On this day – The Battle of Fire Support Base ‘Coral’ begins – 13 May 1968

1RAR at Coral

On this day 50 years ago the battle of Fire Support Base ‘Coral’ began, the largest land battle fought by Australian forces during the Vietnam War.

Australian soldiers were first deployed to South Vietnam in 1962 as a small training team (the AATTV). In 1965 a Battalion Group, based on the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) was attached to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade. In 1966 Australia’s commitment was increased to a Brigade, the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), units of which fought their first major action at Long Tan in August that year.

102 Bty arrive at Coral 2

During the ‘Mini-Tet’ offensive launched by the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in May 1968 1 ATF deployed two of its three battalions to an area 20 kilometres north of Bien Hoa to intercept and disrupt enemy forces withdrawing from Saigon and the Bien Hoa–Long Binh base complex.

Coral looking East

A number of fire support bases (FSB) were established to provide temporary defensive positions with Artillery and Mortars in order to support infantry foot patrols from 1 RAR and 3 RAR. One of these FSBs was called ‘Coral’ located seven (7) kilometres north of the town of Tan Uyen.

Aerial view of FSB Coral 13 May 1968

The occupation of FSB Coral (shown above) began on 12 May 1968. Early the following morning at 3.30am the base was attacked by the NVA and VC with the Mortar Platoon of 1 RAR and Number 6 Gun (an M2A2 Howitzer shown below) of 102 Field Battery over-run. The attack was beaten off by 6.30am and the captured positions retaken. Eleven Australian soldiers were killed and 28 wounded with 52 NVA/VC bodies left behind on the battlefield. A further three Australians died in patrol clashes around FSB Coral on 14 May.

102 Bty No 6 Gun

At 2.30 am on 16 May 1968 FSB Coral was attacked again by a much larger force of three (3) battalions of NVA. Coral was now defended by M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment (3 CAV) and 1 RAR’s rifle companies. All of these positions were heavily engaged with part of the A Coy 1 RAR position lost before the enemy was forced to withdraw. The attack was repelled after four hours of fighting, with the Australians losing five (5) men killed and 19 wounded. Two (2) members of an American artillery battery which had reinforced the base were also wounded. Only 34 enemy bodies were recovered, but blood trails and drag marks indicated that many more casualties had been removed.

On 22 May FSB Coral was subjected to yet another rocket and mortar barrage, but this time the NVA troops were dispersed by mortar fire from 1RAR mortars as they formed up to attack.

Although there were further bombardments on 26 and 28 May, with numerous patrols sent out coming into contact with the enemy, FSB Coral was not seriously threatened again.

During fighting on 26 May a Troop of Centurion tanks from C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment deployed outside the perimeter wire with infantry support and engaged and destroyed a significant portion of an NVA bunker system.

Centurions at Coral

Enemy efforts shifted on 26 May to another FSB named ‘Balmoral’ 4.5 kilometres north of Coral occupied by 3 RAR and Centurion tanks. The defenders threw back assaults launched against FSB Balmoral on 26 and 28 May 1968.

102 Battery Honour Title

On the forttieth anniversary of the Battle of Coral in 2008, the then Governor General of Australia His Excellency Major General Mike Jeffrey AC, CVO, MC presented 102 Battery Royal Australian Artillery (RAA) with the Honour Title ‘Coral’ (see below). 102 Battery is the first Australian Artillery unit to be awarded an Honour Title, which are common in the British Army and are the Artillery equivalent of Battle Honours.

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102 (Coral) Battery RAA remains on the Australian Army Order of Battle and currently is a Gun Battery equipped with the 155mm M777A2 towed lightweight howitzers (see below) and part of the 8th/12th Regiment RAA. You can find out more about the Regiment here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/units/forces-command/1st-brigade/8th12th-regiment

Exercise Koolendong 2016

You can find out more about the Battle of Coral-Balmoral here: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/coral

 

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Army News – Australian Government award LAND 400 Phase 2 (Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Capability) to Rheinmetall Boxer CRV

Boxer 2

The Australian Government announced on Wednesday 14 March 2018 that Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles has been selected as the successful bidder for Phase 2 of the LAND 400 Project to procure 211 Boxer CRVs (shown above) to fulfill the Mounted Combat Reconnaissance Capability requirement. BAE Systems bid with the  AMV35 (shown below) was unsuccessful.

AMV35

The Boxer will replace all variants of the ASLAV (shown below) which have been in service since 1997 with the following Regiments of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC):

  • 1st Armoured Regiment (based at Chauvel Lines, RAAF Edinburgh, Adelaide)
  • 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) (based at Light Horse Lines, Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane)
  • 2nd Cavalry Regiment (based at Waler Lines, Lavarack Barracks, Townsville)

ASLAV 2

You can find out more about the LAND 400 project here: http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/equippingdefence/land400

You can find out more about the Boxer CRV here: https://boxercrv.com.au/

 

 

Great Reads – ‘No Front Line’ (2017) by Chris Masters

No Front Line

I’ve just finished reading this book, published in October 2017, which you can find in paperback form at most Australian bookstores.

Written by the acclaimed Australian journalist Chris Masters (whose previous book on Afghanistan was ‘Uncommon Soldier’) it tells the story of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan from 2002 onwards, through the lense of those who served in Australian Special Forces (the SASR, Commandos or Special Operations Engineer Regiment) as well as those in the various Reconstruction Task Groups or Command appointments.

Overall I found it to be a great read that fills a void, as restrictions on media coverage really limited what was told at the time that many of these events happened.

My only complaint about the book is the lack of any maps used to describe events in each Chapter. They were probably omitted for security reasons, which I find perplexing.

Commandos Afghanistan

You can buy the book here: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/military/No-Front-Line-Chris-Masters-9781760111144

Army News – 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) re-formed to command all Army Reserve Light Batteries

F2 Mortar

9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) was re-formed on 15 January 2018 to command all of the Army Reserve (ARes) Light Batteries, who previously from 2013 onward were placed under operational command (OPCOM) of Infantry battalions, providing indirect fire support utilising F2 81mm Mortars.

RAA Badge           9 Regt RAA Unit Colour Patch

RHQ 9 Regt RAA is based at Kogarah Multi-user Deport (MUD) in Sydney and now commands the following sub-units:

  • 2nd/10th Light Battery (formerly part of the 5th/6th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment the based in St Kilda in Melbourne)
  • 3rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 11th/28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment based at Irwin Barracks in Perth)
  • 5th/11th Light Battery (formely part of the 25/49th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment based at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane and across south eastern Queensland)
  • 6th/13th Light Battery (formerly part of the 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australian Regiment based at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide and Glenorchy in Hobart)
  • 7th Light Battery (formerly part of the 2nd/17th Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Dee Why and Adamstown in Sydney)
  • 23rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 4th/3rd Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Kogarah in Sydney)

9 Regt RAA takes its lineage from the 9th Australian Field Artillery (AFA) Brigade (part of the 3rd Australian Division in the First World War) and 2/9th Field Regiment RAA (part of the 8th Australian Division in the Second World War). Each of the above Batteries also take their own lineage from predecessor Regiments and Batteries stretching back to before Federation in 1901.

You can find out more about the Royal Australian Artillery here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/corps/royal-regiment-of-australian-artillery