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Past AGM's

1st Australian Field Hospital AGM - 27 September 2012

1st Australian Field Hospital AGM

The Annual General Meeting of the 1AFH Association was held at the Gaythorne RSL Club on Thursday 27 September 2012.  Reports were presented by or on behalf of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and each of the Zone Rep's. 

Re-elected:

  • President – Rod Searle,
  • Treasurer – Paul Danaher,
  • Zone 1, QLD – John Longhurst, and
  • Zone 4, SA – Brian Milde.

Changed over:

  • Zone 3, VIC/TAS – Paul Morris for Robin Watson (due to ill health).

 Attending the AGM were (from left to right): Carolyn Eacott, Trish Ferguson, Ed Coit, Mary Precians, Geoff Precians, Robin Knowles, John Longhurst, Joyce Longhurst, Rod Searle, Jennie Searle, Jeff Gilbert, Lyn Gilbert, Di Badcock, Kamen Burns, Aynsley Coit and Des Gerhardt.

AGM Attendees

The Minutes from the AGM will be included in the December edition of CSV.

Did I Do A Good Job Boss
Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Did I Do A Good Job Boss

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Shout a little bit louder now!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Shout a little bit louder now!

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The Medical Assistant

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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The Medical Assistant

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How to Become A Medic

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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How to Become A Medic

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Found Sally Saunders

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Found Sally Saunders

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Letter To The Editor of ‘Call Sign Vampire’ From Bruce Nelson San Antonio, TEXAS, USA Dustoff 159

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Letter To The Editor of ‘Call Sign Vampire’ From Bruce Nelson San Antonio, TEXAS, USA Dustoff 159

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In today's mail, I received a copy of the July 97 Edition of "Call Sign VAMPIRE" sent to me by my good friend Brian Hansson, from Queensland. Looking at the photos and reading the articles took me back to SVN in 1970-71 and a lot of great memories.

I was the Flt Operations Officer and Standardization Instructor Pilot for the 159th DUSTOFF in Long Binh and I was fortunate enough to get to know 1AFH people through Brian, who I first met in Long Binh.

When we moved our Unit from Cu to Long Binh, in Nov of '70, I started flying missions down to the 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau, usually transporting oxygen tanks. I also started taking new-in-country pilots down to VAMPIRE Pad as part of their orientation ride.

Sitting back and watching them make the short final approach over the wires to the PSP on a windy day was a real experience. The SGT's Mess celebrated my graduation from Instructor Pilot Training with a party the likes of which I will NEVER forget ......I found out what a Jolly Green Giant was, how good they
tasted, and what they can do to your head the next morning. In August of '71, they threw me a farewell party that required that my co-pilot fly us back to Long Binh...the junior enlisted folks invited me over to their club for the traditional chug-a-lug of a Fosters.... the result was another night at 1AFH that I won't forget.

To make a long story short, I was lucky enough to establish a lot of good friendships that have endured to this day. Looking at the group picture that accompanied the "An Ex-Medic" article in the July Edition, I recognized several familiar faces. I still stay in touch with many of these good friends I made in SVN.

I have just read over what I have written so far. I sound like an old guy reminiscing with some war stories, and I guess I am. The point is that of all the friends I made while I was in Vietnam, I feel closer to the people of 1st Australian Field Hospital than anyone else.

Back to Vietnam 1996

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Back to Vietnam 1996

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We had no ghosts to bury just a curiosity for a country, and its people, we had touched briefly many years ago. Back then it was fun, mad, intense and we gave several RSM’s a few sleepless nights. So for a period of three weeks in July-August we travelled to Hanoi, down the length of the country to Saigon and on to Vung Tau.

Our trip began up north, in Hanoi during the summer heat. The city of Hanoi has an air of decaying graciousness and elegance with its wide, tree lined streets and its ochre painted French colonial buildings. There was no evidence of American bombing, the population has rebuilt and life goes on.

Everywhere in Vietnam it seemed that everyone had something to sell; postcards, gum, cyclo or motorbike rides. The offers sometimes became irritating but gave us an opportunity to stop and talk to the people. Westerners still stand out and are viewed with curiosity by the locals, though a smile and a nod from us would usually elicit a greeting.

Ha Long Bay, to the east of Hanoi, was a highlight of the trip. We spent three days cruising the fantastic coves, islands and grottos, in both torrential rain and brilliant sunshine. Boats, with a three man crew, can be hired from Bai Chay for a few dollars and will stay out for as long you can afford. The caves on some of the islands are relatively undeveloped but are amongst the most spectacular I have seen.

Getting from A to B, in Vietnam, is a headache. We did not take domestic flights as we wanted to see some of the landscape. So from Ha Long Bay, back to Hanoi, we were crammed into a 24 seater bus; all 35 of us plus bags of rice and other produce. It was a hot, bone grinding, five hour trip and from that point on we hired private cars or tourist mini buses. The main highway is a nightmare, barely five or six metres wide, it carries bicycles, people on foot, cars and trucks going in both directions. The condition of the highway was appalling and in many places rice, coconuts and chilies could be seen drying on the edge of the road. Short trips take hours and become very uncomfortable. The number of near misses left you a nervous wreck, hiding under the seat and all drivers spend of their time leaning on the horn.

The coastal plain, down to Hue, is spectacular. The green of the rice paddies intense, but in contrast some areas of the countryside are quite arid. Everywhere there are forests of eucalyptus which made us feel at home. Hue with its citadel and Perfumed River, is also very beautiful and the day spent visiting the Nguyen Tombs, by boat, was interesting and surprising in its richness.

Continuing southward, we stopped at the Hai Van Pass with spectacular views overlooking Danang Bay. We tried to imagine it, thirty years ago, filled with American shipping and troops. Remains of the buoys and bunkers can still be seen.

Hoi An is a small coastal town, south of Danang, with its remnants of colonial architecture, markets, temples and bustling river traffic, this town must be on every travellers list of favorite places in Vietnam. The great food, a cold beer and a day at the beach were a welcome respite from the chore of traveling. Hoi An is a great place to relax, take a stroll, buy silk, paintings or other Vietnamese crafts. Nha Trang was not very appealing as a destination, but the offshore islands offered a day of swimming and good snorkeling in warm blue waters. Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) is brash, mad, loud and ‘in your face’. Getting across the street requires nerves of steel and lots of attitude, whatever you do - Don’t stop, flinch or run!

From Saigon, to Vung Tau (our old stamping ground), is a very fast, 75 minute, comfortable ride in a hydrofoil. Vung Tau was hardly recognizable, but the beach area still felt like old ‘Vungers’. The market is still in its square, surrounded by shops (weren’t they bars?). The road, along the Roches Noir, to the point has been enlarged to four lanes and continues along the back beach (Bai Sau) to service all the multistory hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants, now crowding the beach front. The Grand Hotel has been renovated by the Russians and is tacky and ugly. Pink vinyl has been laid on the staircase over the original tiles. However, the hotel still has the best view over the front beach.

We hired cyclos to take us to the back beach to try and find the old 1st Australian Field Hospital site. The drivers took us to what they said was the old Aussie Base, but it didn’t feel right. We continued further along the road and spotted the remains of the old diving board and the Harold Holt Memorial Pool, next to the Sammy Hotel, by an old rusting water tower. It is sad that this one remnant of our stay has fallen into such disrepair.

The beach opposite is now crammed with deck chairs and beach umbrellas, all for hire, and hawkers of all kinds. The water is still pleasant, but there was no surf to enliven our visit. Once we found the Badcoe Club site, and made the assumption that new roads may have been laid over old ones, we were able to backtrack and locate the approximate position of the West Gate, the hospital, the boozer and the officers and OR’s lines. Nothing recognizable remains!

Twenty five years on, it has all changed, just as we have. The Onassis wreck has gone from the point, but high above is a giant Jesus, built in 1974. The view from its shoulder (you can climb up inside) gives some idea of how much Vung Tau has changed and grown.

It was great to go back for a taste of this vibrant Asian culture. We were most impressed with the warmth and generosity of the people, their eagerness to speak English and learn about Australia, in spite of the past and the grinding poverty in which most of them live.

The Right Thing

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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The Right Thing

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South Vietnam to Ingleburn

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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South Vietnam to Ingleburn

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Out of Africa

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Out of Africa

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Up the Sharp End

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Up the Sharp End

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Up the Old Red Rooster

Thursday, 26 November 2009

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Up the Old Red Rooster

Written by by Phil Harvey

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Recently I was contacted by Bob Bell to relate my experiences in SVN. How to do this without boring prospective readers to death appeared to be my main challenge.

However before embarking on that exercise I would like to make some brief observations on the “weekend” in Sydney.

My overwhelming impression on arrival at the convention centre was “Who the hell are all these old buggers?” It took a moment for me to realise that almost thirty years had passed since most of us had last met. It took only another moment, with the renewal of old acquaintances, for this feeling to lift and to be transported in mind and time to our experiences in SVN. Dennis Gibbons photo expose also helped remind us of our youth back then – thanks for that Dennis, I really ‘needed’ to be reminded of how fit I was then compared to now!

Then there was the Chinese Restaurant next door to the motel, the poor sods probably still don’t know what hit them, and I bet they are still wondering ‘who or what’ was “UP THE OLD RED ROOSTER”.

My thanks to Bob Bell and his supporters for a well organised and presented Reunion.

Now to the hard bit. I am sure, as with most of you, my main memories are of personalities and events. I have refrained from mentioning names when recounting anecdotes. (Ed: Chicken!!!) These anecdotes, I hope, will prompt the happier, less traumatic, memories of that land now so physically distant and removed in time.

The Unit to which I was posted was 1 Field Medical & Dental Supply, a small Unit through which many people passed during its service in SVN. The Unit was sponsored for administration by 1AFH, and the staff for all intents and purposes became aligned with 1AFH.

“Survival” in SVN, in my case, was attained (but not exclusively) by the following:
- limiting the number of beach parties attended
- limiting the number of Rugby matches played for 1AFH – they were far more dangerous than any enemy activities
- avoiding Americans at all costs unless they were useful to us (not really true)
- avoiding falling off water skis in the South China Sea (too many bloody sea snakes)
- limiting access to my file which indicated I was qualified to destroy my blind and unexploded ammunition (marginally more dangerous than the football matches)

1 Fd Med & Dent was tasked to supply medical and dental stores to AFVN sourced from both the Australian support area as well as through the US Army system, at Long Bihn. Being a small, independent, Unit had significant advantages, we worked hard but we had the time to play hard, hence the popularity of the beach BBQ with the Esky trailer.

The supply system from Australia, by sea, was somewhat unreliable (due mainly to the actions of the Australian Wharfie – and not much has changed in the time since). As a direct result, a large quantity of stock was air freighted in RAAF ‘silver birds’. We were very fortunate, in the case of medical stores, that virtually any item could be justified for movement by air. The Unit, in my time, had a policy of “if 1AFH or other Units want it” it was supplied and justified later (and I am sure this was true of the Unit for its entire deployment). I believe, to this day, that this was unequivically correct – we were after all a ‘Service’ Unit, as was 1AFH in its turn. This policy served its purpose in emergencies, but did lead to explaining away of strange demands e.g. Spray Starch for the women’s uniforms, and O.C.’s (not the Officer Commanding type, but the “Pill”), a very strange ‘urgent’ demand for 30 years ago!

The US Army supply system through Long Bihn was somewhat cumbersome, but effective if you knew how to grease the wheels, today it would no doubt be called corruption, but it worked! The odd pair of GP boots, carton of VB, or tonic water went a long way to obtaining good service from Uncle Sam. The much-maligned Americans were always ready to ‘help’. I remember, to this day, being refused fixed wing transport at Stanford Field, Long Bihn, for O2 (Medical) cylinders urgently required at Vung Tau, only to be offered transport on the old Huey work horse by a young American Captain who kept addressing me as “Sir”. He made two trips to carry the cylinders direct to Vampire Pad for me and I suspect he thought our ‘pips’ (stars to them) represented a much higher rank. As I was only about his age I don’t know how he could possibly have thought this, but I was not about to enlighten him!

Another thing you had to watch, in that massive supply base, was your Land Rover. These tended to become ‘lost’. All the gear lever locks in the world would not stop an enterprising young man, with a bloody great forklift, from pinching the damn thing. I have recounted the above only to indicate where 1 Fd Med & Dent fitted into the picture in Vietnam.

My memory of events is dimming, however those of people are still quite clear and some of those people have remained firm friends. This I suspect is quite common to us all and I look forward to reunions in the future.

New Zealand Red Cross Searches for 'Kiwi Sister' Vietnam Veteran

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

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New Zealand Red Cross Searches for 'Kiwi Sister' Vietnam Veteran

Written by New Zealand Red Cross

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As preparations escalate for Tribute 08, a commemoration and reunion for New Zealand Vietnam War veterans being held in Wellington in late May, New Zealand Red Cross is searching for a special Vietnam veteran, known by many she
served with as ‘Kiwi Sister’.

Isobel Beaumont was a New Zealand Red Cross aid worker who played a vital role caring for wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War.

During the war two New Zealand Red Cross aid workers, Isobel Beaumont and Avis Wilkes, were deployed to work as welfare support personnel at hospitals in Vung Tau, Vietnam and Changi, Singapore and. The pair, the only two New Zealand Red Cross aid workers deployed in this position, were accredited to the New Zealand Army.

On 9 April 1970 Miss Beaumont departed for Vietnam where she worked at the Vung Tau 1st Australian Field Hospital. She carried the rank of Assistant Superintendent and wore a New Zealand Red Cross uniform.

Miss Beaumont was the first ever New Zealand Red Cross aid worker accredited to the New Zealand Army while in the field. Following a year in Vietnam Miss Beaumont was transferred to Changi Hospital in Singapore and promoted to the rank of Superintendent.

During her two years of service Miss Beaumont was highly regarded by patients and staff, with Kiwi soldiers giving her the nickname ‘Kiwi sister’. Assistant Superintendent Avis Wilkes was also deployed on behalf on New Zealand Red Cross. Miss Wilkes was based at Vung Tau 1st Australian Field Hospital in Vietnam for five months from June to November 1971.

Both Miss Beaumont and Miss Wilkes are entitled to the General Service Medal with clasp Vietnam and the New Zealand Operational Service Medal. Miss Wilkes will receive her medals during the Tribute08 event, and if Miss Beaumont can be located in time, she could have her medals presented then too. New Zealand Red Cross International Operations Manager Andrew McKie says many soldiers who served in Vietnam have fond memories of both women and the Tribute08 commemorations could be a great opportunity for their service to be officially recognised.

* Please note that Miss Isobel Beaumont may now have different name through marriage.

For more information please contact New Zealand Red Cross Communications and Marketing Manager Denise Mackay on +64 4 495 0137 or +64 27 296 9687

Long Tan Day Vietnam

Sunday, 23 September 2007

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Long Tan Day Vietnam

Written by by Tich Tyson

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Dog Tags

Sunday, 23 September 2007

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Dog Tags

Written by by Julian Stanton

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An interesting fashion accessory to say the least, an early military version of a Medicare card made from brass and painted black. Each tag imprinted with that all important regimental number, name, religion and blood type and which, according to the army regulations, no man or woman should be seen without.

I, however, found them to be a bloody nuisance. On the one hand the army discouraged you from wearing any sort of jewellery, rings etc., the view being that they could get caught up on something as you jumped off trucks and climbed over all manner of things. They did not want the troops damaging their trigger fingers, so I thought; now this made perfectly good sense to me. Yet, here are these bloody things that you had to wear around your neck, day and night, held together with string (green, naturally!). It was, apparently, O.K. to strangle yourself as you jumped off trucks.

Being a thinking man, I took the view that in our line of work these things were basically unhygienic and a workplace safety hazard, certainly not the sort of thing to wear around patients. Besides that, they would always end up dipping into your food or cup of coffee everytime you sat down to eat. Some caring soul eventually pointed out that the string was a tad too long. So, I chose not to wear them thinking the army had more important things to worry about, after all there was a war going on!

To the best of my knowledge, the army only ever issued each soldier with one set of these damn discs and in the event that some poor bastard lost them, or even worse caught not wearing them, he or she could be treated to another quaint army custom, that of being charged. This is where you are marched up in front of the Commanding Officer by the real boss of any army unit ‘The Regimental Sergeant Major’ (these men are god like creatures whom, I suspect, are born with moustaches and pace sticks). Even the officers feared these people. Once in front of the C.O., one was given the chance to come up with some feeble excuse before being found guilty and taken out the back and put before the firing squad.

Well, it happened that some weeks after arriving in Vietnam the system sent me another set of these bloody dog tags that went straight into the foot locker, never to see the light of day. Some public servant, back in Australia, obviously didn’t know the rule about one set per man and stuffed up. Another quaint army custom was the inspection of the lines (sleeping quarters), this was usually carried out by the unit god (RSM), the idea being to find something wrong so they could charge someone and thereby justify their existence. It was during one of these inspections that an eagle eyed RSM, who shall remain nameless, spotted my original dog tags hanging on a nail beside my bed. I was on duty in the wards when I received the advice that the RSM wanted to see me. Fortunately, I was told what it was he wanted and detoured via the lines where I quickly strung together my back up set of dog tags, from the footlocker, before I confidently walked past the firing squad into god’s office.

Whilst I got away with it, I am sure he must have wondered how come the dog tags were still in showroom condition.

Memories of the Return to Vampire Reunion 1998, Sydney Lost at the Reunion

Sunday, 23 September 2007

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Memories of the Return to Vampire Reunion 1998, Sydney Lost at the Reunion

Written by by Alan “A.B.” Pearce

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Vietnam Revisited

Sunday, 23 September 2007

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Vietnam Revisited

Written by John Morey

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In February, my wife Dawn and I spent 24 days touring around Vietnam with 14
other people, having one of the best times of our lives. What an experience - and
it was all good.

We went with an Adelaide tour company called Battletours, who looked after us
extremely well. We travelled by bus and had some internal flights in Vietnam
and we always had our local Vietnamese tour leader along with our Australian
tour leader Gary Adams, a 6RAR Vet. Gary helped make the trip very enjoyable
with his knowledge, wit and quiet confidence.The food in Vietnam is plentiful,
cheap and delicious, the people are very friendly and the roads are chaotic, busy
and noisy and our bus drivers did an amazing job to be able to drive us around
the country so comfortably and safely.

After an overnight stop at Singapore, we landed at Hanoi, and after passing
through customs, I checked out their duty free shops. One shop! about 4mx 4m!
but among the few bottles of JohnnyWalker, half a dozen perfumes and a couple
of cartons of cigarettes and plenty of Vietnamese souveniers, found one bottle of
rum, for 7 USD, (about $9au), so bought it. (Just in case I needed a sleeper!!)


The first thing that we noticed on leaving the terminal, was car and bike horns!,
a sound that was to linger throughout our stay in Vietnam. The weather was
overcast and drizzly, but not cold. It remained overcast throughout our time in
Hanoi and surrounds. Our hotel the Galaxy, was in the “Old Quarter”, a maze of
narrow streets crammed with motor bikes, pedestrians, bicycles and a few more
motor bikes. The streets were lined with narrow fronted shops, alleyways and
motorbikes, meaning that a lot of the time you had to walk on the road with the
traffic. A very busy part of the city.

The next few days we spent visiting Halong Bay with its fantastic and fascinating
limestone islands, a pottery village, a water puppet show, Uncle Ho in his mausoleum,
the Presidential Palace, the very “one sided “ Army Museum and the “Hanoi Hilton “
prison, among other attractions.


Seven days later, we flew to Hue, about midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Min
City. Still overcast, but warm, we visited the famous moated citadel and Thien
Mu Pagoda. One could spend a lot of time wandering about here, marvelling at
the architecture and history, but unfortunately, due to flight delays, we only had
limited time A great place to just explore, and admire ancient civilisations, a lot
of which was destroyed by the French. The following day, after an early start,
we visited the DMZ and such places as Con Thiem Firebase, Camp Carroll, The
Rockpile and Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Visiting these places and listening to our Australian guides’ commentary, I
gained a new respect for the US Marines that were stationed here and the
hardships and constant bombardments they had to endure. Gee, we had it easy
down south in comparison!

Whilst at Hue, we stayed at the Saigon Morin Hotel, a fabulous French building
erected in 1901 overlooking a bridge over the Perfume River and bitterly fought
over during the war. During the war it was used as a university annexe, but
restored in the 90’s as a first class hotel.


A couple of days at Hue then off to Hoi An, via the Hai Van Pass, Danang and
China Beach. No wonder the road toll in Vietnam is so high, (12-13000 last
year!!), when dickhead drivers cross double lines as if they don’t exist, pass
vehicles on bends and all in very limited visibility!!! (as was the case when we
travelled the pass. Unfortunately, the low cloud obscured much of the view, but
heightened our fear of their lack of road sense).


Hoi An is another fascinating, busy little place, renowned for its 400 year old
Japanese covered bridge, silk and tailor made clothes. Most of us bought some
silk clothing here.


Then off to Nha Trang, visiting China Beach and Danang on the way. Four
nights here, sipping cocktails, drinking beer, eating and wandering around the
markets, beach, and a little cruising around islands. Leaving NhaTtrang, we
bussed through some spectacular scenery to the hillside town of Dalat. I had a
GREAT curry here, nearly melted, and a burnt a hole through my shirt when I
dripped a little on it!!!


The following day we were off to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) and surrounds for
another week. Everone was getting excited now, trying to remember Saigon,
Vung Tau and Nui Dat as it was 30 odd years ago. Saigon is quite a
cosmopolitan place now, with a wide range of restaurants, and shopping to suit
all tastes. We stayed at the Continental Hotel, made famous in the novel, The
Quiet American. From Saigon we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vung Tau, Nui
Dat Ba Ria and The Mekong Delta.


There was much reminiscing at “Vungers”. 1 ALSG area is not recognisable as
such anymore, the area now being developed for housing. A large monument to
the VC stands near the location of the front gate. The “back beach” is
developing rapidly with high rise hotels and other associated tourist facilities.
The sea is still warm and murky, the casuarinas are still present opposite where
we had our “beach parties”, and the Harold Holt pool has finally disappeared,
along with the old ship wreck near the point. All the geographical features
remind you of Vungers, especially Radar Hill , which still has the antennas on
top. We had a very sobering day visiting Nui Dat and the Long Tan site. The
Dat has undergone a great deal of change, with houses dotted around the area,
new rubber trees, and a bit of quarrying of SAS Hill. Kangaroo Pad is not
recognisable, Ludscombe airstrip is still there, although it serves as a road these
days, with houses along it.


The cross at Long Tan caused us all to reflect on those that made the ultimate
sacrifice, and the commentary given by Gary made us realise that things could
have been a lot worse on that wet August afternoon. A very haunting place.
If any one is contemplating returning to Vietnam, DO IT. There are no ghosts
there, - it’s a new country, with very friendly people, great food, cheap beer,
some very interesting cultural aspects and some great shopping opportunities.

Getaway

Sunday, 23 September 2007

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Getaway

Written by Wayne Crow

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