Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Have just returned from Whitianga where Victor 3 Company held it's latest reunion. V3 Coy was formed in November 1967 at Terendak Garrison in Malaysia and departed for Vietnam in May 1968 where it served with 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion until returning to Terendak in May 1969.

The Company was arguably the most highly decorated unit to serve post WW2. Two members were awarded the Military Cross (John Hall and Maurice Dodson); two the Distinguished Conduct Medal (John Sandford and David Ransfield); one (Wiki Kahika) was Mentioned in Despatches while our Chaplain (Wakahuihui Vercoe - later Anglican Primate of NZL) was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.    Two of our soldiers (Mike Wickman and Don Benseman) were killed-in-action.

And so it was that 44 of the old and bold together with partners gathered at the Mercury Bay Club to be together once again. They came from all parts of NZ as well as Australia and the United States. A stand out-attendee was Rob Dil, all the way from Fort Mill in South Carolina.    Rob recently retired from Microsoft where he was a senior systems engineer but this was the first time anyone had seen him since 20 July 1968 when my Platoon hit a strongly fortified multiple bunker position in heavy jungle (which was later assessed to incorporate a major logistics facility) and I was forced to call down Artillery fire on top of the platoon (not recommended) so as to allow us to break contact and regroup.   Rob was hit badly and sustained severe and life threatening wounds to his body and the last we saw of him was being winched into an Iroquois Dustoff helicopter, pissing blood all over us, to be flown to an American Casevac Hospital where they managed to save his life.   Robbie spent the best part of nine months in and out of Hospitals.    This was his first reunion; I don't think it will be his last.

The RNZAF Iroquois are soon (next month) to be retired from service and, when the Chief of Air Force was briefed on the Rob Dil story, he authorised an Iroquois to be made available to the reunion in order for Robbie to be reunited with the helicopter that saved his life and for the rest of us to remember and enjoy a remarkable aircraft.    Below is a photograph of Robbie and the Iroquois.

For myself, I was able to make my peace with Robbie.   I know I did the right thing calling the fire down on top of us; if I hadn't we would have suffered multiple casualties.   But still I worried how Robbie saw it.   He remains in pain, he doesn't have full use of his legs.    Robbie was generous in his view ... in war sometimes shit happens. Better that than the alternative.

Two days after my platoon made the initial contact and after a two Company attack the previous day and 36 hours of continuous artillery bombardment and airstrikes our Battalion launched a full scale
attack on the position ... the first Battalion attack since the Korean war.   By then Charlie had gone; by then the position looked like a mini Passchendaele.

A great weekend.   The weather was superb.   The Mercury Bay Club and the people of Whitianga did us proud and thank you too to the Prime Minister for his message of greetings and his donation of wine ... auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Vietnam Veterans (Neville Wallace Memorial) Children's & Grandchildren's Trust which I am privileged to Chair.

p.s.   Not sure about one of our members fined at the Kangaroo Court.   Comes from across the ditch.
Suspect his better half had a come to Jesus to talk with him when they arrived at Whitianga at Easter 2014 only to find they were a year early.    Second time 'lucky'.


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Just as well he wasn't sending in the artillery!

Anonymous said...

My son is in that pic!


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy said...

You could have mentioned V3's proudest moment of the reunion - drinking the Mercury Bay Club dry of Speights!

I wondered if we may have had to send some experienced people out to 'liberate' a pallet of Victoria Bitter from somewhere.