Australia and the Vietnam War

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Battle of Coral/Balmoral: Balmoral attack 1

An Iroquois arrives at Balmoral bearing water supplies for the men at the base.  Beside the landing zone soldiers tend to a wounded comrade before the helicopter evacuates him from the base. [AWM CRO/68/0563/VN]

A supply helicopter delivers water to Balmoral while a wounded man, tended by his comrades, waits to be helped on board for evacuation. [AWM CRO/68/0563/VN]

Fire Support Base Balmoral was established on 24 May 1968 some four and a half kilometres north of Coral. The following day a four tanks from 2 Troop, C Squadron arrived from Coral. On their way, the tanks had extricated their escorting infantry platoon from a dangerous contact among a series of North Vietnamese bunkers. It was the first time since 1945 that Australian tanks had fought in close support of infantry.

On 26 May, as had been the pattern at Coral, the North Vietnamese attacked Balmoral in the early hours of the morning. At the same time a barrage of mortar and RPG fire hit Coral to keep that base’s artillery and mortars from supporting Balmoral’s defence. Then members of the North Vietnamese 165 Regiment emerged from the darkness running through the gaps in the Australian wire through which, by day, tanks and APCs made their way into and out of the base.

It was a brave but hopeless assault. The North Vietnamese were cut down by the enormous defensive fire coming from the Australians. Machine gun bullets and small arms fire cut through their ranks, artillery and mortar rounds burst among them and, from above, fire and illumination from aircraft held back the assault. They never had a chance, particularly as they attacked across the open ground around Balmoral’s northern perimeter rather than through the scrub and vegetative growth that abutted the base’s southern, eastern and western sides.

  • Wearing steel helmets against the RPG and mortar fire to which Balmoral was subject, two Australians man their weapon pits.  [AWM CRO/68/0560/VN]
  • Members of 3RAR take a break while patrolling outside the wire at Balmoral.  The tank in the background has levelled the area through which it has driven in a search for North Vietnamese survivors of an attack on Balmoral.  [AWM CRO/68/0577/VN]

After the fight the bodies of six North Vietnamese lay in front of the Australian positions, the characteristic drag marks leading from the battlefield into the trees suggested that many more had been killed. Two Australians had been killed in the attack and a further fourteen wounded.

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