Russell James COPEMAN

COPEMAN, Russell James

Service Number: 215989
Enlisted: 23 September 1964
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 3rd Special Air Service Squadron
Born: Narellan, New South Wales, Australia, 24 January 1947
Home Town: Towradgi, Wollongong, New South Wales
Schooling: Corrimal High School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Died of Wounds, 2 Camp Hospital, Ingleburn, New South Wales, Australia, 10 April 1967, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Wollongong Cemetery, NSW
Wollongong Crematorium - Section L - Niche 13
Memorials: "The Rock", SASR Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Grafton Clarence Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kallangur Vietnam Veterans' Place, Port Pirie Vietnam Veterans Honour Wall, Seymour Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk Roll of Honour
Show Relationships

Vietnam War Service

23 Sep 1964: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, 215989
15 Jun 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Trooper, 215989, 3rd Special Air Service Squadron
15 Jun 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, 215989
10 Apr 1967: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, 215989, 3rd Special Air Service Squadron

Help us honour Russell James Copeman's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.



Birth: Jan. 24, 1947 at Narellan, New South Wales

Death: Apr. 10, 1967, at Ingleburn, New South Wales, Australia

"215989 Trooper (Tpr) Russell James Copeman, 3 Special Air Service Squadron (3SAS). Tpr Copeman had previously served with the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) in Wollongong before joining the Regular Army. He commenced his tour of duty of Vietnam with the SAS on 15 June 1966. During a four man patrol on 18 January 1967, Tpr Copeman, serving as a medic, was seriously injured by enemy fire. 18302 Tpr John Wesley 'Juvy' Matten (/explore/people/498010) carried him to safety and attended to his wounds. Tpr Copeman was evacuated by helicopter to a hospital at Vung Tau. Because of the critical nature of his wounds, Tpr Copeman's mother was flown to Vietnam to visit her son under the AUSDIL (Australians Dangerously Ill) scheme operated by the Department of Defence. His father, Major James Copeman, also received permission to fly to Vietnam to visit. He was at the time a Military Observer with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation at Tiberias, Israel. After several operations on Tpr Copeman's wounds it was decided to evacuate him to Australia. He was taken to 2 Camp Hospital, Ingleburn. His condition deteriorated and he died on 10 April 1967, aged 20. Tpr Copeman was the only SAS serviceman to die in the Vietnam War as the result of enemy action." - SOURCE (

Son of Major J.Copeman
Enlisted 23.9.1964 Royal Australian Infantry
6 Bn Royal Australian Regiment (Pvt)
SAS selection 1965
SASR 14.12.1965
WIA 18.1.1967 South Vietnam
DOW No 2 Camp Hospital, Ingleburn, NSW


Please click on "Relationships"



Biography contributed by Tony Cox

Russell James Copeman Poem

By Family Friend Jakki May delivered on the occasion of the Vietnam Veterans Vigil 3rd August 2023.


I once knew a boy who was wild at heart - 

a tomboy, a larrikin, a bit of a lark.

He was tall and handsome; his father’s son.

He was loved by all, especially his Mum.


He had cheeky eyes and feral hair,

a killer smile and he knew how to swear.

He could charm the birds right out of the trees

and torment his mates; he was such a tease.


He had dreams of one day owning a farm -

a place where his family would see no harm.

He loved the country; he loved the sea;

he wanted a place where he knew he’d be free.


But fate took a hand in his life to be

and fate can be cruel in our destiny.

He didn’t know what the future might hold

as he pondered on dreams of how he’d grow old.


War soon broke out across the sea

and the army, he thought, was the place to be.

He spoke to his family; he spoke to his friends.

Despite all their protests he joined up in the end.


He was just 17 when he became a recruit -

something his family and friends found moot.

He was just a boy who was full of fun;

didn’t know the first thing about handling a gun.


He left his family and friends behind.

He’d thought of the dangers, but didn’t mind.

He knew what to do; he’d heard the call;

he’d soon be a soldier proud and tall.


Months of training; hair no longer a mess

he joined the elite SAS.

His family stood proud graduation day

when he was awarded the Fawn Beret.


Australia soon called to join the fray

and our brave young man was sent away.

He was soon shipped off to Vietnam.

where our innocent soldier became a man.


He was still a lad when he went to war

and saw things he’d never seen before.

I can’t imagine the terrors he faced –

so much horror and so much waste.



The jungle steamy, wet and hot.

No time to sleep; no place for a cot.

Adrenaline pumping through every mate -

what did he think of his dreadful fate?


His troop moved slowly feeling the fear;

feeling the wretched enemy near.

Some alert; others half spent

through the steaming jungle, forward they went.


Dressed in black their adversary hidden.

To shoot on sight was never forbidden.

In tunnels and trees they lurked here and there.

The bloody enemy everywhere.


He was tail end Charlie that fateful day;

with each step forward he would silently pray.

Each one of his comrades doing their best

when they came upon an enemy nest.


They crept through the jungle steaming hot

when out of nowhere there rang a shot.

Little did they know what destiny held -

that one of their comrades would be brutally felled.


A sniper attacked them from the rear -

an enemy so cunning they didn’t hear

until that fateful shot rang loud

slaying a mate - our soldier proud.


He was carried to safety by his comrades in arms

and died dreaming peacefully of family and farms.

What would the future have been for him

if he hadn’t died on someone’s whim?


War is such a terrible waste

of life and dreams they couldn’t taste.

Where would we be without troops so brave

who fight for our freedom, our country to save?


This boy was special to family and friends.

His life ended suddenly at the enemy’s hands.

But memories of him will never fade.

Lest we forget our soldier brave.


Posted By Tony Cox Vietnam Veterans Vigil Organiser/coordinator  3rd August 2023  Wollongong.


Biography contributed by Tony Cox

This Eulogy provided by Russell's sister Mrs Ann Honess on the occasion of the Wollongong Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Vigil on the 3rd August 2023 in the company of John Matten.

Russell James Copeman was born at Lyndon Private Hospital, Narellan, NSW on 24 January 1947.  He was the first child of James (Jim) and Pearl Copeman.

Russell’s first 6 years were spent in Picton, NSW, while his father, James, completed his post war training as a Carpenter.  In 1953 the family, now of 5 with sister Ann and brother Darrell moved to Towradgi on the South Coast of NSW.  James had qualified for a War Service home and took up a position with the Housing Commission of NSW.

Russell’s schooling commenced at Towradgi Primary School until Grade 6.  At a very young age Russ had a dream of owning his own farm, so to help achieve his goal he was sent to Hurlstone Agricultural College as a boarder for the first three years of high school.  Unfortunately, boarding school was not “his cup of tea”, so he returned to Towradgi and the family home to attend Corrimal High School with the aim of completing to Year 5.  Once again things did not work out and he left school early in Year 5 to take up an Apprenticeship as a Greenskeeper at Figtree Bowling Club.  A job he enjoyed but he was just filling in time until he could join the Army.

During his school years Russ was a competitive sportsman and was involved in athletics, rugby and swimming.  He was always outdoors and spent many hours surfing during the summer months.  Unfortunately, these activities also meant he was prone to injuries.  Sliding down sandhills on a sheet of tin saw a badly gashed leg; chasing kids around the house ended up with him running through a glass door, resulting in 15 stitches in his forearm; playing rugby for Hurlstone Ag College sent him to hospital with a broken leg for a month; and finally a close call in a car accident which transformed a Falcon sedan into the size of a Cortina (luckily this one only left him with a few scratches on his forehead).

Russell wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Cecil Edward Copeman, who was an ANZAC at Gallipoli and also fought in France in WWI and his father, James, who fought with the 2/3rd Battalion in WWII, gaining a Military Cross and Military Medal for bravery in the process.  Russ joined the CMF as soon as he was old enough and serviced with 3RNSW Regiment in Wollongong, alongside his father, until he was able to join the regular army. 

Full time service began for Russell in 1964 where he did his basic training at 1RTB Kapooka, NSW then to C Company, 6RAR once basic training was completed.  He was transferred to B Company, 6RAR in June 1965 as he was too young to be sent to Vietnam with C Company.

Army life was obviously what Russell wanted and in a letter to his Dad in June 1965, he wrote “No worries about Vietnam.  I’m too young & am being transferred to B Coy 6RAR on Monday.  If they won’t have me for overseas, I’ll have a bit of adventure.  Have filled in my application for SAS today.  Here’s hoping.”  His application was accepted and SAS, Swanbourne WA was his next posting.  Following intense training 3SAS was deployed to Vietnam in June 1966.

In his latter letters from Vietnam Russell seemed torn between life in the Army and following his childhood dream of owning a farm.  It seemed that his experiences in Vietnam were playing on his mind, and he was tossing up weather to take up Officer Training or apply for a discharge once he returned from Vietnam.  Officer Training finally won out but instead of taking up the course in 1966 he decided to remain with his mates & Squadron until their deployment was completed and take on Officer Training in the next intake.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as he was wounded in January 1967, which ended his military career & ultimately his life.

Our family owe so much to John “Juvi” Matten for his bravery following the incident where Russell was wounded.  If it were not for John we would never have seen Russ again, all be it for a short few months.

During a four-man patrol Russell was “tail end Charlie” and John was the radio operator & Medic.  A sniper shot and wounded Russell and once John realised Russ had been hit, he rushed back to his aid and carried him to safety, attended his wounds as best he could and sent morse code messages to get a helicopter to extract the patrol.  The patrol was winched to the safety of the helicopter while still under enemy fire and flown back to base at Vung Tau.  Russell was rushed to the operating theatre where he spent many hours having his wounds attended to.  The marvellous medical team of Doctors & Nurses at Vung Tau worked tirelessly to save his life and eventually Russell was strong enough to be medevaced back to Australia.  His last few months were spent at Ingleburn Army Hospital, where his family could visit him daily until his passing on 10th April, 1967.


Posted by Tony Cox  Organiser/coordinator Vietnam Veterans Vigil Wollongong 3rd August 2023.