| © Bob Cavill
C Company &
to the disagreeable consequences of holding
a particular belief in order to show that
this belief is false.
It is dangerous ground for those who claim to
believe in democracy, to use the argument that
any war is wrong because it brings cruelty and
destruction. History teaches that you can only
enjoy as much freedom as you can defend. It was
the Spartans who said 2300 years ago "He who has
the best argument about borders is the man with
his hand on his sword."
Notice; Any and all
movement by persons within the strictly
prohibited Free Fire Zone’s as designated by the
armed forces of the Australian Task Force. Will
be considered unfriendly, and could be fired on
day or night.
into Phuoc Tuy Province in May 1966, the
Australian Task Force declared an area at first
four and later nine kilometres around the base
at Nui Dat along with other areas within this
Province, to be Free Fire Zones. Vietnamese
civilians were forced to leave villages that
were located close to the base, such as Long
Phuoc and be resettled elsewhere. Then all
unauthorised movement within the areas
designated FFZ (Free Fire Zone), be it via
person or vehicle could be fired on.
This placed extreme
difficulty on the local civilian population.
They had requirements of food collection such as
from banana plantations and gardens they owned
within or close to the FFZ. Things such as
firewood collection around and rubber tapping
within the plantations, though always dangerous.
due to VC activity (over 50 rubber workers had
already been killed by the VC) had become even
more dangerous. Due to VC activity Highway 2
(the main rout north/ south within the province)
was closed and normal communal interaction
between village populations, visiting relatives,
market days etc was severely disrupted.
The local Viet
Cong cadres had imposed forced taxation and
youth recruitment on the local village
populations. One of the RARs' (Royal Australian
Regiment) prime tactics to prevent the VCs'
effective movement between populated areas was
the Ambush. Some of the local population chose,
either because of need or were forced by the VC,
to take the risk to enter these Free Fire Zones.
This was an extremely dangerous thing to do.
September 1966, 4kilometres South of Binh Ba
That’s right, it was
at the boundary that sudden change from low
forest and woody scrub one often found at the
edge of rubber plantations. He remembered the
section commander had signalled him to change ―
go from single file to arrow head formation. Of
course it made little difference to him what the
section's formation was, as the scout of the
lead section, he was at the sharp end ... and
the most exposed.
If scouting, he had made it his habit to always
quietly observe as long as he could any clear
space before moving into it. He hated to move
into relatively cleared areas such as this
rubber plantation and did so only when given no
other choice. Today was such a day. There was no
way to avoid it. There was some kind panic on
the radio, something about a large enemy force
nearby. Captain Milligan’s famous 'Binh Ba
10,000' again I suppose! All C Company platoons
had been ordered to get to the village of Binh
Ba as a high priority ... probably about four
clicks away, it was late afternoon and he was
From his position at the plantation edge he
could see long corridors of rubber trees their
smooth grey trunks running away in perfect rows.
Because rubber trees were planted in rows the
gaps between made natural fire lanes and it
always seemed to him you could be seen for
The trunks of the trees being narrow and soft,
they were useless for cover as the Sixth
Battalion blokes had recently found out. The
areas used for plantations were invariably flat
with only very shallow drainage lines, so there
could be little protection from any possible
mortar attack. In the dry season the foliage was
sparse, giving only light shade, so it was often
bloody hot …he hated the rubber.
Having waited in cover for as long as he dared
and about to stand, he suddenly caught a
movement to his left.
Two black pyjama clad figures, one following the
other were moving along the plantation edge.
They were about 150 metres away and appeared to
be following a faint rubber workers track. If
they continued they would move from left to
right across his front.
At this distance they did not appear to be
armed; perhaps they were rubber workers or local
villagers. This was a dangerous situation, they
should not have been here. He was sure they had
not seen him. They appeared oblivious to their
surroundings and preoccupied with their labour,
focused only on getting to where they were
going. Lying on his left side he turned to make
eye contact with his section commander to
indicate 'two people who appeared to be unarmed
moving from left to right’.
The section leader who had obviously already
seen them, signalled him to let them pass.
People such as rubber tappers or wood collectors
found unarmed within the FFZ would normally be
apprehended and sent back to Nui Dat for
questioning. On this occasion for whatever
reason apparently this was not going to happen.
Perhaps the village of Binh Ba was closer than
The platoon remained hidden in heavy cover along
the boundary of the plantation and waited as the
two women crossed in front of the lead section.
that strange bent-knee gate Vietnamese use with
such grace, two baskets each on bamboo shoulder
poles bouncing to the rhythm of their step, the
two small women approached. They were heading
north, probably toward the village of Bin Bah
just few clicks away .Their baskets though
shallow appeared heavy with what looked to be
fruit. He noticed the section commander strongly
signalling the platoon behind in the negative
and hoped the rest of his platoon understood
what was happening ― it was a tense situation.
Though not involving his platoon, unauthorised
movement within the FFZ areas had unfortunately
led to some incidents in the past.
A platoon is made up of over 25 individuals,
some are nervous, some frightened; a recent
reinforcement might get just plain confused.
What they all have in common though’... is a
lethal weapon in their hands.
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