XM16E1 Rifle : 2nd Lieutenant R Woolan, Headquarters Company, 1 Australian Task Force

Place Asia: Vietnam, Phuoc Tuy Province
Accession Number RELAWM40186.009
Collection type Technology
Object type Firearm
Physical description Metal, Synthetic
Maker Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company
Place made United States of America
Date made 1967
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975

XM16E1 select fire rifle. Cast alloy body incorporating a top carry handle and a bolt assist on the right side. Markings on the left side are the Colt trade mark in a circle, AR-15 PROPERTY OF US GOVT. XM16E1 CAL 5.56 MM and the serial number with COLTS PATENT FIREARMS MFG CO HARTFORD CONN USA above the safety change lever. It has a black plastic butt, pistol grip and fore grip. The barrel muzzle has a three prong flash suppressor and a bayonet lug. Complete with a detachable box magazine accessioned separately as REL/05953.

History / Summary

M16 rifle issued to Raymond Woolan during his service in Vietnam.

Raymond 'Mick' Woolan was born at Blacktown, New South Wales in 1935. He was working as a teller at the Cessnock branch of the Bank of New South Wales when he was called up in the seventh national service intake in April 1967. After completing a selection process at Singleton, New South Wales Woolan was sent to officer training at Scheyville, New South Wales, which he completed in October 1967. He was then allotted to the infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant (2LT). He deployed to Vietnam with 1 Reinforcement Unit in September 1968, and was posted to A Company, 1 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in December of the same year. This posting was to replace 2LT Terry Langlands, who had been killed in action on 24 November 1968. Langlands had been a friend of Woolan's during their infantry training at Singleton. 1 Battalion returned to Australia in February 1969, whereupon 2LT Woolan was transferred to Headquarters Company, 1 Australian Task Force (1ATF) as Platoon Commander, Defence and Employment Platoon. In May 1969, 1ATF commander Brigadier C M I 'Sandy' Pearson began deploying this platoon in mobile operations with armoured units.

On the afternoon of 27 May 1969, the Defence and Employment Platoon were on operations with tanks of B Squadron, 1 Armoured Regiment in the Courtenay rubber plantation near the Long Khanh provincial border. Woolan's platoon established an ambush in a suspected Viet Cong staging area, and, at about 6 pm engaged a group of approximately twenty five Viet Cong. A second group of Viet Cong then appeared, and were also engaged. These were followed by a third group, who attempted to encircle the Australian position. Woolan and his men were now seriously outnumbered, but Woolan directed the fire of his soldiers and that of supporting mortars in order to regain the initiative. He then called for armoured assistance. The Viet Cong continued to press their attack but were repulsed by the Australians, and eventually withdrew upon the arrival of B Squadron's tanks. For his courage and leadership during this action 2LT Woolan was awarded the Military Cross.

Woolan's uniform, equipment and rifle were collected in Vietnam specifically for the Australian War Memorial by another officer, Captain A J 'Jack' Balsillie, who was himself posted to 1ATF Headquarters. Woolan donated his kit immediately prior to his return to Australia in September 1969. Upon his discharge from the army he returned to work at the Bank of New South Wales.