Re­mem­brance im­por­tant for all war in­volve­ments

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - NEWS - By CORAL COOK­SLEY

IT was the bat­tle that saw the high­est num­ber of Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties in­curred in any one sin­gle en­gage­ment of the Viet­nam War.

This Satur­day marks the 52nd an­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Long Tan in which 105 men from D Com­pany, 6th Bat­tal­ion, Royal Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment and three New Zealand sol­diers en­counter a force of more than 2000 Viet Cong sol­diers.

Dur­ing the bat­tle 17 Aus­tralians were killed and a fur­ther 25 were wounded, one of who later died of wounds.

This year also marks the 50th an­niver­sary of the battles of Fire Sup­port Bases Coral and Bal­moral, which lasted for 26 days from May 12 to June 6, 1968.

Dur­ing the battles, 26 Aus­tralian sol­diers lost their lives, 100 were wounded and at least 300 North Viet­namese were es­ti­mated killed.

While Bar­nawartha’s Robert Fon­tana wasn’t in­volved in the Viet­nam con­flict he served his coun­try 25 years prior spend­ing three and half years in the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force dur­ing World War II.

Known by lo­cals as ‘Bookie’, Mr Fon­tana vol­un­teered in 1943 at just 18 years old.

En­listed in Mel­bourne, Mr Fon­tana went to Shepparton for one month’s train­ing be­fore em­bark­ing to Canada for fur­ther ser­vice.

He pro­gressed from air­crafts­man when he joined to flight sergeant to war­rant of­fi­cer dur­ing his three and a half years of ser­vice and learned Morse code as part of wire­less op­er­a­tor train­ing.

As an An­zac him­self Mr Fon­tana, 93, said re­mem­brance oc­ca­sions for all con­flicts in­volv­ing Aus­tralian forces were im­por­tant for many peo­ple and a good op­por­tu­nity for the younger gen­er­a­tion to learn about Aus­tralia’s war his­tory.

PHOTO: Coral Cook­sley.

AN­ZAC VET­ERAN: Bar­nawartha’s ‘Bookie’ Fon­tana, a wire­less op­er­a­tor in the Royal Aus­tralian Air­force in World War II shows off his ser­vice record and a photo.

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