Battle of Coral Balmoral veterans John Foxwell, Alan 'Jack' Parr and Vince Dunn at Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat during Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative service on Saturday.
Battle of Coral Balmoral veterans John Foxwell, Alan 'Jack' Parr and Vince Dunn at Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat during Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative service on Saturday. Nick Quigley

Shivers down spines at Vietnam Veterans Day service

IT may have been a warm winter's day in the region on Saturday, but hundreds attending the Vietnam Veterans Day commemorative service at Cawarral felt cold shivers up their spines.

Those cold shivers came as they listened to the account of a veteran talking about a battle in Vietnam 50 years ago.

Alan 'Jack' Parr (Lance Corporal, 1RAR) was this year's guest speaker at the Cockscomb Veterans Bush Retreat service, talking about the Battle of Coral Balmoral which claimed 26 lives.

"Alan Parr put a cold shiver up many spines with a blow by blow account for a National Serviceman's baptism of fire,” fellow Vietnam veteran Nick Quigley said.

"His account was clear, from the heart and felt by everyone.

"No man knows what a soldier goes through, except the soldier themselves.”

Here is part of Mr Parr's speech:

"Imagine that you, as a 21-year-old, are in an unknown place somewhere in this strange and foreign country. You arrived by chinook helicopter just before dark and you dug a shallow depression in the ground to sleep in. Call it a' shell scrape'. There is a thunderstorm with a heavy downpour, it saturates everything. The shell scrape is now a red mud-hole. The darkness of the night is broken by a full moon briefly exposed by gaps in the heavy rain clouds. Tall grass and small trees all around, you can't see very far ... even if it was daylight.

"You are out in the open near the edge a rubber plantation. It is the night of May 12, 1968. In Australia it is Mothers' Day. You now settle with the discomfort of the mud in your hole, your boots on, check rifle, check ammo, try to get some of sleep, curse the mozzies. For some, sleep does not come easily.

"In the distance, flares and tracer, both red and green intermittently light up the night sky.

" In the early hours around 2.30am or so there is a 'popping' sound in the distance followed by explosions all around. You are being mortared by the enemy.

"'Stand To!' Is shouted. You grab your rifle and ammo. At the ready!

"A few minutes later there is the 'whoosh!' - 'whooshing!' of rockets being launched at you and from the flashes you can see and hear a hundred screaming enemy attacking you and your mates just 20 to 50 metres away. Machine guns, rifles, rockets, grenades. The noise is horrendous. The mortar platoon of 1RAR is soon overrun by the enemy.

"Supporting artillery and mortar of fire eventually arrive.”

See photos from the day on pages 12-13.



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