James Bertram (Jim) RIDDLE

RIDDLE, James Bertram

Service Number: 311589
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR)
Born: Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, 7 February 1940
Home Town: Not yet discovered
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Machine operator
Died: England, 11 February 2018, aged 78 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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Vietnam War Service

23 Dec 1968: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
28 Dec 1968: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, Vietnam
4 Feb 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
4 Feb 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR)
14 May 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
14 May 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, HQ 1st Australian Task Force, Vietnam
17 Jun 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
17 Jun 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 9th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (9RAR)
28 Nov 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
28 Nov 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit
19 Jan 1970: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
19 Jan 1970: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, HQ 1st Australian Task Force, Vietnam
27 Jan 1970: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
27 Jan 1970: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR)
26 Aug 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
26 Aug 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, SN 311589, 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit
23 Sep 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589
23 Sep 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, SN 311589, 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR)

LETTERS AND COMMENT FROM JIM RIDDLE

LETTERS FROM Cpl. JIM RIDDLE (2005-06):


Jim Riddle was a commando sergeant with England’s Royal Marines. When England declined to assist Australia in its involvement in the Vietnam War, Jim purchased his way out of the British force, and came to Australia in 1968 specifically to fight in the War. Previously, he had fought in Cyprus, Borneo, Oman, and Arabia. I guess he was as close to being a mercenary as they come, and certainly that I ever met, though he only got the usual $30 per week in the Australian Army for the privilege of fighting for it. He was nobody’s fool himself, and didn’t take kindly to fools in leadership, and sat an officer or two on their arse on occasion.

They offered him a position as an instructor at the infantry training centre, Ingleburn, but he declined. He wanted to fight the war himself, first, before teaching others how to do it.

Jim Riddle was, without doubt, one of the toughest, most professional, most ferocious, soldiers I ever served alongside. He did two tours of Vietnam. Give or take the validity of Australian Army records, he may have served more than 900 days at the coalface.

I served with Jim in “D” Coy, of the 4th R.A.R. for about four months, in the first half of 1969. When that Battalion went home in May, Jim and I served together in the 2nd D@E Platoon where Jim assumed the role of platoon commander after Lt. Barry Parkin ‘disappeared’. Thereafter, we were split up into different companies of the 9th R.A.R. where he suffered internal injuries in one contact (RPG blast) and I was wounded in a bunker assault, in another.

After a short trip back to England when his mother died, he went back to Vietnam in 1970 as a ‘reo’ again, firstly serving with the 8th R.A.R. until they went home, and then with the 4th R.A.R. again, when they arrived back in country.

I had not seen or heard from Jim Riddle since early July, 1969- 36 years earlier.

In July, 2005, I received an email from him, out of the blue. He had come across one of my pieces of writing, and, not knowing if I was still alive or not, emailed me via the email address at the bottom of the article. We have exchanged a number of letters, since then. I have been enlightened by them, and uplifted.

Over the years, I have been savaged by pogos and other little men who never fought with me, and who know little about me. Mostly, I cared little of what they thought. But what a man like Jim Riddle thinks, is a different kettle of fish altogether. First, because he is a real man, and secondly, because he was a soldier in the true sense as well- the consummate professional (give or take the few run-ins he had with ‘superiors’.) His recollections of controversial matters I have raised in various articles over the years, like the exploits of the 2nd D@E Platoon (which does not officially exist in Army records, and remains largely unacknowledged) means a great deal to me.

With Jim’s permission, here are significant extracts from his letters:

What he thought of me:

“Don, I've read most of your website, and seen the photos of you, and I can read a whole mountain of pain in your eyes, mate.  You are certainly changed. No-one should go through the sort of stuff you've suffered, and certainly not a person who was, as I recall, a bloody decent and laid back youth.  Someone owes you a huge apology.”

“The guy I knew was a young dreamy kid with a shy smile who kept us all laughing in the worst of times.”

“I was very moved when you got posted to 9 R.A.R. and came to say goodbye, and said, ‘Thanks for looking after me Jim’. That was a REAL medal I won't forget. Take care, and I sincerely hope yer still alive mate! You never could be trusted to watch a tin of spaghetti and meatballs being inflated on a hexi cooker... bastard!! I still have the scars.”

“I so well recall the most cheerful bloke in Vietnam. Mate you were a life saving diamond. I honestly felt that you were the only sane thing there. I actually remember the very first time I saw you was when you stepped off the bus at (the jungle-training centre) Canungra. I had been first off with the files of all the rio’s, (yours was 1" thick with pre-military events, and all the others were 2 pages!) and presented these to the officer and sergeant as I stepped off the bus. They had me stand beside them as they called for the name of each man who stepped off the bus, and checked him off. Near the last there was this tall, gangly, fair-haired kid, who grinned unmilitary-like at the officer, stepped down two steps, and seemed to disappear in front of us, very fast and smooth, and went completely under the bus. The officer and the sergeant and me just stood there in shock and awe. Then an arm came out from under the step, and quickly, with practiced skill, the whole six foot, gangling kid sort of stood up, and brushed at his uniform for a second, all the time grinning in an unmilitary way. He said, "G' day, Private Tate”. Then I saw the sergeant, in a stunned manner, tick his list, and shamble off up the path to the reception building shaking his head. I had started a long and amazing friendship with one of the world’s most complex survivors. We shipped out and joined the 4th RAR, then 2nd D&E. Then they found we were too embarrassingly good, so they disbanded us and we went to 9RAR and destruction. I have so many recalls of you my old pal that I could and would, love to write a book about them. BUT would you feel insulted? That would not be the intention ‘cos I thought you were absolutely indispensable to any outfit I served in. As a matter of fact you were well loved by every one, wherever you went. You actually WERE a legend in the Australian forces. No word of exaggeration- I had people coming from other units into the lines at 4 RAR, asking to see you. Ask Jim Sillence, he was my gunner at the time, with Greg Sullivan and Roger Kerslake.......”

(on the controversial article I wrote in 1986, about an incident that occurred while I was serving with 2nd D@E Platoon):

“I recall the girl who was killed at the ambush, and there was another on the way back, after the ambush, when the tracks were in a panic and heading at speed while firing at people in the fields, on the way to Xuyen Moc the following morning. That was when we dragged the bodies behind us. Yes, the lads came and asked me what I thought about that, and I told them I was pissed off, but it was the thing soldiers do who are in their first combat and who are 'out of their lids’. I'd seen it before, and felt bad, but war is not for humans, so for a while, we were not human. I later got a lecture about teaching my blokes to be killers, and that they would some day have to be re-indoctrinated into society. I agreed with the view, but also pointed out that if they followed my teaching, they were very likely to return alive and whole, to be re- indoctrinated. This was when I was with the 8th RAR, (where we got a Vietnamese Cross of gallantry with bar.)”

More about 2nd D@E Platoon (made up of the left-over, regular soldiers from the 4th R.A.R. who didn’t have six months duty behind them):

“I also recall we were at the ambush with a dumb arse outfit of APC prats, when they sprang an ambush and they didn't know they had kills until I went out and picked up the weapons and brought them back. Then they wanted to run over the bodies till I told them they'd have to do the body-search. That was when I got all that Dong $ and put it behind the bar in Vung Tau for the platoon. Our motto was "What You See Is What You Get”! Jock Rennie got killed shortly after. Ah yes, Normie Rowe, the pop star, was with that APC group as radio man. I slapped him for being a noisy twat!  You were M60 sentry just as we moved off, and we went to Xuyen Moc and went 'wild'.”

I asked him for his version of those ambushes....

“The ambush you refer to was one after Thua Thich, but just about 500 or more metres before, and on the opposite side of the clearing.  We were attached to a new and totally green bunch of trackies under Capt. Laurence (I believe). The group included Normie Rowe. The claymores were fired off at night when someone on sentry heard some faint noise and triggered it. The next morning I stood the infantry to, including you as I well recall, and then I went out front and collected 4 AK47’s from the dead.  I came back into the ambush position and handed the weapons to Laurence. He had no idea we had killed anyone, assuming it had been a misfire, and that we no longer had any claymores to defend our location, he panicked and tried to rush his whole outfit, including us grunts, out of the trees and over the clearing to a large open grass area. I hopped into his APC and told him to warn his trackies to avoid the areas directly to our front where the 4 bodies were, and he got all tough and ‘theatrical callous’ and told them, over the radio, to just drive straight out over the dead cong. I grabbed him and told him that if they did that, then his fuckwits could search the bodies, not us! As you know, when a body gets run over by tanks or tracks it becomes a mixture of blood, bones and clothing wrapped around cats meat. Not easy to search at all. So he immediately stopped being ‘theatrical hardman’ and told them to alter their directions of charge according to my directions.  We then broke out of the ambush, across the path and out across the fire trail, out into a wide open grassy plain, and I said I had to go back with some ‘Indians’ to sort out the bodies. This was his first action and he was in some panic at being undefended and in jungle. He was a total tosser. Later that afternoon, he left us grunts out in the grassland and drove into a village. There, his tosspot tankies emptied all our packs out of each APC and of course it pissed down torrents.  When we caught up with their defensive circle, our kit was swimming down gullies. They hadn’t even bothered to bring it in out of the storm.  I was well f… mad at him, and that’s how I came to slap Normie and to give Laurence a good snarling at. He reported me and the whole 2ndD&E Infantry as “a bunch of ill disciplined animals controlled by a disgusting foul-mouthed mercenary.” Blimey Don, calling me disgusting was a bit of a blow to my pride. When we got back to BHQ at the Dat, I was fronted up to OC HQ Coy (Major G. Pratt, if I recall) a real idiot pom, who told us we would get more kills if we aimed carefully and held our breath and squeezed the trigger when triggering ambushes!! No shit. Anyway Don, this was the ambush when I called you to get off the back of an APC where you were manning our M60 as sentry, and you came running to the back of the carrier and ran straight off the back, as though there was no 7ft drop! The M60 nose-dived into the earth and had to be cleared while we were out in the grassland. I believe you came back to search and ‘bury’ the VC. This was the time I discreetly collected many thousands of Dong from one of the couriers. These guys were going into Dat Do to buy supplies. The Yanks played it that the VC used to just plunder what they wanted, but that’s another yank bullshit story. Later I put the whole cash collection behind a bar at Vung Tau and we all had lots of free beer.  That was the last I saw of Jock Rennie, ‘cos he was killed in 9 RAR some weeks later. Well mate, that’s my solid recall as it happened. I hope this all helps to place some missing bits of your jigsaw. There’s quite a lot more..  .”

(On Peter Allan, who served alongside us in the D@E Platoon, and blew up an officer after being re-assigned to the 9th R.A.R.):

“I don't recall Allen (The Fragger) from our D&E exploits but, I actually met him when I got sent to Vung Tau detention for 14 days for slapping a sergeant cook. It was during my boob time that I again met ‘Snow’ Manski (Dennis). I was on chain gang duty and loading supplies into containers.  He talked to me, but seemed withdrawn. I recall taking him out into the killing ground at Thua Thich (where we’d killed a bout a dozen Viet Cong) to see his first dead, and he threw up. I figured I was doing him a favour, letting him see the real war. Maybe I was insensitive. Sorry to hear about Foster and Dooley (from the 4th R.A.R., who have since died.) I remember them, and Margetts was the skinny kid with black hair who seemed all agog most of the time. Was there someone called Lurch in the 4th R.A.R.? Seems to ring a bell. I do recall ‘Bear’ (Gary Winchester) getting a shot thru the magazine of his rifle during the assault on the bunkers outside of a Fire Support Base. His whole attitude changed after that. It was in his eyes that he was vulnerable! I also recall running up to where ‘Zunt’, (Ian Morrison) Tommy Douglas, Willy (?), and (I thought you were another) were pinned down in front of the bunkers and my machine-gunner got shot across his arse. Willy got a back wound, and Zunt asked me for more ammo- SLR and M79. So I trotted back all the way to the last section and collected ammo off them, including from Blue Hempill and Sgt Peter Batty, then sprinted all the way back to the bunkers and tossed the extra ammo to Zunt.  The last bandolier got caught on a branch and we were both very reluctant to reach up for it. Lieutenant Bleechmore was our platoon commander. No one ever said thanks for that, and the next time the 4thR.A.R. came to Vietnam (1970), I joined them again, but they were a vastly different lot from those of the first tour! After the tour, we came home to Townsville, and Willy charged me with having 4 stubbies in the accommodation.  I was fronted up and told that because I had done detention in Vietnam, I was to be court martialled!! Blimey mate, they really hit me.  Willy came round after, and apologised ‘cos he’d been pissed at the time he charged me, and a couple of other blokes had offered to thump his head for doing it.  So much for pals....”

“I remember the bunker system, same one, when Zunt kept shooting M79’s into the trees and brought down great clumps of it in the belief that you were taking fire from up high. The second time we went in was a bit of a thing, ‘cos Black Jackson was supposed to take his section but he refused, so Bleechmore asked me to take mine in. I did, but I left my scout, (‘Mousey’?) at the back, ‘cos I didn't need a scout. We went in at the sprint to see if it was still manned. It wasn't.”

(On the time I left the bolt out of my rifle up at ‘The Horseshoe’, and was made scout as punishment, carrying a useless rifle):

“I recall when you left the bolt out... We were coming off the Horseshoe, towards the famous Lang Tan rubber. I was told what they had done (made you scout) and I objected, ‘cos it was bloody dangerous for you. I was on the M60 at the time and used to carry it across my chest, which surprised some folks. It was just before ‘Sharkey’ Sullivan made me section commander, that week.  I got the stripes just before moving to D&E.”  

(on training on small craft on the swamps in D@E Platoon, June 1969):

“I do recall that bit of water training on the Delta... That's where I recall Steve Patterson trying to do a deal with the local ARVN.  I asked him to organise something illegal ‘cos he was a sort of 'fixer and collector’. Another thing, I recall you being at the second ambush with the tracks, when I collected the dead nogs weapons and the tankie commander didn't even know he had 4 kills. He was a total prat.  Normie Rowe was a signaller at that location and I had to tell you and the rest of the D&E infantry not to laugh at him. He tried to rig a tree aerial, and threw the steel bobbin up into the trees and it came down on his head.  We all roared with laughter at him. I know you were somewhere around at the other big ambush when we called in Puff the Magic Dragon, ('Spooky’) and we shit when it dipped in an air pocket and sent that stream of red fire right across our front.  Jesus mate, that got me quite warm!”

On the ambush at Thua Thich, May29th, 1969:

“I remember ‘Snow’ Manski being on the right of the ambush in a hole and screaming at me to tell them to stop firing!  He thought the incoming was from the APC’s who were about 400 yards away.  The next morning I found he's never seen a dead body so I took him with me to search them all.  There were loads.  You must have been there, but I can't recall more than 2 of the 9 of us that hit the column of about 250 NVA and VC. I know it was in a newspaper with "Corporal Riddle said they were crawling around us all night", ‘cos Tex Weston, a pal of mine, brought the clipping over when he came to 8 R.A.R. and I had joined them. Oh yes, it will be in my army records that 4 R.A.R. had me 'Psyched’ near the end of the war ‘cos I was cracking up. Considering the four wars, I had been in before coming to the A.M.F. I think I had done a trip too many.”   

“Regarding that big ambush (at Thua Thich). There are articles in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper about it, so you might ask them for details from the past re Vietnam, May or June 69? It was the biggest successful hit by Australian troops before or since, mainly because we had nil casualties.  Of course having nil casualties also works against the records, ‘cos they only give medals to cover disasters.  We also went on from that ambush, to being ambushed ourselves on the way back. ‘Bluey’ Pearson was choppering overhead, when I warned all Indians (infantry) to be prepared for an ambush soon. He went ahead in his Sioux chopper and spotted it and we killed a few more.  Shortly after that the lead tracks ran into a space with villagers doing dry paddy work, and that’s where you saw the woman and kid killed by the tracks.  It wasn't a deliberate killing. It was pure and simple panic by ‘trackies’ who had just been ambushed and were shit scared.  We tried to stop them shooting, but we were all standing up in the back of the tracks and couldn't get at the gunners in time.  These gunners were the untried ones. They joined us after the night ambush. Our kills were totalled, from both days, at about 50.  This was a figure brought back from local intelligence a few days later.  We had smashed the recruiting drive of a NVA and hardcore brigade who were moving north to link with a newly formed unit.   Like I say, no friendly KIA’s = no drama. Later I was told I was in for a medal from Australia and another from the Vietnamese, but I screwed that up, that evening in Xuan Moc, when I told the debriefing officer to ‘fuck off’ when he told me to stop calling a Yank major, ‘MATE’! Assoles. D&E Platoon was famous for a time. We were IT. That’s why they disbanded us. The other full Battalions were getting shit kicked out of them ‘cos they were led by wankers.”

“You were part of a ‘band of brothers’ who fought one of the MOST SUCCESSFUL BATTLES OF THE WAR. Unlike Long Tan, ours went into two battles, both of which we won without casualties.” 

“Bearing in mind that I never gave a vari-coloured shit for anybody's opinion, Don, we were just soldiers. I had no close mates. You may recall this. I considered all the soldiers anywhere near me to be my responsibility. I just was a very dangerous mother hen, and you were one of the chicks, but I have to admit,  you were more interesting than, say, ten others, ‘cos you could, I don't know, like bring sunlight when we were slumped. NO- ONE ever stayed slumped when you were there.”

Extracts from Jim’s Emails relating to his general experiences

(16/8/2005)
At the Thua Thich job, I put the claymores and the flares, in sequence firing.  This was a trick I'd learned from Tom Douglas. He showed me a bundle of skills I had not even considered... like using det cord to link into LAWs anti tank systems and passing by into flares and other det cord secondaries. I loved all that shit he showed me, and used it later in other parts of the world.   
Anyway.... as I said.... the flares and mines were linked.... absolutely. So if you saw the killing field; lit up by our flares, then the mines must have gone off.  The .50 cal shots from the 'tracks' could not have "ducked" down to your possy (that’s what I was good at... you didn't get hit.. Yep?)..... the tracer from the left was from the enemy who were cut off on the left side of the road bank, and they were trying to get centralised.  Most of them did!  They were bloody good at sorting themselves out. I can only guess, that the first kills included the 'thinkers' . If any 'thinkers' had survived, then we would have been annihilated.
After this, I continued being badly positioned for the next 2 1/2  years in Vietnam. I often thought that I could have been pretty badly hurt if things went on as they were. I think the dumb-assed  'leadership' accounted for 400 deaths of Aussie Diggers... maybe the other hundred were just out of reach

***

(19th August 2005)
Good day Don....  I've replied to Dennis and Zunt also the Royal Marine Assoc (NSW) and the  4 RAR rep.... all very busy and nervy... Like I now worry that I may be letting people down or maybe  I'm not worthy of all this attention. I have little to lose by pursuing this business, even though it's come as a shock. I am beginning to accept that there might just be a small lamp glowing, but I am keeping a hold on my expectations. As a matter of fact I have had to assess my feelings regarding the possibility of being permitted to return LEGALLY  to Australia to live out the rest of my life. At first the idea caused me concern. I am 65 after all.  But as I have wandered around and looked closely at my life here, it has dawned on me that I have absolutely NOTHING to LOSE.  
I can answer in the positive...  even if it's only for 5 or 6 years... I'd be far better off in the sun and away from this crushed and ball-less, semi-Islam, Pakistani- polluted island.   Blimey, I recall why I found it totally acceptable to leave this country in 1968 to fight for Australia. This place was dying then ... it's gone downhill very badly since that time!
Anyway... it's just a dream... but you have to have some dreams to hang yer future on, especially at this age!
Now then, you are considering a bit of memoir on the D&E Platoon,  so I wonder if you have the other little bits of info such as :-
- Their official title was D&E Platoon, HQ Coy, 1st Aust Task Force, and they MUST have that on record. In 1969 there was a cleaning outfit of steady staff, who did odd jobs around the ATF HQ Coy area. Then as you recall, they put us to use to be a true Cav. unit, based on the US style.  As you know, it was an experiment to exploit some intelligence being brought in from local ARVN Units.  
We were very lucky in our big hits and nil casualties, but  I heard it on the grape vine that the Brigade were asked why this small unit was being so successful, particularly in the Nil Friendly KIA/WIA quota? The answer seemed to highlight incompetence and even gross ignorance of basic military knowledge.... The Battalion Commanders were sitting behind the lines like 1st World War Generals, totally out of touch.  So the answer was to disband the Sabre 2 outfit.  Made sense!
  The Call sign  "Sabre 2," was agreed between myself and Arrowsmith on our first op. (Which was one of the few quiet ops we did)  It was based on a misunderstanding by me.  I asked Major Pratt (VERY APTLY NAMED POM!!) of HQ Coy for my call sign for SunRay Indians of 2 D&E, and he asked the Lt who was our 'behind the lines man' and he said he thought it was already called ‘Sword’ or ‘Sabre.’  
Pratt then said,  "We shan't change it then. You' must stay as Sabre too!” That was it... I don't even know if the other outfit was called Sword or Sabre or Banana, but we became 'Sabre 2'..  I think the Sergeant who came over with us from 4 RAR; Chaney, was put into Task Force Intelligence, with the Lt. and stayed at home from then on. For which I thank God.
Now then.... About  April 1971, someone was getting desperate again for some good newspaper headlines. We were doing what was called  'Vietnamisation'... this meant pushing the ARVN out into war zones and then sort of signing off the piece of countryside they were in, as being totally in their control.  It was the US way of pulling out by pretending the ARVN were coping... which they certainly were not.
So, without considering the change in political climate, the ATF HQ. resurrected the fighting unit called D&E Platoon 1ATF.  Same tasks;  to react to intelligence acquired from local agents, and ARVN Provincial Commanders.  The problem at this stage in the war, was that we were no longer dealing with local agencies who thought we had a chance of winning. Things had changed !
  Another case of Military Incompetence caused by total ignorance of environmental changes. The bosses didn't ask the diggers what it was feeling like outside the wire. Twenty miles behind the lines and two decades removed from good military intelligence.  
Basically there was no longer any 'local intelligence' coming IN... but there was now a very big leak of it going OUT. 
June 12th 1971: a part Sqn of APCs with the new D&E Platoon on board were sent to an operation based on local information and were ambushed. They were slaughtered, losing many KIA and destroyed APCs. The ambush was well organised and pre-set. Two of the blokes I knew who were killed were Pete Tebb and Attwood. I think they lost 9 killed, maybe more. They weren't as lucky as we had been that day we got hit after Thua Tich.  
Anyway, if I remember any more I'll let you know. Maybe you knew this already... I believe I recall it correctly cos it was a rude shock when I heard it come over the radio. I believe that my recall is better than many because I had the advantage of continuity of service and I was also more interested, and I was impervious to military ignorance and bullshit.  Or maybe I am wrong!! ??

*****

20th August 2005
On the 28th Feb. 1970, we were hit by mines in the Long Hai hills. We got 9 killed and 14 wounded.   Later on, we were told that Bob Jackson was refused a burial in the Remembrance Graveyard by RSL GRETA, NSW. ("Not a real war")  Ah! yes, Bill Hobin got a postumous investigation into 'lack of aggressive action'.  I got the same call when I was pulled in for 'lacking aggression!'
I was labelled a coward by Major Pratt and confirmed by Lt Harvison.
  We moved into the Long Hais on 23rd Feb and we were informed on 24th Feb that we were in minefields.... KNOWN LINES! They had them marked on their maps. Bill was investigated. Our Harvison wasn't! Can I now gob on the blokes who deserved it? I have done a write up about the op. When we got done, and there's still one kid who's folks were told it was an engineers mistake!! Larry Mc Kinnon. I have a b/w photo of Bill Hobin (BEM) taken about two days before he got killed.        Bloody hell!  I am recalling details I had slipped. Sorry about the misery... 

*****

5th Sept 2005
Don, M' main Man,  Replying to your last...
Thanks mate for your efforts. 
Yes, I well remember Kevin Lloyd-Thomas. He was a shortish feller, with pointy face, sandy or brown hair and he was pretty cluey. I recall he was on the ball and seemed always sort of tidy!  Also Bob Secrett and Steve (Dero) Holcroft- two particularly close pals.. got photos of them if interested.. both in D&E as I now recall.
Oi enough of the "when your sober you write well". As I recall some incidents I get really pissed off, because I also recall other linked frustrations and then I get a  'love to strangle some b.....d" feelings.  I also note that my writing improves quite a bit when I take the time to space it all out. I guess it's all a learning curve. Writing has been a distant dream. Maybe you can tutor me to making some cash, long term?  
Regarding those who deny the little excitement of 2 D&E:  I found that as men left the war-zone for home, they always seemed to assume that the war was over... like for everyone! Idiots like myself, who seemed to stay there forever, felt that the war lasted a lifetime. It got so bad that eventually I didn't know or care where I was, who I was with, what I was doing or where I would be tomorrow. It was like being a ghost in a long running nightmare movie, where they kept changing the rest of the cast. The odd thing about it was that I didn't ever want to leave! That should have been a dead give away for a basket case!  With 20/20 perfect hindsight vision, I now realise that I had been on active service since 1962. Borneo for two years, then another two in Aden then shifting to Vietnam for three years. I think it's possible that I drank too often from the well of courage and it didn't refill! It wouldn't have been so exhausting if I hadn't been lucky enough to always end up in the places where bad things were always happening. 
In the latter part;  from 1971 onwards, there seemed to be a battle every week!    
Anyway to continue... As you say.. I accept your writing skill over my amateur writings and want you to understand that I am really writing as a therapy, so I do put details. Again, you say too many details, but is that for articles only, or too many even for a book, which I would like to complete? I know that I've read some warry books which seemed to give endlessly boring detail, and I concluded that this was for the very reason you pointed out:-  Padding, just to get the word count up so that more money was made!    Bottom line is..tailor it to sell!  And THANKS,   OK?
Now The; " All the reports coming in... " Aha!  But each evening and morning I had to listen in to the day's reports, or I would get them from the Pl Cdr so that I could know what was happening. Each evening we got the daily feedback about the activities of the whole Aust Force... all NCO's attended dawn and dusk 'o' groups and they were relentlessly dismal... particularly for 9 RAR... that's how I could tell you in advance that 9 RAR was a "fookin death battalion". Every day their battle reports were 'Friendly KIA and WIA heavy or light... Enemy KIA/WIA nil or negligible. Of course we waited for the inevitable 'en. nil result. So Don, I did know what was happening... remember that you were not party to NCOs daily orders. OK ?
I also knew more than most because I was damned interested and I was capable of assimilating jigsaw pieces of information into the whole scenario. I was a clever dude, not just good looking!
Next:    D&E referred to “Defence and Employment”. The employment of soldiers around the Task Force HQ  consisted of cleaning. So that's where my statement regarding 1 D&E came from. I wasn't being rude, or indicating a low opinion of them; simply stating that there were camp cleaners called 1 D&E, and they did NOT go out of the wire except to escort stores and supplies and the odd prisoner to 1 ALSG VungTau. The rest of the time they were domestic staff... not my fault they couldn't get out and gather medals as they undoubtedly craved! So Eddie Tricker must have been doing something else while these cleaners were cleaning? I do recall one of them writing home that 'at night he could write his letters by the light of the tracers coming over his trench... was that Eddie? As for being concerned they may not appreciate my opinion of them, they can join a fookin long queue!
The later D&E outfit did have similar duties to ours... but far less 'luck'.. They were victims of incompetent command misreading the current intelligence situation, as usual!
Next: To give more substance I would love to add a few lines on the other blokes who were there, but Don, for the life of me I can only recall you, and Snow Manski, and Big Ernie in any sort of detail. What can I say about you? Well you didn't do anything wrong that time, but I will have to go into more detail about you because you were definitely a character of ‘high esteem'. My kids grew up listening about Don 'Stumbles' Tate as bed-time stories. I asked them recently what they recall about you, and they said straight away that you were the best bloke I ever talked about! And of course, I well recall Arrowsmith... more may surface as I write... as usually happens.   I can't manufacture stuff I'm afraid... and it is a diary as opposed to a novel, so it reflects my 'missing moments' along with my vivid moments.
Next.. "The APC squadron had 2 other ambushes out... "  this shows that the whole squadron plus the whole 2 D&E were out on, typically, one AREA ambush of which we were a part, and we could also support each other when things went wrong, which they did at a later small infantry ambush, which Dennis mentioned, when we had to be rescued by APCs who were 3 kilometres away at night, when after springing the hit, the enemy started to surround us, and the M60 got clogged with wet sand and it got quite exciting for a while. This was the event that got me pulled in for a warning by Major P Ratt (yup! real name!)  that I was not being aggressive enough and should have killed more enemy. I apologised of course, and promised to fight to the last man and last bullet next time. He was very decent about it.
Next.. that whole bit about the siting of my infantry in relation to the APCs is to indicate to any readers who may be military minded... which I believe would be more likely!  That was what later worried Dennis (Manski) …that we could be hit by friendly fire from the APCs. It wasn’t possible. It's one of those bits of authenticity which are appreciated by soldiers who know that close units are often at peril from each other. Snow still reckons we took fire from Arrowsmith's .50 cals... but I had factored such possibilities into my planning... the final proof  is that no one got hit from the APCs (the cut claymore and flare leads were caused by the detonation; it leaves a cut ends !)  
Don, bearing in mind that we expect a lot of military types rather than young lovers will be reading this, maybe the details are instructional and even 'authentic' to those who would question my thinking, as they will undoubtedly will.
Next point regarding my leading from the front...
  I always did this   ; "Once I knew we were in close contact with the enemy.  Whenever the situation no longer required that I should study a map or compass, because I can't observe the ground for enemy signs, then putting one or two men in front of me is tantamount to cowardice. It's called 'Leading From The Front' and yep, there were and still are many 'leaders' who feel it unwise to put themselves first. Remember Don, that the most experienced bloke in a section is usually the section boss...therefore HE is more likely to survive an advance to contact by 'having feelings about things'  than any scout. My experience was fairly deep and I knew that if I saw or heard something or even got shot at, if I was far enough ahead of the gunner, then he would probably survive, hit the ground, and give some fire. I always took time to explain that if we were in-close and 'very likely to be doing it soon'.. then I would break into a full out sprint straight through the enemy position and (maybe) come out the other end alive. I had done this before at that bunker system when Zunt and TD and Willy got wounded and ran out of ammo. (4RAR…March 1969) I legged it up and down then for their ammo, and then the time two days later, we went back to that bunker, Lt Bleechmore asked me to take my section in first. We fully expected the VC to be back in residence, and ready for us this time.  So I told my scout.. I think it was Mousey Bunker or Sadlier, that I didn't need scouts.. I knew where we were going and what was maybe there. I told them and my gun group they were to hang back and wait for the sounds. If the shit hit the fan then I expected them to pull back to a defensive line and let the company do some work.. possibly artillery again. I also explained that if things stayed silent they were to follow my trail and I would wait for them in among the bunkers, where we would prop and use the bunkers for fire positions. If we got that far then I personally figured the cong were gone. "Phew man!"  If anyone, vc or me, opened fire;  they must assume that I would do my famous sprint through while shooting and shitting, and I would make my way back in my own time. The last bit was a sort of 'hope more than reality, pep talk for them and me. I wanted to believe it would give me a chance, and it really would,  because it's almost impossible to hit a fast running man from a lying down and frightened position 'in jungle'! It would really work. no shit!
All I'm saying is that sending young kids into enemy fire is not my bag... I have 5 times the chance of coming out alive than they do... so where's the argument?   Anyway Don, that's why you respected me yeh ?
(deleted some personal comment here about Jim’s belief system)
The day after the Thua Thich ambush, we all gathered to dispose of the dead, except for those we tied to the tailgates of the APCs. The Brigadier came out and shook hands and then we started off in column to Xuyen Moc. I got on the radio and warned all infantry that we were going into an ambush. The APC commander (Not Arrowsmith) got shitty and asked who that was giving instructions, and I told him it 's "Sunray Indians, and my order stands to be ready for ambush". I forget his response but it was rude.
About 10 minutes later, the brigadier (Jim is wrong here as to the identity of this person) was still over our location in a Souix chopper, but South and East, further along our track to the village, when he came over the radio that we were running into an ambush on our right at about 200 yards further on.
Arrowsmith later told me that Pearson was heading home when he heard this warning transmission and decided to take a flight down our route. He saw VC with RPGs on the right side of the track. The Track Commander was now fully on the ball and ordered a turn of 90 degrees and then 45 degrees and this put us right on top of them, but from their flank, so we rolled them up and killed the lot... there was only open ground for them to run to and we chased them to the finish.
That's the truth mate, and it should be very easily checked out because either the chopper pilot or Bluey Pearson (Brig) will recall that bit. Out of all the blokes in D&E, some of them must remember my warning. Dennis didn't seem to, but someone remembers. It's also why I knew the first men into the ambush the night before were not to be killed. If they had been, then the big crowd of people behind would have stopped short, and then reorganised, and we would have been in some serious pooh quite quickly.  
It's also how I knew there were those dead blokes in front of the mis-fired ambush, which you were on with me some week later.
Anyway, that was just one of the times I relied on psychic information. I honestly thought you knew Don, I know there were some who asked me how I knew things, and when I told them they didn't seem surprised or upset, more just sort of  "Aha!  I thought so"  
If that stuff is too deep for this writing, then leave it out or modify it so that it isn't so 'scary'. I intend to write a book about using it in war... because it is available to everyone.  I find it quite handy but a tad cheating!   
It’s ‘soldiering psychic’ stuff... when it happens to you in war, then you are likely to think you're just tired and imagining things. My greatest asset has been an ability to see patterns as they occur, and to recall the similarities, then I identify common denominators and study it as a project. It works for me, and I am about 3rd class.... but better to be 3rd class than blind and deaf.  
(I had no idea what Jim was talking about!) Sorry about that Don... I did think you knew from when we were soldiers.
……..
I'm beginning to lose track of what I have sent you regarding other events in Vietnam... LIke you have the 28th Feb 1970 mines in long Hais?  The walk into another bunker... sounds a bit like the one you wore... we chased VC in to a bunker system and the Lt wouldn't listen when warned (Gerraway.. really??)… then Darren Poulson got killed and Cpl Cocker shot in the leg and I did my famous gun-run across open ground to draw the fire off the lads in the other section who were seriously pinned down. It worked, but I had to tell three blokes to "Stand up now, and quietly tip toe back to me, without looking around at the enemy... Do It Now..."  and they did! Boy, was I surprised they got away with that! (Actually it was another of those weird things that I do now and then...you know, the psychic stuff). The lads are still alive who did it, so I don't mind you writing it .. I have no worries about someone saying  "Bullshit"  But if a man was there, and says that !?  Then I want to talk to him. Those who were there will tell you it's as I tell it. That was another time I was told I was to get a medal... then the Company Commander, ‘D’ Coy 8RAR called me to his tent at the Dat and told me that he wasn't putting me forward.  "Well Riddle, I don't think there's any point, we just expect this sort of thing from you, OK?" And that was it again. Another non-medal was for the Thua Thich business, but I was rude to the debriefing Intelligence Officer. A corporal who accompanied him told me that I “had just blown it!”
Another was when I accompanied the Yanks into the Long Hais in a follow up to a small Australian ambush... (when I collected some goodies from the vc for the ambush squad and their NCO dobbed me in to for looting the dead without permission! ) I was told to stay with Major Mize and his funny folks (US Special Forces) while they ran into a very large and unexpectedly fierce army of hard core VC. I later attended a medal ceremony, actually in their Fire Support Base, and was told I was recommended for something silver? 
This all took place not far from a place where I had been in another ambush with D 9 RAR some months earlier, when I had been supported in the back by a Kit Carson Scout as I tried to fire from the standing position on top of a salt mountain on the Mekong Delta. At that one, my scout Joe Delaney got his ears blasted when I fired a M72 anti-tank rocket at some VC, and didn't notice Joe was kneeling behind me giving covering fire. The rest were lying down very close to the earth. Later, back at the Dat we were in the canteen and I gave the Kit Carson Scout a single medal ribbon off my Borneo medal, and a couple of the blokes got all nasty. I told them he was the only one who had stayed on his feet and followed me into the attack.. so they shut up. Later the next day, he got blinded by some dick throwing det cord onto a fire and leaving the detonator on the end. Me and him both did our bit, just a bit more than most, and got screwed for it by wannabes who wanted more but did less  .
All true Don, and the blokes who were there can confirm.    Gosh but life was such funnnn in those days. 

Jim Riddle
Sgt. Royal Marines (Regimental No. 17253) 1963- ‘68
Cpl. Australian Infantry (Army No. 311589) 1968- ‘70

POSTSCRIPT (by Don Tate)

After Jim returned from Vietnam the second time, he had completed more than 900 days active service. Retired from the army, he worked on the railways around Townsville for the next four years.

When he went to renew his passport, and apply for Australian citizenship, it was knocked back. Jim was sent back to England.

Despite his efforts in the war for this country, despite the men he either inspired or saved (like me) this country turned its back on him. Not only did it deny him citizenship, but any sort of pension.

In 2005, I began a letter-writing campaign to put pressure on the government to allow Jim back into Australia. In addition I put the matter before veterans of consequence- Barry Corse; Kevin Bovill; John Graham; Neil Weekes and co- and about fifteen months later, James B. Riddle was repatriated to Australia.

We then began a pitched battle to have the 2nd D&E Platoon formally recognized. This was finally achieved on the 29th May 2008- exactly 39 years to the day that the battle atThua Thich had been fought.

Then began a battle to get him his full entitlements as a war veteran, and to secure him one of the gallantry medals he was promised.

All decent Australians should note that this man, who served this country in Vietnam for more than 800 days, has been denied access to the full pension (the TPI). This is because bureaucrats and politicians dilly-dallied about allowing him back into Australia- so he missed the age cut by some four months.

Read more...

THE THUA TICH AMBUSH- May 29 1969

The Thua Tich ambush: 29th May, 1969:
a personal account by Jim Riddle himself

Two months into my stint with the 4th Battalion, they made me a Corporal- the ‘mother hen’ of eight men.
But no sooner was I a Corporal, then the 4th Battalion sailed home, leaving me and about forty others behind because we hadn’t yet completed our twelve months of duty. They called us “reo’s”, short for “reinforcements”.
It’s the toughest job in the infantry.
We hadn’t trained or socialised with them before they left for Vietnam, but came into our own when they started losing men killed and wounded in battle. Then- we had to fit in, quick smart.
Trouble was, it also meant we were denied that sense of camaraderie that comes with ‘belonging’ to a unit- espirit de corps.
Not belonging is a recipe for nut cases, way down the track.
Anyway, it was all business when we fronted up to HQ Company within the Task Force. We were met by a Major George Pratt, and formed into a composite infantry platoon. ……
.….So we settled down as a comfortable ambush group of the main killing group of 6 apcs and an early warning infantry group of 10 diggers.
  Another night and hot day passed as we quietly watched the road and went about our relaxed business. As it became dusk, we switched to night ambush routine, where as many guns as possible were covering the killing ground, but still keeping flank and rear protection.
At 8pm (20.00 hours for military bods) I was told of movement on the road and moved forward to the right end of our killing group. On that wing were two diggers in an old crater, about a meter deep. Over the top of their hole was a fallen tree trunk about two feet thick. I crawled into the hole with them and squinted into the darkness and waited for scraping and breathing noises to quiet down.  Within moments I saw and heard the enemy. I was out of the hole in silent scramble and dragged the radio over to the front and was keying the switch like a morse key to wake up the armour people. Then, forgetting all military radio procedure I whispered “”This is Sabre 2 .. enemy to my front…  three bodies moving at walking speed towards you.” 
I repeated without waiting for an answer… “Three Enemy approaching you now,” and imagined the panic of a signaller telling Arrowsmith, then Arrowsmith alerting his gunners to man their machine guns… he didn’t need to answer me… but I definitely needed to know that he had heard me.. so I repeated my message again so there was absolutely no doubt… I hate it when I send an urgent message to someone, only to have them ask me to repeat it so the can believe their ears… so I cut out all that and repeated it 3 or 4 times, very rapidly, before asking for confirmation. It came through from Arrowsmith almost immediately. (Phew.. I love that Guy!)
“Alpha Sunray to Sabre 2… OK we’re ready”  As short and precise as that.. Meanwhile my ambush was alive and alert and ‘nervous’.  I always get nervous before shooting starts.  THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I NOTICED MY KNEES WERE TREMBLING. I HAD TO HOLD THE RIGHT KNEE TO STOP IT SHAKING MY WHOLE BODY. It was as if my legs were under some other control. I knew it was fear, but I didn’t really feel ‘that’ fearful. In the dark no one could see my struggle to control my legs. 
Meanwhile I was taking in all the signs of another blast of killing. Then I had a squeezing sensation in the solar plexus.... Sign that a message was trying to be heard! The three men were wearing white shirts, and talking!! Wrong vibes! There was something very wrong about this set up. The men were just fading out of sight over the crest to our left, and would be about 200 metres from death… then I knew what was wrong.. they were a sacrificial group. They were meant to be spotted. I squinted to the right and nearly stretched my ears into big flaps.. and there is was… a very dark and very silent mass.  In the moonlight  a column of soldiers came into focus. I was crushing the radio switch and whispering.. “Sabre 2   DO NOT FIRE AT THOSE MEN… THERES LOTS MORE…. DO NOT FIRE AT THOSE LEAD MEN, THERE’S LOTS MORE… DO NOT FIRE ON THE FIRST ONES.  THERES A FUCKING ARMY COMING UP BEHIND”. Again, I didn’t want anyone coming back at me with a disbelieving  “Confirm your last message”
Then I released the switch so that Arrowsmith could reply… and he did!!
No call signs were being used.. none was needed…our radio procedure was crap, but the message got through!  he just came straight back with a serious whisper 
“OK.. what’s coming  Sabre 2?”   I whispered something like, “It’s a big column of soldiers, and they’re still coming .. it looks like a hundred plus.. over.”  He came straight back .”Got it Sabre… do the best you can… we will spring when the main body is here.. First group scouts  are almost past my location.. stand by.”
And that was it… ‘Intelligence’! had sent us to ambush a courier group of 3 to 5 lightly armed VC. Instead, I could just make out the road to my right was black with  a  column of bodies which had no end., and still coming. Some mixed thoughts crossed my mind, first being  that it would be a good idea if we just stayed quiet for an hour or so, because to hit this lot with what we were set up for was distinctly nail biting stuff.  Oh! Buggerit!  At least they won’t ALL get away! This is going to be a close run thing… I hope the lads are up for it!  Such a nice warm night too!
My group were now pumping adrenaline and twitching with fright. This was bigger than we had expected, and it was about to start… Big Time!  The column shuffled quietly along the road, not a murmer and so many soldiers.  The head of the column went over the crest into the apc killing ground, and I could no see the end of the column to my right.  It crossed my mind that there were enough fighters out there to sweep us away, even after taking many casualties. And I was worried… then it started with a tremendous roar as claymores were fired and at least four .5 machine guns and M60’s tore up the head of that huge column. 
My blokes expected me to fire our stuff straight away, as soon as we heard the Armour open up,  but I could ‘see’ what was happening with the column who were still on  this side of the crest and out of the line of fire from the front. They spread out along the crest as their officers and NCOs started to react and to get them organised.  I needed them to feel safe as they piled up in front of me. My blokes kept glancing at me.. white upturned faces in the dark.  I stood beside a small tree, holding an M79 ready and with my heavy barrelled AR resting against my stomach. I counted to ten, then fired the M79 at the main body of troops in the blackness on the other side of the road. The 40mm round seemed to explode high among the heads of the khaki soldiers. 
This was the signal my blokes had waited for, and now they fired everything they could at the killing ground to our front. Our flares lit up the road and embankment and the anti personell claymores blasted thousands of ballbearings into the troops still on the road and this side of the embankment. and there I saw, for the first time, the enemy in full technicolour. It was an awesome three minutes of illuminated war movie. But we couldn’t walk out of this cinema; this was real and all our own work.  Most of them were in brown uniforms of the NVA, wearing the brown safari helmets and carrying more guns than I had seen outside of a battalion parade.  And they were all looking surprised and angry at our little line of gunfire. 
I dropped the M79 and pulled up the AR and fired at the biggest bunch I could see on the other side of the road. I wanted to hit as many as possible while I was standing, because I knew as soon as I had to lie down I would not be able to fire at the main body behind the embankment. I was surprised now at one enemy soldier to my left, almost on the crest at about 25 mtres, who stood upright and fired an AK47 at our position. This one had no hat and was in regulation VC black. In the light of the flares I could see it was a female. I brought my AR onto her chest and fired three rounds. She flipped backwards. As it was there was now a great deal of stuff coming back at us and cutting the small trees and bushes into shredded leaves and twigs. The noise was tremendous, and I recall thinking that if this kept up, then someone was going to get hurt. I lay down and changed clips for a fresh 30 rounds. I was still concerned about the enemy soldiers across the road, now in safe ground from all our shooting, so I collected the M79 and started reloading on the ground.. a slow and ponderous process.. and then standing beside the remains of my little tree and firing blindly across the road to explode among the troops, now without the advantage of our flares, and hopefully keep them taking casualties, but more important, to keep them in confusion as to how small our outfit was. At about this stage, an RPG came into our muzzle flashes and hit just in front of the central M60 and lifted it up almost vertically. The machine gunner was a bit shocked, but sorted it out and got on with his work. I caught a thump in the face that stopped my right eye working for a second or two. I wiped my face and my hand came away sticky. I then had to wipe my hand carefully on my sweat rag because it was too slippery to change clips. At the right end of our group, in the hole ,under the dead tee, our two stalwart diggers were yelling at me. I stuck my head under the tree and they yelled at me to “tell them to stop firing will ya?”  And in the dark and dust they sounded seriously angry;  serious enough that they meant it! I was half in the hole by now, and a bit worried that some of the incoming stuff might hit the tree trunk lying across, and smack down into the lads below. 
But I had to puzzle this one out about telling them to stop firing, so I shouted back  “I don’t know Vietnamese for stop shooting.. sorry!” Then Snow Manski clarified by saying he thought a lot of the stuff coming in was from the APC guns down the road to our left.
I told him it wasn’t, as their stuff was going well over our heads and to the front, and that seemed to satisfy him as he got on with shooting. After too short a time once the flares went out, then in the moonlight and dust, we could see nothing but green tracer and some interesting orange stuff crossing over our heads and also zipping off bits of earth at our front. 
I decided it was unsafe to stand up again under his horizontal sleet of metal, so grabbed the radio and started asking for mortar rounds to my front. I was now concerned that those enemy remaining out front would have sussed out that we were a small and isolated unit of infantry, and would decide to hook into us from the right flank. That would have been very bad for us, so I really wanted the APC mortar to lay down some shrapnel to my front and right. At this point I was surprised to find Ernie standing over me. He was standing beside my chest, leaning down and asking if there was anything he could do to help. I told him that lying down would be a good start as he was attracting some swarms of flicking tracer. I had completely forgotten Ernie, and had allocated him a defensive position looking after our rear and manning the radio, but he obviously realised we had an unusually heavy commitment to our front and wanted to help clean things up a bit. So I asked him to take a shooting position to the front left of our ambush, where the heaviest fighting was taking place, and do what he could to thin the enemy out. I also asked him to do me a favour and try to stay close to the ground and move away from his shooting position as often as possible. As a matter of fact it was impossible to fire and move, as we were in a fairly small and crowded area. This small area was OK if we only had a small fight, but the enemy now seemed to be almost all around us and making a hell of a noise.   
All of this shooting seemed to go on for another hour, then started to ease off. I was now concerned that the silence meant planned movement and attacks with grenades from anywhere. We now had sporadic fire coming in, and I had passed the word to hold fire unless attacked in force. I was very surprised that we had no casualties so far, but had to start digging reserve bandoliers of ammunition out of pouches and packs and reclip  machine gun belts. No backup mortar fire had yet come down, and it had been an hour since I called… or maybe it was really a month.  
A scuffle and there’s Ernie again, and he’s got the radio. Arrowsmith has organised his mortars and wants me to call his fall of shot.. and he’s also called for air support in the form of SPOOKY, and it’s on the way from Bien Hoa Air Base.
I feel a certain relief at this news and I crawl around our position and tell them what’s happening, and what may or may not happen, and “Nice Going, I think we’ve hurt them!”  Someone asked if it’s true that we get paid $A10 for every nog killed ** because he’s reckoned he can buy a car now! Another voice whispered  something rude about the ‘intelligence’ we had been working on being f….  crap. I snaked to the right hand hole to watch for the incoming mortar rounds.  I heard the stomp sound of a mortar firing from my left… just so I know it’s not the enemy getting in first. Then seconds later the swish of the bomb coming down. It detonates somewhere in the forest over the other side of the trail… Not very professional!
I call in the fall of shot and wait.  Another ‘stomp’ and wait and this one lands miles away down the trail. I hear it but see nothing.  Then again another ‘stomp’ and wait, and this one goes bang somewhere near Singapore. I am now having doubts about calling for close supporting fire.  The next bombs land in front of our position and, regardless of where I correct their fire to, they fall ever farther away into the forest. I ask what’s going on with the covering fire and I am told by Arrowsmith that they are chasing possible forming-up points. I ask if there’s any point in calling their fall of shot, and there is a long silence. I then tell him that I will remain off the air until something falls very uncomfortably close, and thank you. As this is going on, there are constant cries from the scattered enemy wounded. One cries out that he wants to Chieu Hoi- part of a surrender programme for VC who want to come over and share rations. Another screams relentlessly close to our position, and in front of Ernie. Others are crawling around our position, unsure now that we aren’t firing where we are. We can hear them dragging wounded, who scream, and others who are significantly quiet. I move over to Ernie’s position and ask how he’s getting on. He is unmoved by the whole thing and points out the shape of the screaming man in front who is having trouble. I focus a moment then realise in the moonlight that there are two others to his flank. I am fairly certain that these are unwounded and trying to locate our position, especially the nearest pit, which is Ernie’s. I crawl back and stand up alongside my favourite little tree again for a better downward view, and find that my tree is now only about 1 meter high, so I’m a bit short of the psychological comfort I had earlier. I now stand up quietly in the moonlight and fire a burst into the three soldiers, then fall flat and roll away. And nothing happened except the wounded man stopped screaming.  I feel sure that I hit all three. Ernie was a bit reserved about this. He was a very nice man of the old school, and I hope he’s still alive in Oz. I was still unhappy about how this movie would end,  and had no feelings of brotherly love for those we had attacked.
The fight had started about two hours before by this time, and we now heard the hum of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ coming in from the south. The name describes the fearsome flying dragon with a tongue of flame which licked the ground as it attacked. It’s call sign was ‘Spooky’. I now managed to speak directly to the pilot or copilot and asked what he needed to assist him in his job. He needed a light of any kind to mark my position so he could “Shoot around you guys” US Airforce for humour! I had an army torch with red filter, so I dug that out and lying as low as possible I pointed it straight up from a clearing in the centre of our location. I was a little concerned that the enemy would also see this red light and shoot at it, but it didn’t happen.
Calling in ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ call sign ‘Spooky’ is a task which is to be taken with a great deal of care and attention.
‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ is a Dakota DC47 of WWII vintage. Slow, two-engined, propeller-driven cargo carrier. A beautiful old classic aircraft with classic lines and sound and general cosiness used for shipping supplies in and wounded out, in all wars since 1938. It is now fitted with 3 electric gatling guns, firing from windows cut in the hull on the left side
This delicate old lady of the skies flies slowly around in circles, and now and then tilts on it’s left side, and from those square windows pours approximately eighteen thousand (18,000!)  rounds, of 7.62 mm bullets, every minute. All that is actually seen, from the ground, is a red solid stream of fire, hosing from the aircraft to the ground. The sound is really shocking, being more like a concentrated fart from all the Gods of Olympus. The sound can make you duck, even when you know it’s coming. The whole effect of sound and this liquid waterfall of red, gently wavering through the darkened sky, is never to be forgotten.
Did I mention that the liquid waterfall, or hose effect ‘wavered’? Well that’s where the trouble lies. As the Dakota flies above you looking for places to spray this awesome deluge of bullets, it is subject to the downdrafts and updrafts of air, like any old propeller plane.  So when it is delivering this spectacular stream of fire in your defence, it will hit an air pocket and bump just a little bit… and the red waterfall of fire can twist and move like any hose, and it can very easily sweep accidently over your position. Oops!! is hardly the appropriate expletive and doesn’t do justice to the total witless fright felt by the grunts underneath the torrent. One has to be very careful, and praying seems to help.
So, I lay close to the ground, or slightly lower, being hampered by the thickness of my shirt, and held the red torchlight and asked the pilot to identify our position. He came back cheerfully that he could see us clearly, and would commence a first firing run from North to South, across our front, to settle down some groups of people who he could see though his night sight equipment, and seemed close to my torch! I was surprised he could see people, and still more surprised that they were still close to us and in front. I had heard nothing from the Armour unit to my left since the mortars stopped firing  bombs and now fired flares to light up our front,..and us,  and the bigger enemy group to my right. 
I heard the Spooky engine change tone as it approached from the South and my right, at about 1,000 feet, then the engine note changed again, to a higher pitch as the craft turned on it’s side, then it started firing.  The ground in front of me seemed to suddenly grow into a forest of brown trees. As the torrent of bullets struck the dry earth, they threw up explosions of soil, each bullet kicked up a ‘bush’ of earth, and in the orange light of the hanging flares it looked to me, from very close to the ground, that the world was exploding. The leaping ground seemed to run towards us in a wave of loud farting sounds. About this time I had a rush of bodies snaking along away from the direct line. These were the whole of the ambush. Ernie and Don Tate and Snow Manski, closely followed by two others from the machine gun crew. We felt this tremendous blast of gunfire tear up the ground about 3 feet across our front, and then it was past and we all crawled back. I think we all pretended that this had been a sort of organised and planned withdrawal, but it was more of a knee jerk panic.  We got back into our holes, while I got onto the radio to let ‘Spooky’ know that we were satisfied with his first straffing run, and it would be OK to switch to further away from our front now, and ‘thank you’! There’s little doubt now that there were no living  enemy soldiers close to our front. 
By this time I had to assume that the enemy had not counter-attacked the armour with RPGs .(Nog anti tank rockets). This had been a main concern.
If my timing had been wrong at the beginning when our infantry ambush had kicked in, in support, then the enemy would have been able to reorganise in dead ground, away from the APCs direct fire, and then hooked into them from the flank, protected by the forest.  
The APCs could not have survived many RPG hits without losing most of its men, as they would all be inside the APCs and would have burned. 
So far, I understood they had taken no anti tank hits, but I had no idea about their casualties from rifle fire. Ernie was now my radio man, and he had no reports from Arrowsmith, and concentrated on keeping me in close contact with our Friendly Spooky as it droned peacefully overhead in the darkness, now and then asking us how we were doing, and where would we like some more fire? I asked them to switch from our direct front to the forest across the road, and to the North and South. I knew that the number of casualties we had inflicted on Charlie was heavy, but it could only have accounted for the first part of the column, and that meant there were still large units of Company strength (about 60 soldiers each company) moving about to our front and right flank. As the enemy fire now quietened to an occasional shot, and we didn’t return fire, I began to imagine silent NVA Commanders organising their soldiers into attacking waves. I still felt uncertain about our survival. It seemed incredible that such an army could not reorganise and come through our 9 man infantry group, and then continue on to the Armoured unit.  We were all easy meat now with no surprise advantage, and being parked vulnerably half in, and half out of a forest. Not a good defensive position from any attacking infantry who knew they were there. The only way the APCs could survive an attack from the tree line would be to rev up and move away. This would have been a last resort, but by then the little infantry group, call sign “Sabre Two Alpha” would have been extinct. 
It didn’t happen. The enemy were collecting as many wounded as they safely could, and that entailed two or three soldiers carrying, for every dead and wounded soldier. They quietly went about collecting and we started relaxing. The screaming and moaning eased off, and the scuffling and dragging sounds faded away to silence.
It was now about 4.30 am. I heard a bird singing high overhead, then another started to answer, and I realised that the air around us wasn’t black, but a sort of dark brown. The dawn chorus was getting warmed up as though  the murderous killing in the night hadn’t happened. War seems to point the comparisons of unrealistic hell, followed by a peace and tranquillity that always makes me wonder if I dreamed the last night’s events. 
I was beginning to wonder if it had all been a dream. I imagined looking out over the ground to our front and seeing… nothing but quiet ,grassy countryside, and seeing birds flitting around after insects. I think there was a wishful thinking piece of denial drifting through my knackered brain.. Anyway, I knew it was real because I could just make out the chopped and shattered trees and twigs beside my head, and the scattered heaps of cartridge cases under my nose and around my stunted tree.
But the sounds of waking birds seemed to make the silence more heavy.  I felt sad.
Dawn seemed to arrive quickly, and with the light came a new threat. I knew the enemy would not leave the area without some revenge strike. Our air support had droned off back to breakfast at Bien Hoa Air Base, and we were alone. They knew exactly where we are, and exactly how many there are of us. A single sniper could now do some bad damage to us as we started moving about.
Arrowsmith now called to say he was about to sweep from his position, towards us along the road, and would expect to see us once he came over the crest.  I told him of my concern regarding snipers and he acknowledged that he would be alert to incoming fire from the left edge on the other side of the forest. This was so that he would not fire into my blokes as we came out of the trees to his right. If  the enemy opened up on his armoured carriers while we were in the open, we stood a good chance of getting shot or run over as we lay down out of sight and his drivers went into urgent attack and evasion mode. I had been there before and I was cool but very nervous.
I told my section what was happening, and named the men who would now walk upright out onto the open killing field where we could now see many dead bodies. It was unlikely they were all dead, but they were not moving so we had to check and search each one. I left three men with the machine gun and radio, including Ernie because I figured he shouldn’t get hit now, to hold a firm defence base for us to get back to in a hurry. I really felt nervous exposing these men, and myself, to the open ground. I was inclined to believe that Captain Arrowsmith was being uncomfortably enthusiastic in moving out into the killing ground without first ensuring the surviving enemy were chased deeper into the forest on the far side. I wanted some more of our Sabre 2 infantry troops to arrive from his two other unsprung ambush positions. They could be here in minutes, and do a sweep down inside both forest flanks. We could then safely clean out the open centre and concentrate on the enemy dead and wounded. This was not to happen.
Captain Arrowsmith was tasting victory, probably the biggest for some months, and had nil casualties and caused many dead and wounded NVA and VC.  He was loving it. 
We all had a good chugalug from the remains of our water bottles, checked weapons and ammo, looked at each other for a second to see that we all understood. Their faces were all strained and duty and their eyes were tired  and  blank. We stood up at last and stepped out into the bright sunlight, cringing and dog tired, trying to look at the nearest body, the other distant bodies, and the forest edge at 60 metres distance. 
I had my them open into well spread line, two men working together, all 6 of us,
We walked slowly to the first bodies to our front as the line of 3 APCs growled over the crest to our left. Arrowsmith, beaming a massive smile shouted at me, “What’s wrong with you, you big pommy bastard, can’t take the pace?” 
I didn’t know how to answer him, I was too tired. I have experienced the after-battle bravado of officers before and could never share it.  So I just got on with the first body.
We worked in pairs; one searched a body while his buddy watched for movement, close and far. I had deliberately selected the bloke from the hole in the ground, who had asked me to stop the firing, to be my backup. He’s a short man with almost albino white hair called, not surprisingly, Snow Manski. He had not seen a dead body before, so now I felt he could get initiated, and at the same time I could sort of walk him quietly through the present situation, and he would go through this bloody awful experience with someone who is calm and unimpressed. The other soldiers in my outfit had all seen dead bodies, some enemy and some who had been their pals. Don Tate and one other who had been with 4RAR (Battalion) had been through a short hell some time before, so they were now unimpressed except by the particular level of this night of carnage. I think they also realised it wasn’t finished yet.
We were doing OK until our third body. This was the man I had shot first as he stumbled off the road towards our flares.  He lay on his back, his eyes open. His pale brown face was blue at the lips and forehead, and the sense of death was obvious in his close likeness to a doll or scruffy tailor’s dummy. I could not see any wound or blood. Our special interest in all bodies was to see what they carried in their packs, and as he was on his back, his pack was lodged firmly under him, keeping him sort of arched. I cut the straps of his pack, releasing it from his backward grasp, and grabbing his arm I flipped him away to one side. As his small body rolled onto it’s front there started a loud glugging , squelching sound, that startled me and Snow into jumping back and swinging our rifles up. We stood, shocked as the soldier’s body shivered and literally emptied a wave of blood from his throat out onto a shallow dip beneath him. It sounded just like an upturned water bottle emptying it’s contents quickly.  I felt sorry for Snow, this was heavy for a first timer.
I will be surprised if he ever forgets that moment…….

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THE JIM RIDDLE CONUNDRUM

THE JIM RIDDLE CONUNDRUM

(c)

Don Tate

If you were unkind, you’d call James B. Riddle a mercenary; if you’d fought alongside him in the jungles of Viet Nam, you’d have called him a professional soldier of the highest calibre and been glad of it.
Sometimes, it’s all about perspective.
One thing’s for sure though, James B. Riddle (or ‘Jim’ as he was to all those who knew him) is the forgotten man of Australia’s involvement in that war. And what was done to Riddle after he served this country was a travesty, if not a national disgrace.
Think Breaker Morant from the Boer War; think Jim Riddle from Vietnam.
Today, getting on towards seventy, he’s still fighting, still got that warrior heart, but he’s a prisoner now of his body, and the flesh is weaker these days.
He’s got things to fight about though.
Like the battle to right the wrongs of his military past. Like the battle to receive the highest war pension.
It’s not a lot to ask, but the bloody-minded bureaucrats and politicians who cast him from the military records in the first place, bastardised his service history, ignored his rights to gallantry medals, then kept him from returning to the country he fought for, are still turning a blind eye to his service record.
Enter the fray those of us who fought alongside him.
We’ll take up the fight because most of us have also battled the pea-hearted decision-makers in this country when it’s come to veterans’ rights, and know that sometimes push has to give way to shove.
And make no mistake, what has been done to James B. Riddle, should appal every Australian.

***

In his prime, Jim Riddle was a giant of a man. In any contact with the enemy, be it a chance encounter at a creek bed or a bunker assault against an entrenched enemy, you wanted him beside you. If you’d been wounded, it didn’t matter how precarious the situation was, you’d look for Riddle to keep the enemy at bay, or to come and drag you to safety.
I know that for a fact, because I fought with him for some five months in two different infantry units before we got split up- first with the 4th Battalion (10 Platoon, before he was moved to 12 Platoon), and then with the infamous 2nd D&E Platoon of 1969.
Soon after, I got machine-gunned, and repatriated to hospital in Australia for a two-year stint in hospital. Riddle came home unscathed, then went back for a second go at them. Had nothing better to do, he said. Always at the coal-face of infantry action too. None of that ‘pogo’ shit, as he called support duties.
Jim Riddle was a fighting man.
Like the time a few of us got into a brawl with the resident pogos back at Nui Dat between operations. Riddle heard the ruckus, strolled in, summed the situation up, and told us all to piss off back to our bunks.
In the morning, the ‘boozer’ was littered with broken chairs and windows. Glass everywhere. We learned later that after we’d left, Riddle had taken the pogos on, on his own. Cleaned them up too. Mind you, they got him for a few breaches of discipline.
That was the way of it with Riddle.
But let me say, there are many old Australian soldiers walking our streets today, who would’ve did young, if it hadn’t have been for Jim Riddle alongside of them back in the war.
I’m one of them.
Trouble was, Jim Riddle didn’t endear himself to his superiors, so the rewards of soldiering didn’t come his way. He wasn’t into the tugging of forelocks and called a spade a spade. He had little time for leaders who were glaringly incompetent, or who stayed in the background during the action. Mind you, he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe in that. Most of us had scant regard for officers like that- the ones who invariably managed to ‘score’ gallantry medals when the smoke cleared. There were lots of officers like that.
Some high-flyers amongst them.
In Riddle’s case, he was promised two gallantry medals during his service- one with the 2nd D&E Platoon, and one with the 8th Battalion. But didn’t receive either.
Hardly surprising. Indeed, one of the units he fought in (and actually led, for a month or so) - the 2nd D&E Platoon, was discretely ‘edited-out’ of all histories of the war for 39 years after a series of contentions in the field.
Riddle’s gallantry on that occasion was only formally recognised in a Ministerial Statement by The Hon Dr Mike Kelly on May 29th, this year- four decades after the event. Speaking about the 2nd D&E Platoon’s successful ambush of a large enemy force at Thua Tich in May, 1969, and specifically about the role of Jim Riddle, Kelly stated, “Their success was a tribute to their professionalism and the outstanding leadership and courage of Corporal Riddle whose personal actions ensured the survival of many members of the Platoon who would otherwise surely have been killed.”
Too late for a medal for him, though. Too many years had passed. What’s more, he wasn’t an officer. Didn’t have enough friends in high places like the Australian War Memorial either- the gatekeeper of the nation’s military history.
It pays to get in good with that lot.

***

I first met Jim Riddle at the Infantry Centre in Ingleburn where he was a cut above the rest of us. Riddle was a man at that point, while many of the rest of us were still struggling with boyhoods. Broad-shouldered, moustachioed, and muscled-up- that was the soldier who strode into the barracks the first time. As well, he had a wonderful intellect and a devilish wit.
It infuriated the officer ranks.
Like when a duty officer lined us up on Monday mornings for an inspection of our private parts. “Looking for scabs and crabs and such,” he said, lifting our shirts and taking a good look.
“Nothing but a pervert,” was all Riddle said, affronted at the invasion of privacy. The next Monday morning, Riddle got himself a healthy erection prior to the inspection. The officer went red, speechless, when he lifted Riddle’s shirt. Not that he had to lift it too much. The rest of us were mighty impressed– as much by the erection as his insolence.
We never got inspected again.
Riddle had bought himself out of the English Marines in 1968, specifically to fight for Australia. He’d been a sergeant in the commandos, and had seen service in three British conflicts- Aden, Cyprus, and Borneo. And since Britain wasn’t in conflict with anyone at the time, and not looking likely to, Riddle glanced at the Australians battling away in the latest Asian War and figured he could be used to advantage.
He didn’t mind a war.
They wanted him as an instructor, to train up blokes like me- but Riddle hadn’t come to Australia to be a tourist. He wanted into the fight.
He and I turned up together as reinforcements to “D” Company of the 4th Battalion, late January 1969. It was just in time to witness the deaths of Sam Graham and Joe Ramsay. For a young bloke like me, naïve to the ways of the world, and to jungle fighting, it was reassuring knowing Riddle was nearby.
Found ourselves caught in a three-way assault against a Viet Cong bunker system some time in March that year. By then, we were in different platoons (me in 10 Pl; he in 12 Pl), and though Riddle’s section was at the rear of his platoon on that occasion, he got himself up to the front of the action, bringing a bag full of hand grenades with him.
Hopped into the thick of it as well, when he had every right to have stayed in his position at the rear of the platoon, and taken it easy. But that wasn’t Riddle’s preference. And it was why we were glad he was on our side.
So too, at Thua Tich on the 29th May, 1969 when the 2nd D&E Platoon fought one of the biggest platoon-sized battles of the war. Don’t go looking for it in the record books though- despite Mike Kelly’s assurance that the platoon and its record would be “enshrined in the history of the war”, it hasn’t happened. The gatekeepers won’t allow it.
There are reputations to protect, you see. Bodies blown-up. Bodies strapped to the backs of armoured personnel carriers and dragged around the place. Things like that. Things the army has done their best to hide, or disguise all these years.
And it’s one of the reasons why James B. Riddle didn’t score a gong.
He should have. No doubt about it.
Because, on that day, and although just a corporal, Riddle found himself in the role of platoon commander, against all protocol. He’d done so, on account of the fact that our first platoon-commander– Lt Barry Parkin, had been surreptitiously removed from the platoon, as too, our sergeant. So we’d been a leaderless platoon there for about a month, and Riddle saw the danger of men not being commanded adequately.
So he slotted into the job.
On the night of that ambush, Riddle and ten other infantrymen took on an extremely large enemy force along Route 328. Set as a ‘listening post’ about 500 metres up the highway from where the cavalry commander, Capt Tom Arrowsmith had laid down an ambush, Riddle’s actions prevented Arrowsmith’s position from being counter-attacked after the ambush was sprung. Arrowsmith hadn’t known how large the enemy force was that initiated the ambush.
From an even more vulnerable jungle position, Riddle initiated a second front against the enemy, and led the way himself- opting to use the M79 grenade-launcher to best effect. The boys at that listening post had a field day that night, there being a fullish moon and all, and with many enemy lined up along the raised dirt track.
But the record books (written by the cavalry commander, Arrowsmith) give all kudos to the cavalry for the success that night- and the efforts of Riddle and his infantrymen at that listening post not recorded at all. Mind you– it wasn’t the only time this happened. For the whole of that month, Arrowsmith recorded all the actions the 2nd D&E Platoon was involved in, to a generic “D&E Platoon” which was commanded by a Lt Ray Woolan.
Arrowsmith says he wasn’t aware that there were two such platoons operating under the same name, and being a Cavalry man, I’ll give him that.
But for him not to make any effort to correct the records all these years on, when the truth has been fully revealed, says much about him. And even more about the validity of Australia’s military history.
Because, the thing was, Lt Woolan’s platoon was never anywhere near the action at Thua Tich that day or night, yet Woolan ended up getting a Military Cross. Arrowsmith got a gong too. A minor one, but they made up for that 35 years later- upgrading it to a Medal of Gallantry.
Neither Riddle, nor the other men at that listening post that night, rated a mention.
Most probably it was because the whole shebang was a sorry affair in more ways than one.

***

Turns out, the formation of the 2nd D&E Platoon wasn’t done by the book. It was an ‘ad hoc’ platoon, created on a whim, with no formal paperwork. No records.
Years later, Major George Pratt admitted he had ‘formed the 2nd D&E Platoon on the orders of Brigadier C Pearson) but the national historian could care less.
According to the former Minister for Veteran Affairs, Bruce Billson MP, “there was no authority to create a second D&E Platoon” so the fact that there was one running around, smelled. Add to the intrigue the fact that we were operating outside the range of artillery, without official infantry leadership, without an attendant medic, and found ourselves in an area crawling with enemy, and you get the picture.
Army stupidity. Or perhaps we were simply regarded as expendable pawns in the grand game of medal counts and personal glory for officers.

***

Riddle kicked a few arses along the way. No doubt about it. Got himself in hot water a few times too. Like the time he relieved a dead Viet Cong of a few thousand dong, and put it on the bar for his men to drink up afterwards.
Some officious prick got him for stealing off a body. Riddle simply said he preferred to think he was spreading goodwill.
He did something similar some other time too, while with the US Special Forces. It may have cost him a medal with that lot too.
His indiscretions counted against him.
So when he ran across open ground to attract enemy fire after Dennis Poulson was killed with the 8th Battalion, taking the enemy heat off another infantry section that had been pinned down, he got no glory there, either.
“We expect it of you, Riddle,” was all he was told by the Company commander.
Same as when the battalion wandered into a known minefield and lost many men killed or badly wounded in a series of bloody incidents in early 1970 with another D&E Platoon, it was Riddle’s cool head that prevented other losses. You won’t find any record of those deeds, either.
Riddle simply wasn’t destined to get gallantry medals. He was no one’s favourite. And played no favourites in return. Kissed no butts. But he didn’t deserve being left stranded in England after he’d gone back home to bury his father, and stayed there to raise a family for some thirty years. Bad mistake, that.
Because in 2005, when he got to figuring it’d be a nice move to go back to the country he’d fought for, all those years ago- Australia- and live out the rest of his life, he was shocked to be told he wasn’t welcome.
Not bloody likely was the response from the bureaucrats in the Immigration Department. Refused him entry, point blank. Riddle hadn’t maintained the paperwork, you see, for all those years, and despite serving this country in war for more days than the great majority of Australian servicemen ever did, was effectively locked out.
It’s where we fellow veterans got in on the act.
We took the fight to the politicians and bureaucrats, and kicked their arses.
It took them fifteen months, but we finally got him home to Australia. Too late for him to qualify for the highest war pension, though. Funny about that. No amount of argument can convince the legislators to make a special case of him either. Seems we can find cash galore to fund the extravagant lifestyles of former prime ministers and governor-generals and 50,000 illegal Muslim immigrants, but not to assist a man who risked his life for this country on the battlefield.
And to top it off, some bastard beat him senseless in a halfway house run by the RSL a year after he arrived home, and Riddle suffered a series of strokes as a consequence. He is now rendered severely disabled.
No one bothered to investigate the bashing. He was just a war veteran, that’s all, and a pommie bastard, to boot.
Who cared?
They eventually sent him back to England so he could be with family.
Personally, I think it’s the least they could do for him.
After all, they gave him nothing else.
Funny thing happened along the way, though. It was done on the condition that he never speak to the media about the 2nd D&E Platoon matter.
I wonder why.

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Biography

James Riddle purchased his discharge from the English Marines for 200 pounds in 1968 so that he could fight with Australia in the Vietnam War. He arrived in Vietnam on the 23rd December 1969- and for the next four years fought in number of different units, beginning with the 4th Battalion in February 1969.

Serving with 12 Platoon, Riddle was involved in a number of ambushes and contacts before a major banker assault in April during which six Australians were wounded. He was promoted to Corporal.

When the 4th Battalion was returned to Australia in mid-May 1969, Riddle and 39 other infantrymen were formed into the ‘2nd D&E Platoon’- a sub-unit of HQ Company. The platoon was tasked with interdicting a major enemy formation in the Thua Tich area.

On May 29th 1969, Riddle’s section of infantrymen opened fire on that large enemy force after Captain Tom Arrowsmith had initiated the ambush outside the gates to thus Tich. This was a highly successful result. When the 2nd D&E Platoon was disbanded in June, Cpl Riddle was posted to the 9th Battalion where he served out the remainder of his first tour. 

James Riddle went back to Vietnam again and served with distinction with the 8th Battalion, and the 4th Battalion, as well as HQ Company.

On one occasion he worked with a U.S. Special Forces group under Major Mize- a Congressional Medal of Honour recipient.

The 8th Battalion was awarded the Cross of Gallantry.

Information supplied by James during and after his service.

Was awarded a Unit Citation with 8RAR

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