104th Field Battery

The 104th Field Battery completed two tours of duty in Vietnam and was the last Australian field artillery unit to leave that theatre of operations.The 104th Medium Battery formed in September 1965. In June 1967 the battery’s 5.5 inch BL guns were replaced by M2A2 howitzers, with the unit accordingly becoming a field battery.In May 1968 the 104th Field Battery arrived in South Vietnam, replacing the 108th Field Battery. Working with the 102nd Field Battery, the 104th Field Battery was initially stationed mainly in Bien Hoa Province in order to support the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment - New Zealand (ANZAC) (4RAR/NZ), in operations near American bases in the area. During these operations the battery deployed to Fire Support Bases (FSBs) Concord, Dyke, and Wattle. While at FSB Wattle, the battery experienced its first direct contact with the enemy when there was an attempted penetration of the base’s defensive perimeter.In late 1968 the 104th Field Battery was increasingly based at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province. Throughout this period the battery maintained its close working relationship with 4RAR/NZ. During Operation Innamincka (7-12 September) and Operation Hawkesbury (12-24 September) the 104th Field Battery and an American artillery unit supported 4RAR/NZ in reconnaissance-in-force and cordon-and-sweep missions along Route 2, north of Nui Dat.During Operation Capital (12 October to 30 November), a series of Task Force-scale reconnaissance-in-force missions in northern Phuoc Tuy Province and adjacent areas, the104th Field Battery occupied FSB Flinders, which was known as the “Fortress” or “Sandbag City.” At FSB Flinders the battery fired on linear targets for the first time on the tour in order to prevent enemy supply trucks operating by night along local roads. The insanitary conditions at Flinders, including a rat plague and pools of stagnant water that led to a malaria epidemic, tested the battery’s morale. In an attempt to find excitement and raise morale, battery personnel began going on patrols with the infantrymen at the base.In May 1969 the 104th Field Battery was replaced by the 101st Field Battery. Having returned to Australia, the 104th Field Battery was stationed at Holsworthy, Sydney, before moving to Townsville, Queensland, for a year of training in preparation for another tour of duty in Vietnam.The 104th Field Battery arrived back in South Vietnam in May 1971. On its second tour of duty the battery again provided direct artillery support for 4RAR/NZ. The 104th Field Battery supported 4RAR/NZ on nine major operations between May and November 1971. During this period the battery moved between Nui Dat, Courtney Hill, and FSBs Trish, Cherie, Debbie, and Robin. The infantrymen of 4RAR/NZ came to have such confidence in the 104th Field Battery that the Task Force standing order, stating that the first round of an infantry-support barrage had to be directed 1,000 yards in front of the ground troops in question, was waived for the first time. And, as a mark of affection, the infantrymen of 4RAR/NZ began to refer to the 104th Field Battery as “104 Company”.On 7 November 1971 the 104th Field Battery withdrew to Vung Tau and the following month returned to Australia. After a civic reception in Townsville, the battery was stationed at Ingleburn, Sydney, as part of the 12th Field Regiment.

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • nil

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Vietnam War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

  • Crawford, M C
  • Townley, Keith

Decorations

  • 1 MBE

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Horner, David Murray, The gunners : a history of Australian artillery, (St. Leonards, N.S.W : Allen & Unwin, 1995)