5RAR Association Website
In Memorium

 

Ross Martin Tobin

A Tribute To Our Mate “Tobe”
217849 Lance Corporal Ross Martin Tobin
4 September 1948 - 5 September 2011

It was with the greatest sadness we learned of Ross Tobin’s death, in spite of his tough fight and best wishes and prayers of those around him, a particularly aggressive cancer took him quite quickly from his family and his mates. He showed enduring courage and his typical cheerfulness to the end. A number of his good mates got to see him and essentially say goodbye during his last days, including Rod Lees, John Hoyes, Bruce Heron, Ray Knapp. I know we all found that last visit, the look and goodbye to “Tobe” extraordinarily difficult to handle.

Tobe was the original 12 Platoon Radio Operator, our “sig” and he did that job with great distinction and character, in spite of me sometimes running him ragged in the bush he was always where I needed him with the sig set (he frequently joked, and cursed a bit, that I forgot he was carrying a “bloody heavy” sig set). On operations in Vietnam there were 2 most important bits of equipment, the GPMG M60 Machinegun, and the platoon radio as without either bad things could happen, and if the operators were not full bottle then bad things did happen. I, and the blokes of the 1st 12th, remain indebted to Tobe for the way he performed as our platoon sig in Vietnam, he was more than “full bottle”.

Other than doing a great job as our sig, Tobe was the best of blokes, cheery and spontaneous with infectious youthful exuberance, typically able to find the fun side of almost any situation, he could be a cheeky bugger at times. He was simply a good mate to everyone and I can’t think of any other person in the platoon who was more highly thought of than Tobe. In late March 1969 he was wounded (remaining on duty) during a major company contact with the enemy MR7 HQ and he distinguished himself as the sig during this protracted engagement with the enemy. Then in May he endured his “snake bite” evacuation, although it was later joked about, it was a serious thing. We had just taken a re-sup when A company were in heavy contact, 12 Platoon was tasked with a forced push straight up the highest and steepest part of the Nui Thi Vais, we made just below the crest by nightfall and harboured, Tobe later advised “I think I’ve been bitten by a snake” he was promptly sent away (unsympathetically), shortly after a look at his grossly swollen hand determined he needed cas-evac. There was low cloud/mist and in this poor visibility we guided the dustoff chopper by sound with Rod Lees standing on a large exposed rock and grumbling about holding the strobe light….Tobe was winched up, but got caught and dragged through an overhanging tree, ripping the bum out of his greens, not funny at the time but always subject of great mirth when we (frequently) recalled the strobe (disco light) effect of Tobe’s white backside flashing in the light of the strobe as his body rotated on the winch haul up to the chopper. We eventually learned he had been bitten by a bamboo viper, and when he got up to the chopper, he put his swollen hand on the floor which the crewman promptly stood on; and when the doctor examined him (with obvious injuries caused when dragged through the tree) Tobe explained he had been bitten by a snake, and as the doctor surveyed Tobe’s shredded and bloodied greens, scratches and lacerations the doctor said “must have been a bloody big snake!!!”.

Then on June 15 1969 Tobe was wounded for the second time at Dat Do in a mine incident, this time much more seriously and was evacuated to Australia. For so many Vietnam blokes, once RTA (Return To Australia) came it signalled the end and separation of mates. For many, once back home the years and decades passed before mates saw each other again, but when that happens, the connections with each other and our time in South Vietnam instantly return, like it was yesterday. For Tobe’s mates in 12 Platoon and D Company in general we lament that this renewal with our mate Tobe will never happen again, I grieve greatly at this reality.

Tobe stayed in the Army, retiring as WO2, and then settling down on the Gold Coast to work and continue his life with wife Liz and 3 children. Tobe’s funeral was well attended, many of his service mates and other civvie friends. Rod Lees words about Tobe were deeply heartfelt, and particularly emphasized Tobe’s professionalism and courage under fire. Although a very sad occasion, it was both humbling and inspirational to learn of the contribution and impact Tobe had made after his service life. I hold deep pride to have known him, and to have learned about his dedicated unstinting support for his local Legacy, RSL and Surf Club. In addition he and Liz had mentored four young people who all indicated how deeply, positively and constructively their lives had been improved for Tobe’s fostering and encouragement.

I hope Tobe’s family, especially his children and grandchildren, can know how much we of 12 Platoon think of him and miss him, they can be truly proud of his courage as a digger, and the cheerful happy mate we will always remember and revere. It was my great honour to have served with him.

Bob Fenwick
12 Platoon Commander 1969/70

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