Tales From the Tiger

The VC in a Kilt (Vietnam '69)

The story that follows may be insignificant compared with descriptions of the many heroic actions of the rifle platoons in Vietnam. But it is also true.

Not many members of Charlie Company may know that the official records show that in 1969 C Company killed a Viet Cong wearing a kilt—That's official!

I recall a time when C Company headquarters and one of our platoons had just 'based up' after having been involved in ambush activity. We were at the western edge of the Nui Dinh's (usually referred to as the Warburton's or Warbies). I had asked Jack Lake, our ever reliable CSM, (Company Sergeant Major) to take a handful of CHQ Support Section to do a short term ambush in the nearby higher rocky area to our east. Jack took the likes of 'Bluey' Austin and Barry Baker, Shortly before darkness we heard firing and soon after Jack's group came back reporting that they had killed an enemy with an SMG (sub-machine gun) who evidently was carrying a large bag of rice and medical supplies. The patrol brought back the SMG.

By the time I had a chance to talk to the CSM and send the obligatory contact report it was virtually dark and I couldn't read the pro-forma for the required contact report. Trusting to memory, I apparently overlooked sending a description in the sub-para referring to the dress (or clothing) worn by the enemy. A few minutes later a message came back from BHQ that I hadn't included what the VC was wearing. Perhaps feeling somewhat exasperated and ready to have something to eat at last I said to our sig "Tell them the enemy was wearing a kilt".

Around 1983, by which time I had long been out of the Regular Army, I was asked with a few other CMF (Citizen Military Forces) officers to search through the unit war diaries at the Australian War Memorial so that we could delete the names of all Hoi Chans (enemy ralliers to our side). This was because by that time the Communist Regime in Vietnam had set up an embassy in Canberra and it was feared they would find the names in the War Diaries (once they were de-classified) and take retribution.

While our group was working around a large table a woman researcher working with us suddenly called out in all seriousness "I didn't know they had men from Scotland fighting with the VC". When I looked at the relevant war diary she was reading I found that BHQ had studiously passed my contact report unamended to HQ 1 ATF and they in turn had passed it to higher HQ. I just said "Yes - it must have been so".

Mr. Ashley Ekins, the AWM's (Australian War Memorial) chief historian, told me recently that his third volume of the Official History of the conflict in Vietnam will now not be out until August 2008. However I wouldn't expect him to mention the Scot who fought for the VC until the latter was stopped in his tracks by the staunch men from CHQ.

I had another motive for accepting this research task on the war diaries as I wanted to take the opportunity to check the 5 RAR war diaries for the exact location where elements of C Company were sprayed with Agent Orange. This was because I was due to appear before the Evatt Royal Commission on Agent Orange and wanted to ensure that our case was noted, and indeed C Company was one of the few sub-units that the Commission accepted as having been sprayed.

Claude Ducker.

Footnote: Bluey Austin recounts the contact incident thus:

"Barry Baker and myself were setting up a Claymore mine on a track, when around the bend came a VC. He pointed his AK 47 at us and pulled the trigger, but had a miss-fire. Barry then threw a grenade at him but he took off. We were quickly joined by CSM Jack Lake and followed the VC. Luckily a fragment of the grenade ruptured his rice pack - we followed this for about 200 metres and then the rice trail finished. We back-tracked a few metres and I found he had taken a small track to the right. We followed this for about 40 metres when we came upon a large rock. I climbed the rock to give cover to Barry and Jack. They went to the left of the rock when we saw the VC trying to pull the pin on a grenade. It was then that the enemy was killed by us. We found he had a large amount of medical supplies. Barry Baker still wears the dud bullet on a chain around his neck. We were very lucky - if it hadn't been for the miss-fire it would have been a very different story."


© Claude Ducker
OC, C Company
2nd tour

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