A crowd of about 40 people gathered outside Kingaroy RSL on Friday morning in blustery conditions to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day

August 20, 2017

A crowd of about 40 Vietnam veterans, local dignitaries and Kingaroy State High School students braved the wind on Friday morning to mark Vietnam Veterans Day.

August 18, 1966, is when Australian troops fought the Battle Of Long Tan in what was then Phuoc Tuy province in South Vietnam.

A small group of 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against more than 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan.

The Australians prevailed but only after fighting in torrential rain for four hours.

At one point they were nearly overrun but were saved by a timely ammunition resupply, accurate artillery fire from the nearby Australian base, and the arrival of reinforcements by armoured personnel carrier.

Eighteen Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded in the battle.

This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier, and initially the Australians thought they had suffered a major defeat.

But when the bodies of 245 enemy soldiers were found after the battle, along with evidence many more bodies had been carried away, it was realised they had in fact won a major victory.

On the third anniversary of the battle on August 18, 1969, a cross was raised on the site by the men of 6RAR.

Over time, all Vietnam veterans adopted the day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam.

And in 1987, following the Welcome Home parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would henceforth be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all the men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered.

* * *

On Friday, participants at this year’s Kingaroy Vietnam Veterans Day commemoration gathered in Kingaroy RSL’s car park for their annual commemoration ceremony.

Guests were welcomed by Kingaroy RSL sub-branch president Mr Don Davey, who told them that he didn’t agree the day should be returned to its original name.

The reason for this was that Long Tan Day recalled one particular battle in Australia’s decade long involvement in Vietnam (1962-72), but Vietnam Veterans Day honoured all the troops who served there.

The event then began with a prayer by the Rev Dr David Ferguson, from Kingaroy’s Uniting Church.

This was followed by an original song penned by Clowry Kennell in memory of his own family members who had served in Vietnam, and then a short talk from Kingaroy State High School Year 12 student Daniel Bond, who spoke about what Vietnam meant to local high school children 51 years after Long Tan.

After this, Year 10 students Laura Tessmann and Emma Stewart provided insights into what high school students were learning right now in the early 21st century, and how different this was to what school students learned five decades ago.

Guests were then invited to lay wreaths before a rendition of The Ode.

Music teacher Matt Phillips played the Last Post and Reveille, interspersed with a minute’s silence, before the service concluded with a final Benediction from Dr Ferguson and a vote of thanks from Mr Trevor Sanderson, President of the South Burnett’s Vietnam Veterans’ Association.

Following this, participants gathered briefly on the RSL’s steps for photos before moving inside to escape the bitter winter winds for a welcome morning tea.

Similar Vietnam Veterans Day services were also held in Blackbutt and Nanango on Friday.

Murgon Golf Club president Clowry Kennell sang a song he had composed to remember the service of family members in Vietnam
Kingaroy State High Year 10 students Laura Tessmann and Emma Stewart, Year 12 student Daniel Bond and music teacher Matt Phillips all played a part in the morning
South Burnett Cr Roz Frohloff and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington were among the wreath layers at Friday’s ceremony
Sandra and Barry Haydon chatted with Trevor Sanderson and George Hayden after the official ceremony concluded
Before adjourning inside the RSL for morning tea, guests posed briefly on the RSL’s steps for mobile phone photographs