A VIETNAM War veteran from Queensland remembered a fellow soldier and the lighter side of military service when he spoke at a commemoration in Clarkson last Sunday.
Allan English travelled from Queensland to be the guest speaker at the Quinns Rocks RSL Sub-branch’s Vietnam Veterans Day service on August 18, which was dedicated to Private Anthony Waring who died aged 21 when hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 1969.
‘It’s an honour to be here today to remember my mate,’ Mr English told the crowd at Anthony Waring Reserve.
‘A little more than 44 years ago, in a pre-dawn patrol, Tony Waring’s life ebbed away.’
Mr English said he and Pte Waring had found themselves in Vietnam eight months into their service with the Royal Australian Regiment’s fifth battalion and were made forward scouts.
He said the night before the fateful Operation Esso night patrol, he and Pte Waring had listened to music on a US radio station, and heard The Beatles’ hit song Hey Jude.
‘It was the last song the two of us ever listened to together,’ he said.
‘Even though it had been quite a lousy day, Tony was still smiling and giving cheek.’
The veteran said he had also been knocked unconscious by the grenade, and felt he owed his life to his mate, but it took years to come to grips with his survivor guilt.
‘His memory abides in my mind every day,’ he said.
‘One day I realised it shouldn’t be survivor guilt, it was the gift of life.’
Mr English also shared stories from his service that he hoped would rekindle pleasant memories for other veterans who gathered at the Clarkson event, including members of the Military Motorcycle Club.
‘There were lots of funny and happy times, as well as times that were more severe,’ he said.
He said Vietnam veterans were in a position to help a new breed of diggers coming back from Afghanistan.
‘We are in the position to help them, to welcome these young people into our service clubs,’ he said. ‘That could be a legacy that Vietnam veterans pass on.’
Wanneroo Acting Mayor Laura Gray said the City developed the reserve in 1994 and then the clubrooms in 2000 and had named them after the late soldier who lived locally.
Vietnam veteran and MC on the day, Arthur Ventham said it was the first of a few dedication ceremonies planned by the Quinns Rocks RSL over coming years, with another expected for Pte Richard Aldersea who was killed in action at the Battle of Long Tan in 1966.
Veterans, police, councillors, State MPs, schools and community groups laid wreaths during the commemoration service, and Quinns Rocks RSL president Frank Baldry unveiled the plaque for Pte Waring with Cr Gray.
The Coastal Scottish Pipe Band performed, Brian Parkin played The Last Post on the bugle and the Peter Moyes Anglican Community School choir led the hymns and national anthem.
Reverend Gunis Balodis led prayers and veteran Alan McNulty read The Ode.