The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1200097) Temporary Corporal James Joseph Barrett, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam

Place Asia: Vietnam, Phuoc Tuy Province, Ba Ria, Long Hai
Accession Number PAFU2015/068.01
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 28 February 2015
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 Jana Johnson, the story for this day was on (1200097) Temporary Corporal James Joseph Barrett, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam.

Film order form
Speech transcript

1200097 Temporary Corporal James Joseph Barrett, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 28 February 1970
Photograph: P07427.001

Story delivered 28 February 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Temporary Corporal James “Jim” Joseph Barrett.

Jim Barrett was born on 12 October 1945 in Mossman, North Queensland, the third of four children born to John and Margaret Barrett. He was raised at Miriwinni and Babinda near Cairns, where he attended the Sisters of Mercy Convent School. When he was 14 Jim’s family moved to Brisbane, where he attended Inala State School, Corinda State School, and Villanova College.

His sister Margaret later recalled that Jim was a “terrible kid” who wagged school and roamed Inala with a youth gang. He was also fiercely protective of his younger sister.
After Jim left high school he gained employment with the Queensland government as an apprentice carpenter. A year later Jim joined the army, enlisting for a six-year term. Margaret believed that “the army saved him”, giving him a sense of discipline and direction.

After basic training at Kapooka Jim was posted in February 1966 to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, then serving in Vietnam. When 1RAR returned to Australia that June, he transferred to 6RAR and served in Vietnam until the following February.

Back in Australia Jim volunteered to join 8RAR and deployed to Malaysia, where he was promoted to lance corporal, returning to Australia in early 1969. That November Jim’s enlistment tenure was about to expire, and he went to Hamilton Wharf in Brisbane to farewell his mates who were to sail to Vietnam aboard HMAS Sydney (III). One of his mates embarking that day was Corporal Klaus “Tanky” Scheuermann, who later recalled “I could see Jim was hurting. He suddenly turned around and said to me, ‘[Stuff] if, I’m signing on again.’”

True to his word, Jim signed on and re-joined 8RAR in Vietnam in January 1970. He was promoted to temporary corporal and became a section commander in 1 Platoon, A Company.

In February 8RAR was involved in Operation Hammersley, the objective of which was the location and destruction of a large bunker system in the Minh Dam Secret Zone in the dreaded Long Hai Hills.

The operation was successful, and on the morning of 28 February Jim’s company was deployed to the eastern edge of the hills to ambush enemy attempting to escape in that direction. The area was known to be seeded with M16 “Jumping Jack” mines, lifted by the Viet Cong from the Australian-built minefield and redeployed against the Australians. The ambush patrols were ordered to exercise extreme caution.

The men of 1 Platoon, wearing steel helmets and flak jackets, were led to their ambush site by an engineer team equipped with mine detectors. A booby trap was found, and as the engineers began to neutralise it a mine was detonated. The blast killed seven men and wounded a further thirteen.

Jim was the most senior soldier left standing. He took control, directing others to assist the wounded, then with two other men marked out a safe lane to a large flat rock nearby where a helicopter could land.

Helicopters began arriving with engineers and medics on board. Jim was marshalling a helicopter into the small landing zone when he inadvertently stepped outside the cleared zone and triggered a second mine explosion. Two men were wounded, and Jim was killed instantly.

Jim was remembered for his larrikin spirit and outstanding leadership, and was sorely missed by his mates. His body was returned to Australia and laid to rest in Mount Gravatt Lawn Cemetery, Queensland. He was 24 years old.

Jim’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with more than 500 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 service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Temporary Corporal James Joseph Barrett, and all Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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