Home' Army News : February 23rd 2017 Contents February 23, 2017
“ADVANCING into what was surely a ferocious wall of
enemy fire, some of us were lucky to survive the day”,
was how section commander Cpl Spike Jones, of 5 Pl,
B Coy, described the battle.
He was the only member of his section not killed
or wounded during the battle and was later awarded a
Military Medal for his actions.
He said he believed the day was filled with mis-
judgements and mishaps, which added to the confusion
of battle during the afternoon.
“US choppers were unavailable when we wanted
them, due to being engaged on other tasks, but then
they turned up at Luscombe Field earlier than expected
and it was a case of use them or lose them,” he said.
“C Coy, mounted in APCs, were late arriving and
securing the landing zone because they had to travel
over metre-high rice paddy bunds, and only arrived as
B Coy landed.
“US light fire teams had brassed up the edges of the
landing zone, but failed to pass on they had received
heavy ground fire – this may have changed the A Coy
landing and the task force plan.”
Mr Jones said there was no prior artillery prepara-
tion because of a lack of choppers to move it to Dat Do
airstrip, the site of the artillery firebase.
“Later, the artillery was hampered by choppers in
the area, then used mid-afternoon, and again stopped
by B Coy due to its close proximity to A Coy,” he said.
“The US artillery at Nui Dat, especially the 175mm
guns, whose range and accuracy were not suitable for
close contact support, had limitations.
“There was no prior reconnaissance and no appar-
ent appreciation of the situation at this time and the
area was reported as a camp when it was actually a
“Scrub fires caused many problems – when the
APCs were called forward to B Coy’s location, they
were told to move in the direction of the fire, but there
were three different fires burning.”
Mr Jones had previously been involved in contacts in
Borneo in 1965, and Operations Hobart and Smithfield
(Long Tan) respectively in July and August 1966.
He said he believed the VC/NVA chose to stand and
fight on this occasion, rather than withdraw, because
they were covering the withdrawal of a higher forma-
tion, possibly HQ 5 VC Div and elements of 275 Regt.
“The eight enemy KIA were found in A Coy’s area,
with none found to B Coy’s front,” he said.
“The enemy was seen several times removing their
dead and wounded during the battle, which was their
“5RAR on Operation Renmark, which started the
next day, found mass graves with 80-100 bodies in the
area adjacent to Operation Bribie.”
Mr Jones returned to Vietnam with 6RAR for a sec-
ond tour in 1969-70, as the battalion’s intelligence ser-
geant, and later discharged from the School of Infantry
in October 1981 after 20 years’ service.
AT THE start of Operation
Bribie, Pte Peter Rumble, of
5 Pl, B Coy, was patrolling
across a flat area talking to
“I said, ‘geez the bloody
mosquitoes are bad around
here’, and he said, ‘I don’t
think they’re mosquitoes
mate, they’re bullets’,” he said.
“My platoon was on the
right hand flank going for-
ward; there were two platoons
up and one back in reserve,
and we were told to advance.
“We came under heavy
fire and a couple of guys got
“I’m not sure when the
guys got killed, but it was
then or a bit later when we
were asked to get up and go
another 50m until one of the
guys said, ‘look, there’s a
machine gun straight ahead’.”
Mr Rumble said they
advanced to about 25m from
the enemy and just got mown
“I was with a mate of mine
from Western Australia, those
poor bastards from WA in the
section were killed, and he
was wounded; they were in
the tent next to ours back at
Nui Dat,” he said.
“I’d been given charge of
him to look after him and I
didn’t realise I’d been wound-
ed until someone crawled up
behind me and started putting
a dressing on me.
“We were lying on the
ground trying to repel an
attack on us, when an APC
finally turned up.
“It came roaring towards
and roll him out the way, oth-
erwise we would have been
Mr Rumble was wounded
by an Australian 105mm shell
that landed about 3m away.
“They killed two guys with
that one shell, they had to
send in fire to cover us so we
could pull back because we
were almost overrun,” he said.
NOT a day goes by that West
Australian national serviceman
Pte Tony Trevenen doesn’t think
of Operation Bribie. He can viv-
idly recall getting wounded and
losing a close group of friends.
“I can still see it as though it
was in slow motion,” said the
5 Pl, B Coy, digger, who was
lying wounded next to an APC
when it was hit by a rocket.
Mr Trevenen was wounded
by a hand-detonated mine as
his section’s charge at the
“It was as far as we got,” he
said. “Then after I was wound-
ed the artillery rounds started
coming in, some falling among
us, then air support started
dropping their bombs in front
of us. I thought as I lay there,
that there was no way out for
me – I could not at that moment
see how I could ever get out.
“I was the lucky one – I think
about those mates I lost. I’d
been with Pte Brian Waters
and Pte David Webster since
being called up some 18
“Pte Wayne Riley joined us
when we arrived in Vietnam
and it was he who took my
place as No. 2 on the machine
gun after I was wounded, and
paid the ultimate price.”
Mr Trevenen said when he
returned to Nui Dat after a
week in hospital his mates had
moved all his belongings from
his original tent to a new one,
as the three mates he shared
that tent with had all been
“We were all West Aussies
and a close group of friends –
we’d been together since the
beginning and it showed the
true meaning of mateship to
the highest degree,” he said.
“I still find many of those
blokes to be my best mates.”
Mr Trevenen said he remem-
bered the 50th anniversary of
Bribie at a ceremony at the
grave of Brian Waters in his
birthplace of Tambellup, WA.
Pte Peter Rumble
Pte Tony Trevenen
Nine members of 5 Pl, B Coy,
6RAR, in the company lines at
the Australian Task Force base.
The photograph was taken in the
morning, some hours before the
platoon took part in Operation
Bribie. Left to right, back row:
Pte Tony Trevenen, Pte Garry
Chad, Pte Victor Otway, Pte
Malcolm Mustchin, Pte David
Webster; front row: Cpl Robin
Jones (Section Commander),
Pte Brian Waters, Pte Wayne
Riley, Pte Peter Rumble.
Photo: Australian War Memorial
NEITHER of Pte Garry Chad’s tours of
Vietnam ended well for him.
On his first tour, from March 1966 to
February 1967, he came home 13 days early
after he took an AK-47 bullet and a piece of
shrapnel to his left shoulder during Operation
Bribie on February 17.
Midway through his second tour, from May
to December 1971, with 4RAR, he took a hit
from a Claymore.
The Sydney-born digger was just 18
when he was called up for national service
in 1959, but went on to join the ARA in 1965.
He arrived in Vietnam in March 1966 as a
reinforcement for 1RAR, and was later reas-
signed to 5 Pl, B Coy, 6RAR.
Mr Chad was a forward scout during
He said A Coy was involved in a serious
firefight nearby when he found a track that
appeared to have been recently used.
“I saw some clothes hanging on a tree and
then saw some movement,” he said.
“The whole of B Coy had walked into a
large horseshoe area and we were taking
fire from all around us, including 12.7mm
machine gun fire and RPG-7s.
“We couldn’t go anywhere, so we laid low
and returned fire into the noise to our front.”
Mr Chad said he was hit in the upper left
arm as he rolled to his right.
“The bullet came out through my collar-
bone but the blood wasn’t pumping out so I
wasn’t real worried,” he said.
“It took us about half-an-hour to make it
back to the RV point.”
Mr Chad said artillery was called for from
the RV point.
“One round fell short and took the legs off
one of the boys, put some shrapnel in my arm
and hit Pte Waters in the throat,” he said.
“I tried to stop the bleeding with my good
arm, but it was like Niagara Falls and he bled
US helicopters later arrived and casevac’d
the wounded diggers to Vung Tau.
Mr Chad said a US Army doctor wanted to
amputate his left arm.
“But there was an Aussie doctor there who
said, ‘no, leave it, we’ve got good physiother-
apists in Australia, he’ll be right’,” he said.
Mr Chad, whose father was a soldier dur-
ing WWII, completed 20 years’ Army service,
retiring from 10RSAR as a WO2 in 1985.
He was Mentioned in Despatches for his
actions during an attack on a heavily-defend-
ed bunker system in Phuoc Tuy Province in
July 1971 with 4RAR.
Cpl Spike Jones
Pte Garry Chad
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