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Weather helps Viet vets honour our Long Tan heroes

TRIBUTE: Former Vietnam Veterans’ Association president Ralph Hindmarsh at the cenotaph he was instrumental in building in Memorial Park, Grafton.
TRIBUTE: Former Vietnam Veterans’ Association president Ralph Hindmarsh at the cenotaph he was instrumental in building in Memorial Park, Grafton.

ORGANISERS of Vietnam Veterans' Day don't mind if the elements lay on a touch of discomfort.

Their plans worked a treat when a biting southerly blew late in the day as schoolchildren and a pipe band marched down Prince St, Grafton to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan.

The president of the Grafton branch of the Vietnam Veterans, Ron Shoebridge, said it was good for people to get a feeling of the discomfort soldiers endured.

"I remember during one of these services a few years ago we had a shower of rain," Ron said.

"I thought, 'Good, this will give all these people a touch of what those fellows went through at Long Tan'."

The battle of Long Tan was fought from 5pm on August 18, 1966 between 108 men of D company 6 Battalion RAR and a force of 1500 Viet Cong.

With monsoonal rain pouring down for most of the conflict, 18 Australians were killed and 24 wounded, while at least 245 enemy soldiers died and countless others were wounded.

The heroism of those men has led to the engagement becoming the signature battle of the Vietnam campaign.

Former Vietnam Veterans president Ralph Hindmarsh, who was at the helm when the Grafton Vietnam Veteran's Memorial was completed in 2006, said while Australian forces fought many battles during the campaign, Long Tan was the one that captured the imagination.

He said it had become like Gallipoli in the First World War, the Kokoda campaign in the Second World War and Kapyong during the Korean conflict.

Mr Shoebridge said Monday's turnout was heartening.

"Because of the way they were treated, a lot of Vietnam veterans went bush and don't come out for days like this," he said.

"But it's really good to see the schoolkids taking part and taking and showing respect for this part of our history.

"It's always good to see the kids involved."

Topics:  cenotaph, grafton, long tan, vietnam




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