6RAR Australian Army in action February 1967 – Vietnam War

At dawn in Vietnam, 16 American helicopters arrived at the Australian Task Force base airstrip to fly out troops of 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment on a search and destroy operation. Army Public Relations Photographer, Sergeant Mike Coleridge, went forward with the troops to film these highlights of the action, in which several Viet Cong were captured.

It took several round trips to fly the soldiers into landing zones throughout the area and the tension slowly mounted as the troops waited for their turn to be flown out.

Gunner John Achilles, of Chinchilla, Queensland, a wireless operator with the Battalion, is constantly on the alert to relay messages, and as members of the Battalion spread out across the paddy fields, movement is seen in a clump of bamboo ahead. A grenade launcher is called forward, ready to blast the enemy hideout.

With the Australians all on alert for enemy action, there is a call for the Viet Cong to surrender. No response brings quick action from the encircling troops and a grenade blasts the bamboo screen. Lieutenant Juergen Raasch, who acts as an interpreter, calls to the Viet Cong to come out of hiding. He receives no answer, and tosses in a smoke grenade to help them make up their minds. As the smoke billows out from the bamboo screen, Private Murray Hogan, of Korumburra, Victoria and Private Colin Mooney of Brisbane, watch for signs of enemy movement.

The smoke forces out a member of the Viet Cong – and questioning from the interpreter reveals that there are more to come. A total of four enemy surrender and are expertly searched… Now the tunnel must be searched and this is a job for the Army’s Engineers. Sapper Axel Krawtschuk of Perth goes in first.

Among the equipment found in the tunnel were these pairs of rubber sandals, which the Viet Cong make from old car tyres. Captain Karl Jackson of Brisbane found this kettle was not quite as innocent as it looked. The Viet Cong hide weapons – particularly explosives, in the most unlikely places. The tunnel has been thoroughly searched – now it is to be destroyed.

A 50lb charge of TNT will ensure that this particular hiding place will not be used by the Viet Cong again. Sergeant Allan West, of Sydney nonchalantly lights the fuse. Lance-Corporal Don Campbell, of Penrith, NSW, takes a welcome drink from his canteen – and then the troops move on again, with four prisoners, weapons and documents to their credit.

Filmmaker: Coleridge, Michael