17th September 1945: Soldiers of the Australian 2/31st Battalion pass through Bandjermasin in Borneo as they take responsibility for the island after the surrender of Japan in the Second World War. It was reported they were given an enthusiastic welcome by the locals.
Troops of the Australian 7th Brigade (Australian 2nd Division) pass the former German bunker known as “Gibraltar” in Pozières, France on the 28th of August, 1916.
The Battle of Pozières was part of the larger Battle of the Somme, which claimed around a million casualties. Pozières marked a victory against the German Empire for Australia, with the help of British troops. First World War.
I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan last night with some Vietnam veterans (including my father) and other members of the Australian Defence Force. They actually had a counsellor there just in case, and now I understand why – it was quite the experience.
Long Tan is the best-known battle Australia (and New Zealand) fought in the Vietnam War, but I was still amazed both by the quality of the movie, and the actors in it. The “face” of the movie is Major Harry Smith, played by Travis Fimmel, of Vikings fame.
In the 1960s my father was an armoured personnel carrier driver stationed in Nui Dat, which is the base under attack in the movie. He later fought another major battle only a few kilometres from the base: Binh Ba, which had its fiftieth anniversary this year.
It was amazing to see people my father knows portrayed on the big screen, and to know people who consulted on the film.
I would strongly recommend this movie, as long as you’re prepared for it. It’s very confronting, and that much sadder because none of it is fiction.
10th August 1916: Australian infantry soldiers march towards their rest billet after fighting in the Battle of Pozières – part of the much larger First World War Battle of the Somme in France.
The Battle of Pozières, where Empire forces from Britain and Australia fought the Germans, resulted in a British victory.
The Brigade suffered 1898 casualties in the fighting between 25th of July and the 7th of August. Australian war historian Charles Bean wrote that Pozières ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”.
Everyone in Australia: at 2pm tomorrow the 50th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Binh Ba – a major battle in the Vietnam War – are going to be broadcast live on television from Canberra, and then repeated the day after.
My father has played a huge part in organising this event, and hundreds of soldiers, past and present, are flying in to participate. My parents are in the official party, and will be obvious on TV, and I’ll be sitting… somewhere…! We’ve all been too busy to finalise this.
Afterwards, there’s a function at the Australian War Memorial, and then there’s a huge dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll be staying at the hotel in the city, because there’s just so much going on!