Ian Alexander (Doc) MCDOUGALL

MCDOUGALL, Ian Alexander

Service Numbers: 4717396, 2782868
Enlisted: 1 July 1965
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
Born: Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia, 26 June 1945
Home Town: Basket Range, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Various
Occupation: AFP
Memorials:
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Vietnam War Service

1 Jul 1965: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, SN 4717396, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
12 May 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, SN 4717396, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
12 May 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, SN 4717396
13 Dec 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, SN 2782868
12 Jul 1967: Discharged Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, SN 4717396, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)

The wounding of Trevor Lynch - my memories

I was "called up" for National Service in the First Intake - 1 July 1965. After Basic, Medical Corps, and Jungle Training, I served with two other units before being posted to 5RAR - just days before the last of the Battalion left for Vietnam.

As the junior company medic of 5RAR, I served with a number of companies but did not know many Battalion members well. At the time of the incident referred to, I was attached to BHQ, serving both Support and Admin Companies. I did not know Trevor personally.

On the morning of 17 October 1966, 5RAR began a clearing operation of the Nui Thi Vai mountain complex. BHQ was following A Company from Highway 15 in a fairly straight line towards the mountain. I was situated near the end of the BHQ group. At the base of the mountain, at least one mine was set off by A Company. BHQ then split off from A Company and set off up the hill following a steep track.

There were many huge boulders on each side of the track, with thick undergrowth and tall trees. Shortly afterwards we were halted by rifle fire from higher up the track, where we remained for a long time. During this halt, a mortar bomb mine was found close to where we stopped. There was spasmodic rifle fire, and I heard that we had taken some casualties from snipers in caves. A small chopper came in underneath overhanging trees and took them away (the pilot was later decorated for this). We then continued on up the hill until we arrived at a pagoda about sundown, and set up a defensive perimeter for the night.

Either the next morning or the day after that, the Assault Pioneers and myself (there may have been others) set off down the hill to assault the cave system (probably better described as a hillside covered by huge boulders on top of each other) with flame throwers which had been choppered in. The assault was under the command of Lt John Macalony.

We descended the steep track, and as we neared the caves I was detailed with three others to take up position on the left slope above and adjacent to the caves to provide covering fire into the cave mouths. As we moved into position between huge boulders, I located a cache of boxes behind one enormous rock (it later turned out to be over 100 pounds of Chinese TNT).

Trevor Lynch and another soldier (whose name I cannot recall) had been detailed to make the actual assault with the back pack flame throwers. We did not see their initial approach, but suddenly there was the almighty crack of a mine detonation, followed by loud screaming. With clearance from the section leader I was with, I made my way back to the track and down then out to where the wounded lay.

To say I was scared stiff would be a gross understatement. The two men lay immediately in front of the caves which had numerous entrances with little cover. I recall feeling very lonely and totally exposed.

My memory from this time is somewhat doubtful. I must have examined both soldiers in accordance with my medical training, and decided that the other man, although wounded in the back and legs, could wait.

I turned my attention to Trevor, who was screaming in a demented fashion and writhing on the ground. He had sustained multiple wounds; in fact his was the most mutilated human body I had ever seen and ever want to. I had great difficulty deciding where to start as he had dozens of bleeding wounds, some of them profoundly serious, broken limbs and many facial injuries. The front of his body was a mass of puncture wounds. I remember as I started applying wound dressings that I had to tie Trevor's hands together to stop him dislodging dressings and doing himself more damage. I recall that I was crying at one point due to the frustration I felt in trying stop blood loss from so many wounds at once. I doubt if Trevor was aware at that time of anything, and his wild screaming continued unabated, but I do recall that Capt. Tony White, the 5RAR RMO, joined me at some stage prior to Trevor being moved.

From this point I cannot recall what happened for some time that day, as I was probably in shock myself. I do not know how many wounds I treated, nor from where or when he was casevaced, and whether I treated the other soldier at all or what his specific injuries were. I cannot recall whether I (or Doc White) inserted a drip into Trevor's arm to bolster his blood supply, but am sure this would have been done.

My memory continues for later that afternoon, and I remember my role in the cave assault and clearance. The layout of the cave mouths, the track, and that part of the mountain, remain clear to me today. It may have been that evening, but probably some days later I was advised Trevor was still alive, was blinded, and was still riddled with shrapnel. I recall being incredibly surprised as I
believed he would die from his many wounds.

After I returned to Australia with 5RAR, I underwent nose surgery in July 1967 for an injury sustained while with D Company during our stay at the "Horseshoe". While in the Repat Hospital in Adelaide, I happened to be placed in the same large ward as Trevor was then in. Although he was partly deaf, I managed to communicate daily with him for the few days I was incapacitated there. When he couldn't understand, I spelt the word to him by writing it on his hand with my finger, letter by letter. He could not remember anything about the incident which caused his injuries, and wanted to learn what had happened. I was able "Little by Little" (the RAAMC Motto) to describe to him what I recalled of that ghastly day.

After my discharge, I lost touch with Trevor, mainly through interstate transfers in my career, but memories of him and that traumatic occasion remained with me, and became a frequent nightmare as PTSD slowly affected my life. It has definitely been the most frightening day of my life.

I did not see Trevor again until nearly 30 years later - 7 April 1997 at a hospice in Adelaide. I had been contacted the previous day by another Vet (who was not ex-5RAR) who had been caring for Trevor, and whom I did not know. He had somehow found out about the experience Trevor and I had shared, and told me that Trevor had cancer, and was near death. During my visit to him, Trevor was unable to speak, and was obviously close to death. His Vet carer, who was
present with us, assured me that Trevor realised who I was, and that he seemed glad to have re-established contact again.

Trevor died on 8 April 1997, at the age of 51, after miraculously surviving shocking injuries from one of man's worst weapons of war - the antipersonnel mine

Although it was very traumatic personally seeing Trevor again the day before he died, I am very glad I did. I attended his funeral the next day and said goodbye (with a small group of people) to a very brave individual, who appeared to have made the best that he could out of his short tragic
life.

Service number 4717628
Trevor Michael Lynch
23 May 1945 - 8 April 1997

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A great way to treat Post Traumatic Stress (formerly referred to as PTSD)

I am writing to bring attention of military service organisations and veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) the differences caring for a trainee guide (Seeing Eye) dog can make to veterans.
I served as a company medic (RAAMC) with 5RAR (1st Tour) in Vietnam from May 1966 to May 1967 and treated several gravely wounded men. One of these diggers was Trevor Lynch from South Australia. Trevor was blinded and terribly maimed following a mine explosion incident in October 1966. He survived and went on to lead a productive life, during part of which he had the services of a trained guide dog.
I was diagnosed with severe PTSD in January 1997 and was forced to retire. I suffered extreme depression, frequent and debilitating panic attacks, avoided crowds, had an extremely low self-esteem, and had been under the care of a psychiatrist since 1997. After some years of treatment, I gradually started performing voluntary work, staring with fire spotting in the CFS at the Mt Lofty Fire Tower overlooking Adelaide and the central Mt Lofty Ranges. After some 10 years, knee surgery forced me to abandon this activity, and I became involved as an emergency dog carer for Guide Dogs SA/NT.
I had always had my own dogs, but now with the time and desire to “go bush” periodically with a 4WD club, having my own dog meant having to board it out on occasions, so I thought about caring for dogs on a periodic basis, and guide dogs were the obvious choice.
In the past seven years or so, I have cared for some 30 dogs for varying lengths of time – from a long weekend to about three months. Apart from one young pup, all the dogs have been adults of 12 months or more (I personally requested to only take the older dogs as my knee replacements may make caring for a young pup difficult). All have been Labrador Retrievers, male or female, black or golden. Several have been fully trained, while others had not commenced their formal training. My psychiatrist, my wife (Kate) and I all become aware of changes in my depression and panic attacks in the past six years or so – the later have eased to the extent that they seldom bother me now. I personally put these changes down to caring for the dogs which I can take nearly anywhere with me restaurants, medical appointments, etc. I have become aware that the public on seeing the dog are far more interested in it than in me, which has given me the confidence and positive attitude to go anywhere.
The dogs all have their own personality, and with the help of the professional trainers (either Guide Dogs SA/NT or the Royal Society for the Blind), I have found having the responsibility for each one of these magnificent responsive animals has been a rewarding experience, in which exercise, lowered blood pressure, loving therapy and companionship have all been rewards I have gained.
I am often asked how you can give up the dog when it is due to be returned, and I always explain to people that I look forward to the next one and know that the animal who became part of my life for a short time may have gone on to help change lives, possibly a child or a blind former serviceman (or woman) like Trevor Lynch. Another aspect of caring for the dog is the fun of the involvement – when not wearing their “going out coats”, the dogs are off-duty, and generally can be treated like a normal family pet if the training standards are maintained. One of my younger grandsons loves sharing his car collection with the dogs I have introduced him to.
The entity owning the dogs provide training for new carers, and the dog’s entire medical, nutritional, and material needs. There are several ways to become involved, but I will leave that aspect to the body I volunteer with – Guide Dogs SA/NT to explain, or one could contact the RSB.
Personally, I can thoroughly recommend involvement, and would encourage other vets with PTSD to do likewise.
Ian McDougall (formerly a SVN 5RAR 1st Tour company medic)

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MY ROAD TO VIETNAM

MY ROAD TO VIETNAM

I had been “called-up” for National Service in the First Intake, 1 July 1965, and underwent Basic Training at Puckapunyal, Victoria. I was then posted to Healesville, Victoria, where I did the standard Medical Corps training for army medics. From there, I was posted to the General Hospital at Ingleburn, NSW, which was then (basically) a holding facility for trained medics prior to further deployment.

I had performed well in my Corps Training, and had indicated I would prefer an RAP posting, rather than a hospital situation. I was selected to assist the Corporal Medic at our small RAP for a few weeks, during which time I was sent to the ITC RAP for about a week, which is where I met Mick Seats. He was the Staff Sergeant at that RAP and made me feel very welcome, and although I was only assigned basic duties, Mick kept a regular eye on what I was doing, and, despite his somewhat gruff attitude, I found he had a caring and fatherly attitude to his staff – at least he did to me, and he helped raise my confidence level towards RAP work.

I then applied for two training courses that were available – parachuting and jungle training. I was selected for the latter, and so followed six weeks at Canungra, Queensland, which I enjoyed. When I returned to Ingleburn, I was posted (almost immediately) to 104 Medium Battery (Artillery) at Holsworthy, NSW, as their Battery Medic, a Corporal’s position. I worked at the group RAP, where medics from several artillery batteries served. Some of my time there involved “needle parades”, getting men from various other units ready for Vietnam service.

I was aware that 104 Med Bty was not nominated for overseas posting, so I “fronted” my Battery CO to ask for transfer to a Vietnam bound unit. Nothing came of it, so I then wrote to the RAAMC senior officer in Sydney with the same request. Not being that well acquainted (then) with military procedure, I got my backside well and truly kicked by my CO when he learnt what I had done. However, several days later, I was called to his office, where he told me that I had received my wish, and was henceforth posted to 5 RAR, which was based just across the road at Holsworthy.

This (I found out many years later) was because a bus taking 5RAR troops to the airport enroute for SVN had been involved in a collision, and the company medic aboard suffered a broken arm. Hence the search was instantly on for a trained medic who had completed the Canungra training, and someone remembered me.
I packed my gear, and walked across the road, where I met and talked to a couple of diggers I had trained with at Puckapunyal. They directed me to the RAP, where I met the RMO, Captain Tony White, and the Hygiene Sergeant, SSGT Ayb Brown. Ayb took me under his wing, and quickly organised for me to have an airline ticket available for me to collect at Victoria Barracks in Sydney (for travel Adelaide/Sydney). I then drove into Sydney, collected the tickets, drove home to Adelaide, had about three days leave, then flew back to Sydney, and that night was on board a Qantas plane with some of the last 5 RAR members enroute to Saigon, then Vung Tau (VT), May 1966.

At our sandhill base in VT, I reported to the temporary RAP, and again met Mick Seats, together with Ayb Brown and our boss, RMO Tony White. From here on forward, I was in fairly constant contact with these three men, particularly Tony White, whom I usually accompanied when “out bush”. Back at Nui Dat Base, when it was established, it was Mick Seats I was mainly working with, and I learnt quickly to do my job proficiently under his watchful eye. He certainly let me know if I “screwed up” but was quietly full of praise for a job well done. As stated above, under his gruff appearance, he showed a fatherly and caring attitude to me, and I respected him greatly for it. He became my army father figure, and my whole Vietnam experience was enriched working under him, our RMO, Tony White, and SSGT Ayb Brown (not that I had a lot to do with him except in base).

Being very much the Battalion’s “junior” medic, I often relieved the other company medics when they wanted a little time at RHQ, so I was temporarily attached to all four rifle companies and Support Company. I formally relieved the D Coy medic about February ’67, and with that company, spent the last months in country helping to develop The Horseshoe base.
I was sorry to hear about the recent passing of SSGT Mick Seats, and will let others relate Mick’s military life, which included WW2 service. But, I will say that I had genuine affection for this long serving, capable and efficient senior Australian NCO. I have re-established contact with both Tony White and Ayb Brown, and we exchange greetings occasionally.

Although I did not think of it at the time: because 5RAR was the first infantry battalion committed to Vietnam with national servicemen in it from the first intake, and as all the other 5RAR medics were regular army, I became the first “Nasho” RAAMC company medic to serve with an infantry unit in Vietnam, an honour I am very proud of.

Ian McDougall
Formerly Corporal, 4717396, RAAMC, 5RAR, 66/67.

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