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Lieutenant Graham Locke, 43867, 5 RAR - Platoon Commander - Wounded in Action

 

Awards and Decorations

Vietnam Medal

Vietnamese Campaign Medal (star with 1960 clasp)


Unit and Movements 

5th Royal Australian Regiment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal History

Lieutenant Graham Locke, 43867 was a member of Support Company, 5 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) and served one tour of Vietnam with the Battalion from February 1969 to February 1970.

Lt. Locke graduated from the Officer Cadet School at Portsea Victoria in June 1966 two days after his 19th birthday. He was posted to a number of units until May 1968 when he was posted to 5 RAR as platoon commander for the assault pioneer platoon. This was immediately prior to his deployment to Vietnam with 5 RAR. Upon return to Australia he served in a number of postings including 3 RAR (paratroops). He retired a major in 1985 and currently lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

5 RAR - Vietnam

Lt. Locke had been with the platoon for around eight months and had completed the required pre-Vietnam exercises before being dispatched to Vietnam.

The assault pioneer’s task in Vietnam was varied, but considerable time was employed engaged in mine clearing activities. Locke was proud that despite the continual mine clearing operations, his platoon suffered no casualties from mines (nore that other platoons belonging to 5 RAR did suffer casualities and fatalities from, minefield accidents). The only member of Locke's platoon killed in Vietnam, occurred during a battle with north Vietnamese battalion in August 1969.

Lt. Locke recalls that he started the operation against the north Vietnamese force with a platoon strength of twenty one and after the casualties were evacuated he had, from memory, four of the platoon on the ground, all of whom had some wounds. Locke was wounded in the knee at this time, which occurred when an enemy mortar bomb landed close by and threw him off his feet.

Lt. Locke’s Worse Vietnam Recollection – Minefield Incident

Lt. Locke’s worst recollection of what happened in Vietnam was a minefield incident that occurred in their first operation in country. It occurred just south of Nui Dat during a move into a cordon in preparation for a search of a village.

On the night of 8 March 1969 one of the rifle platoons moved into the wrong area which contained a friendly Vietnamese minefield; three of the platoon, including the platoon commander, were killed and a large number of the platoon wounded. My platoon was in Nui Dat preparing for a search of the village. At about 0150 hours with six of my platoon we flew into the minefield area to extract the wounded and recover the bodies of those killed. We had two engineers to assist us, one of whom trod on an M14 mine during the clearance, about four feet from me, and blew the end of his foot off. The engineer was evacuated immediately.

After spending the remainder of the night and early morning clearing mines, the last body was extracted out of the area at about 0700 hrs and the platoon then continued with the village search.

Lt. Locke’s Best Vietnam Recollection

My most best recollection of Vietnam was the peacefulness and solitude of the bush (jungle). My most amusing recollection was the reaction of seasoned infantry soldiers to the visit one night of a tiger to a Fire Support base late in our tour (they ran away and hid).

History of 5 RAR in Vietnam (compiled from various sources)

In 1969 the Task Force was operating in Bien Hoa Province which still contained the major airbase and the major logistics base in South Vietnam. At nearby Long Bin and Long Khan Province to the north was the area of operations of the 199 U.S. Brigade, and Bin Tuy Province was an area of operations for ARVN and Regional Force units. 

Lieutenant Colonel Colin Khan – Commanding officer had this to say about the Battalion's second tour. 

"The Battalion was proven to be second to none. Our Warrant Officers and NCO's were superb and the unequalled wealth of their experience shone through. Our officers from the three schools of Duntroon, Portsea and Scheyville blended as one to give the direction and example expected of them. Trusted as they were by being given the singular honour by leading the greatest infantrymen Australia has produced and I refer to our private soldiers, that regular and national serviceman the man who walked up front to bear the brunt and made whatever was achieved possible. It was a humbling experience to all of us who had the privilege of leading such men. We remember our achievements have a price. 25 killed in action and 202 wounded in action. To all of the then young tigers I pay my tribute and my thanks for the year you gave of your best to uphold the finest traditions of the Australian Army, the Regiment and the Battalion". 

Phuc Tuy Province 

Within Phuc Tuy Province an ARVN Battalion was responsible for the Long Hai Hills and Route 2 and Regional Force Units looked after Route 4, long Dien, Long and Light Green, and Zuyen Moc. This left 1ATF responsible for the Nui Dinh Hills, Binh Ba, the rubber east of Route 2, and some areas west of the route. The enemy units operating in the five provinces were a number of NVA and VC units, local force VC consisting of the D440 Battalion and the long standing protagonists, the D445 Battalion, plus local VC units at Dat Do, Long Dien, and Hoa Long. The Battalion encountered all of these units and we developed a healthy respect for our enemy who showed great courage and determination, and showed a willingness to die for his cause. 

From February 1969 to February 1970, 17 major operations with constant day and night patrolling to ensure local security of the area. Frequently during the four or five day breaks between operations, resting Companies were required for clearing patrols and ambushes. The Battalion, like other Battalions remained on continuous operations throughout the year and this placed tremendous sustained pressure on the Infantryman which has not been surpassed in any war, and must inevitably take its toll.  On several major operations a Vietnamese company or battalion were placed under the command of the CO 5RAR. This would normally necessitate the allocation of the Battalion's NCO's to the Vietnamese units to guide and assist with their operations, and liaise with 5RAR for support and assistance. It was while on one such task with an ARVN company in the Long Green area that Sgt Allan McNulty of A Company organized the defenses of the company, and the evacuation of the wounded while under heavy enemy attack. He directed the use of artillery and helicopter gunships for two hours to prevent the enemy from over-running the ARVN force. Advisory teams called MAPS were dispatched for lengthy periods to assist Vietnamese Regional Forces protecting villages. Within two weeks of arrival in Vietnam the Battalion was involved in its first shakedown operation around the Nui Dinh Hills, and the dry paddy fields west of Nui Dat. The operation was a "recce in force" to prevent the movements of Viet Cong forces towards the provincial capital Baria. Almost immediately the companies came in contact with small enemy parties resulting in 14 VC K.I.A. 

Towards the end of March 69, the Battalion was moved to an isolated area of operations in Long Khan Province, and established the first major independent Fire Base "Sally". The aim of the operation was to locate the main Viet Cong headquarters which was responsible for the organization and control of all the VC operations around Saigon.

Contact with the enemy was immediate and continuous. It was the beginning of the 'Tiger Bunker Operation' which was to continue throughout the year.

The bunker complexes in the area of operations was typical of the type the Battalion was to strike. The exception was that they were the biggest to find, some consisting of 100 individual bunkers with communications trenches connecting between the bunkers.The Battalion located the senior enemy headquarters and in excess of 800 bunkers, destroying 700 and rendering the remainder unusable. 

Throughout May the Battalion was on operation 'Twickenham' in the Nui Thi Vai mountains, against the VC D67 Sapper Battalion and the D445 Battalion. The Battalion were laying ambushes around the mountain and A Company found itself in continuous contact with its ambush patrols with the VC unit D67. The operation was successful with 22 enemy K.I.A. and cleared the VC from the mountain. 

The Battle of Binh Ba 

June 69 saw D Company as the 'Ready Re-action Force' on stand by with what was part of a tank troop and a APC troop on 30 minutes notice to react anywhere within the province. Binh Ba village was three miles north of Nui Dat, Route 2, with a population of 1,000 rubber workers and farmers. The houses were concrete and tile structures.

At 0800 hours on the 6th June a tank and other vehicles moving through Binh Ba were fired on by RPG's from the village. Initially, intelligence believed there were two enemy platoons, so Task Force H.Q. dispatched the Ready Re-action Force. At 1030 hours D Company came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire, and it was evident that there were more than two enemy platoons. The District Chief immediately gave permission to take whatever action was necessary to clear the VC from the village. At 1300 hours when it was realized that the action was escalating, the CO of the 5th Battalion was given control of the battle and he deployed forward a small tactical headquarters. He ordered D Company into blocking positions east of the village. At the same time C Company was dispatched to counter another enemy attack against the village of Hoa Long south of Nui Dat. By this time D Company, supported by Centurion Tanks, had fought their way to the centre of the village, fighting from house to house and grenading dugouts. The tanks were receiving heavy RPG and machine gun fire which drew much of the fire away from D Company. Fierce and confused fighting continued for over two hours and it was later revealed from bodies and captured documents that the enemy force was the First Battalion 33 NVA Regiment and the local guerilla unit. D Company made a second sweep through the village in the afternoon. 

Supported by APC's and a fresh troop of tanks, the initial troop having been badly hit; all crew commanders having been wounded, and all ammunition expended. Further clearance of houses ensured and on a number of occasions soldiers had to hold their fire and expose themselves to the enemy as a number of civilians were still in the village and unable to escape. 

The value of training was borne out. Of the 21 rifle sections involved, 12 were commanded by private soldiers, two platoons were led by sergeants and 1 by a corporal. 

Binh Ba was one of the major operations of the war, working with the local Vietnamese forces and responding to their call against an enemy force which had long been using Binh Ba for re-supply and transit purposes. The battle accounted for 91 VC K.I.A. for the loss of 1 member K.I.A. and eight W.I.A. While D Company was involved at Binh Ba, C Company with a tank troop was heavily involved in a similar but smaller successful operation against the VC Chau Duc District Unit. 

The months of June and July saw a long operation east of Nui Dat around the towns of Long Dien, Dat Do, Hui Mi and Zuyen Moc and will be remembered for the mines. Another highly successful operation was 'Camden' conducted throughout the month of August in the tri border area of Long Khan, Bien Hoa and Phuc Tuy provinces. The enemy involved was the 700 strong 274 Regiment. During Camden, 40 separate contacts were made with enemy main force units and on several occasions three companies were in major contacts in different areas of the operation at the same time. Once five contact incidences occurred simultaneously.

'Kings Cross', a six week operation saw the Battalion back in the same area as the bunker battles in operation Camden, two months earlier. The enemy once again was the 274 Regiment and in particular the 3rd Battalion, Regional Headquarters and their heavy weapons company. as always the Battalion was supported by APC's and tanks. 

As a farewell gesture the Battalion was given Operation Bondi 1 & 2, a seven week mission in a huge area of operations extending some 30 kilometers square. The area concerned was the eastern half of Phuc Tuy Province, in the areas of Long Khan and Binh Tuy Province and for the first time for 5 RAR, the May Tao Mountains. The area was so large that one conventional fire support base "Pat" was established in the area of Tua Tich and three other temporary bases to support the Australians out of range of Pat. The Battalion returned to Australia in February 1970. 

Table 1:  Operations carried out by the 5th Battalion During its Second Tour

 

OPERATION NAME

DATE START & DATE FINISH

QANTAS THRUST 1 & 2

1 March to 9 March (1969)

FEDERAL

10 March to 26 March

OVERLANDER

27 March - 8 April

DEERSTALK

12 April - 2 May

SURFSIDE

12 April - 2 May

TWICKHAM 1

2 May - 13 May

ROADSIDE

3 May - 22 May

TWICKHAM 2

22 May - 2 June

HAMMER

6 June - 8 June

TONG

7 June - 8 June

ESSO 1,2 & 3/DISTANT

15 June - 15 July

TRUMPET

21 July - 25 July

CAMDEN

29 July - 30 August

KINGSTON

14 September - 15 October

KINGS CROSS

31 October - 12 December

BONDI 1 & 2

27 December - 16 February (1970)


Data on Vietnam Medal and Vietnamese Campaign Medal

Qualifying service for the Vietnam Medal for the relevant period 29 May 1964 to 27 January 1973 includes:28 days in ships or craft on inland waters or off the coast of Vietnam;
one day or more on the posted strength of a unit or formation on land;
one operational sortie over Vietnam or Vietnamese waters by air crew on the posted strength of a unit; or
official visits either continuous or aggregate of 30 days.

The obverse shows the crowned head of Queen Elizabeth II, with titles, while the reverse has a the inscription VIETNAM above a symbolic representation of the ideological war in Vietnam.  A male figure stands between two spherical shapes.

The ribbon has a vertical central section of bright yellow which has centrally superimposed on it three thin stripes of red, (representing the South Vietnamese flag) flanked by two stripes of red (representing the Army.  On the left is a dark blue stripe representing the Navy and on the right, a light blue stripe representing the Air Force. Nearly 50,000 of these medals were issued to Australian and New Zealand personnel.

Vietnamese Campaign Medal

The Vietnamese Campaign Medal was issued by the South Vietnamese Government for six months service in South Vietnam.  Approximately 50,000 were issued to Australian and New Zealand service personnel.

The Vietnamese Campaign Medal is a six-pointed star in white enamel, superimposed over a radiating bright metal background.  A circular inset to the white star consists of a map of Vietnam in bright metal, with a flame in red enamel arising from it.  The background to the inset is dark green enamel.

The ribbon of the medal has three white stripes.  On either side of the central white stripe are broader stripes of dark green, while the two outer white stripes are flanked at the edges by narrow strips of green.  The ribbon is mounted so that it tapers to the width of the central white stripe.

The medal is issued with a bar which is impressed '1960-'.

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