Vincent John TOBIN


TOBIN, Vincent John

Service Number: 55251
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 1st Field Squadron, RAE
Born: Pemberton, Western Australia, 10 May 1943
Home Town: Pemberton, Manjimup, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Killed in Action, South Vietnam, 22 March 1968, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Grafton Clarence Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kallangur Vietnam Veterans' Place, Manjimup War Memorial, Pemberton War Memorial, Port Pirie Vietnam Veterans Honour Wall
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Vietnam War Service

27 Nov 1967: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Sapper, SN 55251, 1st Field Squadron, RAE
27 Nov 1967: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 55251

Vincent Tobin

The tight-knit unit of Sappers had the job of checking and destroying the labyrinth of tunnels built during the war and to find and neutralise mines and booby traps before infantrymen and machine-gunners ventured into the jungle.

Andersen was an Australian base with additional New Zealand and American elements, established alongside the communist forces’ predicted lines of movement. Everyone talks about the battle of Coral/Balmoral and the Tet Offensive but no one talks about what happened at Andersen base.

On February 17, 1968, a group of 10 Sappers from the base, near Bein Hoa, came under attack by the Vietcong. The men, from the 1st Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, were sent to man an overnight listening post about 300m out from the base and its protective barbed wire defences.

Their job was to provide early warning of advancing enemy forces. Four men were killed in what was the first massed enemy assault on an Australian base in Vietnam. Three more were wounded. To add to the tragedy, two of three unhurt men were killed in action in a mine incident just one month later.

The 10 men on patrol that night — Staff Sergeant Colin McLaughlin, aged 38, radio operator Lance Corporal John Garrett, 20, and Sappers David Steen, 21, Allan Pattison, 19, Geoff Coombs, 22, Vince Tobin, 24, Murray Walker, Robert Creek, 22, Jack Lawson, 18, and Lyndon Stutley, 21 — were isolated and exposed.
Staff Sergeant C.W. McLaughlin, Lance Corporal J.E. Garrett, Sapper A.G. Pattison and Sapper D.J. Steen were killed on the knoll. Sappers Walker, Creek and Lawson were injured.
In a cruel twist of fate, two of those unhurt, Sappers G.J. Coombs and V.J. Tobin, were to be killed in action one month later in a mine incident in the Long Hai Mountains.

On 20 March the first of three M16 mine incidents involving A and C Companies occurred. Two 3RAR Assault Pioneers (Pte DW McKenzie and Pte RJ Eastwood) were severely wounded when one of them detonated a mine while clearing around A Company Headquarters. The mine had been buried deep with a piece of wood over the striker (shrapnel was then placed on the wood to confuse the Mine Detector Operator and of course after the airstrikes there was plenty of it available). On 22 March, 7 Platoon (2Lt LEJ Appleby) with Combat Engineer Teams had begun the task of clearing enemy tracks that might lead to possible installations.

The tactic used was for the Infantry to ‘rock hop’ in front of and to the flanks of the engineers at a pace of less than 50 metres per hour. At about midday a soldier stepped over a log and detonated a mine which didn’t jump but still wounded a number of men. As an Engineer (Spr MC Walker) and the Platoon Commander were prodding a path to the wounded another soldier (Pte KG Coles) inexplicably left his ‘rock’ and detonated another mine killing him. The 3RAR RMO (Capt. R Lippet) was lowered in from a helicopter by rope and was tending the wounded when a third mine was detonated; two Engineers and two 9 Platoon soldiers sent to aid 7 Platoon deviated from the cleared path – both engineers (Spr GJ Coombs and Spr VJ Tobin) were killed and the escort soldiers (Pte RJ Carroll and Pte RN Neville) seriously wounded. On 24 March, 9 Platoon had just commenced a similar patrolling task when the Platoon Commander (2Lt J Fraser) detonated a mine killing him and wounding three others. The Platoon Sergeant (Sgt RL Ewell) took command and despite the danger of further mines moved to organise the evacuation of the wounded

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