Michael James BIRCHELL

Poppy

BIRCHELL, Michael James

Service Number: 2781899
Enlisted: 30 June 1965, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
Born: Sydney, New South Wales, 2 June 1945
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Spray painter
Died: Killed in Action, Dat Do, South Vietnam, South Vietnam, Vietnam, 17 February 1967, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Tamworth Lincoln Grove Memorial Gardens and Crematorium
(DVA) Official Commemorations - Place of Interment: Area-Memories/Section 2/Row 2/Grave 2; AT Lincoln Grove Memorial Gardens & Crematorium - 1040 Gunnedah Rd - West Tamworth, New South Wales. Memorial Location: Wall 10/Panel T; AT the New South Wales Garden of Remembrance (within Rookwood Necropolis; adjacent to Sydney War Cemetery) Memorial Dr - Rookwood, NSW, Australia., Evergreen Memorial Park, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Grafton Clarence Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kallangur Vietnam Veterans' Place, Port Pirie Vietnam Veterans Honour Wall
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Vietnam War Service

30 Jun 1965: Enlisted Sydney, New South Wales
4 Jun 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 2781899, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
4 Jun 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 2781899
17 Feb 1967: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 2781899, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), Operation Bribie

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Biography

2781899 Private Michael James Birchell a National Serviceman with
6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
Birchell was killed in action at Dat Do, Phuoc Tuy, 17th February 1967. was a spray painter when he was called up in June 1965. He was with B Coy 6RAR when he was killed in action at Dat Do on 17 February, 1967 while trying to save two wounded comrades during an assault on an enemy position.
Aged 22

Birchell, Michael James (1945–1967)

by John Knott

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Michael James Birchell (1945-1967), panel-beater and soldier, was born on 2 June 1945 at Marrickville, Sydney, only child of native-born parents James William Birchell, shop-assistant, and his wife Alice Catherine, née Taylor. James had served in the Australian Imperial Force in World War II; after his discharge in August 1945, the family settled at Coonabarabran. Educated locally, Mick competed for his high school in swimming, captained its Rugby League team and gained his Intermediate certificate. In 1962 he moved with his parents to Tamworth where he worked for a firm of panel-beaters and studied welding at night at the technical college. Birchell continued playing Rugby League as full-back for Tamworth City juniors; solidly built and 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) tall, he earned a reputation for being a tough but fair opponent. His other interests were parties and girls.

In 1965 the Federal government began inducting, by ballot, 20-year-old single males for two-year engagements in the Regular Army Supplement: the conscripts could be required to serve overseas. In April the government announced that combat troops would be sent to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). When news of his call-up arrived, Birchell informed his parents that he would 'make the best of it'. He enlisted on 30 June 1965 and was posted in September to the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based in Brisbane. In January 1966 it was confirmed that his battalion was to proceed to Vietnam. Birchell's mother and father came to Brisbane to watch their son march off to war on 21 May. Arriving in Saigon in June, Birchell was sent to the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy province. Apart from an occasional major operation, 6th R.A.R.'s principal duties were to protect the camp perimeter and to undertake long-range patrols. A member of No.5 Platoon in 'B' Company, Birchell prided himself on never missing a patrol.

On 17 February 1967 the battalion was ordered into positions near Lang Phuoc Hai to block the withdrawal of an enemy force. Instead of a party of retreating troops, it encountered a unit of the People's Liberation Armed Forces (Viet Cong) which was well armed, dug-in and hidden by dense scrub. 'B' Company arrived in helicopters and began an attack, but met sustained resistance. As No.5 Platoon continued forward, three undetected machine-guns opened fire on its right flank, halting the assault and inflicting heavy casualties. Removing the wounded became urgent. Birchell was instructed to provide cover with his machine-gun. Despite the enemy's intense fire, he ran to take up his post, but was seen to fall. It was later found that he had been hit by two rounds and killed outright. Of the 28 men in No.5 Platoon that day, 14 were either killed or wounded. A total of 187 national servicemen from Australia lost their lives to enemy action in the Vietnam War.

Following a military funeral with Anglican rites, Birchell was buried in West Tamworth lawn cemetery. A number of his comrades were to name their sons Mick in his honour.

 

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