Tales From the Tiger

Choose Your Weapons

On arrival in Vietnam as part of the advance party in 1966, my first port of call was the US 173rd Airborne Brigade Base with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). The purpose was to be briefed by my counterpart the Radio Sergeant of Signal Platoon 1 RAR.

The briefing and familiarization excursions outside the wire went well. Although, I recalled my lectures back in Australia; "The typical uniform of the enemy is black pyjamas." Everyone I saw outside the wire was wearing black pyjamas!

Just before departure to meet the main body of 5RAR, my counterpart remarked "I suggest you trade in your Owen Machine Carbine (OMC) for something more powerful."  He had long since done so and had purchased an M16 Armalite Rifle. The weapon was for sale at a bargain price. This offer was too good to refuse so I became the new owner.

During our acclimatisation period at Vung Tau, I managed to acquire a brand new Colt Automatic Pistol to go with the M16.

Now, some may reason, that a Radio Sergeant does not need that amount of firepower. Nonetheless I felt secure in the knowledge that if push came to shove I would be ready. Even so, I reluctantly carried the OMC on operations to comply with the rules. It was not until my platoon commander Captain Brian LeDan staggered into BHQ with a wound to the chest that I tried to bend the rules a little. On the next operation, I carried my M16. The only problem came from an unexpected quarter, not from enemy action but from within the battalion. Some people, (no names no pack drill), were a little put out because I was better armed then the forward scouts and other members of the battalion. A fair comment I agree, but misdirected. Blame the 'Bean Counters' who sent us to Vietnam with obsolete weapons. There was a question posed on ammunition re-supply to which I replied "I am carrying three times the amount of front line ammunition."  In addition, several tins of 5.56mm were at Nui Dat with my name on them. I also mumbled in a low tone " If the bloody Radio Sergeant runs out of ammo we are in big trouble". I can imagine the outcry if  'They'  had realised that in my non-issue Special Forces pack tucked away, contained my non-issued Colt 45 Pistol.

It turned out to be a "Storm in a Teacup." I seem to recall all OMCs were withdrawn and replaced with M16s' afterwards.

The first tour of 5 RAR ended and as was the custom, I briefed my relief. I remarked "If you want to trade in that heavy SLR you can have my M16 for the price I paid for it, the same goes for the Colt Auto." This was an offer too good to refuse .


© Brian London OAM., DCM.
Both Tours

Scroll to Top