Battle of Coral/Balmoral: Patrolling
While patrolling Coral’s perimeter after a North Vietnamese attack, a member of 1RAR steps over the body of a North Vietnamese soldier killed during an attack earlier that morning. [AWM ERR/68/0504/VN]
The fire support bases at Coral and Balmoral were established in part so that Australian patrols could cover an area that was used by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to launch attacks on Saigon.
After the major attacks on the bases, patrols routinely swept the area outside the wire in search of North Vietnamese survivors or stragglers. These patrols did not generally venture far, and for those who participated in them they could be unsettling affairs as they encountered all the detritus associated with recent combat, including the shattered remains of enemy dead.
In addition to these sweeps, the daily routine at Coral and Balmoral involved infantry patrols, sometimes accompanied by Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and/or tanks, venturing thousands of metres from the bases and seeking contact with the enemy. While encounters were common, these patrol actions were generally limited in scale and duration. But for the men involved the enormous tension generated by searching for an elusive and well-concealed enemy, of never knowing from one moment to the next when the silence would be rent by hostile fire, was exhausting. Only with hindsight could any patrol outside the wire be regarded as uneventful.
On some occasions patrols resulted in heavy fighting that could last for hours. During one such action Private Richard Norden of 1RAR carried out the daring rescue of a wounded man under heavy fire for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His actions were typical of many during the weeks of fighting around Coral and Balmoral.