The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (R59629) Leading Aircrewman Noel Ervin Shipp, RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam, Vietnam War

Place Asia: Vietnam, Bien Hoa Province, Bearcat Base
Accession Number PAFU2014/176.01
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 31 May 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 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (R59629) Leading Aircrewman Noel Ervin Shipp, RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam, Vietnam War. The Reader on this day was Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Sime, a recipient of the Medal for Gallantry.

Speech transcript

R59629 Leading Aircrewman Noel Ervin Shipp, RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam
KIA 31 May 1969
Photograph: P05707.025

Story delivered 31 May 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Leading Aircrewman Noel Ervin Shipp of the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam unit.

Noel Shipp was born in Brisbane on Christmas Eve 1944. Formerly a truck offsider, in January 1963 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as an underwater control rating. By 1968 Noel had been transferred to the aircrew category and was posted to the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam unit as an air gunner. The unit was integrated with the US Army’s 135th Assault Helicopter Company. Their nickname was EMU, an acronym of Experimental Military Unit – appropriate, given the number of Australians in the company. Their motto was, “Get the bloody job done.”

EMU’s role was to provide transport and support for units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and for US and Australian forces. In so doing, the crews worked long hours on extremely dangerous operations. Aircrew carrying soldiers expected to be “fired at on every second mission”. They also had to contend with booby-trapped landing zones and Viet Cong troops infiltrating the ranks of the South Vietnamese soldiers.

In 1969 Noel was based at Bearcat Base, South Vietnam, which was regularly subjected to mortar attacks and perimeter raids. A welcome diversion for Noel was projecting movies for American and Australian servicemen most evenings.

On 31 May crews of the 135th were retrieving troops from the field “when they came under intense fire from automatic weapons”. Three aircraft were damaged and one pilot was badly injured.

Noel was in another Iroquois helicopter. He had taken the place of a crew member who had been unable to fly that day. Now his Iroquois proceeded to the pick-up zone and began “rocket runs on the enemy position”. With “complete disregard for his own safety” Noel hung outside his aircraft and continued to fire on the enemy, exposing himself to “rocket back blast and intense enemy fire”. Eventually, the Iroquois was hit. It crashed and exploded into the jungle below, but Noel was seen firing on the enemy until the “moment of impact”. All four crew were killed.

Just before his death, Noel had received the US Army Air Medal for “meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight”. He was survived by his wife, Gloria and is buried at Frenchs Forest Cemetery in Sydney.

In 2011 Noel’s actions were considered in the inquiry into “Unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour”. Noel was not posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross or other valorous awards as a result; however, one of the divisions of the Royal Australian Navy’s training school at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria was recently named in his honour.

Noel Shipp’s name is 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 one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Leading Aircrewman Noel Shipp, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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