The Royal Australian

Regiment of Artillery

in Vietnam


A paper by Lieutenant-Colonel R.M.C. Cubis,

MVO, Royal Australian Artillery        





FOR the first time since World War II the Australian Army has a regiment of artillery

serving in an operational theatre. In May, 1966 1st Field Regiment RAA accompanied the Australian Task Force to Vietnam

in consequence of the Government's decision to increase our  military participation in the war.

The Regiment did not move as a complete unit and was accompanied by only one gun battery, 103 Field Battery RAA, commanded by Major Neville Galr. The remaining batteries, 102 and 107, formed the nucleus of a new regiment, 12 Field Regiment, RAA.

The first unit of the RAA to serve in Vietnam was 105 Field Battery (Major Peter Tedder) which arrived in the theatre in September 1965 a nd served with 173 US Airborne Brigade. When 1st Field Regiment arrived, 105 Battery joined it. It was the renewal of an old association:

105 Battery, initially raised as an independent battery in May 1955, had served in 1st Field Regiment between 1957 and 1960. At the same time, New Zealand's principal unit in Vietnam, 161 Field Battery RNZA (Major Harry Honner ), joined the Regiment to provide the third battery. The New Zealand battery was a veteran of the Korean War, and had already served nearly twelve months in the theatre.

Additionally, a detachment  of 131 Divisional Locating Battery (two radars, surveyors and counter-bombardment staff) under the command of Captain James Townley accompanied the Regiment. In September 1966, 105 Battery completed twelve months in the theatre and was replaced by 101 Battery (Major Nicholas Marshall ).

Although not part of the Regiment, a United States medium battery was placed under operational control in July 1966. This was Battery A, 2/35 US Artillery (155-mm SP howitzers M109) under the command of Captain Glen Eure.

The cooperation of our New Zealand and American friends has been of a very high order and relations in both professional and social fields are most amiable. Gun detachments in all batteries frequently contain men from other countries.

The experience of our gunners in the Vietnamese war has emphasized, once again, the importance, durability and soundness of our principles governing the employment of artillery. Further, the techniques and drills by which gunners apply those principles have been justified.

It is not suggested that there have been no mistakes but, where these have occurred, that some soundly based principle or time-tried procedure has usually been violated. Naturally, in Vietnam, procedures are adapted to the nature of operations and to the conditions under which the Australian forces carry them out, and the informed reader may observe, in the following paragraphs, how tested drills and procedures have been so adapted.

In the field of fire support, defensive fire planning presented some initial difficulties . The 'ring of fire' attitude had to be dispelled and, more serious, problems had to be solved arising from early infantry dispositions when the base area was first occupied. In the very early stages there were sometimes up to 50 tasks, changing frequently, even nightly, as infantry locations altered. The problem was eased in time as the infantry completed clearing of the close area and, also, by the

adoption of a system of classifying DF tasks into one of two kinds, viz permanent tasks (such as those protecting base locations), and temporary tasks having an application of less than 24 hours. An example of the latter is a DF task in support of an ambush. By this means, command posts were enabled to keep target records in reasonable condition and, the number of targets being controlled, a quick response from the guns was possible and the basic purpose of DF tasks not impaired. There is sufficient flexibility for battery commanders to add to, subtract from, or extend the application of tasks as operations require.

DF fire planning follows customary procedures and the permanent plan is, from time to time, reviewed.

Associated with the DF fire plan (in the case of the base camp) is close defence of the gun position and coordination with flanking units manning the Task Force perimeter. It must not be forgotten that the need for DF is not, exclusively, an infantry requirement. The base DF plan is circulated and all units which are involved may call for fire when required. Permanent liaison is not maintained with other than infantry units but our friends the RAAC and the RAE, who are neighbours, know how to call for fire and have, indeed, done so. Permanent direct line communications are established in addition to exchange lines and flanking units have been allotted call signs on the Regimental Net.

In addition , the battalion mortars are able and ready to place close DFs in defence of the gun position, if needed, and in this as in other operational matters very close liaison has been maintained with the two enterprising and efficient mortar platoon commanders of the battalions through the affiliated battery commanders. (Both mortar platoons are surveyed on the Regimental grid.)

The requirement for counter-bombardment has been slight. In the early stages, when the force first entered what had for long been a private VC domain, an active policy was considered desirable and any enemy weapon detected by radar was engaged. During June and July 1966 a number of locations were made (supported by mortreps) but as no rounds were detected actually inside the base area the purpose behind the enemy action was not clear. Possibilities included attempted

harassing fire, firing to assess our reactions (we were as new to the VC as they were to us), training, and terrorist shooting at villages in the hope that the villagers would blame us or RVN f orces. (Subsequently at least one such incident occurred which could be ascribed with some certainty to the latter possibility.) A combination of active suppression, air reconnaissance and destruction, and above all energetic, thorough, and widespread patrolling by the battalions soon put a stop to the enemy habit of firing at will at night.

It should not be thought that enemy mortar activity was great and, indeed, a careful consideration of available artillery intelligence caused us to credit the enemy with no more than four mortars in the whole area.

(These remarks, of course, do not apply to the organic weapons of enemy regular units. )

After a period of quiet, the next, the biggest, and most effective display of enemy fire occurred on the night before the battle of Long Than when between 100 and 130 rounds were delivered by a force of some five 82-mm mortars, three 57-mm RCL and, it is believed, one 70-mm gun. This was the only occasion in 1966 that the base camp area itself was engaged by enemy artillery. The fire was directed at the south-eastern part of the base camp, rounds landing on the SAS, the sappers and the gunners.

On this occasion, for various reasons, the radars could not cope and the CB Fire Plan was put into action. The latter , a contingency plan, was based on an educated guess of probable enemy firing tactics, likely positions, and a knowledge of the characteristics of his weapons. For security reasons the plan is not enlarged on here but it can be pointed out that it was designed from map and air photo reconnaissance. The plan was fired - the first suppression mission within seven minutes of the first enemy round - and was effective judging by the cessation of enemy fire, and by signs of casualties and hasty evacuation subsequently found by patrol from 6 RAR.

The Vietnamese war has resurrected a technique which is often forgotten in our training on the mainland. One of our most important, unspectacular, potentially effective, and yet least understood techniques is the proper use of harassing fire. The value of HF was not fully appreciated in the early stages. (It was also quite common to find people who confused HF with DF. ) Moreover, local intelligence information was not available and time was required to build up a dossier. In due

course information started coming in and the Task Force Intelligence Officer (Captain Bob Keep) went to considerable trouble, purely of his own volition, to see that the Regimental Tactical Headquarters was kept supplied with all available information. Nonetheless, it was found desirable to institute a separate gunner intelligence recording system and this demanded considerable effort and judgment. To this end, a captain (lain McInnis) was appointed as Regimental IO. The IO created and maintained a detailed filing system in two parts, viz records of targets suitable for HF engagement and records of targets actually engaged.

From this, it was possible to review the past, plan for the future, and ensure that the whole area in range was covered in the way its importance warranted and in an 'unsystematically systematic' manner.

Apart from its prime HF importance, the intelligence value of this recording system is considerable.

The effect of HF is usually difficult to assess. One must rely solely on information from the enemy. It was comforting, therefore, when signs of the success of the HF programmes gradually filtered in. A survey of VC deserters in the province placed artillery fire high on the list of reasons for deserting and, in one case, a deserter (surrendering in October 1966) unprompted and of his own volition said that his main reason for deserting was fear of death from the constant shelling of

the Australian artillery. This deserter added incidentally that, as a result of the constant and unexpected HF, most soldiers in his unit did not use their mosquito nets for fear of being caught if shelling began. As a result, this particular unit had a very high malaria incidence.

The design of a good system of HF planning is laborious but well worth the effort. It is not, simply, a matter of shooting sporadically at targets which have suddenly been detected. The timing, the frequency, the weight of fire, the nature of the target, and its location have all to be considered. It is also relevant that a minimum dislocation of our own rest be made. (Sarcastic enquiries of the Regiment as to exactly who was being harassed were not unknown.) In general, a good effect can be achieved for a comparatively small price in rounds expended. (Each serial of a HF plan usually, but not invariably, consisted of one round from one or two guns.)

The physical direction of fire on the ground is one of the biggest headaches in the theatre. An observer, patrolling with the infantry and wishing to engage a target, at all times feels reassured if he can place a round a fair distance away and see that his map reading is not faulty.

Unlike other wars, where there is a clearly designed front beyond which rounds may be placed loosely or, even, inaccurately, no such looseness is possible in Vietnam. Although maps are good, the jungle is thick and the nature of the ground and undergrowth is such as to render difficult a patrol's indentification of its position. (Techniques have been designed for patrols to use artillery fire as a source of position finding. ) Additionally, innocent civilians may be encountered (and certainly were in the early stages) unexpectedly and improperly in areas where they should

not be. In a sense, the situation could  be likened to shooting into the Royal Botanic Gardens on a summer Sunday. In the past the unfortunate people of Vietnam have been shot at indifferently by various people on and off for twenty years and it is an essential act of both humanity and plain common sense to protect civilians from harm.

(Capt John Jansen, RAA)

Bravo (the centre) gun detachment of 105 Fd Bty, 1Fld Regt RAA, looking northwest from the Nui Dat position, September 1966.



As can be imagined, these considerations call for the firmest measures of fire control, measures, moreover, which must not inordinately delay calls for fire in support of our own troops. This has demanded exemplary attention and care on the part of all concerned with fire support. Some of the rules of engagement which are currently applied may be of interest:

Initial rounds on the ground must not be directed closer than 1,000 metres from the nearest friendly troops. A similar rule applies to the recording of targets not registered by shooting.

Shoots open with a single round of HE unless the tactical situation positively demands otherwise. (The adoption of a standard drill to open shoots with WP was considered but was rejected for various reasons. This, however, is a course still open to BCs and observers if they wish it. )

The tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) is divided into battalion areas of operation (AOs) . Within each AO, no fire is permitted without the permission of the battalion; this rstriction applies to small arms, artillery, infantry mortars, and strike aircraft. This control is exercised on the battalion's behalf by the direct support battery commander who has the communications on the Regimental Net to handle clearances quickly and reliably. On the other hand, it is equally necessary for mutual clearance to be obtained between ground weapons and aircraft.

This is handled by the Fire Support Coordination Centre (FSCC) at the Force Headquarter s. The FSCC is a joint RAA, army aviation, airforce organization for whose functioning the Commanding Officer of the Regiment is responsible.

At the Force level, agreements are made with the Province Chief (a very fine Vietnamese officer and gentleman, Lieutenant -Colonel Dat, who maintains most harmonious relations with his allies) regarding the degree of restriction to free movement by civilians in various areas.

Even, however, in areas to which entry is denied civilians, care must be taken before opening fire. It must be recalled that we are dealing with simple farmers who share the conservatism of most country people everywhere; sometimes these people have farmed the same area for generations and are loath to leave it; even when they do understand the attendant risks they are prepared to take them.

These measures are in themselves not sufficient and will fail unless those directing the guns a re careful. As a result, the most stringent attention to map reading and communications is given by OPs, to gun drills by gun detachments, and to CP drills by command post staffs. So any young man who thinks that the AIG is fussing unnecessarily when he criticizes him for failure to observe proper checks and drills, may be assured that these are even more important in Vietnam than in the calm

of a CP exercise at home. It is a matter of lamentable record, as we all know, that despite everything, mistakes and accidents do occur.

As mentioned above, observation for the provision of supporting fire is often very difficult. There are times when forward observers might well be termed aural observers because so much adjustment is done by ear. In these conditions, it has been found useful to base corrections to adjust fire using cardinal point corrections; a bearing of say 6,400 mils is ordered to the guns and corrections are made in relation to this line rather than along the actual line observer-target.

There is a heavy responsibility falling on observers but, great as it is, the physical conduct of shoots is not the greatest burden.

Observers must have a sound knowledge of the characteristics of their weapon and its ballistic properties if they are to advise their affiliated infantry company commanders well. They have also to be tactful and patient,

particularly in the face of pressure to adopt courses of action which may be either unsafe or ineffective. It must be remembered that company commanders have a great deal on their minds at any time, and

particularly so during typical Vietnamese operations. Gunner observers must be helpful, positive and firm. On the other hand, the company commander need also to remember that the observer is there to make

his job easier . The observer is a trained professional gunner . He expects to be used as such. He is a colleague, not a servant. It is a tribute to the quality of the company commanders now serving in Vietnam that so many are able to establish an a dult professional relationship with their gunner advisers.

As can be imagined in a war where the skies are black with flying machines, great use is made of air observation. The Regiment has particularly close affiliations with our good friends in 161 Recce Flight (Major Laurie Doyle) . The Flight often comports itself in an atmosphere redolent of the Dawn Patrol and the Red Baron, a remark which should not be misunderstood, and is certainly not intended to be offensive.

The Regiment has found it an asset to send an officer (who may be a New Zealander, an American or an Australian, but is always a gunner) on daily morning and evening flights over the area as an observer in light air craft. This has become a source of mutual benefit. The observer provides an extra pair of eyes for the pilot and both may shoot at an opportunity target. The general support battery, that is, the battery not allotted in direct support of the battalions, is alway earmarked

at priority call for task like this, as also is the US medium battery when the targets call for them. Meanwhile the passenger, who performs the duty for a week at a time, gain a good knowledge of the ground over which , in the future, he could be trudging with a rifle company. The practice ensures a speedy response to opportunity targets and secures early specific intelligence information which is primarily designed for the HF programme.

Information from both US Army Aviation and the USAF is also invaluable. It is a measure of building mutual confidence between the air force and the gunners that forward air controllers from the USAF are now habitually directing the fire of the guns at suitable opportunity targets. The procedures in use are scarcely orthodox but the end result is generally satisfactory. This is an important matter because the air force, in their strike role, and artillery tend to be complementary rather than in competition - as some people not specialists in fire support are apt to suppose. In passing, it might be relevant to observe, at this point, how important are the 155-mm guns of 'A' Battery; for these guns tend to bridge the gap between the endurance but limited destructive potential of field artillery on the one hand, and the limited endurance but great destructive capacity of aircraft on the other.

Within the Regiment, normal principles governing the exercise of command and control and fire planning are observed although, of coure, this does not mean a blind adherence to rules and drills simply for the latters own sakes. In Vietnam, and in a regiment serving under command of a task force rther than a CRA, certain complications arise which necessitate certain adjustments.

Tactical Headquarters (Tac) has, first, its basic task of functioning for the CO so that the latter is free to accompany and attend his commander.

Tac implements the CO's fire planning in close touch with the adjutant and the Regimental Command Post. Because for many HQ RAA functions to be exercised by Tac. That truly indispensable officer, the adjutant, in whom the Regiment has been so well served by Captain Alexander Karas, retains the direct 'gun end' fire control of all batteries and produces task tables (a heavy commitment in Vietnam), but the especial relation which the adjutant has with the BMRA when a regiment serves under the CRA's command does not apply. The adjutant's fire planning instructions come from Tac and any interpretation of the gun end which was formerly fed to the BMRA (for the CRA) is now fed back to the CO, who is usually aware of the matter anyway. Of course, such a situation is peculiar to the present nature of Australian operations and is abetted when one appreciates that Tac is situated only 100 yards or so from the guns.

Tac provides the artillery component of the FSCC and indeed it has been found desirable to surrender its identity in this role. The artillery element along with Kangaroo control (the wireless control manned by 161 Recce Flight for the air/ ground safety direction of aircraft) provide the core of the FSCC and are continually on duty. Together these elements ensure mutual safety between ground weapons and aircraft.

Other elements, such as the US Army Aviation Officer the USAF Air Liaison Officer, and the CO of the Regiment attend as duties and the operational situation demands.

When the Regiment arrived in Vietnam and was faced with the problem of constituting the CO's headquarters, it was speedily appreciated that a precise copy of the layout and functioning, for which our current procedures provide, was not entirely appropriate. The BC of HQ Battery (Captain Ian Darlington) assisted by the IO and Captain Townley (the CB officer; but now strangely referred to as the Artillery Intelligence Officer ), by trial and error commonsense and initiative, but always conscious of previous experience and faithful to traditional gunner rules, designed an efficient, well-organized fire plan centre which , starting basically as a simple rover or tactical headquarters for the CO, eventually embraced all the tasks and responsibilities which are encumbent in the theatre and includes many tasks normally exercised by the Divisional HQ RAA. These responsibilities include acting as a virtual artillery formation headquarters for indigenous and attached artillery embracing:

   an Australian field regiment, less one battery

   a New Zealand field battery

   an Australian locating battery detachment of 75

   a United States medium battery

   and which was increased in December 1966 by:

   a US composite a r t illery battalion deadquarters

   a US composite heavy battery.

In addition, with the scale of air support (RAAF; SAF; and US Army Aviation) much greater than that to which we are accustomed in Australia, the FSCC had to be established. The latter was, moreover, a new creation to us and one for which there was no detailed source of prior experience or other basis for technique. Captain Darlington had also his important duties to exercise as BC of the Regiment's Headquarters Battery coupled with the administrative obligations which

that entailed.

Not since World War II has Australia sent to an operational theatre either a formation or a field regiment (although ba tteries and infantry units have frequently so served) . There is a whole military generation which has grown up without personal knowledge and experience of close infantry-gunner practical working relations or an appreciation of artillery techniques for the employment of fire on the ground. As a result, there is a lack of practical understanding of fire support, its importance, its handling and the inferential niceties of command and control of artillery resources on which the efficiency of our techniques and, hence, our success in battle depend. Our forces were not involved in European operations or in African ones after Alamein and we have no experience, as an Army, of the period 1944-45 in Europe when the handling of massive artillery support was developed to an incomparable dgree and flexibility by the Royal Artillery and, one understands, by the Russian artillery. It is true, of course, that some Australians, serving in Korea at the height of operations, had first-hand experience of th speed of response, the mass, the flexibility, and the effectiveness of RA techniques, of which command and control is such a vital part. But this experience was lightly spread; those that learnt

did so well but to too many Korea is no longer relevant and is ignored in any consideration of a South-East Asian setting. Consequently, we have had no choice but to fall back on our pamphlets (fortunately of high quality), theoretical emphasis, and drills which although soundly based on the experience of others, often camouflage' the principles from which they derive. Understandably, many people, perceiving that our current operations are somehow different, question the drills and when the validity of the drills cannot be pragmatically demonstrated, condemn not only the drills but the experience which produced them and, moreover, the principles on which they are based.

(Capt John Jansen, RAA )

Delta gun detachment of 105 Fd Bty/ 1 Fld Regt RAA in the Nui Dat position.

September 1966.



Without our well-founded system of training the situation would be much worse than it is. In some way it is a marvel that so much inherited experience has been preserved when one considers how little of it can be easily stated let alone proven. Notwithstanding there has been an increasing tendency to forget the hard-learnt lessons of the past and it will be wasteful if we ignore the past and have to relearn by our own experience. (Was it not Bismarck who observed that any fool could

profit by his own experience; he preferred to profit from that of others.)

In particular there have been too many instances of failure to understand fire support and the principles on which gunner techniques are based. This is not to say that the principles are forgotten; indeed it would be difficult to find an army in which the stately and sincere utterance of profound principles is so widespread as in the Australian

Army. Unfortunately the solemn invocation of principles does not necessarily imply their observation.

Turning briefly to that indispensable matter of communications, it will be recalled that earlier mention was made of the requirement to obtain clearances to fire before firing into battalion areas of operations.

The Regiment's net is obliged to function with great efficiency (otherwise it could not function at all) and it is as a result of its efficiency that delays in opening fire are reduced to a minimum. The sort of clearances  required include, for example, Tac requesting-- clearance for a HF programme in a battalion's AO, a BC seeking clearance for his battalion's mortars to fire on a target just inside the neighbouring battalion's AO, clearance for strike aircraft. In addition, and at all times, it is necessary for air clearance to be obtained before firing by guns and mortars so that aircraft entering the TAOR may be warned beforehand.

In addition, the Regimental net carries all the customary traffic to be expected on such a net. Although battery and lower fire missions are normally fired on the Battery Net, it is necessary for clearances to be obtained beforehand. For this purpose, all observers remain on the Regimental Net and flick after clearance has been obtained, rejoining

the Regimental Net at the end of shooting.

The Regimental Net is frequently used for the passage of DF fire plans when no other means is available. This raises security problems but a reasonably secure code is used in transmission. For HF targets, on the other hand, a Simple Regimental code, which if compromised, will not harm any other unit, is used. The reasoning behind this is that

while we cannot afford to compromise codes by sending targets in code which are subsequently to be engaged, there is no great harm done if HF targets are not disguised. It is not going to help a hapless guerilla sleep any better if he knows beforehand that he is going to be shot at.

The facility exists to regroup and to deploy using standard proformas by the issue of orders over the wireless. These have not been used hitherto simply because the operational situation has not so far demanded it and, usually, it has been possible for safe-hand deliveries or personal contact to be made even when batteries are deployed beyond the base camp. These, and other procedures, are written into the Regimental Standing Orders and are considered to be sensible precautions.

Gunners are a mounted arm and this should not be forgotten even if, temporarily, our mobility has been impaired.

The Regimental Net is used for the passage of tactical information, particularly reports indicating locations, the progress of patrols and suchlike. Operational returns are also sent when line is not available.

Battery commanders prefer to use Battery Nets when arranging administrative

supplies (other than those provided by more formal military procedures) and for the exchange of compliments with observers and the Gun Position Officers.

Although not in competition with Radio Australia or Radio Peking, the Regimental Net is often fun to listen to, particularly when some slow-speaking citizen from Georgia or Alabama reports that Battery 'A' has, for example, 'Shot serial 4 Pluto Lawrence 17. Rounds complete.'

The Americans have cooperated in this, as in other matters, and have adopted our voice and fire orders procedures which they find efficient. On the other hand, our operators are sufficiently experienced to use US or joint procedures when strangers join the net.

A particular feature of service in Vietnam is civic action. Under the programme, Free World forces (the term used to describe the force fighting as allies of the South Vietnamese government) assist villagers in community projects, medical and dental attention, education and like matters. The Regiment has under its wing the three villages which comprise Bin Ghia, to the north of the TAOR. The inhabitants of these villages, almost exclusively Roman Catholic in religion, came down from North Vietnam led by their priests after the 1954 settlement.

They are staunchly anti-communist. Assistance to the villagers is not lavish (there are no truck-loads of refrigerators, farm tractors, propaganda, milk-shakes and like items); rather it is simple and relevant to their needs. For example, it might take the form of a pile of wooden ammunition cases which could be used by the villagers, for making wooden chests of drawers, tables or stands to be used in the village market - the kind of work at which, like many Asian people, they are highly skilled.

Materials sent to Vietnam from Australia by religious and philanthropic organizations (for example, clothing for women and children sent to the Chaplain by a Church of England charity) are distributed through the priests or the village elders. In this connection, all Australians havebeen earnestly requested by the Province Chief not to make gifts direct to the people, particularly things like sweets to the children, as it tends to cut across the traditional customs of the people.

The Regiment had h lped repair a school before assuming responsibility for Bin Ghia and is currently building a dispensary which shows signs of developing into a hospital.

A few soldiers live in the village and maintain the Allied presence. Many Australian gunners will remember Gunner Buxton, late 1st Field Regiment Officers' Mess and more recently a wagon lines bombardier who is ensconced in the high school teaching English. An American corporal, from Battery 'A,' known as 'Bondi' is also there and frequent visits by Australians and New Zealanders maintain representation. The Kiwis were particularly helpful in the loan of some NZ Army carpenters who were attached to 161 Battery for a while. Meanwhile, soccer games are played between troops

and the villagers and the Regimental Medical Officer (Captain John Taske) conducts regular and frequent treatment parades.

It must be understood that the intention is not to smother the self respect of these kindly, likeable and unfortunate people by turning them into professional mendicants living on the bountiful handouts of

the wealthy Western troops, but rather to assist them to help themselves and by the nature of that assistance to encourage them to appreciate that their interests are close to the hearts of the troops.

On the technical side, the Regiment is slowly building up high order survey over the TAOR. Initially the surveyors (Regimental and Locating Battery surveyors are combined for operational projects) brought forward national grid, using their own instruments, from the Cap St. Jacques lighthouse into the gun area. All guns, the radars and,

also the battalion mortars were placed on the higher grid quite early.

Whenever a battery deploys outside the base in support of an operation, every effort is made to carry the grid forward, and stations are established in the deployed gun area. It is usually necessary to establish two pickets - the real one (rather unobtrusive) and a phony but spectacular one, designed for the curious soldiers and villagers (should there be any around) to fiddle with.

The surveyors also, as a permanent commitment, man the Task Force OP established on Nui Dat. This, the only prominent feature in the base camp, provides good observation in all directions and the surveyors act as an intelligence OP, a shooting OP, and a shelrep OP.

They also provide a listening post for the radars and attend the emergency aerials for the Regimental Net which are positioned on the hill. (The reader need not imagine that there is any famous security

information being broadcast in relating all this.)

The inability to carry out calibration has been of some concern.

Unable to calibrate in Australia before departure, operational conditions as well as the problems associated with finding a suitable piece of ground have also militated against calibration in the theatre.

Instrumental calibration was attempted using US chronographic methods and instruments. The results were unsatisfactory and for some inexplicable reason, the infernal machines were unable to measure

muzzle velocities below those for Charge 6. Fortunately, the New Zealand guns are comparatively calibrated against the RNZA School of Artillery standard gun before despatch to Vietnam. As some of these are new guns, recently in the theatre, and have not fired nearly as much as the older guns, it is hoped a solution lies in nominating one

of these as Regimental or Theatre standard gun, calibrating a selected gun from each battery comparatively against it and, subsequently, comparatively calibrating each battery's guns against the Battery standard. All very second choice but it is necessary to do something to bring the guns into sympathy with the range tables.

A meteorological station was established by the US Field Force Artillery in Battery 'A' area in October 1966. This has proved a boon.

With one major exception, the organization of the three battery regiment, six gun battery has proved satisfactory and in this regard the gunners appear to be more fortunate than some other corps. A

recent amendment has approved the addition of a ration clerk; the lack of this NCO has been a source of ire for years. Provided some allowance, even only as a theatre increment, can be made for extra

observers there do not appear to be any glaring weaknesses noticed by the Regiment. The nature of the operations and the ground in Vietnam make the provision of one observer for every rifle company a necessity,

apart from the requirement to maintain a reserve for liaison, rest of deployed observers, extra observers for Vietnamese forces, the SAS and APC Squadrons, should they be needed. With two battalions and

three field and medium batteries (the latter holding an increment of two observers) the problem has not been acute but it could well become so in the future. The only other observation is that the BC HQ Battery

really needs to be a major if he is to have had the experience and rewards appropriate to his functions. This is not to argue that there is some magic attaching to a major's crowns which demands an officer

of this rank. It is to point out, however, that the appointment, particularly in an independent field regiment, calls for an officer of similar experience to that to be expected in a gun battery commander.

On the purely domestic side, some asides on how the Regiment was living may be of interest.

On arrival, the Regiment was camped in an unprepossessing area on the outskirts of Vung Tau, separate from the others. The area was roughly square in shape with a US petrol installation on one side,

the National Police Academy adjoining, and, nearby, a piece of wasteland and, a few hundred yards away, the airfield and ammunition dump.

It was all very sordid, relieved only by the friendliness of the police cadets who, every morning before lectures, waved in an affectionate manner as they micturated against the barbed wire.

The distressing effects of this piece of land and the circumstances of our arrival were relieved to a very great extent by the dedicated work of the Quartermaster, Captain Darcy Hayes, and Captain Darlington,

both of whom had come up in the advance party, and by the vigorous efforts of the Regiment's indomitable pair, the Second-in -Command (Major Arthur McDermott) and the Regimental Sergeant Major (WO1 'Bruno' Snedden). All in all, things were rather uncouth in the early days both for us and the other people in the force.

It was with relief that the Regiment deployed into the rubber plantation south of Nui Dat which was to be the future home. The monsoon had started and air observation revealed a distressing preponderance

of damp padi relieved only by the rubber. The occupation itself proceeded tactically and with no interference from the enemy.

One of our battalions had previously joined 173 US Airborne Brigade, which already included both 105 and 161 (RNZA) Batteries, in a broad clearing operation of the area, and the Australian troops were enabled

to land without interruption, RHQ and 103 Battery deployed in Chinook helicopters. The latter

was, to us, a new aircraft but Major Gair had previously organized some familiarization training so that we were not caught napping in our first operational air deployment. Things proceeded smoothly until,

as appears to be a frequent occurrence in air deployment when the

(Capt John Jansen, RAA)

A Chinook landing a 105 mm Italian pack/how of 105 Fd Dty during Operation

'Crimp', near Iron Triangle, Jannary 1966.



aircraft come from another service, the helicopters were abruptly called away without warning for some other purpose, leaving both RHQ and 103 Battery split. Tac HQ, the Battery CP and some guns were forward

while the adj utant, the greater part of the Regimental CP and the remaining guns were left behind. After several hours wait, the deployment was eventually resumed thanks to one of the gunners,

bored at sitting in the flea pit awaiting further movement to the war, who "made an unseemly gesture to a passing Iroquois helicopter. The pilot, to his eternal credit, descended and after calling in a few of his

friends resumed the tactical deployment of the Regiment. Thus was the flexibility and mobility of the air mobile Australian force preserved and the Regiment could congratulate itself that the deployment of

RHQ and one field battery over a distance served by less than 25 miles of secure good road had been accomplished in something less than 10 hours. Some conjectured that with a little more practice and experience

air deployment will shortly reach the speed of horse deployment.

Perhaps these remarks are sarcastic but they highlight the quandary in which gunners find themselves when their batteries  have been deprived of one means of transport without adequate alternate means

of achieving mobility.

The Regiment's base area was a good one. It formed the southwest corner of the force base camp and combined judicious proportions of young rubber, which offered protection from the sun, and open

ground, which permitted the guns to fire unimpeded.

The Regiment found itself responsible entirely for its own protection and, indeed, manned a sizeable part of the Task Force perimeter.

This was not a situation lightly forced on the Regiment but one to which there was simply no alternative. As a result the gun batteries both defend themselves and provide fire support for the force. The

former role has called forth unsuspected talents and the Second-inCommand (who served as a foot soldier in Korea) was in his element organizing local defence - siting automatic weapons, laying out wire,

approving slit trenches, directing and conducting clearing patrols and all the other things that our infantry friends do so well.

The first really heavy rain of the monsoon in Nui Dat did not occur until the area had been occupied for a few days. One of its lighter effects, when the first deluge arrived, was to cause a flood on which

one of the 2 ic's shirts floated a few hundred yards into 103 Battery gun lines where it occasioned some suspicion between the 2ic and the Battery Sergeant Major (W02 B. J. Taylor). W02 Taylor and his

fellow stalwart in HQ Battery (W02 Squibb), neither at the time serving in the Regiment, had, shortly before departure for the war, presented themselves to the Commanding Officer at Holsworthy and

severally informed him that they were going to the war with the Regiment and would Sir kindly fix it? In similar vein, one young National Service gunner (popularly known as 'Tex' for reasons readily apparent to anyone who has ever met him), removed from the draft for medical reasons at the last moment, also informed the

CO that he was going nonetheless. He duly arrived in Vietnam after having been smuggled aboard HMAS Sydney.

Indeed these minor examples typify a most inspiring enthusiasm and morale with which members of the Regiment seemed to be imbued on their departure. This was perhaps the more surprising in view of the fact that all ranks had just completed two months' continuous field training at Tianjara arid, one would suppose, should have been rather wearied of soldiering at that time.

It is customary to complete an article of this nature by enumerating lessons as the writer sees them. Regrettably, and this article is no exception, the convention usually affords the writer an opportunity to embark on some pet hobby horse. For what it is worth then, the following points seem important to the writer.

First) gunner operations in Vietnam have confirmed the soundness of our techniques and training. At a time and place when it is unfashionable to credit Britain with any virtue worth recalling, it gives the writer great pleasure to record the incalculable extent to which we Australian gunners are indebted to our fellow members

of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. For let us be reminded of a demonstrable fact: the techniques and principles we Australians observe have been established over the years by the Royal Artillery and are based on the vast experince of that illustrious Regiment.

Second) as already observed, current operations in Vietnam have, so far, shown that the TW establishment is a good one but marred by one grave limitation, i.e., immobility. The adoption of an air mobile policy should not be regarded as an argument for removing artillery tractors and transport unless alternate air transport is

available. Moreover, the denial of mobility, in the establishment, has imposed serious limitations on the effectiveness of artillery and, incidentally, caused considerable inconvenience in other spheres when

it has been necessary to pool road transport in order to deploy the guns. (In 1966, the vast majority of artillery deployment was by road.)

It is not to be inferred that aircraft have proven inefficient, or ineffective or unsatisfactory, although, of course, there are obvious advantages and disadvantages possessed both by aircraft and road transport when compared one with the other. It is obvious that there are occasions when aircraft provide the sole effective means of

movement. But this argues that aircraft should be regarded as an alternative or supplementary means of transport so that each mode can be regarded as the complement of the other.

In the writer's opinion it is not correct to regard gunner vehicles as purely load carriers or a device to save lazy gunners from walking. The tractors are an integral part of the guns and contribute to the flexibility of artillery which is in danger of being lost if, indeed, it has not already been lost. It is faulty reasoning to argue that as fire support is required only at the pace at which infantry moves, therefore artillery needs to move only at an identical pace. (Are aircraft restricted to moving at walking pace?) A gun on the move is a gun out of action and it is imperative that guns be out of action for the minimum

time: It follows that when guns move, they should do so as quickly as possible and by the fastest means available.

The problem has been accentuated by the lesser optimum operational range of the L5 pack/ how which is only about one-half to two-thirds of that of the 25 pounder and the M2A2 105-mm how.

As a consequence, in a theoretical operation in which infantry are moving away from the guns and require continuous support, guns have to move more frequently and over shorter distances than formerly

applied. These remarks are not intended to disparage the L5 pack/ how, which has considerable merit, but they highlight the requirement for transport (road or air) to be on the spot and under unit control. The

transport is an intimate part of an artillery unit and the problem is not efficiently dealt with by drawing on pooled transport whenever occasion specifically demands, whatever the economic attractiveness of such a policy.

The question then arises of what transport is required. Essentially, transport is needed for the gun, the command post, communication resources to the observers, and for the carriage of sufficient ammunition

and other stores to render a unit operationally self-contained.

It could be argued that an adequate provision of unit aircraft would meet the requirement, but the technical difficulties and enormous expense of the use of aircraft in such a manner are prohibitive. Aircraft need to be available at the time and in the quantity needed to effect speedy deployment under those terrain or operational

conditions which deny the use of MT, but unit MT is needed to meet operational and administrative requirements under other conditions.

The problem of movement is not adequately answered by the use of pooled transport from other units. In Vietnam, where it has been necessary for various reasons, to adopt this measure, considerable inconvenience has been thereby occasioned other units; administrative convoys have been upset and the use of APCs, while satisfactory vehicles as such, cannot necessarily be accepted as a proper employment for the APC squadron from which they come.

Third) In any war, it is an aim rather high on both contestant's lists to kill as many chaps on the other side as possible. The progress of a war, or a campaign, is frequently assessed against the comparative numbers killed or otherwise incapacitated. The most effective single agency for killing men in current and customary use by all armies is the HE weapon, whether shell, mortar bomb, grenade, or air-delivered bomb or rocket. Now, these elementary military truths are restated to remind us of what might be an unpalatable fact: infantrymen, as such, do not inflict a large number of casualties. It is the bullets which infantry fire, the grenades they throw, the mortar bombs they place and, above all, the weapons of their supporting arms and services - it is these which kill or maim the enemy. Infantry is required on the battle

field to close with enemy infantry, to take and hold ground and men, in short, to inject the basic and essential human weapon into war which they alone can offer. But to consider infantry employment in a modern

context, unsupported by fire power, and particularly artillery fire power,would be feckless.

Some months ago, an interesting and well-written article in this journal argued that artillery was not needed in the context of Australian Army operations in South-East Asia other than to meet the unlikely eventuality of protecting base camps against a mass attack by hordes of angry guerillas. If this argument is followed and applied, we shall shortly find ourselves in a situation where the Australian Army is adept at conducting clinics for sick children in native villages - after of course, first, clearing those villages of evildoers - masters at search operations in rubber plantations and in the intricate and difficult techiques of subtle patr l operations, but quite incapable as an army of dealing with conventional operations against any formal military force of any reasonable formidability.

Fourth) It is right that in any army, the infantry be regarded as the basic arm; for alone of all the corps, the infantry is the one whose presence or absence determines the distinction between a military force,

on the one hand, and a purposeless uniformed body, on the other. However, there are many signs that we in our army, have gone too far. By foreign standards we are small and, as regulars, inexperienced. It is

true, and we can all derive pride from this, that we have come a long way in a short time. It is less than twenty years since we established a regular army; any officer over thirty will recall the days when, to the

consternation of the new graduate, he was given to understand that the main part of the Australian Army consisted of people who did other things for a living and that if we ever went to war, our soldiers would

be enlisted off the streets and the Commander-in-Chief would not be a professional soldier. Notwithstanding, our emphasizing of the importance of infantry has tended to be effected at the expense of the other

arms; in particular the two teeth arms, armour and artillery. These two corps are in danger of being relegated from the status of cooperative colleagues to that of voice less servants. In consequence their proper

employment is tending to depend solely on how much or how little an infantry commander understands them.

An analogy may be found in an orchestra (and the writer hopes he does not embarrass too many of his brilliant military colleagues and good friends who are unable to distinguish between a violin and a comb and paper). Let us say that the conductor is the commander, the strings are the infantry, the woodwinds the armour, and the brass the gunners. Any orchestra which consists solely of strings will be confined to a most limited repertoire and its future bleak. To go one stage further let us grant the presence of the other major sections of the ochestra are more ambitious works may now be attempted.

However, if these additional sections are not afforded similar consideration and opportum

ties fori. rehearsal (on their own instruments) the orchestra's performance will be unbalanced ..The situation will not be resolved by making all the trumpeters play violins or the violinists telling the trumpeters

and the flautists how to play theirs. Under these conditions, the overture will never get under way and the conductor will be left futilely beating time wondering what the hell has gone wrong.

To make the point from this analogy, there can be, in fire planning, a tendency for an infantry commander to devise his tactical plan and then pass it to his gunner telling him to make the fire plan fit it. This

is not good enough. What should happen is that both tactical and fire plans be constructed simultaneously and in sympathy, the one deferring to the other if inescapable reasons so dictate.

The reader should not suppose from all this that the understanding of fire support in Vietnam is at an all time low. This is far from the case The battle Of Long Than (17 August 66), for example, afforded not only a splendid display of copybook infantry operations by that first rate battalion, 6 RAR, and of the power of artillery, but also the essential

validity of proper infantry - artillery relations. Vietnam however, for good or for bad is important to our Army; for the drills and tactics evolved there are likely to have a pervading influence on our thinking for some time to come. One hopes we learn good lessons rather than bad; for this reason the writer has set down these observations of

his experIence (including his own many mistakes!) in the hope that there is something there of value to others.


Any animated description of a modern battle, any private soldier's

letter published in the newspapers, any page of the records of the

Victoria Cross, will show that in the ranks of the army there exists

under all disadvantages as fine a sense of duty as is to be found in

any station on earth. Who doubts that if we all did our duty as

faithfully as the soldier does his, this world would be a better place?

There may be greater difficulties in our way than in the soldier's.

Not disputed. But let us at least do our duty towards him.

- Charles Dickens in The Great Tasmanian.



Lieutenant·Colonel Cubis graduated from the Royal Military College in 1946 and

was allotted to the RAA. He served with 'A' Bty BCOF {1947·48), with 1 Fd

R egt (1949·50), as adjutant 10 Fld Regt CMF (1951), in Korea as IO HQ 1

Commonwealth Div and as a troop commander in 14 Fd Regt RA {1951-52) , as a

battery commander with, 1 Fd R egt ( 1957-59) and as CO of the regiment from

1965 to 1966, including command in Vietnam. He has qualified at the Long

Gunnery Staff Course and the Divisional Locating Course in the UK and at the

Australzan Staff College. Other appointments include those of OC 128 Amph

Obs Bty {1960·61 ) end AAG DPA at AHQ {1963-64).

Among several Royal appointments, most important was that of Australian

Equerry to the Queen du.ring her visit to Australia in 1963.