Bas Relief Sculpture of WO2 Kevin Wheatley, VC : Australian Army Training Team Vietnam

Place Asia: Vietnam, Vung Tau Special Zone, Vung Tau
Accession Number RELAWM40873
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Bronze, Wood
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1970
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975

Bronze bas relief of the upper torso of Kevin Arthur 'Dasher' Wheatley surmounting a separate bronze commemorative plaque, both attached to the same wooden backboard. The bas relief measures 386 high x 300mm wide x 26mm at its maximum thickness. The commemorative plaque measures 325mm high x 430mm wide x 20mm deep.

The etched text on the plaque, surmounted by a Rising Sun badge reads:

'The Kevin Wheatley Stadium

This stadium is named after Warrant Officer Kevin Arthur Wheatley VC of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. The Victoria Cross was bestowed posthumously for outstanding service, determination and unflinching loyalty to a wounded comrade in the face of overwhelming enemy strength. On the 13th November 1965 when acting as an advisor to a Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defence Group on a search and destroy operation in the Tra Bong Valley in Quang Ngai Province, the platoon with which he was operating made contact with an enemy force of over one company strength. During the fire-fight, another Australian advisor, Warrant Officer R. J. Swanton, was shot in the chest whilst he was carrying a wounded Vietnamese soldier. At about this time, the Civil Irregular Defence Group platoon broke in the face of heavy Viet Cong fire and began to scatter. Although Warrant Officer Wheatley was aware that Warrant Officer Swanton was dying, Wheatley refused to abandon him. Under very heavy fire, he carried and half dragged Swanton for approx 200 metres across open rice paddy to the comparative safety of a wooded area. It was here he stayed and fought throwing his last two grenades as he was overrun by the enemy.

Warrant Officer Wheatley displayed magnificent courage in the face of an overwhelming Viet Cong force. He had the clear choice of abandoning a wounded comrade and saving himself by escaping through the dense timber or of staying with Warrant officer Swanton and thereby facing certain death. He deliberately chose the latter course. His act of heroism, determination and unflinching loyalty in the face of the enemy will always remain an outstanding episode in the annals of Australian courage. His conduct is an inspiration to all Australians and is in the very highest traditions of the Australian Army.'

History / Summary

This relief and plaque were displayed at the Kevin Wheatley Stadium in South Vietnam. The stadium, constructed by 17 Construction Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, was officially opened by Major General R A Hay on 23 February 1970. It was situated at Back Beach, 1st Australian Logistic Support Group, Vung Tau, South Vietnam. Named in memory of the first Victoria Cross winner of the Vietnam War, the construction of the stadium was funded from public donations collected by the Sportmen's Appeal for Servicemen in Vietnam. The plaque was removed and returned to Australia after the withdrawal of Australian troops in 1971.