Battle of Coral/Balmoral: The final actions
Heads bowed, members of 1RAR attend a mass conducted at Coral by Father George Widdison, a Roman Catholic Padre, for those who died during the fighting at the base in May and June 1968. [AWM THU/68/0595/VN]
After 28 May there were no more major assaults on Coral or Balmoral. But Australian patrols from the bases continued. On 30 May, while 1 Troop’s tanks were being serviced at Coral, C Company from 1RAR headed out in armoured personnel carriers to patrol a nearby area of jungle.
Having left the armoured vehicles and proceeded on foot, C Company came under heavy fire from concealed North Vietnamese bunkers. They were pinned down and other enemy troops attempted to encircle the beleaguered Australians.
The two working tanks at Coral were sent into the fray, racing from the base to the jungle’s edge and arriving at the same time as the armoured personnel carriers that had dropped the infantry off shortly before. Using canister rounds they flattened the jungle to their front, exposed the enemy bunkers and destroyed eight. However, the situation was too dangerous for the Australians to remain in the area and they attempted to disengage. As they did so helicopter gunships and artillery attacked enemy positions and withdrawal routes.
The Australians had managed to extricate themselves from a perilous encounter which might have resulted in disaster if the tanks had not arrived in time. As it was, one Australian was killed and seven others were wounded. Enemy losses were higher, estimated at between 24 and 45, but no accurate figure could be attained.
Other patrols were launched from Coral and Balmoral over the following days but the worst of the fighting was over. The Australians withdrew from Coral and Balmoral, the last of them leaving on 6 June 1968. The battles around the bases had, since 12 May, cost 25 Australian and at least 300 North Vietnamese lives.