Monday 14th February marks National Servicemen’s Day, when we honour the hundreds of thousands of young Australian men who served our nation through compulsory military service after the Second World War.
FILE PHOTO: Davo, John S, Wooly, John L, Ian Cavanough (who republished his memoirs on the CONTACT web site), Killer and Digger – 5 Section, 2 Platoon, 2RAR on Route 2, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. Photo supplied by Ian Cavanough.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said it was important to recognise those who stood up when called upon to defend our country.
“Australia’s ‘Nashos’, as they are affectionately nicknamed, made a significant contribution to our nation’s defence forces and rightfully wear the title with pride,” Minister Gee said.
“I encourage all Australians to take time to reflect on the service and sacrifice of these men and ensure they continue to be appropriately remembered.
“The idea of compulsory military service would seem foreign to many Australians, particularly younger generations, but between 1951 and 1959, and again between 1964 and 1972, it was a reality for many young Aussie men.
“Around 227,000 men completed the compulsory six months’ recruit training during 1951-1959, but it was in the second period from 1964 when ‘Nashos’ were deployed in significant numbers.
“More than 804,000 men registered between 1964 and 1972, with more than 63,000 called up to serve.
“Of these, nearly 19,500 served in Borneo and Vietnam and the remainder in support units in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Australia.
“More than 15,000 served in the Vietnam War, where some 200 died and over 1,200 were wounded.
“It is a little-known fact that from 1966 Australian infantry battalions in Vietnam were typically comprised of an equal mix of regular soldiers and National Servicemen.
“At the time, most 20-year-old Australian men were required to register and were then selected for National Service through the infamous ‘birthday ballot’, in which they were randomly selected by their date of birth.
“My uncle Geoff was a Nasho, who served his country at Nui Dat in 1967.
“My family and I are incredibly proud of his service, as all Australians should be very proud of our ‘Nashos’ who answered the call to serve their nation.
“They personify our Australian value of service above self.”
Learn more about the National Service scheme of the Vietnam War era on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.