binh, on Operation Toan Thang.

FSB Coral


Operation Toan Thang began on the 21st of April, but we didn’t move into FSB Coral until the 12th of May. There was a lot of movement in the intervening weeks. To make things just that little bit more interesting, Toan Thang was going to be our first operation held entirely in the wet season. First we went to the north of Phuoc Tuy province and operated out of FSB Thornton. Then we moved over the border into Long Kanh province, to FSB Dyke. Next, we moved to an open area just north of the massive American Bien Hoa – Long Binh military complex. The command post was just outside Long Binh, at FSB Evans. On the 3rd of May we returned briefly to Nui Dat, before going back to Bien Hoa province, to FSB Andersen, the scene of our earlier battles in February. We hadn’t been there long however, before we were ordered to move to a place near the Bien Hoa - Binh Duong provincial border. This was FSB Coral.





Tiger Country



3RAR flew in to Coral on the 12th of May. Part of our job was to prepare a landing zone for the units that would follow us. These included another infantry battalion (1RAR) and two artillery batteries, the New Zealand 161 Battery, and the Australian 102 Battery, all of whom were supposed to land in the afternoon and set up the defensive perimeter of FSB Coral. From the moment we arrived, nothing went right. There were simply too many problems with the site. Because of heavy fighting on the ground between American and North Vietnamese units, adequate reconnaissance of the site had not been possible. When the artillery people landed, they found that the sites chosen for their guns were unusable. It took all day for this problem to be fixed and the guns re-sited.


When we landed at Coral, we found battle-weary Americans preparing to leave. Later, in the command post, officers kept coming in with stories of meeting Americans who seemed incredulous that we would want to move into this site. They referred to it as “Tiger Country,” slang for an area of intense enemy activity. Against this background, through no fault of their own, 1RAR flew in just before last light, much too late to complete their intended first day activities.


When I finished my work in the 3RAR command post, there was little time left to dig in before last light. I was told that there was no time for any of us to dig full weapon pits with sleeping bays and overhead cover. All of 3RAR was being told to dig only shell scrapes. A shell scrape is an open, shallow pit, around 18 inches to two feet deep. It has no overhead cover.


The attack came in the middle of the night, around 1 a.m. It started with mortars, and was followed by a ground assault on the 1RAR positions. Some of the 1RAR rifle companies had moved out too far to establish a tight perimeter, and gaps had been left between them. The NVA forces were able to attack through the gaps, into the 1RAR mortar platoon, which was virtually wiped out, and into the guns. They reached as far as the D & E platoon, the protection for Task Force HQ, but they seemed content to partially overrun 102 battery and capture one gun. The artillery boys fought them off with a combination of hand-to-hand combat and point blank firing of artillery, and won back the gun.


The full brunt of the NVA ground assault was felt by two blokes who would become prominent players later in my life story. Phill Thompson, who was to become National President of the VVAA, was on his second tour of duty with 1RAR, as a sergeant in the mortar platoon, while Bob Gibson, who would later become the driving force behind the Australian Vietnam Forces Welcome Home Parade, was in D & E platoon.


3RAR was to the west of the road that ran north-south through Coral. We were facing west to southwest, and all of the action was happening behind us. Some historians have suggested that Coral was almost fatally overrun that night. While it is true that parts of 1RAR and the artillery were overrun, I believe the presence of 3RAR at Coral has been largely overlooked. If called upon, I have no doubt that we could have turned around and mounted a counterattack. At the very least we could have moved to strengthen the defences of the Task Force command post. As it happened, we weren’t needed. With assistance from American helicopter gunships and “Puff the Magic Dragon,” a DC3 converted into a gunship with massive firepower, 1RAR and the gunners won the day.


I have two dominant memories of that first night at Coral. The first was a memory of watching, almost spellbound, red lines of tracer bullets from Puff waving in the night sky, when suddenly one of the lines changed direction, and came inside the 3RAR defences over to my left. Fortunately it did no damage, and its direction was corrected almost immediately. The other lasting memory is of those fateful words that kept coming back to me throughout the night: “just dig a shell scrape,” they kept saying ... “just dig a shell scrape.”






FSB Coral, the morning after the first attack. The smoke is coming from 102 Battery. Just above their position is the 1RAR mortar platoon. These were the positions that were overrun by the NVA. (Photo from Australian War Memorial [AWM] collection).






My old platoon, Anti-Tank, prepares to leave Coral.






The first thing I remember about Coogee is that I had to do my first shift in the CP before I had a chance to finish digging in. When I completed my shift and got back to my pit I found it completely full of water. I had to start again, digging a new pit, this time with an adequate drainage channel around it.


For most people who were at Coogee the strongest memory would be the exploding APC. I have more reason than anyone to remember this incident, because I had a most uncomfortable ringside view.


In the few weeks I had been with FCC, one of the activities I had found to occupy the time between shifts in the CP was playing cards with the crew of one of the armoured personnel carriers that were supporting us on this operation. I had just finished one of these games and was walking back to my own pit when the crew members in the APC next to the one in which I had been playing cards began scrambling out of the vehicle and running for cover. Ammunition in the APC then started exploding. There was an open weapon pit about six feet (two metres) from the exploding APC, and I dived into it. The explosions escalated, and as I sat there I could see tracer rounds and flashes of various kinds passing over my head. At one point I heard an almighty thud as something hit the ground just behind my head.


At this point I had no idea what had caused these explosions. For all I knew, the APC might have been under enemy fire. So I had no choice but to stay in the pit until the explosions stopped. Whenever I thought it was all over, and it might be safe to stick my head out of the pit and see what was going on, a grenade would explode, a trip flare would ignite, or a belt of 30 calibre bullets or a box of rifle bullets would catch fire and start shooting into the air over my head. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it seemed like hours, and probably was.


Eventually things went quiet. Then I heard voices behind me. A couple of blokes were saying things like “Wow! Look at that!” Then someone said “Hey, there’s someone in there” (meaning me). That’s when I decided it was safe to poke my head up above ground level. Only then did I discover what these blokes were talking about when they said “Wow! Look at that!” In the photograph below, one circular hatch cover can be seen in the open position. Next to it there is an open hatch, but no hatch cover. That is because the hatch cover, a huge lump of heavy metal, was sitting on the ground, no more than one foot (30cm) from where my head had been.


This is the APC that exploded at Coogee while I sat in a weapon pit no more than two metres from it. [AWM photo collection].


Apart from the exploding APC, the other thing I remember about Coogee is that somewhere just outside the wire there was a 44 gallon drum of CS powder, a powerful skin irritant, with a hole in it. Whenever the wind blew from the direction of this drum, anybody who had taken their shirt off to work in the heat was in for a nasty surprise.









The battalion had plenty of small to medium size skirmishes at Coogee, which resulted in significant enemy casualties. While we were there however, Coral was attacked again. The acting Task Force Commander (the same Colonel Dunstan who had presented me with my trophy at Kapooka two years earlier) decided we would have a better crack at the NVA units that were attacking Coral if we relocated further to the north. So we moved on again, this time to FSB Balmoral.


When we flew in to Balmoral on the 24th of May, it was not yet called Balmoral. On my first shift on the command post radio, it was marked on the map as LZ Sugar. Although we knew exactly where we were going to land, there were three possible landing zones marked on the map. They were called Salt, Pepper and Sugar. Presumably this was a precaution against the possibility of the map falling into enemy hands.


The historians who wrote the "official" history of this episode in Australia's Vietnam War consulted primary source material in Vietnam, and found that Balmoral was a mere 1500 metres from the headquarters of the 7th Division of the North Vietnamese Army. I must say when I read that I was not surprised. The NVA certainly seemed keen to remove us from that particular piece of real estate.


There was a definite "vibe" about Balmoral. Everyone I spoke to was certain we were going to be hit. On the first night the rain was intense and constant, and it seemed that the rain must have been the only reason the NVA refrained from attacking us on that first night.


The first night reprieve proved doubly important. First, unlike the disaster of the first day at Coral, where we ended up with no time to dig in properly, at Balmoral we had more than adequate time to shore up our defences. Secondly, with no artillery at Balmoral, our CO, Lieutenant Colonel Shelton, wanted to experiment with the use of tanks as fire support. The extra time proved crucial in giving the tanks time to reach Balmoral and set themselves up to cover the open space in front of the Delta Company sector of the perimeter.



The killing ground at Balmoral, looking north. The ground assaults came across this open ground in front of D Company. [AWM collection].




The First Attack


At Balmoral my pit was close to the CP, facing north towards the D Company perimeter. The tanks and APCs were between me and D Company. Earlier in Operation Toan Thang, I had been hootchied up next door to an American heavy artillery unit. A couple of American gunners from California befriended me, and I spent a couple of hours each night in their bunker listening to their tapes of the latest psychedelic music from San Francisco. It was in that bunker that I first heard the voice of Janis Joplin, who immediately became my favourite female singer.


These Americans couldn't believe the spartan conditions of my pit by comparison with their bunker, and they gave me a brand new blow-up air bed. By the time we arrived at Balmoral, I had only been using it for about three weeks.


There is a little beastie in Vietnam that no veteran who ever encountered it will ever forget. I don't know what its official name is, but we called it the chomper ant. It moved in massive swarms. So voracious was its appetite that a swarm of chomper ants could turn a strip of jungle into a fire break as it moved through in a straight line. Most chompers were about the size of an average Australian green ant. But every swarm was led by extra large males, about the size of an Australian bull ant, with an armoured-plated carapace and huge pincers. When they bite, the pincers cross over under the skin, so that the ant can't be pulled off without a chunk of skin coming off with it.


I was just settling down to sleep on the second night at Balmoral when I heard a soft rumbling sound, followed by a sustained hissing, which I recognised as air escaping from an airbed that had been chomped by a swarm of chomper ants.


I scrambled out of there, and sat on the sandbags on top of my pit. I figured there was at least a possibility that the NVA would not attack that night, but there was no chance that I could sleep in my pit without being bitten by chompers.


Eventually I must have fallen asleep, because I was woken by a mortar explosion, which caused a tree branch to land right next to me. I jumped down into the opening of my pit, and tried to to see if the chomper ants were still there.


I was on my knees, and my head was at ground level when there was a sudden blinding white flash, and it felt like I was being kicked in the head from every direction at once. At the moment of the white flash I had the strangest primal urge to call out for my mother, but that moment passed. After the white flash everything went black and completely silent. I couldn't see, I couldn't hear, and I couldn't feel. I realised that I had been hit by an explosion and I must be dying. It was extraordinarily peaceful and quiet. I felt like I was just floating away. I thought "this is not so bad, it's completely painless."


Then it occurred to me that I was still thinking, so I must be alive. I still couldn't see or hear, but I started biting my tongue to see if I could feel it. Then I became aware that I was in a kneeling position, and I could feel my arms. So I pinched them until more feeling came back, and eventually sight came back too. First it was swirling coloured spots, mostly red. This must be what is often described as "seeing stars." It took a lot longer for my hearing to come back, and I'm not sure it ever has returned to its original standard. I have suffered from tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, since that night.


When I eventually came to my senses, on rubbery legs I somehow managed to cross the sandy ground between my weapon pit and the battalion command post.


I made an inglorious entrance, tumbling down the steps into the CP bunker in a cloud of dust, with mortars and RPG rockets still exploding outside. I hasten to add that I was not the first and certainly not the last to tumble down into the CP that night. My memory concurs with the description in Lex McAuley's book of the Regimental Signals Officer Ossie Kleinig making a similar tumbling entrance.


Somebody, I can't remember who (most likely the mortar officer Captain "Blue" Doyle), remarked on my appearance by saying something like "you look like you've had a bit of a rough night." I muttered something in reply and laughed. As I moved to my place at the table, I tried to shake off some of the dust that covered me. It was then that I realised that the top right side of my forehead was itchy. I put my hand up to scratch it, and found that I was scratching dried blood. I had a small gash, right at the spot that used to be the front of the parting in my hair before Beatlemania put an end to hair parting in the early sixties. I guess that gash must have been made by a stone kicked up by the explosion, because all but the top of my head had been below ground level when the mortar exploded near my pit. I scratched away the blood and settled down to do my shift on the radio.


I was using a remote handset, attached to a radio just outside the bunker. The radio was protected by sandbags, but it was attached to a remote antenna, which had been placed up in a tree to improve its range. While I was at work in the CP, that tree was hit by an RPG rocket and I lost communications. I had no choice but to go outside and locate the problem. When I saw what had happened I had to find my way to the sig store bunker to get a replacement antenna. This was no easy task, since it was dark, there was a battle going on, rockets were exploding in the trees, and there were all kinds of flashes going off, making it difficult to see. It was a bit like trying to see your way in the dark by using a strobe light instead of a torch. When I found the sig store, it was barely visible through what seemed like a thick fog made up of smoke and dust. As I remember it, the faces I saw through the fog were Ossie Kleinig and Tony Zammit. I told them what my problem was, and they gave me a new antenna. Then I had to find my way back to my radio, attach the new antenna, and get back to work in the CP. By this time the ground assault was underway on the Delta Company perimeter.







Balmoral at dawn after the first attack, with the dust and smoke of battle still in the air. A tank can be seen at left of picture. [AWM collection].




Four 3RAR members were killed in the first attack, and 42 enemy bodies were found out in front of the D Company wire. A lot of wounded NVA soldiers were taken as prisoners. Their wounds were treated and they were evacuated along with our own wounded.


Wounded NVA prisoners being placed on makeshift stretchers for evacuation. [AWM collection].



The Morning After


I don’t remember much about the day after the first attack. I do remember I was on duty in the CP when the casualty reports started coming in. One name on the wounded list was significant to me. Since I moved from Anti-Tank Platoon I had been sharing a tent back at Nui Dat with a young Queenslander called “Spider” Webb. He was wounded in the first attack and sent back to Australia. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him before he was evacuated, but his weapon pit was so close to mine that he may well have been wounded by the same mortar explosion that had knocked me senseless. A few weeks later he wrote to me, enclosing a clipping of a story about him in a local paper.




My Nui Dat "hootchie-mate" Simon "Spider" Webb, with his arm in a sling, waiting for dustoff at Balmoral.

After the first attack, nobody I spoke to was under any illusion that the battle for Balmoral was over. We all expected to be hit again. The next evening we had another torrential downpour, as bad as the one on the first night. I don’t know to what extent these weather conditions influenced the NVA not to attack on those nights. It may well be that they needed more time to plan for the first attack, and more time to regroup for the second. Whatever the reason, the second attack came two nights after the first. Working two hours on and four hours off on a 24 hour roster in the CP did not leave me much time to rest, let alone sleep, and I used all of my spare time to fill more sandbags and reinforce my pit.





A bulldozer backfills a mass grave containing 42 NVA bodies at Balmoral. [AWM collection].

The Second Attack


The night of the 27th – 28th of May 1968 changed my life forever. It wasn’t just the second attack on Balmoral. It was the cumulative effect of four solid months of combat activity since Tet. February, March, April and May had been the most intense period of the Vietnam War, and 3RAR was the only Australian battalion that was there throughout those four months. First there was the Tet Offensive, and the battles in Baria and Long Dien. Then we faced repeated mortar, rocket and ground attacks at Fire Support Base Andersen. That was followed by an extremely nasty operation in the Long Hai Hills and my first experience of the loss of a close friend. Finally, here we were in the biggest Australian battle of the Vietnam War at Coral and Balmoral.


When this attack started with a mortar bombardment, I was asleep in my pit. My near-death experience of two nights earlier was still fresh in my mind. This would be my fifth experience of a mortar attack in four months, and was certain to be followed by the sixth ground assault in that same period. This time I knew exactly what was coming, and I had plenty of time to think about it. This greater awareness of what was happening meant that I would experience a level of sheer terror that I still find difficult to describe, even from a distance of four decades.


The explosions shook the ground in my pit and showered me with dirt. If one explosion seemed closer than the one before, I knew that I had to wait for the next one, because it would either be closer still than the one before, or it might land on the other side of me. If the next one also seemed a little closer, then I had to wait … and wait … and wait … for the next one, which could be the one that would kill or maim me. If that one landed on the other side of me, then I could breathe again until the next volley of rounds, when they would start getting closer again.


I tried everything I knew, including prayer, to distract myself from the thought that I could die at any moment. Suddenly, because of my experience of two nights earlier, the possibility of my own death was a reality to be faced, rather than some abstract notion that I didn’t need to think about. In this situation you feel helpless. You have no control over whether you live or die. The next mortar bomb will either kill you or it won’t. There is nothing you can do about it.


Somehow it was not just the fact that I could die, but where and how I could die that I found myself thinking about. I could die, here, tonight, in this hole in the ground, thousands of miles from anything I had ever called home. How was this possible? I was an innocent country boy from Australia. I had barely lived. How could I possibly have taken a path that could lead me to this place? How could this possibly be happening? I could not identify with reality, because this reality was too absurd. The very notion that I could die here, on this night, in this place, in this war, was just mad. Suddenly I remembered the title of an early sixties musical, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.” That was exactly how I felt. I wanted to stop this absurdity and go back to the point where I had made the decisions that had led me here. I must be mad, because sane reality made no sense. Two nights earlier I had a glimpse of what it might be like to die. Now I found myself on the brink of madness.


In the end, what brought me back to sanity was the knowledge that I was not alone. Everybody else at Balmoral must have been feeling the same terror I was feeling, and we all depended on each other to deal with it one way or another and get on with our jobs. Whatever happened, I could not be the one to crack. If others could handle it, then so could I.   


As with the earlier attack, the ground assault came in front of D Company, and again it was successfully repelled with assistance from the tank and APC crews. There are plenty of graphic accounts of the fighting in Lex McAulay’s book on the battle. Since this is my own story, and my job was in the command post, I can’t add anything to those accounts. My role in winning the battle was a modest one. I would always be the most junior person in the CP, taking and sending messages on my radio, constantly amazed at the confidence and calmness that surrounded me, personified by the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Shelton, and the other officers who worked in the CP.


From my experience of the mortar and rocket attack and the activity during my early morning shift in the battalion CP, my impression was that the NVA threw more at us in the second attack than the first. In the circumstances, the fact that only one 3RAR member was killed in the second attack was nothing short of miraculous.







Some B Company diggers resting on the morning after the first attack at Balmoral [AWM collection]. In the background, looking towards the camera, is my best mate Ross Murie (still a good friend today.) Barely visible to the right of Ross is Jeffrey Worle. In the second attack, just 36 hours after this picture was taken, these two would take a direct hit on their pit from an NVA mortar, and Jeffrey Worle would be killed.





Another Morning After


Again I was on duty in the CP when the casualty reports came in, and again they included a familiar name. My best friend, Ross Murie, was evacuated to hospital. There was no detail in the report, so I had no way of knowing what had happened to Ross. Ross and I had been together in 8RAR, we had been together in D&E Platoon on Exercise Barra Winga, we had been in the same platoon when we returned to 8RAR, and we had been transferred to the same platoon in 3RAR, where we shared a house off base in Adelaide. Furthermore, his family lived just a few miles from mine, and his father and my father had served in the same battalion in the Second World War.


Sometime during the morning I did something stupid. I thought this battle was likely to be a big story back home, so I wrote a letter to my parents, to assure them that I was okay. In the letter I also mentioned that Ross had been sent to hospital, although I didn’t know the extent of his wounds. I stupidly told my parents that they could probably get the news from Ross’s parents faster than I could get it. Ross had been asleep when his weapon pit took a direct hit from an NVA mortar. The young man who shared his weapon pit, Jeffrey Worle, had been killed instantly, but Ross had escaped with barely a scratch. He had been evacuated with a bad case of shock, but no physical wounds. For this reason, he had not been officially listed as wounded in action, and therefore his parents had not been informed. You can just imagine their reaction when they found out from my parents, and not from Defence, that their son had been a cas-evac. They angrily confronted the army, the Defence Department, and their local member of parliament, and their protests eventually reached the Minister for Defence himself. All because of a thoughtless comment in a letter from me. I may have thought of myself as a battle-hardened veteran, but here was a reminder that I was still an immature young man, barely out of my teens.






Back to the Dat



The second attack on Balmoral was the last significant attacking move by the NVA in this operation. Remaining contacts tended to involve patrols from 1RAR at Coral and 3RAR at Balmoral locating remnants of the NVA units and engaging with them. The biggest of these skirmishes involved C Company 1RAR on the 30th of May. It soon became apparent that we had won the battle, and that what remained was a mopping up operation.


On the 5th of June, we left Balmoral by helicopter and returned to Nui Dat. We arrived at Kangaroo Pad, the main helicopter pad at Nui Dat. The 3RAR lines were still outside the old southeastern perimeter of the base, so any move from Kangaroo Pad to 3RAR required a convoy of vehicles. So much equipment was being transported back from Coral by road that transport at Nui Dat must have been in short supply, because what awaited us at Kangaroo Pad appeared to be a ragtag collection of whatever vehicles could be rounded up. We climbed aboard overloaded Land Rovers and trucks of all shapes and sizes and off we went; a ragged looking bunch of dirty and exhausted diggers, covered with red mud. As we drove through the Task Force Headquarters area something surprising started to happen. Wherever we went, soldiers would come out of their tents to look at us. They just stood and watched, with respect in their eyes. I had never been more exhausted in my life, but suddenly I felt ten feet tall. This silent tribute continued with every unit we passed on our way through Nui Dat.


In spite of all we had been through since Tet, we were not yet halfway through our tour of duty.







Historical Context



The attacks on Coral and Balmoral effectively destroyed the 7th NVA Division, and ended its ability to take part in the May offensive in Saigon. As a later student of history, I find it interesting that the May offensive in Saigon and the battle at Coral and Balmoral coincided with some momentous events around the world. The first attack on Coral was launched on the 13th of May, the very same day as the student barricades in Paris. Lesser riots happened at the same time in London and other European cities. It was also the time of the Prague spring and a season of violence in the United States following the assassination of Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy was assassinated on the night of our return to Nui Dat after the battle.







The Aftermath



In 1987, nineteen years after the battle, I was at a barbecue with other veterans and their families and friends at a rural property near Dapto, in New South Wales. When the host heard that I had been at Balmoral, he took me by the arm and said “You’re coming with me. There’s someone I want you to meet.” He marched me up to the house and introduced me to his wife and daughters. He said “Go ahead, tell them about Balmoral. I’ve been trying to tell them for years about being in a small patch of jungle, surrounded and heavily outnumbered by the North Vietnamese Army who tried to overrun us, and how we not only stopped them but won a great victory. They reckon their old man is just spinning stories. They reckon if it happened like I said, it’d be famous, like Gallipoli, Tobruk or Kokoda.” I knew exactly what this bloke meant. I had tried to tell friends about Coral and Balmoral, and they would listen, but only in the same way that they would listen to any of my other stories. They couldn’t possibly grasp the enormity of what this particular story meant to me. They couldn’t read in my eyes the unspoken plea: “if you don’t get this, you’ll never get me.”


There was a war correspondent with 3RAR at Balmoral. I don’t recall whether it was Jim Oram or Ron Saw, both of whom spent some time with us. He wrote an article about the battle for a weekly magazine. Again, I don’t remember whether it was Pix, Post or People, but I remember his concluding comments about Balmoral. He said, and these may not be his exact words, but they are very close: “perhaps the defining battle of the Vietnam War is yet to be fought. But until it is, I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I was at Fire Support Base Balmoral.”






My Life Story - Homecoming

My Life Story - Itchy Feet

My Life Story - On The Road Again

My Life Story - London, QPR, and the North Sea

My Life Story - Vietnam Veterans

My Life Story - The Welcome Home Parade

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