GALLANT: Local Vietnam Veteran Doug Smyth is helping Sunraysia residents who fought in the Vietnam Battle of Coral and Balmoral more than 50 years ago apply for a Unit Citation of Gallantry. Applications are being processed through the Wentworth Military Collection. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

AUSTRALIANS who fought in the Vietnam Battle of Coral and Balmoral more than 50 years ago, including a number of Sunraysia-based residents, are finally being recognised with the Unit Citation of Gallantry.

Around 3000 servicemen involved in that particular engagement will be recognised, including local Vietnam Veteran of 1RAR D Coy, Doug Smyth.

Mr Smyth, a current Curlwaa resident, said the “little known battle” was in fact one of Australia’s largest and most costly.

“An estimated 3000 enemy soldiers were killed and 24 Australian lives lost in an action that from May 12, 1968, lasted nearly six weeks,” he said. “Operation Total Victory was initially meant to cut off retreating troops of the Regular North Vietnamese Army from the second Tet Offensive.

“The establishment of Fire Support Bases (FSB) Coral and Balmoral were to assist in the efforts to do so. However due to a lower supply priority and essential equipment being landed in sites other than those designated, it was all uphill at the get-go.

“A team of North Vietnamese engineers with Bangalore torpedoes had snuck in to blow the wire that was to have fortified the 105mm guns of FSB Coral, but there was no wire there. It had simply not arrived.

“The battle had seen the gun overrun and recaptured, armour and infantry working together (the first time since Milne Bay 1942) and a reprisal of the ANZAC spirit as New Zealand guns supported our Australian Troops.

“At the end of the day we were all just a mob of blokes doing our job.”

Wentworth Military Collection volunteer curator, Russell James, said the actions of all involved in the Battle of Coral and Balmoral was as significant of those of Long Tan, Kapyoung and Tobruk, and that the recognition was certainly overdue.

“One of the -first histories covered in the Wentworth Military Collection was that of Coral and Balmoral simply because we felt no-one knew about this battle,” he said. “In dedicating the exhibit to Doug Smyth, it gave the exhibit a local context while educating visitors of their little-known past.”

“We are proud to have Doug as part of our team at the museum. To see him and others like him being  awarded for their service is heartfelt, as there are not the numbers of veterans left that should have seen this day.

“The justification in all of this is that those who experience the freedoms that we have today are those that are recognising the efforts through such awards of those who have provided that freedom to us.”

Veterans who have qualified for the Unit Citation of Gallantry are encouraged to process their application Thursdays from 10am to 4pm at the Wentworth Military Museum.

Applications are being offered free of charge.

For more information contact Russell on 0434 549 401.

Eligible units are:

• 1st Australian Task Force (Forward).

• 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

• 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

• A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

• C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment.

• 12th Field Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.

• 1st Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers.

Members of these units who flew missions in direct support of the battles, or who were forward deployed to the Fire Support Bases, are also entitled to wear the Citation insignia No 9 Squadron RAAF and 161 Reconnaissance Flight.

Family members of deceased veterans are also encouraged to apply for the insignia.