103rd Field Battery

The 103rd Field Battery served a 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam. The battery was raised in May 1960, as part of the 4th Field Regiment, and served in Malaya between 1961 and 1963. On its return to Australia from Malaya the battery was stationed at Holsworthy, Sydney, as part of the 1st Field Regiment.The 103rd Field Battery arrived at Vung Tau, South Vietnam, in May 1966. The following month the battery moved by air to Nui Dat, joining the 105th Field Battery and the 161st Field Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, in a regimental gun area in the southern sector of the Australian base. The 103rd Field Battery remained at Nui Dat over the next two months, leaving the base briefly for a “Road Runner” operation and temporary relocation to a position south of Binh Ba in order to provide additional artillery support for Operation Holsworthy (5-18 August).The highlight of the battery’s tour of duty in Vietnam was its involvement in the battle of Long Tan (18 August). The night before the battle the Australian base at Nui Dat received a mortar attack, with many enemy rounds falling into the regimental artillery area. During the attack the 103rd Field Battery suffered two casualties, one of whom had to be evacuated to Australia. Throughout the battle, gunners from the battery worked desperately in driving rain and failing light to provide artillery support for the hard-pressed infantrymen of the 6th Artillery, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR). With ad hoc teams of labourers maintaining supplies of ammunition to the guns, the battery was able to fire over 1,000 rounds during the battle. The 103rd Field Battery, moreover, was the only artillery unit to be supplied by air during the battle when ammunition was brought in by a Chinook helicopter. In order not to present a stationary target to the enemy, the helicopter did not stop; it rolled along the ground nose-up, unloading pallets of ammunition as it went.After Long Tan the 103rd Field Battery began to operate in direct support of 5RAR. This new relationship meant that the battery would spend more time away from Nui Dat. During Operation Toledo (23 August to 8 September) the battery occupied a position in the Binh Ba village cemetery, while 5RAR attempted to encircle an enemy force north of the Nui Dinh hills. For the rest of the year the battery operated mainly in support of 5RAR operations to the west of Nui Dat along Route 15 and, on one occasion, on Long Son Island.The 103rd Field Battery’s first major task of the new year was Operation Caloundra (9-10 January 1967), a cordon-and-search mission north of Nui Dat by 5RAR. The battery then moved to a position near the village of La Son as part of Operation Wollongong (11 January to 14 February), which consisted of a series of patrols throughout 5RAR’s Tactical Area of Responsibility. In late January 1967 the battery moved to another position immediately north-west of Nui Dat in connection with the same operation.Operation Renmark (18-21 February), a search-and-destroy mission in the Long Hai hills, marked the 103rd Field Battery’s last major involvement with 5RAR. The battery deployed to two positions for this operation: the first in a wood at the foot of the hills; and the second near the ruined village of Hoi My.Lieutenant Michael Langley, from the 103rd Field Battery, was acting as a forward observer with B Company, 5RAR, during Operation Renmark. On 21 February B Company was being transported in armoured personnel carriers when the leading vehicle ran over and detonated an enemy mine, resulting in a massive explosion and many casualties. When another mine exploded as the infantrymen were leaving the other vehicles, it became clear the Australians were in a minefield. Without regard for his own safety, Lieutenant Langley moved within the minefield to assist the wounded, before taking command of the company and securing the position. Langley received the Military Cross for his courage and leadership.From 8-16 March and 10-11 April the 103rd Field Battery was stationed at a Fire Support Base south-east of Nui Dat, known as the “Horsehoe”, to provide cover for wiring operations being undertaken by 5RAR in the area. The 103rd Field Battery’s close relationship with 5RAR ended on 15 April, when the battery began moving back to Nui Dat in preparation for its return to Australia. On 1 May the 103rd Field Battery was relieved by the recently arrived 106th Field Battery. During its 12-month tour of duty the 103rd Field Battery had fired 28,468 rounds.In May 1967 the 103rd Field Battery became the 103rd Medium Battery. The battery exists in the present-day Australian Defence Force, as a subunit of the 8/12th Medium Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery.

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • 6 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 Military Cross

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)