W3 Company - Service Stories

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A Matter of Principle - Doug MacKintosh

WO2 DI Mackintosh RNZIR 1970 [Gundersen]Two or three times during our twelve months in Vietnam we were required to attend a formal Battalion Parade.   To me at the time, it did not seem quite right for a company on a short break between operations to be pounding a parade ground.   Just before one of these parades, this time for the Brigadier, a Platoon Sergeant asked me to speak to one of his soldiers, as the soldier was refusing to go on parade.   This appeared to be a case of refusing a lawful command whilst on active service, and had the smell of a possible Courts Martial.

Of course I agreed to speak with him and the soldier appeared within two minutes.   The soldier was not well known to me.   I do not remember his name; I don’t believe he had ever attracted my attention before for any type of unsoldierly behaviour.   I asked him if it was correct he was refusing to go on parade, and if so what was the reason.   The soldier gave his answer in a calm and polite manner.   Yes, he was refusing to go on parade, because he would not do so for that Brigadier.   When I asked what he had against that particular Brigadier, I was told the Brigadier did not think much of New Zealand soldiers.   How did he know that?   Because the Brigadier had been overheard to say so in the Officers Mess.   It did not matter that our soldier would not have been anywhere near the Mess, or if it was true or just a rumour, what did matter was that he believed it.

What could I say?  I suspect we just looked at each other for a minute as I considered what to do.  I knew that threatening to not go on parade was unlikely to be an offence. But if he did carry out his threat and stay in the Lines when the rest of us were on parade, it would be very serious, maybe a Court Martial and time in a military jail.

My advice to him was that the company would look very silly in front of the Australians if he did not join us on parade.   The soldier looked at me for a while, obviously mulling it over.   Then quietly he said he had changed his mind and would now go on parade.   I had not threatened him with any dire punishment; he seemed intelligent enough to know the likely result if he carried out his threat.

That was the end of the matter.   Or was it?   At the time I respected the soldier for his attitude to be willing to stand up and be counted.   That took courage.   But the good name of the New Zealand soldier and W3 Company was ultimately more important to him than his personal point of view.   I realised later that his decision to change his mind may have taken just as much courage again.   No soldier wants to lose face or appear a coward in front of his friends.  To that unknown soldier, whoever he was, thank you for your example .

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Morphine syrettes and dust-off’s - 'Doc' Mitchell

I was the Company medic for W3 and on operations travelled with Company HQ.   We received magnificent training in NZ that included working at Christchurch Hospital A & E.  We got good practice in suturing, minor surgery and dealing with trauma - though nothing prepared me for the trauma caused by the 7.62 rounds fired from SLRs, or the devastation that a claymore could inflict on the human body.  Trying to treat these wounds was daunting and thank God I carried morphine syrette's.  All you could do was put up an IV, bandage the wounds to try and prevent bleeding and give pain relief, and hope that the DUSTOFF chopper would arrive quickly.

Mike Morrison who was the intelligence NCO and I had the responsibility of searching the dead VC.  This was an unpleasant task that was made even worse when we had to disinter an enemy body which had been buried for some time in the hope that it would have documents on it.  The VC were tough fighters and the contents of their packs showed how they improvised with whatever materials they could find.  I remember a notebook that had been used as a text book on first aid.  It was illustrated with pen drawings that had been coloured with watercolours and the text was written in pencil in a miniature script that had obviously been a labour of love.

In May 1969 Company HQ and the mortar section led by Cpl Mark Binning were on Long Son Island in the Rung Sat Special Zone.  One day around lunchtime a group of VC attacked us from behind a bund in an overgrown orchard on the other side of a dry paddy field.  A RPG round hit the crown of a palm tree above my head and showered me with shredded foliage.  Meanwhile the VC had opened up with an M16 and I think an AK47.  Just like in the movies bullets were kicking up sand and cracking overhead.  I heard someone calling for a medic and realised it was coming from a gun pit on the edge of the paddy nearest the enemy.  What disconcerted me was the fact I would have to cover 25 metres or so of ground that had no cover.  Duty calls, I ran down to the gun pit and saw as I dived into it that it was packed with tangled bodies on the top of which I dived.  Charlie had made his point and left, and the gunfire died down and stopped.

Mike Morrison was at the bottom of the pit giggling like a schoolgirl and this started the rest of us laughing as we untangled ourselves and stood up.  None of us were wearing shirts and two of the guys had bullet creases on their arms.  Mike Morrison though had his hand against his chest and had stopped laughing.  I asked him if he was alright and he took his hand away revealing a wound that had obliterated his left nipple.  After looking at his chest I told him he was very lucky as he and the others had been clipped by the bullets fired at them.  Little did I know that a M16 bullet had punched through Mike's chest and the bullet was sitting in his pericardial sac behind his heart.   We heard the DUSTOFF chopper approaching and just before he flew out to the 1st Australian Field Hospital Mike complained of feeling breathless and I saw he was getting paler and paler.  On the way to hospital his condition deteriorated and he was very sick by the time he was taken to theatre.  I visited him in the ICU a week or so later but he was unconscious.  I didn't see him again for another 30 years.

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Malaysian Riots 13 May 1969 - Wikipedia

The 13 May 1969 incident refers to the Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur (then part of the state of Selangor), Malaysia, in which many Malaysians died.  Officially the number of deaths was played down, but Western diplomatic sources put the toll at close to 600, with most of the victims Chinese.

Malaysia held a general election on 10 May 1969 amid serious racial tension between the indigent Malay and Chinese populations.  There were no incidents during the day but the Alliance Party only won nationally by a reduced vote while in Selangor it gained control only by the vote of the sole independent candidate, drawing with the Opposition for control of the state legislature.  Both parties held victory parades which ignited rioting in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding area of Selangor, spreading rapidly across the city in just 45 minutes.  Many people in Kuala Lumpur were caught in the racial violence – dozens were injured and some killed, houses and cars were burnt and wrecked, but except for minor disturbances in Malacca, Perak, Penang and Singapore, where the populations of Chinese people were similarly larger, the rest of the country remained calm.  Violence concentrated at urban areas where infuriated Malays lashed out and murdered eight Chinese.  According to police figures which are disputed, 196 people died and 149 were wounded, 753 cases of arson were logged and 211 vehicles were destroyed or severely damaged.

Declaration of emergency The government ordered an immediate curfew throughout the state of Selangor.  Security forces comprising some 2000 Royal Malay Regiment soldiers and 3600 police officers were deployed and took control of the situation.  Over 300 Chinese families were moved to refugee centres at the Merdeka Stadium and Tiong Nam Settlement.  On 14 and 16 May, a state of emergency and accompanying curfew were declared throughout the country, but the curfew was relaxed in most parts of the country for two hours on 18 May and not enforced even in Kuala Lumpur within a week.  On 16 May the National Operations Council (NOC) was established by proclamation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, headed by Tun Abdul Razak.  With Parliament suspended, the NOC became the supreme decision-making body for the next 18 months.  State and District Operations Councils took over state and local governments.  The NOC implemented security measures to restore law and order in the country, including the establishment of an unarmed Vigilante Corps, a territorial army, and police field force battalions.  The restoration of order in the country was gradually achieved.  Curfews continued in most parts of the country, but were gradually scaled back.  Peace was restored in the affected areas within two months.  In February 1971 parliamentary rule was re-established.  In a report from the NOC, the riots was attributed in part to both the Malayan Communist Party and secret societies:

The eruption of violence on 13 May was the result of an interplay of forces... These include a generation gap and differences in interpretation of the constitutional structure by the different races in the country...; the incitement, intemperate statements and provocative behaviours of certain racialist party members and supporters during the recent General Election; the part played by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and secret societies in inciting racial feelings and suspicion; and the anxious, and later desperate, mood of the Malays with a background of Sino-Malay distrust, and recently, just after the General Elections, as a result of racial insults and threat to their future survival in their own country'

Both Sunray and Peter Anderson referred to the riots in their memoirs and most veterans will recall the period, especially where we had to drink in the sterile environment of the camp messes rather than with the bargirls down at The Strip.

I was There - Peter Anderson
The advance party of B Company arrived in country a week before the riots and were involved right from the very start, the rest of the company arrived in country after the initial danger period was over and the “Drunk Truck” was used to ferry troopies from the “Greens” [Strip] back to Terendak, Wellington Lines.  I remember the first words of Malay we were taught by Major Torrance as a Ready Reaction party was “Berhenti atau saya tembak”, it means “Halt or I will shoot”, something we practised on the playing fields in front of the Garrison Club NAAFI rolling out a white tape and firing one live round amidst a lot of blanks.

[webmaster] Rules of Engagement [ROE] for Protection of Key Points - These ROE for the Australian Army company at Butterworth Air Base in Northern Malaya were in force during the period W3 Company were training in Malaya and are typical for that era:

1. Orders for Opening Fire. You may open fire at a person or persons only in the following circumstances:

a. If you are ordered to guard any building, vehicle being used as a dwelling or as a place of storage, or you are ordered to guard the occupants of, or any property contained in such building, vehicle, aircraft, tent you may open fire at any person who is in the act of destroying or damaging by fire or explosives the building, vehicle, aircraft, or tent, or the property contained therein PROVIDED THAT THERE IS NO OTHER MEANS OF PREVENTING THE PERSON FROM CARRYING OUT THE ACT OF DESTRUCTION OR DAMAGE.

b. If you or any other person is illegally attacked in such a way as to give you reason to fear that death or grave bodily injury will result, you may open fire on the person carrying out the attack PROVIDED THAT THERE IS NO OTHER MEANS OF PREVENTING THE PERSON FROM CARRYING OUT THE ATTACK.

2. Before opening fire you are to warn the person whom you intend to shoot of your intention to open fire unless he ceases his illegal act. You should use the challenge ‘HALT OR I FIRE – BERHENTI ATAU SAYA TEMBAK’, repeated three times.

3. At all times, before opening fire you must remember:

a. If in doubt do not shoot.

b. You must not fire unless this is the least force necessary to enable you to carry out the orders you have been.

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W3 Record of Operations with 1ATF

Arrive Phuoc Tuy province

14 November 1969
Ross 24 - 30 November 1969
Marsden 1 - 27 December 1969
Bluewater 30 December - 1 January 1970
Napier 10 January - 12 February 1970
Horseshoe 16 February - 15 April 1970
Townsville 16 - 23 April 1970
ANZAC Day parade 25 April 1970
Handover 6 RAR to 2 RAR/ANZAC 17 - 18 May 1970
Long Son Island 4 - 14 May 1970
Long Son Island [2 Platoon only] 15 - 31 May 1970
Ashfield 15 - 25 May 1970
Capricorn 26 May - 11 June 1970
Cung Chung 12 - 27 June 1970
Quartermile [under opcon 8RAR] 30 June - 6 July 1970
Nathan 13 July - 2 August 1970
Cung Chung II  [1st deployment] 2 - 10 August 1970
Reaction/Duty Company 13 - 23 August 1970
Cung Chung II  [2nd deployment] 23 - 30 August 1970
Land Clearing 30 August - 25 September 1970
Reaction/Duty Company 28 September - 8 October 1970
Cung Chung III 8 - 31 October 1970
Depart Phuoc Tuy province 10 November 1970


Enemy KIA 54
Enemy PW 8
Enemy Surrendered 1

Total Eliminations

W3 KIA 3
W3 WIA and evacuated 5
W3 WIA and returned to duty 11

see here for a comparison with other rifle companies

see here for a record of W3 casualties

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