Vietnam War vets remember their colleagues on the 50th anniversary of the conflict

REMEMBERING: Members of the Maitland Vietnam Veterans and Services Legion at Maitland Park on Friday afternoon.
REMEMBERING: Members of the Maitland Vietnam Veterans and Services Legion at Maitland Park on Friday afternoon.

Maitland’s Vietnam veterans marched toward the cenotaph on Friday afternoon to meet their family and friends.

It was another year since returning home, another year since burying their mates.

Every Vietnam Veterans Day is a milestone, but this year was significant for those who served in the Battles of Coral and Balmoral, being the 50th anniversary of the conflicts.

“Fifty years on and these brave remaining diggers who fought at this battle have been honoured with a Unit Citation of Gallantry,” Maitland Vietnam Veterans and Services Legion (MVVSL) president Peter Margetts said during his address.

“This citation goes to all veterans who were present at these conflicts.”

One such soldier was Maitland’s Stan Carbines, MVVSL secretary, who served at the Battle of Coral in his early 20s.

“There are lots and lots of memories, but I guess the ones that stick in your mind are the two big attacks we had on our fire support base,” he recalled.

“On the first night in the morning of June 13 when a battalion of the enemy attacked us, there were 130 of us with no infantry support whatsoever.

“In our position about eight were killed and one artillery gun was completely overrun and the enemy held that position.

“Two of our guns had to fire splintex to save the position – they fire 700 little darts like a shotgun.

“In the morning, burying the dead was a ghastly job – there were over 52 bodies.”

Mr Carbines was in the command post when the second attack hit.

“But we got through that night, and I’m here to tell the story,” he said.

It was a relief to return home after two years of service, but Mr Carbines didn’t get much rest between jobs.

After a month of leave he went straight into his first school teaching job, for which he had qualified shortly before leaving for service.

“I think that was probably the hardest thing, being able to step from one job, in particularly that sort of job being a teacher with no sort of leeway, no preparation,” he said.

In the closing of his address at Friday’s service, Mr Margetts acknowledged those who did not return home, as well as those who had since died.

“These men were our friends, colleagues and mates,” he said.

“They will be remembered always.”