Friday 18 August 2023 is Vietnam Veterans’ Day and marks the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
On 18 August 1966, Australians and New Zealanders were outnumbered 10 to one in the battle of Long Tan. It was the single greatest loss of life Australia suffered during the Vietnam War. On 18 August each year, Vietnam Veterans gather to mark Vietnam Veterans’ Day, paying tribute to all those who served in Australia’s longest conflict of the 20th century.
Scotch currently knows of 72 Old Boys who served in the Vietnam War, although it continues to learn of more who served, and welcomes details from any Old Boy who served, or others who know of them.
Although none of Scotch’s servicemen died in the conflict, one Old Boy, civilian Bruce Pigott (SC 1959-61) was a journalist and Reuters war correspondent who was killed at Saigon on 5 May 1968, along with three other journalists. Another journalist in Vietnam was Don Hook (SC 1947-51).
Other civilians involved in Australia’s war effort in Vietnam were surgeons such as Walter Scott (SC 1939-42), Ken Jamieson (SC 1938-42), Alan Cuthbertson (SC 1937-47) and Cas McInnes (SC 1942-48).
Seven Scotchies achieved the ‘Grand Slam’ of war service by serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam: Gordon Combes OBE (SC 1934-36), Phillip Dye (SC 1931-36; US Navy), David Jackson DSO OBE (SC 1936; commander during the battle of Long Tan), Alan Stretton AO CBE (SC 1936-38), David Thomson MC (SC 1941), John Warr DSO (SC 1939-42) and Jim Shelton DSO MC (SC 1934-37).
Of these seven, Stretton later coordinated the evacuation of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Thomson also served in Malaya, became MHR for Leichhardt, fought to protect the Great Barrier Reef and worked in Aboriginal affairs. Warr commanded 5th Battalion and took it to Vietnam to replace 1st Battalion. It was the first battalion in Australian history with both regular and conscripted servicemen. Shelton received the DSO for his command and leadership of 3RAR’s first tour of Vietnam (1967-68). He had served in 3RAR in Korea, where he won his MC.
Ken McKenzie DSM OAM (SC 1941-42) served in WW2 and Vietnam. He was Deputy Commander of the 1st Australian Task Force (1969-70). Alan Wells OBE (SC 1941-48) served in Korea and Vietnam (1967-68) and received his OBE as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General in the Army’s ATFV. Andrew Ochiltree MM (SC 1960) was wounded in a 1969 ambush and received his MM for gallantry.
George Mackenzie OBE RFD (SC 1945-49) was Senior Military Lawyer for the Australian Forces in Vietnam (1970-71) and was a Trustee of the Shrine of Remembrance (2001-21) and 2004 president of Melbourne Legacy. Ian ‘Digger’ Campbell MC OAM (SC 1947-49) served in Korea, and Vietnam, winning the MC in 1969 while serving in 1RAR and later receiving his OAM for service to the welfare of veterans and their families.
Peter Gration AC OBE (SC 1945-48) served in Malaya, and in Vietnam (1969-70), receiving the OBE as commanding officer of the 1 Australian Civil Affairs Unit. He became Chief of the General Staff and Chief of the Defence Force.
Adrian Clunies-Ross AO (SC 1946-51) saw very early Australian service in Vietnam, from 1962 to 1963, and returned in 1969 and 1970. Professor Bob O’Neill AO (SC 1949-54) was both a Queen’s Scout and a Cadet CUO at Scotch. He was an Intelligence Officer in 5 Battalion (1966-67).
Rob Sauve (SC 1955-64) served in the US Army from 1969 to 1999. He received the Bronze Star for heroism on 1 May 1972 while serving as Deputy Senior Advisor, 4th Ranger Group, Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
Among visitors to Vietnam during the war was Sir Alan Wedel Ramsay McNicoll (SC 1920), who was Chief of the Naval Staff (1965-68).
At the other end of the spectrum of service in Vietnam was Ian Teague (SC 1947-52). He served in 1RAR in Malaya (1959-62) and then as a member of ‘The Team’: the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (1964-65). He was later a commando in the SAS in 1969 and in 1970, and became Chief Instructor Army Recruit Training at Kapooka before retiring after 30 years’ service to the Army. Ian played a key role in Scotch’s 2003 Vietnam Reflections Day, which welcomed Vietnam Veterans back to Scotch. He worked on a list of all Scotchies who were known to have served, to which the Archives has added many names over the years. Ian championed the identifying and recognition of these men for their sacrifices in serving in Vietnam.