Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Late in our Vietnam tour Victor 3 Company 'captured' a Citroen Traction Avant car hidden away in the jungle near the French run Don Dien de Courtenay Rubber Estate.   Below is a photograph of the car taken shortly after its capture ...

Standing bereft of webbing is our much respected Company Commander John Hall.   John was awarded the Military Cross for his simply outstanding leadership of the Company over its 12 month tour.  My colleague Bob Kellett, commander of 3 Platoon, is on the extreme right.    Can't see TTSS or Lord Egbut in the photograph but they would have been close by.

The car was recovered back to our Nui Dat base ... note the large bullet hole in the driver's door.

Back at base and before its face lift.   Note the number plate NVA (North Vietnamese Army!!!) 601.
Why a number plate FFS.

It was refurbished by mechanics from our RAEME Light Aid Detachment and when finished we gifted it to the nurses (including NZ Nurses) at the 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau in appreciation.   They used it as transport down to the beach.   This is what the car looked when we handed it over ....

The nurses reinforced its rather distinctive colour scheme with very large flower-power stickers all over.   The car become an icon in Vung Tau.   It was left behind when the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1 ALSG) pulled out.

Would be fascinating to know what happened to it.  Off to Blenheim shortly for the Victor 3 Company reunion. Will ask the question there ... and BTW, a big thank you to Ministers Judith Collins and David Bennett who each donated wine to be auctioned at the reunion with the proceeds going to the Vietnam Veterans (Neville Wallace Memorial) Children's & Grandchildren's Trust which I am privileged to Chair.   Judith is a Vice-Patron of the Trust; David is the Minister of Veterans' Affairs.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy said...

I was the Sig on the patrol that found the car. I recall the CO flying over in a Possum {Sioux} helicopter and warning us to be aware of booby traps. My response that we had already disabled the nest of snakes living in it was met with amusement.

It was in remarkably good condition considering its time in the tropical jungle.

paul scott said...

Excellent > glad to read some good news from the war. Just as well Egg wasn't there he would have ruined the photo, poor old Egg he never gets anything right.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant design...years ahead of it's time. I tried to access the the Hanoi vehicle reg dept but after several attempts gave up. It was one of the 100's that were driven down from the north before the border was closed in 1955. Lot's of photo;s from Saigon show the N prefix on vehicles. Like all old cars in Asia it will just be a stain on the ground. Value today in France in good nick....30.000 euro's.

Lord Egbut

The Veteran said...

Paul ... Egbut is the salt of the earth. He's been there and done that. He fought in a shitty war and did his duty and did it well. He is a gracious Mein Host. We will often agree to disagree but that's our privilege.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Vet, your forays into history always make for enjoyable reading. More please.

Noel said...

The plate is French Colonial design.
Common in Saigon in sixties and early seventies alongside more recent models.

I never saw the nurses car in the assets disposal yard.
Usually "aquired" items not on the unit list were quietly disposed of below 1ATF's radar.

I can say for sure it never suffered the fate or that bloodstained APC body with a large hole in the floor that RAEME had deconstructed over the years. It was unceremoniously dropped from a Skycrane helicopter into the sea.

Anonymous said...

Noel....All plates were of French/British type. All those north of what was to become e the DMZ were prefixed by an "N"...It could equally be NBA or NWA 601. The myth that it was a staff car or belonged to the army is just that ...a myth. Probably belonged to a wealthy Roman Catholic family who fled the north before the "wall" went up.

Loed Egbut

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... why hidden then and why the bullet holes? You don't garage a car in the jungle fringe.

Anonymous said...

Where there is a car there is a road and is was not exactly jungle. If I recall it was very close to rubber. Why bullet holes..who knows, stolen car, local VC miltia involved in a shoot out, kidnapping, aliens?

What is known is that it was a civvy plate on a vehicle that had to have arrived before 1955. Judging by the it's condition it had been there no more than six or seven years....if that. The Nth Vietnamese registration codes make it quite clear it was registered as private vehicle.

Lord Egbut

Anonymous said...

When the Special Raiding Squadron landed at Termoli in Italy 1943 the German garrison was taken by surprise. General Richard Heidrich, the German Parachute Divisional Commander had to slip out of the town over back fences to avoid being captured. After a successful defeat of the counter attack the SAS left town after having nicked Heidrich's personal car, a black 1939 Horsch roadster. They later presented it to their commander. For the rest of the war Heidrich invited any paratroop officers captured in his area to lunch with him. It was thought he felt the loss deeply.


Was There said...

Now the truth comes out!
Victor 3 Company was deployed in the area known as Hat Dich (Hut Zick) during Operation Capital Phases 1 and 11 (13 October-30 November 1968). It lasted some 48 days excluding the withdrawal feint to Nui Dat. The operation was successful with twenty-six Charlie KIA, one captured and six blood trails. Friendly casualties were two KIA and six wounded.

We returned to Nui Dat after Phase 1. The plan was to fool Charlie into thinking we had withdrawn from the area. Instead we came straight back after only a couple of days in base. The Hat Dich was the traditional home of the VC 84 Rear Services Group tasked with providing support services for the Main Force 274 Regiment. The area generally sits astride a major jungle route between Nui May Tao and Route 15 to Saigon which always ensured there was lively response whenever Task force units were deployed there. During this particular operation our company strength had been decimated by ‘Count Malaria'.

The area sat generally on the border areas between Quan Xuan Loc and Quan Phouc Tuy provincial areas. The area was difficult jungle covered jungle with many steep hills followed by downhill areas to streams immediately followed by difficult hill ascents. We could always tell the uphill parts with cracking knees and muttered curses and much slipping and sliding especially from the M60 machine gunners, M79 grenadiers and signallers.

On 27 November 1968 1 Platoon discovered a 1948 Citroën Traction Avant car hidden in the bush. Its registration number was NVA 601 (not NVA 001 as legend would have it). Traction Avant was French for ‘pulled from the front'. Citroën was owned by Michelin in those days – hardly surprising that we found the old car not too far from a Michelin owned rubber plantation.

The car was driven or pushed about 200 metres from open bush to jungle. After informing Major Hall of our find and being told to be aware of booby traps we proceeded to recover the car back to the Company lines at Nui Dat. For this we used a 9 Sqn Iroquois helicopter which the car slung underneath – strange sight to behold.

We were chuffed with our effort – normally it was AK47 rifles, RPGs, and bunkers we captured, ho hum really. We were pleased to do something 'outside the square'.

After getting the car back to Nui Dat our boys attempted to get it running. Without tools it was a long shot. We got a few back-fires from Messrs Thoreau, Mortensen and Cooper with many others shouting encouragement. Somehow the collective decision was made to give it, complete with two bullet holes in the back window, to the Kiwi nurses at 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau via the RNZEME guys who managed to get it going in only a couple of days. Tools and knowledge does help.

By the time the girls at the hospital received ‘our car' it had been transformed from deadly dull black to racy pink, a proper girls car, and they rejoiced in having a vehicle that was not regulation olive drab and, shit awful, flat green. They also ‘enhanced' the paint job with flower power stickers to create a really remarkable machine that become an icon to many.

We were pretty chuffed that ‘our angels' had their otherwise tough job as nurses made a little better by having a car to use as their private taxi around the base.

Ross Miller - Sunray 5/2