Pipers flank the men who fought in the battle of Long Tan during the dedication ceremony.

Pipers flank the men who fought in the battle of Long Tan during the dedication ceremony.  C1183238

It’s rough, scarred and made of concrete, but the Long Tan Cross has a beauty and poignancy that transcends its rudimentary form.

Erected in memory of the 18 young men who died in one of the most intense and dramatic actions of the Vietnam War, the cross has been adopted by veterans to symbolise all Australians who died or were wounded in that conflict.

The cross is now on display at the Australian War Memorial, loaned by the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa City. At its recent unveiling, the men who fought in the now famous battle of Long Tan joined with those who built the cross and placed it on the battle site, to reflect on its significance.

“The memorial cross is what Long Tan was all about. It’s a symbol that enshrines the spirits of those 18 young men … but [it also] now symbolises the 520 young men we lost in Vietnam and the 3,000 that were wounded,” said Harry Smith, the commander of D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), which fought that day on 18 August 1966.

The battle of Long Tan was the most costly single engagement for Australians in the Vietnam War. An isolated infantry company of 108 men withstood massed Viet Cong attacks for three hours in torrential rain in a rubber plantation near the small village of Long Tan. They were outnumbered by at least ten to one, and they might have been overrun, but for a timely ammunition resupply, accurate artillery fire from the nearby Australian base at Nui Dat, and the arrival of reinforcements by armoured personnel carrier But victory came at a high cost: 17 Australians were killed and 25 were wounded, one of whom later died of his wounds. After the battle, the bodies of 245 enemy soldiers were found. There was evidence that many more bodies had been carried away.

“The next morning we went back and it was like the aftermath of Cyclone Tracey,” Smith recalled. “There were trees everywhere, and there was carnage. There were bodies and bits of bodies everywhere. It was a terrible sight, and it lingers in my mind.”

As the war raged on and the focus of Australian task force operations shifted to other areas, few Australians visited the site of the battle. But Long Tan was not forgotten, and on the third anniversary of the fight an unconventional operation was launched to return to the site.

Allan MacLean with the Long Tan Cross at the Australian War Memorial.

Allan MacLean with the Long Tan Cross at the Australian War Memorial.

In 1969, 6RAR was on its second tour to Vietnam, now as 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) with the integration of two New Zealand rifle companies. Allan MacLean was the sergeant of the regiment’s pioneer platoon. He and his men were getting ready to board helicopters for an operation to neutralise mines and booby traps when he was pulled aside by his regimental sergeant major and asked to manufacture a cross.

“He didn’t tell me why, he didn’t have to; he just had to tell me to do it, that’s all,” MacLean recalled. “And so we did it. It was pretty much a team effort: one man drew up a plan, I handed that to another and told him what I wanted, the grade of concrete that we needed. Then we went off to the Long Hai hills to give Charlie a hard time.”

A team of three or four men constructed the cross while MacLean was on operations.

“I remember flying back to Nui Dat to have a look at the cross and see how it was going. They were having a few problems with it but we sorted that out. After our operation, we went on what they call Operation Long Tan, to take the cross out and plant it where we wanted it.”   

The Long Tan cross is flown in by helicopter.

The Long Tan cross is flown in by helicopter.   C1183225

Neil Rankin was the platoon sergeant of 10 Platoon, D Company, 6RAR in 1966, and he fought in the battle of Long Tan. He returned to Vietnam with 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC), and on 18 August 1969 he was sent out to the rubber plantation in an armoured personnel carrier, charged with finding the right site for the cross.

“The site that I was looking for was not D Company’s position, but a certain location where the second contact took place,” he said. “That position was 11 Platoon’s, one of the three platoons that took part in the battle. This platoon, under the command of Gordon Sharp and Bob Buick, not only had the first and second contacts with the enemy, but repelled attack after attack [against] machine-guns of 50 calibre which were zeroed at ground level.  This was the platoon that took the most casualties. Out of a strength of 28, 13 were killed and eight wounded. This to me was the site on which the cross had to be erected.”

Rankin had a special attachment to these men: he had trained them prior to the battle, and also knew the families of most of them.  After some searching, he found the site of their last stand.

“The rubber trees bore the scars of small arms and heavy machine-gun fire. With the heel of my boot I marked the site where the cross was to be erected. The cross was flown in, slung underneath a helicopter and positioned on the battlefield where three years earlier the bloodiest battle involving Australian troops took place.”

The entire battalion of 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) were assembled for the dedication ceremony led by a chaplain. Standing on either side of the cross, flanked by two pipers, were ten soldiers who fought at Long Tan in 1966.

“When they played the piper’s lament, that’s when it really hit home, when it really got emotional,” Rankin said.

“Where I put that cross – in 11 Platoon’s position – I knew it was in the blood of that platoon. It was important to me that that was where that cross stood.”

The cross was removed some time after the communist victory in 1975, and recycled by local people as a memorial for a Catholic priest. In 1984, it was recovered by the Dong Nai Museum and went on display with other relics from the Vietnam War. Two years later, a replica cross was erected on the site and is now a focus for visits and remembrance ceremonies by Australian Vietnam veterans.

Rankin said those who come to view the original cross at the Australian War Memorial would see “not just a scarred cross but a symbol of our heritage and our sacrifice”.

“I hope when you look at the original Long Tan cross you will see it with a different view, by having the knowledge  where this cross once stood, in the blood-soaked earth where so many young men paid the ultimate price for what they believe.”

Neil Rankin and Harry Smith reflect on the significance of the Long Tan cross at the Australian War Memorial.

The Long Tan Cross is on display at the Australian War Memorial until June 2013.

“Say it with flowers” is a well known advertising slogan but these days the language of flowers is not as well known as it was almost 100 years ago. During the First World War Australians serving overseas, many away from their families for years, sent floral tributes to their loved ones in the form of embroidered postcards, handkerchiefs, cushion covers and other souvenir items.

Patriotic Australian postcard
Patriotic Australian postcard

While flowers were selected for their beauty, some also had special meanings of a personal nature that were well known from the Victorian period. These could help express the feelings of those separated for long periods, without always needing to use words.

Embroidered handkerchief
Embroidered handkerchief

The most popular design appears to have been the pansy, which means loving thoughts. Roses were also popular, often in pink thread (friendship) or sometimes in red (passionate love). The pretty little blue  forget-me- not was an obvious choice to send to those at home.

Silk postcard embroidered with forget me nots
Silk postcard embroidered with forget me nots

Some other flowers and their meanings are listed below.

Violets –faithfulness

Daisies - gentleness, innocence, loyal love

Embroidered postcard
Embroidered postcard

Iris - inspiration

Ivy - fidelity

Embroidered postcard with the message 'Where I cling I die', presumably reinforcing the idea of Ivy meaning fidelity.
Embroidered postcard with the message 'Where I cling I die', presumably reinforcing the idea of Ivy meaning fidelity.

Poppy - imagination, dreaminess or eternal sleep. Depending on the context, they could also just represent the fields of France.

Patriotic sentiments were also displayed through flowers. Either through national emblems, such as Australian wattle, Scottish thistles or Irish clover or through bunches of flowers coloured red, white and blue. This can be seen in the item below which, in addition to the colours of the flowers has added meaning through representing flowers (and plants) of the French fields with the poppies, cornflowers, daisies and wheat.

Embroidered French souvenir
Embroidered French souvenir

Finally, for special occasions, such as Christmas, holly (foresight) and mistletoe (love and affection) were popular flowers.

Steve Gower.  Photo courtesy of Silas Brown

After more than 16 years as Director of the Australian War Memorial Steve Gower AO AO (Mil) retires on Friday 31 August 2012.

“On behalf of the Council, staff and volunteers at the Memorial, I pay tribute to Steve for his visionary and inspirational leadership. His extraordinary talents have guided the Memorial for more than a decade and a half,” said Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO RAN (Ret'd), Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial.

“The Memorial has thrived under his directorship. Steve’s energy and vision have helped to extend its reputation as a world-class museum and a revered national site of commemoration”.

“Steve’s legacy to the nation is one of a renewed vision for the Memorial, firmly establishing its place in the hearts of so many Australians.”

Steve Gower was appointed Director of the Memorial in March 1996, following an outstanding career in the Australian Army, where he reached the rank of Major General. He saw active service in Vietnam as an artillery forward observer.

As Memorial Director, Steve led the redevelopment of many of the Memorial’s exhibition galleries, including the Second World War galleries, Aircraft Hall, the Hall of Valour, and the Conflicts 1945 to today galleries, as well as the construction of ANZAC Hall, the CEW Bean Building, the creation of the Sculpture Garden, and the award-winning redevelopment of the Eastern Precinct, which features the National Service Memorial. 

Steve was also instrumental in the Memorial being inducted into the Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame in 2003.

Other substantial contributions include those to the broader Canberra community and, at the national level, to the Australian tourism and museum industries. Steve has held the positions of Chair of the Council of Australian Museum Directors (2000–04); member of the Executive Board for Museum Management, International Council of Museums (2001–07); Chair of the Board, Canberra Convention Bureau; patron of ACT Cricket; and honorary ambassador for Canberra. In 2006, Steve received a tourism industry award recognising the outstanding contribution by an individual.

Steve has been on personal carer’s leave since November 2011. Nola Anderson has been Acting Director during this time and will continue acting in the role until December 2012 when the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson takes up the position.

Read more of Steve Gower’s time at the Australian War Memorial in a recent Wartime article.

 

When war was declared in August 1914, it began a period of great upheaval for the lives of Australians. The young nation of just over 4 million sent 330,000 men to foreign lands such as Turkey, Egypt, France, and Belgium with the newly formed Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Most families had at least one member – or a friend or neighbour – in the fight.

These men had volunteered for war; in turn, their families and friends mobilised to support them. Socks and vests were knitted, treats were baked, and committees were formed to raise funds for other comforts. But perhaps most importantly, people wrote letters.

Letters were a lifeline for soldiers, who longed to hear news from home and to know that they were loved and missed. Letters provided an escape from the reality of war, which was brutal but also often boring. Whether in the trenches, on a break behind lines, in hospital or in training, the men of the AIF keenly awaited the arrival of mail. It gave them something to do and something else to think about. Letters were treasured by those back home, too: a note from a loved one would be passed among families and friends, and perhaps even given to the local newspaper to be published.

Phyllis Lynch was one young woman to pick up her pen as part of the patriotic movement. Born in Dubbo in western New South Wales and later moving with her family to Pennant Hills in Sydney, Miss Lynch had several relatives, friends, and acquaintances who volunteered for the AIF. She knew how important it was for them to receive letters of support, to give them news from home and generally keep their spirits up. During the course of the war she corresponded with some 15 men who served across the various theatres, as soldiers in the infantry or with the Australian Light Horse. Her letters would often include photographs of herself or others they might know, as well as comforts or small items of clothing she had made. Miss Lynch received around 200 letters in return, and the collection is now held at the Australian War Memorial.

The letters to Miss Lynch are indicative of what most soldiers were writing home about: their travels and the people they encountered; the good times they had while on leave; their experience in the trenches (often served with bravado to make it sound less terrifying than it was); the weather; and the progress of the war – usually expressing hope that it would end soon. They would almost certainly ask about happenings at home, comment on how long it had been since they had received mail, and implore Miss Lynch to write again soon. Their letters expressed optimism, confidence, frustration, fear, anger, sadness, desperation, relief, and gratitude. Men who were starting their war adventure were excited about what lay ahead; those who had experienced trench fighting revealed their weariness and the desire to be out of it as soon as possible.

Australian soldiers at Mena Camp in Egypt in 1915 read letters from home.

The letters are scribbled notes written by candlelight just behind the line; tourist-style postcards sent from soldiers on leave or in training camps; official postcards from the trenches with scant detail, save to say the soldier was okay; and much longer missives written when the soldier was in camp or laid up in hospital. Sometimes the men would enclose a photograph or a souvenir picked up in Cairo or London, or in a French village where their battalion was being rested.

One of the main themes to come through the letters to Miss Lynch is the conditions the men endured, particularly on the Western Front. Miss Lynch’s cousin Sam Greer served with the 20th Battalion. He had been wounded on Gallipoli but later returned to his battalion and served in France until August 1916, when he got trench fever (spread by lice) and rheumatism. From his hospital bed in England on 30 September he wrote:

Things are pretty hot out in France now. Our battalion was 3 months at Bois Grenier, over on the Somme, and when I left were at Ypres – all the hottest corners going. The Somme is “hell itself”, artillery going the whole time; the men are running the whole time digging some unfortunate out who has been buried by shells.

Greer was eventually discharged on medical grounds and returned to Australia in August 1917. He died in June 1919.

Signaller George Davey of the 2nd Battalion wrote Miss Lynch while on the Somme, in November 1916:

[I have] cold feet, wet clothes and ... Bill is holding the candle while I try to write between my coughs; every now and then I stop to warm my fingers in the flame. It cannot burn them because it is so cold.

A few weeks later, Davey wrote from his hospital bed, where – similar to Greer – he was laid up with rheumatism and trench foot:

It was awful just in the part of the line where we were (where the big push was on). The mud was up to our hips and when we got wet we stopped wet, but they say mud keeps one warm. It does when we get a big issue of rum and some “tucker”. When I got down to the field ambulance you never saw the like, I was mud from head to feet, hands and face included. I had not had a shave or wash for about 10 days. I could hardly walk and Fritz had been putting as much mud on me as he could with his wiz-bangs 5.9 and 9.2 bursting all around. I think it was only the will of God that kept me as several times his high explosive shells fell “duds” just behind me.

A soldier wading through the mud in Gird Trench, near Gueudecourt, in December 1916.

Private Vincent James McGarry of the 1st Pioneer Battalion wrote often to Miss Lynch, and his letters make up the bulk of the collection. The 32-year-old butcher from Wongarbon, New South Wales, had enlisted in November 1916 and arrived in England for training in March 1917. He didn’t get to the front until October that year. His letters from camp tell of German prisoners, leave excursions to London, cricket matches and snowball fights. He became obsessed with the often patchy delivery and arrival of mail: “Many of the boys are afraid that a great number of our letters are not reaching home, through absolute neglect somewhere.” But his frustration really lay at being kept from the action. On 23 June he wrote:

I am disappointed at being held back from France. This part of the world has no beauty for me. I have no desire whatever to stay here and wish for a chance at the Hun. I have to smile to myself at times – as if I would make a difference in this great struggle. Still I feel if I was there it would be a step nearer home.

McGarry did get to the Western Front and his battalion was at Ypres in Belgium. Later, in a long, detailed letter written from an English hospital on 7 April 1918, he describes his early experience there:

My first few days in the line made me feel awfully sick but I soon got used to the sights which at times were awful. I got my first punch in after being in the line about a fortnight. We were sent up to strengthen some new position and in the early hours of the morning Fritz tried a raid on us … we were soon busy with the rifle which became hot in my hands. I often wonder what you women think about men killing men. Do you ever picture any one of your friends drawing a bead on a German and killing him with a feeling of satisfaction. I found myself hesitate when I levelled my first sight on a Hun that morning but I couldn’t fire fast enough after accounting for my first.

McGarry was diagnosed with nephritis – inflammation of the kidneys – and never returned to the front. He was discharged on medical grounds and left for Australia at the end of June 1918.

It is not known what happened to a number of the men that Miss Lynch corresponded with as their service records could not all be traced due to a lack of personal information in the letters. But at least one did not survive the war – her uncle Lew, killed on the Western Front – and it is likely that others were killed, too. A number of others returned in poor health.

Details are also sketchy about what happened to Miss Lynch after the war, but to the men to whom she wrote repeatedly during those long, hard years she was surely fondly remembered.

The ruins of Ypres and transports passing toward the Menin Gate of the Ramparts.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the loss of HMAS Canberra. On 9th August 1942, the cruiser came to a catastrophic end in the Pacific during the Battle of Savo Island. Captain Frank Edmund Getting was in command at the time. He had a long association with the Navy. His story, and that of HMAS Canberra, was uncovered whilst scanning the Reports of Proceedings for HMAS Canberra.  

Portrait of Captain Frank Edmund Getting RAN, Commander of HMAS Canberra.

Portrait of Captain Frank Edmund Getting RAN, Commander of HMAS Canberra

In December, 1912, Getting entered the Royal Australian Naval College. According to routine six-monthly confidential reports submitted by Commanding Officers, Getting was rated highly amongst his superiors.  In December 1940, during his service aboard the armed merchant cruiser ship, Kanimbla, he was promoted to captain. In his report of March 1940, Admiral Percy Noble, writes,

Although this officer has only served with me for a short time, he has so favourably impressed me with his ability, keenness and power of command … He has a fine physique and a good manner and appearance. His whole heart seems to be in the Service and I am sure he will do very well.

Captain Getting took command of HMAS Canberra on Wednesday 17 June 1942. Less than two months later, both he and the Canberra found themselves supporting the American landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Pacific. The objective: to capture the almost complete Japanese airfield at Lunga Point, safe-guarding American/Australian supply lines.

 The landing was successful. The airfield was captured and re-named “Henderson Field”.  Despite the loss, the Japanese launched air attacks, and within two hours sent a cruiser force for the Allies.

American ships USS Chicago, Bagley and Patterson alongside HMAS Australia and Canberra patrolled the area to the south of Savo Island. Rear Admirals Crutchley (in command of the combined forces of Australian and American cruisers and destroyers at Guadalcanal) and Turner, concluded that the force was proceeding onto Rekata Bay, where they may launch an attack. In the early hours of 9 August 1942, the Japanese force approached undetected. At 1.50pm a flare was seen dropping south-west of Savo Island. At 1.55pm Canberra was identified as one of the ships on fire.

Struck by two torpedoes on her starboard side and over twenty salvoes of 8-inch shellfire, Canberra lost power and the ship was listing. Many died or were seriously wounded during the attack. Survivors were later transferred to US Ships Patterson and Blue.

Canberra Sinking in the battle of Savo Island

Canberra Sinking in the battle of Savo Island

In his account of Canberra’s loss, Stoker John Oliver Rosynski describes the Japanese ships approaching the Canberra and the chaos that ensued. He goes on further, recounting how Captain Getting stood on the bridge, slowly and calmly giving orders.

About ten minutes into the action, Surgeon Commander Downward arrived on the bridge. Captain Getting was seriously wounded and in need of medical attention. Downward states,

The Commander [J.A. Walsh] was standing on the port side of the bridge. The Gunnery Officer’s body was on the port side. I spoke to the Captain but he refused any attention at all. He told me to look after the others.

Captain Getting died on board the USS Barnett on passage to Noumea and was buried at sea on 9 August. Of the 819 of those serving on board, 193 were casualties. In the final paragraph of his account, Rosynski writes,

They say that memory dims, but I’m sure in after years come what may, I’ll always have a thought for that ship, even though she lies buried for all time deep in the mud and drifting sands of the Pacific. She will, in my mind at least, sail the gallant “Canberra”.

More information:

Gill, G Herman, Royal Australian Navy, 1939-1942, Australia in the war of 1939-1945, Series 2 (Navy), vol. 1, Canberra, 1957. Retrieved from: /collection/records/awmohww2/navy/vol2/awmohww2-navy-vol2-ch5.pdf

HMAS Canberra Reports of Proceedings June 1940 – June 1942, Australian War Memorial, AWM78 82/2. Retrieved from: /collection/records/awm78/82/

Papers of Rosynski, John Oliver (Stoker), Australian War Memorial, PR01715

GETTING F E [Officers (RAN) personal record - Frank Edmund Getting], National Archives of Australia, A3978 GETTING F E. Retrieved from: http://www.naa.gov.au

My name is Sam Warner and I am a work experience student from St Joseph’s College Echuca. As part of my week at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra I researched the story behind the Distinguished Conduct Medal of Sergeant William Dobson Scorer in the First World War. Here is his story.

Sergeant William Dobson Scorer died from wounds he received at Broodseinde Ridge.

William Dobson Scorer was born in Essendon Victoria in November 1893, one of five children to Henry and Mary Scorer.  In his early life he attended Essendon State School where his name is now located on the Honour Board. He was working as a clerk when he joined the AIF on 30 July 1915. He enlisted with the 6th Reinforcements of the 24th Battalion and embarked on HMAT Ulysses on 27 October, bound for training in Egypt.

He later transferred to the 8th Infantry Battalion before moving to France in May 1916. Within two months of arriving Scorer had accomplished the rank of Sergeant. He was diagnosed with the mumps on 13 May 1917 but returned to duty 6 days later and regrouped with his Battalion on 26 May.

'No man's land' at Broodseinde Ridge on the day that Scorer was mortally wounded.

Sgt Scorer and the 8th Battalion were involved in the Third Battle of Ypres at Broodseinde Ridge east of Ypres on 4 October where he was heavily wounded and admitted to hospital 5 days later. Here he had his leg amputated but unfortunately did not recover from his wounds and died on the 24th. Scorer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his noticeable gallantry and dedication to duty during the attack.

From the recommendation that was given it said that, “He assisted the intelligence officer in guiding the Battalion on to the tapes and maintained an efficient manner when held up by gun fire, where he then crept forward alone to bayonet 2 enemy soldiers and put the gun out of action, although he was wounded in this fight he persisted in his task until the objective was reached where again he was very badly wounded”.  Sergeant William Dobson Scorer is buried at the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

“Hello, Western Australia, here we are on the deck of a cruiser somewhere in the Middle East, I may not tell you exactly where …”

In 1941 an ABC Field Recording Unit went aboard the cruiser HMAS Perth to record messages to be broadcast on the Voices from Overseas program, and this is how the broadcast began. Official Photographer George Silk captured many images of Perth's crew over several months in 1941, and photographed the recording session.

Recording onboard HMAS PerthRecording on the deck of HMAS Perth

Next the cheerful voice of Patrick Kelly, a stoker in Perth, can be heard sending greetings and reassurances to loved ones back home: “We’re doing all right over here and our chins are up, so don’t worry.” Kelly enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1935, aged 20. By 1940 he was in the Mediterranean, where Perth would see heavy action around Greece, Crete, and Syria.

Speaking on behalf of several Western Australians, Kelly signs off: “We’re all hale and hearty and in the pink, so everything’s right. So au revoir ’til we see you. Goodbye.”

Patrick Kelly was one of 357 Australians who died when Perth was sunk by the Japanese on 1 March 1942, during the battle of Sunda Strait.

In 1942 the ABC lent the original Voices from Overseas discs for copying and subsequent sale to aid the Red Cross in their fundraising efforts. Relatives and friends were invited to the Myer Emporium, where they could order their copy of a loved one’s recording. For many families this short recorded message would become their most tangible reminder of someone they lost, a way of ensuring his voice lived on.

This fragile metal-core disc was recently donated to the Sound Collection by Patrick Kelly's niece making certain that his voice would be preserved for future generations to hear. Listening to this young man's voice 70 years after he died is a reminder of the sacrifice made by him and by so many other Australians.

 

Listen to the digitised audio of this recording:

S05248 Patrick Kelly

 

Pair of spectacles which deflected shrapnel : Sergeant W R Fisher, 1 Battalion AIF

Survival in war is more often a matter of luck than skill, and luck is fickle. These spectacles were being worn by Sergeant William Fisher as he and three others played cards in a dug-out in France in August 1918. His mate, Lance Corporal John Drum, was last to join the game, and moved a dud shell out of the way to sit down. It exploded.

Both men had already survived battles and wounds. Fisher had been shot in the foot at Passchendaele in 1917, and Drum was wounded in 1916; both had recovered and returned to their unit. Now, in late August 1918, the Germans were fighting a drawn-out retreat and the end was in sight.

The explosion ended John Drum’s war – his right hand and right leg were shattered and both were amputated later, while his left leg received a compound fracture. He was fitted with artificial limbs in 1920 and lived with this legacy for the rest of his life.

Bill Fisher was more than lucky. A metal splinter from the explosion hit one lens of his spectacles and smashed it, but he walked away with nothing more than a ringing in his ears and a new respect for luck.

The spectacles form part of the Australian War Memorial’s extensive collection of artefacts from the battlefields of France.

For a longer account of Sergeant Fisher’s wartime experiences, see REL/00877 in our Collection.

Commemorative service held on the site of the battle of Long Tan, 1969, photographed by Christopher John Bellis

On 18 August 1969, soldiers of 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) erected a cross in the Long Tan rubber plantation in Phuoc Tuy province (now Ba Ria–Vung Tau province), South Vietnam. 

The cross marked the site where three years earlier, on 18 August 1966, 108 soldiers of D Company, 6RAR, had fought a fierce battle against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces. 

Following the communist victory in 1975 and the reunification of Vietnam, the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa City acquired the Long Tan cross. In 1989 the Long Dat District People’s Committee erected a replica cross on the original site. 

The original cross, on loan from the Dong Nai Museum and the Ministry of Culture, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, will be on display at the Australian War Memorial from 17 August 2012 until April 2013. 

The public is invited to come to the Memorial to be part of a special closing ceremony at 4.45pm on Friday 17 August to commemorate the men who fought in the battle of Long Tan and to remember those who died. 

All Australians who served during the Vietnam War will be recognised at a commemorative closing ceremony on Saturday 18 August.

On occasion a totally unexpected document walks in the front door and into Official Records.  Recently a report made at Gallipoli was generously donated by Cindy Osborne to the Memorial.  The document in question is a handover report from the Commanding Officer 26th Infantry Battalion to the Commanding Officer of the 28th.  The Russell Top handover report is a most welcome addition to the Official Records held at the Memorial, for although we hold the War Diaries of the units involved, supporting reports such as this one are rarely present in the Gallipoli records.

The front page of the report from Russels Top. AWM255 [51]

The report was written when the Battalion commanders would have been unaware that they were only weeks away from being evacuated.  It is a detailed set of instruction on how the position (Russells Top) should be maintained and held against the enemy.  Of particular interest is the page regarding “Works proposed and in course of construction”, this mentions deepening trenches and providing overhead shelter for the fire trenches.  Activities that would be unlikely to be undertaken if it were known the positions would be abandoned almost two weeks from the date of the report.

Two unidentified soldiers at a sandbagged position near Russells Top in 1915. Behind them is the prominent landmark that was dubbed The Sphinx.

The report was authored by Lieutenant Colonel George Andrew Ferguson DSO VD, who had been a long serving militia officer prior to joing in the AIF, hence the VD post-nominal for the Volunteer Officers' Decoration, and was to later become the recipient of the Distinguished Service Order.  He commanded the 26th Battalion for the duration of the Gallipoli campaign and also in France until wounded in September 1916.  Due to the severity of his wounds he was discharged from the Army and returned to Australia in February 1917.  For his efforts he was awarded the DSO and was mentioned in despatches.  He lived for another 16 years after returning to Australia and passed away at the age of 60 on 20 April 1933.

Looking towards Russell's Top 1915.

The report has been digitised and can be viewed via the link below:

https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RC09950-ENTIRE-0-.pdf

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