Forty-seven years ago today at an abandoned village called Long Tan, D Coy 6 RAR fought off an estimated between 1,500 to 2,500 men from the Viet Cong 275 Regiment reinforced by at least one North Vietnamese battalion and D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion.
17 Australians died in the battle and one died of wounds later. 24 were wounded. 245 Vietnamese bodies were recovered, and as many as 350 are believed to have been removed from the battlefield.
Amongst those killed was Frank Topp, with whom I went to school at Downlands in Toowoomba. His mother, Brigid, died recently, so this will be the first anniversary of his death that his family will mourn without her.
I have been to Long Tan twice. The first time was in April 1970 as a soldier, when we staged there as a company on our way to an AO well to the North.
Later, in 2006, I visited the memorial with my two sons in the company of veterans from 8RAR.
On each occasion, I was struck by the stillness and peace of the place.
On 18th August 1966, it was not still and peaceful.
It’s been a good day, visiting my youngest daughter in Brisbane. The winter sun was warm, and the light clear and crisp as we drove East.
I couldn’t help think about Frank and the 17 others who never got to see their adult children, and whose families mourn them today.
May they rest in peace.