101st Field Battery

The 101st Field Battery served on two tours of duty in South Vietnam: the first in 1966–67 and the second in 1969–70. Its parent unit during both of its tours of Vietnam was the 1st Field Regiment.

The 101st Field Battery arrived at Nui Dat on 20 September 1966, relieving the 105th Field Battery. The 101st Field Battery moved into a position to the west of Route 2, on the perimeter of the Australian Task Force (ATF) base, and was initially assigned firing tasks in support of operations close to the base.

In November 1966 the battery took part in Operation Ingham, a battalion-scale search-and-destroy operation in an area along the Song Rai river between Nui Dat and Xuyen Moc. During this operation, which was directed at the Viet Cong D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion, the 101st Field Battery was transported by Chinook helicopters for the first time. When the battery returned to Nui Dat after Operation Ingham it was placed in direct support of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR). This affiliation remained in force for the rest of the battery’s tour of duty.

In January 1967 the 101st Field Battery took part on Operation Camden, a series of cordon-and-search missions south of Nui Dat in and around the village of Hoa Long, which had been a centre of recent Viet Cong activity. During this operation the 101st Field Battery provided two platoons of infantry to act as part of the cordon.After Operation Camden the 101st Field Battery participated in a succession of rapid deployments in support of company-scale patrols throughout the ATF area of operations. Both air and road transport were used in these deployments; in one case the battery’s guns were moved by Australian armoured personnel carriers.

On 16 February 1967 the 101st Field Battery supported 6 RAR by providing landing zone preparation fire for a heliborne mission north of Dat Do. This experience was repeated on the following day in the course of Operation Bribie, another heliborne mission involving 6RAR. Operation Bribie aimed to cut off the retreat of enemy units that had ambushed a South Vietnamese convoy. There were, however, substantial enemy forces in the vicinity of the landing zone chosen for the operation. As a result 6RAR was flown into a “hot” environment and had to fight to establish a defensive perimeter before counter-attacking the enemy. During the fighting, supporting fire from the 101st Field Battery was called to within 50 metres of the hard-pressed B Company, 6RAR, breaking up an enemy advance and causing many casualties.

In late March 1967 the 101st Field Battery took part in the last large-scale operation of its first tour of duty when it was deployed south-east of Nui Dat with the New Zealand 161st Field Battery and three American batteries, as part of Operation Portsea. The 101st Field Battery was relieved in Vietnam by the 108th Field Battery in May 1967.

The 101st Field Battery began its second tour of Vietnam in May 1969, relieving the 104th Field Battery. On its second tour of duty the 101st Field Battery again operated in direct support of 6RAR (now 6RAR/NZ). After initial training at Nui Dat, the battery was deployed to Fire Support Base (FSB) Virginia on 30 May 1969, as part of Operation Laverack. This operation lasted four weeks and began a pattern of four-week operational deployments interspersed with two-week periods at Nui Dat.

During Operation Mundingburra in July 1969 the 101st Field Battery worked with American heavy artillery in support of 6RAR/NZ. In October the battery was deployed by Chinook helicopter to FSB Discovery for Operation Ross, a search-and-clear mission along the Song Rai river. The following month the battery was moved from FSB Discovery to FSB Picton for Operation Marsden. The redeployment to FSB Picton occurred by road and consisted of “leapfrogging” the battery’s two sections of guns, accompanied by APCs, tanks, and air support. Operation Marsden was a notable success; 6RAR/NZ located extensive enemy hospital installations and seized many tons of medical supplies.

In January and February 1970 the 101st Field Battery deployed to FSB Peggy for Operation Napier. On 22 April 1970, as the battery’s tour of duty was nearing its end, Forward Observer Lieutenant B.A. Garland was killed when he stepped on an enemy mine. Garland had been with 6RAR/NZ in the area south of Xuyen Moc as part of Operation Concrete. In May 1970 the 101st t Field Battery was replaced in Vietnam by the 107th Field Battery.

Casualties

  • 1 killed

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Vietnam War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 3 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Horner, David Murray, The gunners : a history of Australian artillery, (St. Leonards, N.S.W : Allen & Unwin, 1995)