The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (15400) Sergeant William Joseph Hoban BEM, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam War

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.59
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 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 (15400) Sergeant William Joseph Hoban BEM, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam War

Speech transcript

15400 Sergeant William Joseph Hoban BEM, 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 28 February 1970

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant William Joseph Hoban BEM.

William “Bill” Hoban was born on 19 January 1931 in Melbourne Victoria.

Bill’s mother Elsie appears to have raised her son alone. Bill grew up around South Yarra and completed 8th grade at school before leaving to join the work force. Outside of school and work, Bill enjoyed cycling, swimming and football as some of his pastimes.

On 28 January 1955 Bill Hoban, aged 24, attended the Australian Army’s recruiting office at Degraves Street in Melbourne where he joined the army for a period of three years.

After his initial training, he was posted as a reinforcement to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, which was based in Korea. He arrived in Korea on the 4th of January 1956 and remained in Korea for only a short period of time as 1RAR completed its deployment in late March and returned to Australia.

On return to Australia, 1RAR was based at Enoggera in Queensland. During his off-duty time, Hoban met a lady by the name of Yvonne and they began a relationship. They were married on 31 August 1957.

When Hoban’s three-year service commitment expired in January 1958, he took his discharge and went to work as a metal work machinist for a company at Woolloongabba.

The Hobans welcomed their first child, daughter Kerry Anne in late March 1959. Wanting to provide a secure future for his family, Bill Hoban re-enlisted in the army on 19 October 1959, signing on for six years.

He returned to Kapooka for basic training then to Singleton where he re-qualified as a rifleman. In January 1960 he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment which was then based at Enoggera Barracks near Brisbane.

In July the Hoban family bought a house in the Brisbane suburb of Salisbury and two months later the family welcomed a second daughter, Wendy Leigh.

Hoban settled quickly back into the life of an infantryman and his leadership and drive were recognised only days prior to Wendy’s birth when he was promoted to lance corporal. Over the next two years Hoban was sent on a number of different educational, military skills and leadership courses which saw him promoted to temporary corporal in May 1961.

He qualified as a mortarman in June 1962 which saw him transferred to 3RAR’s mortar platoon. In September that year Hoban’s commanding officer rated him as “a first class NCO who has set an excellent example in conduct, efficiency, zeal and leadership”. He was made substantive corporal in December.

In July 1963 3RAR deployed to Malaya for two years. At this time families were able to deploy with their husbands and soon after arriving at Terendak, Hoban’s family joined him.

Hoban’s time in Malaya was short-lived after he contracted a tropical illness and was medically evacuated to Australia in January 1964. He was sent to the Repatriation Hospital at Caulfield in Victoria where he remained until June. With his family back in Brisbane, he requested and was granted a transfer to a hospital near home.

He returned to duty by late February 1965 and in March he was posted as an instructor to 2 Recruit Training Battalion at Puckapunyal. Here his efficiency and conduct continued to be rated above average. In October, he signed on for a further six years of service.

Hoban was next posted to 3 National Service Training Battalion at Singleton in December 1965 and was promoted to acting sergeant.

In February 1966 Hoban went absent without leave for two days. It was one of the few times in his career he was charged with any form of misconduct.

Hoban had been living separately from his family since becoming an instructor. His wife and daughters had only seen him on brief periods of leave and relations had become strained. In July 1966 he applied for a transfer to an infantry battalion. His application was granted and in October, he was posted to the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, which had recently been raised at Enoggera.

Hoban was posted to 8RAR’s Support Company where he, acting as a platoon commander, raised and moulded the Anti-Tank Platoon. The platoon was tasked with becoming a tracker platoon, working with Labrador dogs. According to Hoban’s citation for the British Empire Medal, “his platoon quickly established a reputation for reliability and initiative well above the average”. The rest of the citation was glowing in its praise for Hoban and his leadership of his platoon. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday honours in June 1968.

8RAR deployed to Malaysia in September 1967 and once again, Hoban’s family joined him at Terendak. Life was busy as the battalion conducted numerous training operations in preparation for deployment to Vietnam. Hoban was promoted to sergeant in February 1968 and soon after began working on courses for promotion to warrant officer.

The battalion returned to Australia in April 1969 and over the next six months spent a great deal of time training and preparing for the deployment to Vietnam.

Hoban was part of the advance party that flew out of Brisbane for Saigon on 18 November, arriving in Saigon the same day. By the middle of the afternoon, the advance party had reached Nui Dat. The main body of 8RAR arrived at the end of the month and operations began soon after.

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 Long Hai Hills. The operation was successful, and on the morning of 28 February, A Company, 8RAR 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.

Hoban, who was acting platoon commander of 1 Platoon and his men that included a two-man engineer splinter team were wearing flak jackets to minimise casualties from mines. The going was slow, with the engineers needing frequent breaks. After arriving at the ambush site the engineers located a grenade booby trap. Hoban told his men not to move – where there was one booby trap, there was likely to be another.

The area around platoon headquarters became crowded. A party of men returned from filling water bottles at a nearby stream and another was about to leave.

One of Hoban’s men, Lance Corporal Bob D’Arcy recalled what happened next:

Hoban turned to Corporal Jackson to discuss how we would move away. One of the [engineer] mini-team moved over to their weapons. He detonated the mine. I heard the explosion and went to ground. I think I was shaky and a little groggy. Sergeant Hoban looked at me and fell to the ground [dead].

Seven men were killed instantly and 13 were wounded, all but wiping out the platoon. One of the wounded also died soon after. Among the dead was Hoban. He was 39 years old.

Further casualties occurred when another mine was detonated by Corporal Jim Barrett, who inadvertently stepped outside of a cleared zone while directing a helicopter lowering an engineer to the ground. The blast killed Barrett and wounded two soldiers, including the engineer being winched down from the helicopter.

Hoban’s remains were returned to Australia and he was laid to rest in Mount Gravatt Cemetery in Queensland.

Hoban’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 during 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 Sergeant William Joseph Hoban BEM, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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