Francis Brett TOPP

Poppy

TOPP, Francis Brett

Service Number: 1200265
Enlisted: 6 July 1964
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
Born: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, 26 January 1947
Home Town: Toowoomba, Toowoomba, Queensland
Schooling: Downlands College, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Killed in Action, Long Tan, South Vietnam, 18 August 1966, aged 19 years
Cemetery: Helidon Catholic Cemetery, Qld
Memorials: 11 Platoon Delta Company Memorial Plaque, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Gatton Vietnam Memorial, Gatton Weeping Mother Memorial, Grafton Clarence Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Helidon War Memorial, Kallangur Vietnam Veterans' Place, McLaren Vale Garden of Remembrance, Port Pirie Vietnam Veterans Honour Wall, Rutherglen Long Tan Cross, Toowoomba District Servicemen Roll of Honour, Toowoomba Downlands College Roll of Honour
Show Relationships

Non Warlike Service

6 Jul 1964: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 1200265, Army Training Units

Vietnam War Service

16 Jul 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 1200265, 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, Vietnam
4 Aug 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 1200265, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
4 Aug 1966: Transferred Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
18 Aug 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 1200265, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), Long Tan

Help us honour Francis Brett Topp's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed

Francis Brett TOPP (1947-66)

Francis Topp was born in Toowoomba, Queensland on 26 January 1947, the son of Norman and Bridget Topp, both of whom had served during the Second World War. Known as “Frank”, he was the second of 11 children.

He grew up on the family’s dairy farm at Flagstone Creek near the town of Helidon. He attended Flagstone Creek State School and then Downlands College in Toowoomba. At Downlands he became a member of the school’s cadet unit and enjoyed the field exercises, an experience that set him on the path to military service.

After leaving school he worked for a short while on the family farm, before leaving to work as a spare parts assistant at A. Falconer’s Garage in Gatton.

On 6 July 1964 Frank joined the Australian Regular Army, signing on for a six-year period. As he was still only 17, he did so with the written consent of his parents.

He was initially posted to the 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka for basic training. While at Kapooka he was marked by his superiors at a potential officer candidate.

Influenced by his experience as a cadet, Topp wanted to be posted to an infantry battalion, but as he was still under age, he was instead posted to the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps as a storeman. By mid-June 1965 he had earned his trade qualification as a Storeman Technical Ordnance Class II.

In August 1965 he was sent to Southern Command Educational School at Bandiana where he gained his second class certificate of education.

But Frank still yearned to be in the field and after turning 18 he applied for and was granted a corps transfer to infantry. He was sent to the Royal Australian Regiment Reinforcement Wing at Singleton in April 1966 and almost immediately was sent on a battle efficiency course at the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra.

At the completion of this course, Topp was given pre-embarkation leave in May and he returned home to spend time with his family.

In early July, Topp was told that he would be deploying to Vietnam as a reinforcement. He embarked from Sydney on 15 July and arrived in Saigon the following day. He was then sent to the 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit at Nui Dat.

He was posted to the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment at the beginning of August, but it was not until the afternoon of 17 August that he joined 5 Section, 11 Platoon, D Company.

Earlier that morning Nui Dat had been bombarded by the Viet Cong, with over 100 rounds fired from mortars, recoilless rifles and a Japanese field gun landing inside the base’s perimeter. Twenty-four Australians were wounded. As several mortar rounds landed in 1ARU’s positions, Topp would have experienced his first time under enemy fire.

B Company 6RAR departed Nui Dat to locate the Viet Cong mortar baseplate positions. The Viet Cong firing positions were located by mid-morning, after which the company continued patrolling to locate the mortar teams. B Company spent the night outside the wire and the following day patrolled to the edge of the Long Tan rubber plantation.

D Company, led by Major Harry Smith, left Nui Dat at 11 am that morning and was sent to relieve B Company.

After setting up in all-round defensive positions, the soldiers ate lunch. Lance Corporal John Robbins, who was 5 Section’s commander, sat with Topp to ensure that he was alright during his first time outside the wire. Topp also met one of his mates from Kapooka, Private David Thomas, now in B Company, 6RAR. Topp had said to his mate “You’re a warrie bastard Thommo” to which Thomas replied “If they get a hold of you out there, you will be too.”

Shortly after 3 pm, 11 Platoon came into contact with the Vietnamese in the Long Tan rubber plantation. After a brief firefight, the enemy withdrew and the Australians followed them up. At approximately 4 pm, 11 Platoon encountered heavy opposition and took immediate casualties.

After the initial burst of fire subsided, Topp’s 5 Section was ordered to sweep across the front of the platoon to form an L-shaped defensive position. As the section moved to comply, the men came under fire. Several men were hit, including Topp, who was shot and killed instantly.

He was 19 years old – the youngest Australian to die that day. He had been in Vietnam for just over a month and had been with his battalion for around 24 hours.

11 Platoon was engaged on three sides, in danger of being cut off and wiped out entirely. Monsoonal rain deluged the area, reducing visibility to 50 metres and turned the ground into slick, red mud.

In the hours that followed, a numerically-superior Vietnamese force attempted to overrun D Company. Close artillery support, well controlled by D Company’s forward artillery observer, was crucial in breaking up several enemy attacks and allowing the beleaguered Australians to bring the scattered sections into a cohesive perimeter.

As the battle progressed, D Company began to run low on ammunition and a resupply was requested. Australian helicopters flew through monsoonal conditions to deliver.

At 7 pm a relief column of armoured personnel carriers from 3 Troop, 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron arrived with A Company, 6RAR on board. As they entered the rubber plantation, they came across members of D445 Battalion, forming up for another attack. The APCs attacked quickly, stopping the enemy attack from going ahead. The APCs then linked up with D Company, 6RAR. As night fell, the enemy withdrew.

The men of D Company returned to the battle site the following morning. They recovered two of their badly wounded comrades who had been left behind during the withdrawal. Frank Topp and his fallen comrades were found still lying at their weapons as if defending their positions. It was a sight that chilled those who witnessed it.

The Australians also recovered three wounded Vietnamese soldiers and buried over 245 enemy dead.

Frank Topps’ remains were returned to Australia and he was laid to rest in the Helidon Catholic Cemetery, Queensland.

 

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Francis Brett Topp, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

AWM Last Post Ceremony 18 August 2019

 

 

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

Read more...