The issue of recognition for Australian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Long Tan, Vietnam, is to be reviewed again by the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.
In April 2015, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith (Retd), former Officer Commanding D Company 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam on 18 August 1966, applied to the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal for review of a decision by the Chief of Army to refuse to recommend 13 members of the Australian Army who fought at the Battle of Long Tan for a range of gallantry awards, including a Victoria Cross for the late Warrant Officer John ‘Jack’ Kirby.
The Chief of Army’s decision was made in respect of submissions by Lieutenant Colonel Smith to the Tribunal’s Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour.
Despite any previous considerations, Lieutenant Colonel Smith has a statutory entitlement under the Defence Act 1903 to seek review of the Chief of Army’s most recent decision in the Tribunal.
In hearing this Matter, the Tribunal will consider the refusal to recommend the following 13 individuals for various defence honours.
|Rank||Name||What has been awarded for service at Long Tan||What Lieutenant Colonel Smith seeks|
|Warrant Officer Class 2||Kirby, John ‘Jack’||Distinguished Conduct Medal||Victoria Cross for Australia|
|Second Lieutenant||Roberts, Adrian||Mention in Despatches||Medal for Gallantry|
|Corporal||Moore, William||Mention in Despatches||Medal for Gallantry|
|Second Lieutenant||Sharp, Gordon||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Sergeant||Alcorta, Frank||Nil||Medal for Gallantry|
|Lance Corporal||Magnussen, Barry||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Bextrum, Neil||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Brett, Ron||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Campbell, Ian||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Grimes, Noel||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||May, Allen||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Peters, Geoffrey||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
|Private||Roche, William||Nil||Commendation for Gallantry|
All ranks used for the 13 individuals in the above table are the ranks at the time of the battle
Assistant Minister for Defence Darren Chester said he was pleased the Tribunal was progressing to public hearings for the review.
“I’m confident that the Tribunal’s review will finally resolve this important issue for veterans and their families,” Mr Chester said.
“I look forward to receiving the Tribunal’s recommendations, once the hearings and the Tribunal’s further deliberations are completed.”
Seventeen Australians were killed and 25 wounded when on 18 August 1966, 108 men of D Company, 6RAR held off an assault by more than 2,000 enemies in the middle of a tropical downpour. They were greatly assisted by a timely ammunition resupply by RAAF helicopters, close fire support from Australian artillery, and the arrival of reinforcements in Armoured Personnel Carriers late in the battle.
The Tribunal will consider honours for 13 veterans of the Battle of Long Tan, including a Victoria Cross for the late Warrant Officer 2 Jack Kirby, who received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry during the battle.
The Tribunal will hear evidence from veterans of the battle, representatives of the Department of Defence, and witnesses called by the applicant, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith SG MC (Retd).
The Tribunal will hold public hearings from Tuesday 1 March to Thursday 3 March 2016, at The Sebel, Maroochydore.
Further information is available on the Tribunal’s website at: www.defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au.