27 June 2001
I haven't added anything to this site since "The Decade of Silence", mainly because it was such hard work. I had to retype the whole thing onto a word document and transfer it onto the website a paragraph at a time.
Also, my time has been taken up with planning my Gallipoli trip, and trying to drum up some funding from somewhere, to make the Greek part of the trip feasible. It's not an easy thing to do on a veteran's disability pension.
I look forward to continuing to tell the Welcome Home Parade story as soon as I find the time. I'd also like to be able to find the time to expand other parts of the site, such as my sporting, musical and political interests, because this is not supposed to be only a Vietnam veteran site, it's supposed to be more diverse than that. The trouble is, I've got so much Vietnam War stuff to put on the site that it tends to dominate.
6 June 2001
Okay, so I spoke too soon about the physiotherapy. After two weeks of regular exercise I went into one of my regular slumps. So I've been crook for a couple of weeks, hence the break in news on this page. Unfortunately, during that period the anniversary of the battle at FSB Balmoral in May 1968 has come and gone, so maybe I'll find another place to record my memories of that battle.
I'm really impressed by the quality of people who have signed my guestbook. I'm also impressed by the way this website has reconnected me with old friends, and also opened up new communication possibilities.
I have received an official invitation to give a paper at an Australian History conference in September at Gallipoli. Apart from being an exciting prospect in itself, this conference gives me an opportunity to try to trace my father's escape from Greece to Turkey when he was an Australian soldier in World War Two. I'm working on a separate page for this website, which I am calling "Gallipoli 2001", on which I hope to tell the full story of this opportunity and what it means to me.
18 May 2001
After the first week, the physiotherapy is going well. I haven't collapsed and I haven't given up, so that's a good sign.
The past week contained an important anniversary, at least for me. The 13th of May, 1968 is a date with some significance for anyone interested in recent history. It was the day of the barricades in Paris, the day when students brought France to the brink of revolution, or so it seemed to some at the time. For me though, the date is significant as the night the North Vietnamese Army attacked Fire Support Base Coral, beginning the biggest battle fought by Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War. Twenty-five Australians were killed, eleven of them on the 13th.
The story of the battle is well told in Lex McAulay's book, The Battle of Coral, published by Hutchinson Australia in 1988. McAulay tells it just as I remember it. I was with 3RAR. We were the first to arrive at Coral. Our job was to clear an LZ for 1RAR and the Artillery, who were to arrive later. Well, it was a shambles from the start. The sites chosen for the LZ and for the Artillery to set up their guns were completely unsuitable. Other sites had to be found, and as a result our work was delayed by several hours. Not only that, but everybody I've spoken to who remembers that first day at Coral remembers, as I do, that there was something eerie about the place: a feeling that something significant and not very pleasant was going to happen there. It didn't help that some Americans were leaving as we arrived and they told us we must be mad to land there. They had suffered heavy casualties and were only too pleased to be leaving.
The delays meant that 1RAR arrived late in the afternoon, and in their rush to get set up before nightfall they left gaps in the perimeter which the North Vietnamese were able to exploit that first night. Parts of 1RAR were overrun, and the NVA got in amongst the Artillery, where there was hand-to-hand fighting between the NVA and the gunners. All this was happening behind me, because the 3RAR perimeter remained secure all night. After that first attack, 3RAR moved on from Coral, eventually setting up FSB Balmoral, where the NVA made a number of attempts to overrun us without success. But that's another story. That anniversary will be the 26th. Coral was attacked again several times, and the combined Coral/Balmoral battle lasted twenty-six days. May 1968 was certainly a month to remember.