The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (19983) Corporal Thomas Douglas “Blackie” Blackhurst, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, Vietnam War

Place Asia: Vietnam, Phuoc Tuy Province, Long Hai Hills
Accession Number PAFU2014/201.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 18 June 2014
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (19983) Corporal Thomas Douglas “Blackie” Blackhurst, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, Vietnam War.

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Speech transcript

19983 Corporal Thomas Douglas “Blackie” Blackhurst, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
KIA 17 April 1971
Photograph: COL/67/0553/VN

Story delivered 18 June 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Thomas Douglas “Blackie” Blackhurst.

Thomas Douglas Blackhurst was born on 14 October 1946 in Belmont, New South Wales. Little is currently known about his early life before he joined the Australian Regular Army.

Following his basic and initial employment training he was posted to the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) and became an infantryman-dog handler in the battalion’s tracking platoon. Blackhurst deployed to South Vietnam with his battalion in April 1967. Over the following 12 months he took part in 7RAR’s operations, including the successful Operation Coburg, conducted in early 1968 along the Bien Hoa-Long Khanh border against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army regulars. A month later Blackhurst sailed back with his battalion to Australia.

Blackhurst returned to Vietnam in January 1970 and was initially sent to the 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit before being posted to 6RAR. In March and April he took part in Operation Townsville, a month-long search-and-destroy operation in north-eastern Phuoc Tuy Province. When 6RAR left Vietnam in May, Blackhurst returned to the reinforcement unit.

In October he was promoted to corporal and posted to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam to work as an advisor to Vietnamese regional troops. In early April he took the place of a comrade due a period of rest and deployed to the Long Hai Hills with a company-sized patrol from the South Vietnamese 302nd Regional Force Battalion. With him was another member of AATTV and two American advisors.

As the unit patrolled into the Long Hais, one of the Vietnamese soldiers triggered a mine which severely wounded him and three others. An Iroquois helicopter from No. 9 Squadron RAAF, protected by two “Bushranger” gunships, was called in to evacuate the group.

Blackhurst guided the helicopter into position and went to assist in strapping the most severely wounded soldier onto a litter to be winched out. As the litter was winched back up towards the helicopter a hidden enemy machine gun opened fire and a number of rounds hit the helicopter, causing it to lurch, lose power and plunge to the ground. The group’s captain and the wounded Vietnamese soldier were killed by the helicopter as it crashed. Blackhurst was struck by one of the rotor blades and killed instantly.

As the helicopter rolled and burst into flames, the four RAAF crewmen managed to escape from the wreckage, but the medic on board was trapped and died in the fire. Blackhurst’s body, recovered the next day, was returned to Australia and he was laid to rest in Belmont South Cemetery, New South Wales.

Thomas Douglas Blackhurst was the last soldier of the Australian Army Training Team to die in Vietnam.

His name is now listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with 520 others from the Vietnam War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Thomas Douglas Blackhurst, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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