108th Field Battery

The 108th Field Battery was raised in September 1965 at Wacol, in Queensland. Although initially equipped with the Italian-made L5 pack howitzer, when it arrived in Vietnam in April 1967 the battery converted to American 105 mm M2A2 howitzers. While in Vietnam the 108th Field Battery served alongside the Australian 106th Field Battery and the 161st New Zealand Artillery Battery as part of the Australian 4th Field Regiment. The main task of the 4th Field Regiment was to provide direct fire support in the Australian Task Force’s Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR).

In July 1967 the 108th Field Battery was involved in Operation Paddington, a search-and-destroy mission featuring cooperation between Australian, American, and New Zealand troops. The battery established itself at Xuyen Moc in order to support clearing operations on Routes 23, 328, and 329. Difficulties in creating adequate defences in the muddy ground around Xuyen Moc led to the idea of “bunding” earth around the guns for additional protection within the barbed-wire perimeter of the position. Many enemy tunnel and bunker systems were found and destroyed in the course of Operation Paddington.

On 5 September 1967 the 108th Field Battery was flown to Duc Tanh to provide fire support for the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), and 7RAR during Operation Ainslie, which consisted of the resettlement of local villagers and the disruption of Viet Cong activities in an area around Route 2 known as Slope 30. During the operation the 108th Field Battery carried out a series of harassing-fire missions against enemy units. On 13 September 1967 C Company, 2RAR, encountered a large enemy force in a camp. Although under heavy fire from the enemy, forward observer Assistant Bombardier Geoffrey Webster called in accurate artillery fire from the 108th Field Battery right up to his own position, causing the enemy to break contact. Webster was Mentioned in Despatches for his part in the action. Task Force Headquarters regarded Operation Ainslie as a complete success; at least 30 of the enemy had been killed, and enemy bunker systems and weapons caches had been located and destroyed. The resettlement aspect of the operation, moreover, attracted widespread positive coverage in the Australian media.

In September and October 1967 the 108th Field Battery took part in Operation Kenmore, a series of search-and-destroy missions in an area east of Nui Dat, between Xuyen Moc and the coast. The operation, which aimed to disrupt enemy supply lines in the area, uncovered large quantities of weapons and resulted in many enemy installations being destroyed.

During Operation Santa Fe (26 October to 18 November 1967), another series of search-and-destroy missions, the 4th Field Regiment moved from Nui Dat to Fire Support Base (FSB) Wilton and then to FSB Lion. The 108th Field Battery’s only fatality of its tour of duty occurred at FSB Lion on the night of 4 November 1967. The enemy infiltrated the perimeter of the FSB and set up a bank of four anti-personnel mines. Two of the mines exploded six metres from one of the battery’s artillery pieces, mortally wounding Gunner Barry “Bluey” Tregear. More casualties would almost certainly have occurred had the other two mines not failed to detonate. The following day at FSB Lion the 108th Field Battery was subject to a barrage of 15 enemy mortar rounds. Later on the same day the battery used direct fire against suspected enemy movement along a tree-line north of the FSB. On 16 November the 108th Field Battery returned to Xuyen Moc. When Operation Santa Fe concluded two days later the battery joined 7RAR at the Horseshoe.

In January 1968 the 4th Field Regiment was flown north-west from Nui Dat to FSB Harrison, in order to support both 2RAR and 7RAR during Operation Coburg, a reconnaissance-in-force between the Song Dong Nai and Route 1. For the remainder of its tour the 108th Field Battery was mainly deployed on operations south of Nui Dat towards the coast. Operation Cooktown Orchid (1-24 April 1968) was part of this pattern and marked the battery’s last deployment away from Nui Dat in support of a major operation.

The 108th Field Battery fired the last round of its tour of duty on 28 May 1968. During its time in Vietnam the battery had fired 68,169 rounds in the course of 2,357 separate firing missions.

Casualties

  • 1 killed

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 MID
  • 1 MBE

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Burke, Arthur, 4th Field Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery : historical guide, (Aspley, Qld: A. Burke, 2003)
  • Horner, David Murray, The gunners : a history of Australian artillery, (St. Leonards, N.S.W : Allen & Unwin, 1995)