On 4 May 1966 the majority of C Company's members arrived in South Vietnam on-board the HMAS Sydney, it had been a voyage of training with a bit of time to ourselves. The Company was loaded into a landing craft and ferried to shore, as we approached the beach we heard an order that has lived with us since that day, "FIX BAYONETS!". CSM WO2 Ross Wormald issued the order under instruction from the OC of C Coy, MAJ Noel Granter.
Had Vung Tau been over-run by the Viet Cong?
Should we put a round up the spout?
Then again, did we even have a round to put up the spout?
Q-SGT Bob Trenear heard the order with dismay and stated, "Fix bayonets, bloody hell I packed mine in the bottom of my pack!"
We couldn't believe it, we were landing in a secured military area. The Yanks that were working on the beach thought it was a great joke, with comments such as; "Put those pig-stickers away before you hurt yourselves".
The story made it back to Australia and my mother sent me a cartoon about the incident, from one of the newspapers. Unfortunately the newspaper clipping did not last long in the Vietnamese climate and I have been looking to see if I could find a copy of this cartoon ever since. Russell Briggs also had a cutting sent to him with the same result and we have both done quite a bit of research trying to find the cartoon again.
If anyone has a copy of this cartoon, which is a part of our history, I would greatly appreciate getting an image it.
We still have not found the original cartoon, but Tom Davern's mate Richard Martin has created the one below for 'The Mushroom Club'. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Richard and also to award him an Honorary Membership of 'The Mushroom Club'.
Until now C Company has not had a Company Motto, in remembering this incident I believe that we should now adopt as the Official C Company Motto, "FIX BAYONETS".
Below is an extract from a story titled 'The Nashos' that, in 1987, appeared in a 'Time-Life Books, Australia' publication 'Australians at War. Vietnam, The Australian Experience'.
It was a bright sunny morning, hot, and soon to be hotter, on May 1 (it was actually May 5), 1966, as the first landing craft left HMAS Sydney anchored off Vung Tau. To the east, clearly visible from the carrier, was the dark mass of the Long Hai hills, a Viet Cong base area known as the Minh Dam secret zone. Beyond Vung Tau, to the north-west, could be seen the forbidding Rung Sat swamps. The 30 fully equipped troops, mostly young national servicemen gripping their weapons and packed inside the stifling landing craft, were taut with apprehension. For most, this would be their first experience of war.
The tension inside the landing craft increased as it neared the shore, the young soldiers unable to see where they were landing because of the high sides. Smoking had been forbidden when they came on board. As the craft neared the beach, the major in command gave the order "Fix bayonets."
The steel was clicked on, and as the men looked nervously at one another, the major explained how important it was to make the right impression from the start, to show that the battalion meant business. Moments later, the landing craft ground to a halt, the ramp was lowered and, with bayonets fixed, the men moved ashore, ready for anything. To their surprise and embarrassment, they found themselves on a concrete loading ramp in the middle of the busy Vung Tau port area, watched by bemused American and Vietnamese civilian dock workers.
The first sea-borne warriors of the Australian Task Force had landed. Funny though the incident was - and exaggerated versions of it spread like wildfire - it was an apt example of why the Australian Task Force would be so tactically proficient. The attitude of taking thorough precautions, even when they seemed excessive or absurd to the Americans and Vietnamese, was a major characteristic of the Australian military style in Vietnam that kept casualties to a minimum.