The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4411171) Private Alan John Cooper, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.11
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 11 January 2018
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (4411171) Private Alan John Cooper, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

4411171 Private Alan John Cooper, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 26 May 1968
Story delivered 11 January 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Alan John Cooper.

Alan Cooper was born on 7 May 1948 in Adelaide. He grew up in Royal Park and attended the Hendon Primary School and Le Fevre Technical School.

Cooper grew up with a passion for Australian Rules Football. He played junior football for Royal Park and later for the West Adelaide Football Club. However, his primary loyalty was to the Port Adelaide Magpies, and during the football season he would attend many of their games.

After leaving school, Cooper went to work in a relative’s business, Cooper Car Service at Woodville South. He bought a Honda motorcycle, and he and his younger brother Don were renowned for their Honda sports cars.
Cooper’s happy disposition earned him the nickname “Smiley”. Nothing seemed to worry him, but he wanted to do more with his life. In 1965, during a trip into Adelaide to collect car parts, he went into the army recruiting office and enlisted.

After completing his basic training at Kapooka, he was next posted to Singleton for infantry training. During this time he became firm friends with several national servicemen.
Cooper was posted along with his mates to the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, joining 2 Platoon of A Company.

When 3RAR’s forward element departed from Adelaide airport for Vietnam on 12 December, Cooper was there to see several of his mates
off. On his way home he was set upon by a group of civilians and was left bruised and bloodied.

Cooper recovered quickly, and was with his unit when the main body of 3RAR departed from Outer Harbour four days later aboard HMAS Sydney (III).

They arrived off Vung Tau, on 27 December and after disembarking the men of 3RAR were moved to the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat.

The battalion began operations in early January 1968, and in late April took part in Operation Toan Thang, which aimed to block communist forces withdrawing back to the north following the Tet Offensive.
On 13 May, 3RAR occupied Fire Support Base Coogee before moving 5 kilometres north on 24 May to establish Fire Support Base Balmoral. The men immediately began work on their defensive positions, and four Centurion tanks arrived to add fire support.

At 3.45 am on 26 May Balmoral came under an intense barrage of mortar, rocket, machine-gun, and small-arms fire. Some 15 minutes later Cooper was killed by a mortar round that landed in his position. He was 20 years old.

A concentrated infantry attack was launched against D Company’s position. At the same time, while A Company’s position was breached but not exploited by North Vietnamese soldiers using improvised Bangalore torpedoes. D Company, with the support of the Centurion tanks and artillery fire from the nearby Fire Support Base Coral, was able to drive off the North Vietnamese attack off. This action cost the battalion three men killed and 14 wounded.

Two days later, Balmoral once again came under attack. This was also repulsed, but with the loss of another Australian soldier and a further eight men wounded. Balmoral was soon closed down and 3RAR returned to Nui Dat.

Cooper’s remains were returned to Australia and laid to rest with full military honours in Centennial Park Cemetery, Adelaide.

Alan Cooper’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with more than 500 others who died as a result of their service in the Vietnam War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Alan John Cooper, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Michael Kelly
Historian, Australian War Memorial

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4411171) Private Alan John Cooper, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam War. (video)