The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (44042) Sapper Allan Graham Pattison, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, Vietnam War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.49
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 February 2020
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 Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (44042) Sapper Allan Graham Pattison, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, Vietnam War.

Speech transcript

44042 Sapper Allan Graham Pattison, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers
KIA 18 February 1968

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sapper Allan Graham Pattison.

Allan Pattison was born on 3 August 1948 at Kadina Community Hospital in the town of Kadina, South Australia, the youngest child of Bert and Jean Pattison. He attended school in Kadina, joined the local Scout group, and was a member of his high school’s cadet corps.

After leaving school, Pattison joined the Post Office and worked in Kadina, Tumby Bay, and Streaky Bay. During this time, he decided to join the army, and in May 1966 he enlisted in the Australian Regular Army.

Pattison had shown an interest in all things mechanical from an early age. After his initial training, the army’s assessment noted that he had “very good mechanical aptitude”. Reflecting these skills, he continued training in Australia and qualified as a sapper in the Royal Australian Engineers.

In November 1967, he was posted to 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, for service in South Vietnam. Before he left Australia, Pattison became engaged to Faith Malcolm.

He left Sydney by aeroplane and arrived in Saigon. He undertook his in-country training on base at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province, where Australian forces were contesting for control against communist forces.

The tasks carried out by combat engineers in Vietnam were many and varied. They included mine laying and clearance, the creation of landing zones for helicopters, road and track construction, and identifying and defusing booby traps. Pattison wrote home in January 1968 about how he had safely detonated unexploded ordnance, and done some minefield clearing.

The other major activity carried out by combat engineers in Vietnam was the identification and demolition of enemy bunker and tunnel systems. This was dangerous work because these extensive tunnel systems contained unknown numbers of enemy soldiers as well as a variety of booby traps. For taking on this challenging role, the men of 1 Field Squadron and 3 Field Troop became known as “Tunnel Rats”.

At the end of January 1968, communist forces had agreed to a truce to mark Tet, the lunar new year festival. Only hours into the truce period, however, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units began a large-scale assault on towns and military bases in South Vietnam.

Having anticipated a communist offensive, Australian commanders had agreed to move elements of their forces out of Phuoc Tuy province and into neighbouring provinces. Known as Operation Coburg, this would be the biggest operation undertaken so far in Vietnam by Australian forces.

As part of the operation, 1 Field Squadron moved to Fire Support Base Andersen in Bien Hoa province. In order to disrupt enemy movement, FSB Andersen was deliberately sited on a well-known communist line of communication. Initially established by the Americans, by early 1968 the defenders consisted of American, Australian, and New Zealand forces.

A listening post had been established some 300 metres west of the base, outside the perimeter of barbed wire. Each night, a standing patrol of ten combat engineers was deployed on the knoll in order to provide early warning of enemy movements. Pattison was one member of this standing patrol on the night of 17 February 1968.

Just after 1 am on 18 February 1968 a Viet Cong company launched a major ground assault on FSB Andersen. The knoll on which the standing patrol was situated was raked by mortar and rocket fire. Pattison was killed in this initial assault. He was 19 years old.

Three other members of the patrol group were also killed: Sergeant Colin McLachlan, Lance Corporal John Garrett, and Sapper David Steen.

During the fighting, Three Australians, Private Thomas De Vries Van Leeuwen, Private John Doherty and Lance Bombardier James Menz, and an American, Specialist 4 Orville Heightland Junior, were killed within the perimeter of the Fire Support Base, and dozens were wounded.
The Australians, New Zealanders, and Americans on the base were able to fight off this attack, as well as two smaller assaults that followed later in February.

Pattison’s remains were repatriated and in early March he was buried in Kadina Cemetery in his hometown. Pattison was survived in Australia by his parents and siblings and their families.

Sapper Allan Graham Pattison is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among more than 500 Australians who died while serving 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 Sapper Allan Graham Pattison, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

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