W3 Company - Operational Timeline

index of individual and service stories

November 1970 - W3 COMPANY ACTIVITIES

This section [the last in the series] has a general timeline for
W3 Company activities from
1 to 10 November 1970

offer corrections and updates to this detail - send here

glossary:  xxxxH is a time in 24-hour clock, if six-digit the first two are date.  full glossary here   Rain fall figures are for NUI DAT.

Research Issues.  The one constant among veterans memories of the period between finishing operations on 31 October until arrival in Singapore on 10 November is that they can't really recall much detail.  Once operations ceased there is no further mention of W Coy in the 1ATF and 2RAR/NZ operational logs.  The researcher has been unable to locate any administrative instructions for the move of W3 Coy back to Singapore, these would have been managed by NZ Component at NUI DAT and HQ NZ V Force Saigon.

Further Operations.  W Coy was not tasked with TAOR ptl in November.  The W3 mor sect was still deployed on operations until at least 4 November 1970.  While personal weapons were retained the individual ammunition scales were reduced to minimums and surplus ammunition returned to the CQMS.

W3 Coy had 10-days to administratively remove itself from 1ATF back to 1RNZIR.  As there was no replacement rifle company W3 Coy was additionally required to demolish their tent lines and return back to 1ATF equipment such as communal facilities and freezers, ammunition, and other controlled stores.

1 November 
It is thought that all weapons and controlled stores were cleaned and audited, and items on the 2RAR/NZ asset register were returned to their respective sponsors for further redistribution.
servicemen were allowed to send a bottle of spirits home duty free each week - packing alcohol into ammunition cylinders to post home - Cpl Wally Goodman [Brooker]

Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall and humidity figures are not available

servicemen were able to send a bottle of spirits home duty free each week, usually packed into ammunition cylinders [behind bottles] for protection - Cpl Wally Goodman [Brooker]

2 November 
Work parties started returning stores and non-essentials. 

Over the next few days groups of soldiers reported to Admin Coy with their weapons for a weapons serviceability check by the NZ armourer LCpl Roger Wait.  The reason for the check was not explained but having the armourer strip camouflage and shell dressings from their weapon was a cultural shock to the owners and a key indicator that the tour really was over and that their departure for places sane was actually about to happen.  [This inspection programme might be a reason why weapons were not carried on the 4 November parade.]

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today 49 points, humidity 80%

3 November 
Work parties continued returning stores and non-essentials.

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 75%

4 November 
After breakfast the Company prepared for a final round of formalities and festivities. 

1030H the Company paraded in Dacron's with medal ribbons but no weapons and marched along the road to HQ 2RAR/NZ for a final inspection by Comd 1ATF Brigadier Henderson.  The Company was in four elements in depth with 1Pl at the front and a composite group [many in JG] at the rear.  The mortar section was absent.  The Brigadier inspected the platoons and afterwards complimented the Company on their fine performance and wished the soldiers well for their return to peacetime conditions with families and friends.  The parade photos are here and the parade finished prior to lunch when the Company marched back to their own lines.

Brigadier Henderson addressing the 4 November parade

Recollection.  Mark Binning commented about the movements of the W3 mortar section: "I have gone back to the 1ATF logs and find on 2 Nov, 2RAR night loc entries give c/s 84 – Helen, c/s 85 [us] – Nui Dat.  As to why we were not on the W3 parade 4 Nov, we could have possibly been the only section in the mortar compound and therefore the on-call section.  [the mor sect were part of Support Coy, not W Coy]

After lunch platoon photos were taken [see 1Pl  2Pl  3Pl  Coy HQ].  Also during the afternoon a number of soldiers who had arrived as reinforcements and who were remaining in theatre marched out of W Coy and moved their possessions across to V5 Company, consequently several are missing from their platoon photo. [At least one [Pte Neil Ure] was flown into the bush to join V5 during the afternoon].

Maj Torrance's diary:  “Back in Nui Dat we hosted three farewell functions. The first was the traditional company barbecue held on the evening of November 4th.  The next was a lunch gathering a few days later to which we invited representatives of the units that we had worked with".  [the 3rd occasion was his farewell speech on the 9th].  In a recent email Sunray explains his earlier thoughts:  "The first farewell would have been 4 Nov parading for the TF Comd followed later by our "traditional BBQ" with possibly other kiwis present.  Then around 6/7 Nov we had the lunch gathering at which Isabel and others were present and presentations made.  [Photos of the BBQ are here] And then finally on 9 Nov the farewell address."  He finished by saying: "Can't be absolutely sure about the above so it could prove to be an interesting discussion point for the Reunion [it wasn't - Ed].

Night Location:  W Coy partied hard in lines NUI DAT 

Rainfall today nil, humidity 83%

5 November 
It was around this date that individuals prepared their base kits that would carry the bulk of their possessions back to Singapore and New Zealand.  The base kit allowed was a steel trunk and before the kit could be left with the CQMS it had first to be inspected by an officer to ensure that there was no over-scale of clothing or webbing or prohibited items such as weapons or explosives.  Once inspected the trunk was locked and removed so the challenge for many soldiers became how to either pull the wool over their officer's eyes or gain access to their trunk once it was in storage.  Peter Anderson among many succeeded: "I remember we had to have three sets of greens when we returned to 1RNZIR and there were heaps of discarded extra greens lying around the W3 Lines and I picked up about 12 sets of trousers and shirts and changed the dhobi numbers and got them cleaned.  I used the last shirts as work/around home gardening shirts well into the 90’s.  I still have two pairs of Aussie boots, one pair I wear shooting and the other pair brand new as issued with all the tags and bits still on them."

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 86%

6 November  Troops listening to speeches [Young]
Work parties continued returning stores and non-essentials. Early afternoon the Company held a final BBQ to which key people from outside the unit who had assisted the Company during their year in theatre were invited and given mementos as a way of recording appreciation for their support.  Photos of the BBQ are here.  Particularly popular presentations were the ones made to the Australian nurses and NZ Red Cross staff member Isabel Beaumont.

Troops listening to speeches [Young]

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 76%

7 November  looking for a home - 2Pl tent lines without tents
About this date a small party [Bruce Young, Baden Ewart, perhaps one other] travelled to Long Binh courtesy of a US Artillery resupply truck, to visit fellow ex-RF Cadet Pte Aaron Putt V5 Coy wounded on 31 October and a patient at 24 Evac Hospital, they returned the same day.  Bruce Young recollects the Kiwi's were carrying SLR rifles and could hear impressed rear area US servicemen muttering about 'Green Berets with elephant guns'.

looking for a home - 2Pl tent lines without tents

It was around his date that the tent lines started to be dismantled, to achieve this at the end of the wet season required lots of people to cram into other tents while theirs was dismantled.  The tents had been in position for three years and there was a lot of evidence of former occupants discovered during the demolition.  The final tents were left empty for the stay behind party to dispose of.   It was generally considered the tentage was worn beyond redemption and should have been burnt.  A selection of photos of the demolished lines are at this link. The mortar section tents were not involved in the demolition programme.

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 76%

8 November 
Work parties dismantling tents and returning stores and non-essentials.

Night Location:  W Coy were in their bar in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 76%

9 November 
Work parties dismantling tents and returning stores and non-essentials.

Maj Evan Torrance RNZIRDuring the afternoon Maj Torrance addressed the soldiers for the final time as their officer commanding, his speech is here and is well worth reading.  The bar opened for the last time late afternoon and a roaring party developed as stocks were depleted amid the realisation that finally 'awakey' had arrived.

Maj Evan Torrance RNZIRTaken some days after, the demolished Other Ranks mess hall [Henderson]

The Other Ranks bar was partly demolished during the party.  A number of inebriated soldiers discovered that if you rammed the wall with your head from the inside the boards and nails would slide out of the wall.  After considerable success the demolition stopped after one more than enthusiastic drunk tried the same technique from the outside.  The wall won.

Taken some days after, the demolished Other Ranks mess hall [Henderson]

Cpl George Preston recollected "my memories are well faded for any actions leading up to our departure but I do remember a drunken last night in the bar, forming a scrum and using the wall as an opposition and smashed it to pieces.  There were many attempts and blood plus bruises but mission achieved.  Of those idiots I can only remember Doc Welsh as a prop, maybe."

For the record the mess hall was due to be demolished as part of the W3 withdrawal and the unorthodox demolition attempt was officially condoned, the headaches were thought punishment enough. 

Night Location:  W Coy were drunk in lines in NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 59%

10 November 
The Company departed in two groups to match the capacity of the single RNZAF C130 allocated the task, one flight early morning, the other mid afternoon after turnaround in Singapore.  It is surmised that the first flight included all the married personnel including Maj Torrance.  The troops travelled to VUNG TAU by truck wearing Dacron's and with a personal weapon and one loaded magazine for protection, the loaded magazine being handed to NZ Component staff before departure and replaced by an empty magazine on the weapon.

0820H Brig Henderson visited the Company lines to say a personal 'farewell and thank you' to 2nd flight soldiers in the vicinity of the bar cleaning up after the previous nights party .

From the additional luggage it can be summised that this is the final departure of 2Pl people from in front of the Offr/Sgt Mess tent [Stock]

travelling light - this group of 2Pl 2nd flight people are waiting transport at the W Coy gateway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pte Kupe with his best friend - the rabbit appears to have been taken to Vung Tau and may have been taken back to Singapore [Stock]

Pte Kupe with 'Whiskey Rabbit' - the rabbit was taken to Vung Tau and may have been taken back to Singapore [Stock]source of the donated wine but sent to Vietnam rather than held in Singapore [Brooker]


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While waiting for their RNZAF flight at Vung Tau airfield each soldier was given a bottle of sparkling wine for celebrations in Singapore, the wine having been donated in New Zealand and forwarded to NZ Component via Singapore.

source of the donated wine but sent to Vietnam rather than held in Singapore [Brooker]

An unnerving incident happened while the second group were waiting for their aircraft.  A number of soldiers were on an airport trailer using an aluminium body casket for a seat.  Cpl Bruce Young noticed the contents tag fluttering between his legs and read it - Pte T Cooper RNZIR.  Initially the group sat stunned thinking that their friend and colleague's body was inside before the reality kicked in that a month had passed since Tom's death and that he was safely home, this was just an empty casket being returned to 1ALSG.

RNZAF C130 NZ7004 shown here arriving back at Vung Tau mid afternoon was the Company's 'freedom bird' [a name US servicemen called their final flight out of Vietnam - "The World, of course, was anywhere but Vietnam and a Freedom Bird was any aircraft which took you to the World"].

NZ7004 arriving mid-afternoon at Vung Tau for the second flight - at the time the aircraft was a year-old, the aircraft is still in service with the RNZAF although the silver white livery has been replaced with camouflage [Stock]

NZ7004 arriving mid-afternoon at Vung Tau for the second flight - in 1970 the aircraft was one year-old, but still in service
with the RNZAF 40-odd years later although the silver white livery has been replaced with camouflage [Stock]W Coy lines after departure, looking from the back of the old Q Store through the area occupied by the officer accomodation.  The support Coy bar is in the middle background and the Maori arch is missing [Stock]

After the main body of W3 departed a small group of soldiers remained behind for a few days to finish demolishing the tent lines.  They were commanded by Sgt Harry Hemana and comprised soldiers who needed a short period of time to qualify for the GVN medal.  One unusual aspect of the group was that they were unarmed, the CQMS having withdrawn their weapons as part of the overall packing up process of the main body.    Rear party notes

 

W Coy lines after departure of the rear party, looking from the back of the old Q Store through the area formerly occupied by Company HQ.  The Support Coy OR bar is in the middle background and the Maori arch is missing [Stock]

 

 

Arrival in Singapore.  On arrival at RAF CHANGI Singapore each flight transited through the Air Movements terminal and were required to undergo customs checks and spot baggage inspections.  They then travelled by service buses to Nee Soon where the first party to arrive was welcomed by 1RNZIR with performances by the 1RNZIR Band and the unit Maori concert party, Maj Torrance had however been spirited away by Maj David Maloney.  While well intended the veterans resented the delay in having time with family, or in getting accommodated and changed before hitting the local bars.  The final flight had a delayed departure from VUNG TAU and arrived in Singapore in darkness, were hurried through formalities at RAF CHANGI and did not have to suffer a welcome home from the unit.  However the banks were closed so thirsty soldiers were forced to borrow money from willing friends or in several cases from the obliging Cpl Willie Peacock formerly of V4 Coy who was acting as Orderly Sgt.

Night Location:  W Coy were in NEE SOON, Singapore.

Rainfall today, frankly who cared...!

a flight sheltering in the 1RNZIR transport hanger on arrival in Punjab Lines, note the bottle of wine bottom right.  This is possibly the 2nd flight. [Brooker]

a flight sheltering in the 1RNZIR transport hanger on arrival in Punjab Lines, note the
bottle of wine bottom right. This is possibly the 2nd flight. [Brooker]

possibly the 2nd flight at Nee Soon evening 10 November 1970 [Brooker]

possibly the 2nd flight at Nee Soon evening 10 November 1970 [Brooker]

360-days after signing their weapons out of the 1RNZIR Terendak armoury the troops returned the weapons back to the 1RNZIR Singapore armoury as their last act of active service.W Coy HQ Nee Soon [Gundersen]

Any veterans who had now completed a 2-year tour in SE Asia were diverted from 1RNZIR to the Nee Soon transit lines where they were administered for RTNZ and after several days shopping took a tiring 2-day C130 flight back to RNZAF Base Auckland.

W Coy HQ Nee Soon [Gundersen]

As a mark of respect CO 1RNZIR had announced that he would be retaining the title W Company and existing dress accoutrements when W3 Coy returned to 1RNZIR.  The veterans still with time left in their two-year tour were posted back into 1RNZIR, most to W Company 1RNZIR, and sent on leave or given light duties.  At least three veterans had from Vietnam arranged leave in the UK using British Army facilities while others were content with Asian hospitality.

Ever wondered what happened to the:

Maori archway leading into W Company lines..?  Mike Loughran from V5 mor sect contributed this comment: "As W3 departed to Vung Tau, V5's mortar crew 'rescued' the W3 company gateway and sign.  We erected it with full dignity (other than painting 'C/S 84' over W3) in front of the Kiwi tents across the road in the mortar compound.  It was up by the time you guys were airborne!".

W3 Flag flown at Nui Dat..?  CSM has this contribution: "You may remember the Whisky Company flag which was flown at the Nui Dat Lines. I do not know if we had a full size flag, but we did have a small one about the size of an A4 exercise book.  On our last day in Vietnam I collected it and packed it away carefully for its trip to Singapore.  After 12 months active service it came to a sad end, I had placed it on a table in my room in the Singapore Sgts Mess.  A few days later I was shocked to see it had been reduced to a small scrap of torn material.  The keen and efficient dhobi wallah had noted it looked dirty and had taken it away for the normal beating on a concrete slab.  After 12 months in the Vietnam sun, wind, and rain this was just too much."

Gas plug from Danny Campbell's M60..?  He still has it.

CSM's bottle of wine..?  He wants it delivered at the 40th Reunion.  "Although my memory of those far off days is rather hazy, I think such a generous gift would stand out.  But I have no recollection at all.  I presume I was absent on some duty or other and some kind soldier or officer picked up my bottle and kept in safe keeping until my return.  I would be grateful if my bottle could be brought to the reunion, I look forward to tasting it after 40 years of maturing."  [update:  Cpl Baden Ewart, NZ Component NCO responsible for distributing the bottles of wine at Vung Tau airport in 1970, obliged as requested when addressing the reunion  Formal Dining-in as 2nd Speaker, CSM was appropriately grateful].

Present Fred King had for his mother..?  "As I remember I was in the last group to leave Nui Dat, leaving in a bit of a rush and (this memory still hurts) I left a suit cover hanging in my tent, in which was a lovely expensive pearl necklace which I had bought for my mother whilst on R&R in Japan."

Reference:

HQ 1ATF – AWM95, 1/4/203, 204  
www.awm.gov.au/collection/war_diaries/se_asian_conflicts/

read October 1970 timeline here

full glossary here     anyone can offer corrections and updates to this detail - send here

 

Post-Vietnam

Life in Singapore.  Those who remained with 1RNZIR experienced the very different peacetime garrison duties of a resident battalion, with some bush time but lots of ceremonial duties.  When the New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake visited Singapore in mid-January 1971 for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference his W Coy 1RNZIR guard of honour included many former W3 people:

PM Holyoake inspects the guard on or about 16 January 1971 Punjab Lines parade ground - CO [on left] is Lt Col Rob Williams and guard commander Capt Max Richie [Brooker]

PM Holyoake inspects the guard on or about 16 January 1971 Punjab Lines parade ground - CO [on left] is Lt Col Rob Williams and guard commander Capt Max Richie [Brooker]

Note in the photo that the guard commander has black rank and the soldiers are wearing the black 2RAR lanyard on their left shoulder. [oops - they are also being inspected with weapons at the shoulder...]

Impressive on parade but then again, they only had to turn up, having the luxury of 'boot boys and dhobi wallahs' to look after their clothes and appearance..!

The W3 people left in 1RNZIR, as predicted by Maj Torrance, were involved in the preparation of V6 Coy who departed for Vietnam [as part of 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC)] in May 1971 shortly before they themselves finally departed in the opposite direction for New Zealand.

End of the Journey.  While there are a growing number of recollections of service in Vietnam there is little analysis of how effective was the contribution made by Kiwi's such as W3 Coy.  One contribution worth reading is 'The Minefield' by Greg Lockhart.  To many commentators the service offered was insignificant because New Zealand fielded relatively few forces.  To some US commentators the ANZAC contribution was insignificant because the activity level was low and the US hierarchy tended to measure success by body count, including their own.  The introduction of Malaya tactics involving small group reconnaissance and surprise encounters from ambush did not fit well with the US big battle 'slam dunk' doctrine.  Yet the real impact should be measured from the perspective of the enemy reaction to the ANZAC tactics; that the enemy W3 fought were driven to despair by their inability to encounter the ANZAC's on ground and at a time of their own choosing.  Whenever the ANZAC's mixed it with sizeable VC forces, such as at Long Tan, CORAL, or BALMORAL the VC suffered on a scale recognised by the US commanders as matching their own effort.  But when the VC next tried to have an encounter battle with ANZAC forces they would discover the small group initiative again stifling their efforts and their casualties would be unbalanced despite their best efforts.  One element not available in Malaya was the close support of artillery and the rapid resupply and deployment allowed by helicopters, and here the Vietnam ANZAC's adapted accordingly without surrendering their doctrine so that they were fighting widely dispersed but with concentrated resources.  One other army that did this well were the original Rhodesian forces in their bush war in the mid to late 1970's.

To W3 soldiers the small war doctrine was the only one they knew and they were good at it.  What is of extra significance is the deployment timeline of each W Company, arriving into an experienced battalion with half their tour over who encouraged them to be confident and focussed, and then remaining for another battalion where they were in a league of their own due to their experience with the previous unit.  This meant it was harder for the new unit to assimilate their W Company because the new unit lacked the experience and procedures necessary to temper, redirect and challenge the more experienced Kiwi's.  The progress of the timeline research shows that while 6RAR kept W3 on the fringes until ready for the hard yards 2RAR used them mainly for standalone missions away from the unit, accepting the skill level of the Company was above their own at that point and that the New Zealanders were best left to do what they did well.

There was a hidden cost to fighting the war in small isolated groups and W3 were not exempt from it - the long days of careful patrolling, the extra effort to stay hidden without resupply, the demand for vigilance over long periods of time without relief all came with a cost in human health issues, psychological issues, and social issues.  These issues are better understood today but for almost 40-years the soldiers continued to pay a high price for their one or more years of service in South Vietnam.  Many of these servicemen today reflect on the hidden cost of their service rather than on the outcome they provided to their commanders and the local population they were there to protect.  Few [stolid] ANZAC commanders have ever had the ability to formally say it to the troops in the way it needed to be said, that they were bloody good at what they did, that their service had made a difference, and that their sacrifices were appreciated way more than they were questioned.  Maj Torrance was perhaps one commander who could say it as it should have been and veterans are encouraged to again read his final address to the Company, as should their families, noting this comment 'the Task Force Commander Brigadier Henderson made mention of our role during this period “ You fellows filled an important gap and did it magnificently.  Such is the depth of skill and experience in your company that you are able to operate as a mini battalion”.'  High praise indeed.

But it didn't finish there for many of W3 Coy.  While most soldiers considered their adventure over and returned to civilian life in various guises such as commercial fishermen, clerks, businessmen and even explosive inspectors, some found the camaraderie of service life missing and joined the Territorial Force reserves or worked as security consultants in other equally dangerous places.  An even larger group elected to serve on in uniform.  Several including the CSM were at different times selected for or offered officer commissions and some rose to very senior rank in the New Zealand and UK army's, while another was appointed Chief Instructor of the New Zealand School of Infantry.  Two of the original officers returned to Singapore at different times to command 1RNZIR while an even larger group of SNCO and soldiers, and some officers, returned to Singapore for second or even third 2-year postings.  Some in time changed corps and gained senior rank in other trades.  As late as August 1987 there were still at least 20 former W3 personnel serving in uniform.  Although the New Zealand army wasn't on active service again for over 20-years it was deployed on peacekeeping tasks and some ex-W3 people deployed to distant places like Iran, Sinai, Somalia and Cambodia.  When the New Zealand army again placed soldiers on active service with a company deployment to Bosnia and later a battalion deployment to East Timor a large number of the officers and senior NCO deployed on these deployments had been trained and mentored by Vietnam veterans who had themselves learnt and practiced their profession from old soldiers before them.

The way New Zealanders feel about themselves and their place in world events would be poorer
were it not for people such as these…

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