Mates re­mem­ber Viet­nam

Geraldton Guardian - - News - Adam Poulsen

Gra­ham Tay­lor and Kerry Ross are two mates who served Aus­tralia dur­ing the Viet­nam War, and they don’t mind shar­ing a few sto­ries about their re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ences.

The two old friends joined about 60 other vet­er­ans at a com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice held last Fri­day at the Ger­ald­ton RSL Club to mark Viet­nam Vet­er­ans’ Day and hon­our those who served in the con­flict.

Both sol­diers served in the 4th Bat­tal­ion Royal Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment for about seven months in 1971, to­wards the end of Aus­tralia’s in­volve­ment in the war.

Mr Tay­lor said the an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion ser­vice was an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for old com­rades to catch up with one an­other and share their legacy with younger gen­er­a­tions.

“We catch up at re­unions, but some blokes we haven’t seen since 1971 and some have passed away,” he said.

“But we still carry on and make sure that we’re still alive to tell our story to the peo­ple.”

Mr Tay­lor served as a for­ward scout for his pla­toon for about three months be­fore be­ing made a stretcher bearer for the rest of his tour of duty.

He was hum­ble about his con­tri­bu­tions.

“I was the patcher-up­per, so I was run­ning around putting field dress­ings on and every­thing else, and I had the chance to patch up a few wounded blokes,” he said.

Mr Ross served as a ma­chine gun­ner — an ex­pe­ri­ence that left him with more than one un­for­get­table story to tell, in­clud­ing the time he “nearly got blown up”.

“We came into a rub­ber plan­ta­tion, and I was the fourth back from the front af­ter the for­ward scout and two ri­fle­men, and I spot­ted an Amer­i­can Clay­more mine about 2m away from me,” he said.

“So I’m try­ing to give the mine sig­nal to the peo­ple be­hind me with my left hand, I’m try­ing to bal­ance the M60 and snap my fin­gers to get the at­ten­tion of the three blokes in front of me, and fi­nally they came up and while they were bring­ing an en­gi­neer up, I saw an­other mine there.

“I didn’t know what would hap­pen be­cause there were two mines faced at me, but when they checked it all out there was noth­ing wrong.

“They were at­tached to clack­ers (an ex­plo­sive de­vice) but there was noth­ing else at­tached to them.

“The word fil­tered back about a week later that the South Viet­namese Army had been out there and had for­got­ten about them or lost them.”

The North Viet­namese Army was well known for cap­tur­ing and ap­pro­pri­at­ing en­emy weaponry — a tac­tic that some­times caused much con­fu­sion.

Mr Ross said he lost a good mate as a re­sult of such tac­tics.

“He was the first bloke who was killed in our bat­tal­ion, and he was killed by an Amer­i­can M60 ma­chine gun that the North Viet­namese had cap­tured,” he said.

“When the blue was on we couldn’t fig­ure out why we could hear our ma­chine guns — be­cause the M60 has a very dis­tinct sound — and we couldn’t un­der­stand how one of our blokes was over where we imag­ined the en­emy to be.

“Fi­nally we found out it wasn’t one of our blokes, it was a cap­tured M60.

“It caused a hell of a lot of con­fu­sion.”

Mr Tay­lor, who was named NAIDOC Male El­der of the Year in 2015, said he at­tended the com­mem­o­ra­tion ser­vice ev­ery year and was also ac­tive in An­zac Day ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I never miss it, I’m al­ways here,” he said. “I’ve also been at­tend­ing a cou­ple of AN­ZAC ser­vices in coun­try towns as a guest of hon­our. We al­ways had a con­tin­gent of the New Zealand Army at­tached to us called Vic­tor Com­pany, so we were called the An­zac bat­tal­ion.”

Mr Ross en­cour­aged younger gen­er­a­tions to get in­volved at the RSL or stop by for a drink at the bar. “We oc­ca­sion­ally get young peo­ple com­ing to the RSL but un­for­tu­nately not as many as we should,” he said.

“We just hope they re­alise that this is their place — we are only the guardians for them.

“Any­one can get signed in, and it’s only about $10 to be­come a so­cial mem­ber.”

Pic­ture: Adam Poulsen

Viet­nam vet­er­ans and good friends Gra­ham Tay­lor and Kerry Ross at­tended Fri­day’s ser­vice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.