© Claude Ducker
OC, C Company
The story that follows may be
insignificant compared with descriptions of the many heroic actions of the rifle
platoons in Vietnam. But it is also true.
Not many members of Charlie Company may know that the
official records show that in 1969 C Company killed a Viet Cong wearing a
I recall a time when C Company headquarters and one of
our platoons had just 'based up' after having been involved in ambush activity.
We were at the western edge of the
Dinh's (usually referred to as the
Warbies). I had asked Jack Lake, our ever reliable CSM, (Company Sergeant
Major) to take a handful of CHQ Support Section to do a short term ambush in the
nearby higher rocky area to our east. Jack took the likes of 'Bluey' Austin and
Barry Baker, Shortly before darkness we heard firing and soon after Jack's group
came back reporting that they had killed an enemy with an SMG (sub-machine gun)
who evidently was carrying a large bag of rice and medical supplies. The patrol
brought back the
By the time I had a chance to talk to the CSM and send
the obligatory contact report it was virtually dark and I couldn't read the
pro-forma for the required contact report. Trusting to memory, I apparently
overlooked sending a description in the sub-para referring to the dress (or
clothing) worn by the enemy. A few minutes later a message came back from BHQ
that I hadn't included what the VC was wearing. Perhaps feeling somewhat
exasperated and ready to have something to eat at last I said to our sig "Tell
them the enemy was wearing a kilt".
Around 1983, by which time I had long been out of the
Regular Army, I was asked with a few other CMF (Citizen Military Forces)
officers to search through the unit war diaries at the Australian War Memorial
so that we could delete the names of all Hoi Chans (enemy ralliers to our side).
This was because by that time the Communist Regime in Vietnam had set up an
embassy in Canberra and it was feared they would find the names in the War
Diaries (once they were de-classified) and take retribution.
While our group was working around a large table a woman
researcher working with us suddenly called out in all seriousness "I didn't know
they had men from Scotland fighting with the VC". When I looked at the relevant
war diary she was reading I found that BHQ had studiously passed my contact
report unamended to HQ 1 ATF and they in turn had passed it to higher HQ. I just
said "Yes - it must have been so".
Mr. Ashley Ekins, the AWM's (Australian War Memorial)
chief historian, told me recently that his third volume of the Official History
of the conflict in Vietnam will now not be out until August 2008. However I
wouldn't expect him to mention the Scot who fought for the VC until the latter
was stopped in his tracks by the staunch men from CHQ.
I had another motive for accepting this research task on
the war diaries as I wanted to take the opportunity to check the 5 RAR war
diaries for the exact location where elements of C Company were sprayed with
Agent Orange. This was because I was due to appear before the Evatt Royal
Commission on Agent Orange and wanted to ensure that our case was noted, and
indeed C Company was one of the few sub-units that the Commission accepted as
having been sprayed.
Bluey Austin recounts the contact incident thus:
Baker and myself were setting up a Claymore mine on a
track, when around the bend came a VC. He pointed his AK
47 at us and pulled the trigger, but had a miss-fire.
Barry then threw a grenade at him but he took off. We
were quickly joined by CSM Jack Lake and followed the
VC. Luckily a fragment of the grenade ruptured his rice
pack - we followed this for about 200 metres and then
the rice trail finished. We back-tracked a few metres
and I found he had taken a small track to the right. We
followed this for about 40 metres when we came upon a
large rock. I climbed the rock to give cover to Barry
and Jack. They went to the left of the rock when we saw
the VC trying to pull the pin on a grenade. It was then
that the enemy was killed by us. We found he had a large
amount of medical supplies. Barry Baker still wears the
dud bullet on a chain around his neck. We were very
lucky - if it hadn't been for the miss-fire it would
have been a very different story."
TALES FROM THE TIGER