The 50th anniversary of the battle of Binh Ba in Vietnam was marked at the Australian War Memorial today with a special Last Post Ceremony that commemorated the service of Private Wayne Teeling, the only Australian who died in the battle.
The battle stemmed from an incident early on the morning of 6 June 1969, when two Australian armoured vehicles were fired upon from the village of Binh Ba while traveling northward to assist the 6th Battalion,Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), in a separate operation.
After every effort was made to evacuate the civilian population, an Australian reaction force attacked the enemy occupying the village. Fighting continued in and around the village until late the following day. Australian soldiers fought against a combined communist force of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong, including a battalion of the formidable 33 NVA Regiment.
In the two days of fighting, only one Australian soldier, Private Wayne Teeling of 5RAR, was killed. Eleven others were wounded, some severely. A total of 99 enemy dead were eventually reported; most were soldiers of the 33 NVA Regiment.
It is thought that the occupation of Binh Ba was an attempt to draw resources from 6RAR’s operation in the north and to relieve pressure on 33 NVA Regiment.
One in five of the houses in the village had been destroyed. Over the next month the Australians returned to assist in the rebuilding of the village.
The battle of Binh Ba was viewed as a dramatic victory for the task force, and was the biggest engagement involving Australian soldiers since the battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral a year earlier. The action received the name Operation Hammer, and battle honours were later awarded to the Australian regiments involved.
Today’s Last Post Ceremony was attended by Private Teeling’s family, former Commanding Officer of 5RAR Brigadier Colin Khan (Retd), APC troop commander Captain Ray De Vere, and approximately 500 other Vietnam veterans.
The Memorial is also marking the anniversary of the battle of Binh Ba with a photographic exhibition, located in the entry corridor of the museum.