106th Field Battery

The 106th Field Battery served on two tours of duty in Vietnam: the first from 1967-1968; and the second 1970-71. On both tours the battery was part of the 4th Field Regiment. The 106th Field Battery was raised at Wacol in December 1966 and went to Vietnam in April 1967.

In Vietnam the 106th Field Battery was assigned the role of direct artillery support for the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR), operations, most of which occurred in Phuoc Tuy province. The affiliation between the 106th Battery and 7RAR was so strong that on three occasions battery personnel acted as infantry, forming a “5th Company” during 7RAR cordon-and-search operations in the province.

On 6 August 1967, while taking part in Operation Ballarat in western Phuoc Tuy province, A company, 7RAR, encountered an enemy force and began to receive sustained small-arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire. Forward observer Lieutenant Neville Clark directed artillery fire from the 106th Field Battery to within 50 metres of the Australian infantrymen, forcing the enemy to break off. The battery fired over 800 rounds in one hour, causing approximately 200 enemy casualties. Clark was awarded the Military Cross for his role in the fighting. Lieutenant Colonel Eric Smith, who commanded 7RAR, praised the battery’s efforts, saying: “they were quick; they were capable; and one felt confident in them.”

On 10 December 1967 a controversial incident occurred at Fire Support Base (FSB) Bravo, where the 106th Field Battery was stationed as part of Operation Forrest. Battery section commander Lieutenant Robert Birse was killed when a hand grenade rolled into his weapons pit and exploded. Gunner Leonard Newman was convicted of manslaughter in connection with this incident and sentenced to five years in gaol. Eight months later his conviction and sentence were quashed on appeal.

In January 1968 the Australian Task Force was deployed north-west from Nui Dat for Operation Coburg, in response to the enemy’s Tet Offensive. On 7 February 1968, while Operation Coburg was still underway, C Company, 7RAR, assaulted fortified enemy positions. Gunner Michael Williams, a forward observer signaller from the 106th Field Battery, was with C Company during the attack. Although badly wounded, Williams continued to pass firing instructions back to the battery, only leaving his position and allowing his wounds to be treated when he saw that a replacement had been fully briefed. Williams was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery and determination during the enemy attack.

The 106th Field Battery was relieved by the 102nd Field Battery on 5 March 1968. Having returned to Wacol, the 106th Field Battery moved to Townsville in late 1968 to begin preparations for its second tour of duty.

The 106th Field Battery relieved the 105th Battery in Vietnam in February 1970, again being assigned a role of direct artillery support for 7RAR. The battery’s affiliation with 7RAR was particularly significant on its second tour of Vietnam because by this stage in the conflict most Australian operations occurred at battalion level. On one occasion the battery fired 1,000 rounds in one day, in support of a D Company, 7RAR, bunker-clearing operation.

In April 1970 the 4th Field Regiment, including the 106th Field Battery, deployed to FSBs around Xuyen Moc as part of Operation Concrete. This operation, which was 6RAR/NZ’s last in Vietnam, achieved its aim of destroying the headquarters of the local enemy unit D445.

During its second tour of Vietnam the 106th Field Battery was often stationed at FSB Horseshoe. One gun from the battery was, however, deployed on the coast near Lang Phuoc Hai, in an infantry night-defence position known as Brigid.

The 106th Field Battery returned to Townsville in January 1971, having fired 68,000 rounds on its second tour of duty.

Casualties

  • 1 killed

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 MC
  • 1 MM
  • 4 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)