first helicopter exhibited at the Australian War
Memorial, a Bell 47G-3B-1, more commonly known
as a Sioux, was used in the saving of 32
Australian soldiers' lives during Operation
RENMARK in SVN on February 21, 1967.
During the operation, an armoured personnel
carrier was blown up in a minefield, and the
crew and passengers injured.
Troops in the following APC dismounted and moved
forward to assist the wounded and were
themselves wounded by a VC claymore mine, sited
and timed to hit the rescue party.
After the second explosion there were 32
soldiers trapped in the minefield.
"By his skill, fortitude and special efforts to
lift out the wounded at all costs, Capt Campbell
set an outstanding example as a soldier and Army
pilot, and his actions reflect great credit on
himself, his unit and Army Aviation," was some
of the wording on the citation of Maj — then
Capt — Jim Campbell's Distinguished Flying
Capt Campbell, the helicopter pilot, flew his
Sioux A1-404 — into the minefield, carrying a
medical officer to the scene of the explosions.
He chose this course of action so that quick
evacuation might save the lives of the more
Capt Campbell was fully aware that his aircraft
could have been destroyed by a mine explosion
triggered by the helicopter skids or the down
blast of the rotors.
In spite of this, he repeatedly landed in the
minefield in order to evacuate the wounded to
another landing point from which it was
considered safe for larger RAAF helicopters to
The Sioux was first delivered to 16 Army Light
Aircraft Squadron at RAAF Amberley on December
Australia first showed interest in the aircraft
during the Korean conflict where, from 1951,
they were used for casualty evacuation, liaison,
communications and resupply.
After years of discussion between the Department
of Defence, the RAAF and the Army, an order was
finally placed for 11 of the helicopters in
The initial cost was $A38,997 each, but when
spares, training of servicing staff,
publications, special tools and equipment, and
the services of a Bell helicopter field
representative were added, the final cost
finished at $A876,038 for the 11 aircraft.
On today's values each aircraft would have cost
Upon delivery, it was found that the noisy and
naked-looking aircraft had a few shortcomings
which took more than a year to rectify.
Among other problems which had to be overcome,
it had no gyro instruments, no HF radio and no
turn and balance.
To counter the latter problem some ingenious
pilots tied a length of white wool on to the VHF
aerial which protruded through the bubble-like
When streaming directly aft, this would indicate
The gravest defect, however, was a missing
component of the VHF-FM radio in the 30-70 Mhz
frequency range, which was used to talk to
soldiers on the ground.
When this mistake was fixed, the Sioux proved to
be a reliable aircraft.
The Bell 47-G2, and later models, were not
particularly comfortable aircraft to fly.
In summer the bubble cockpit was a hothouse and,
while both doors could be taken off, the risk of
losing maps, flight plans and other important
documents was considerable.
In winter, the discomfort came in the form of no
heating and the tendency for the cockpit to mist
It was beyond the reach of all but the
longest-armed pilot to wipe away the mist.
It was a slow aircraft, 70 knots being a good
cruising speed, and the two fuel tanks,
vertically mounted on a Lycoming VO 435 engine,
held a total of 35 gallons of avgas.
Between late 1960 and April, 1969, the Army
acquired 64 series 47 Bells.
These were followed by G3B-1 models which were
equipped with gyro instruments, a new range of
radios and were turbo charged.
A total of 31 Sioux were written off — including
seven in New Guinea and eight in Vietnam.
A1-404 made its last flight in June, 1979, when
Maj Campbell flew it from Oakey, Queensland, to
the Australian War Memorial where it is now on
display in the aircraft section.
Sioux helicopters were phased out of service in
1974 when they were superseded by the faster,
more powerful Kiowa.
Note: The wounded soldiers the article referred
to were members of B Company 5RAR when on the
21st February 1967, mounted on APCs, a 500lb
land mine along with several anti-personal
mines were detonated. To read a first hand
account by Battalion's RMO "Doc" White,
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