Colin Elliott (Royal Australian Navy), The Gun Line

Col Elliott served with the Royal Australian Navy on HMAS Hobart, as part of the 'gun line' providing naval gun support to ground forces.

Running time
2 min 7 sec
Copyright
Department of Veterans' Affairs

Transcript

Col Elliott was a very young man when he served in Vietnam on HMAS Hobart, a guided missile destroyer.

"I was given an action stations, which they said, 'Right, when action stations go, the alarm goes, you go here and this is the way you go and this is what you put on when you get there and this is what you've gotta be dressed as and this is your job and here's your position, here's your binoculars, here's your thing da da da da...'

So I was taught to do that real quick. And I was bloody quick, because I was the youngest and the bottom rank so my arse would be kicked severely if I didn't get there real quick..."

As part of the US Seventh Fleet Hobart's most dangerous mission was upriver, where she had been sent to destroy ammunition barges.

"And, we blew the barges away, we did that. And then they opened up on us. And we were that far in and we were zig zagging that fast. Our ship could do in excess of 30 knots and that was pretty bloody fast. And I was watching them drop around us and I thought oh, we're going to be hit. I felt that we were going to be hit.

And at one stage there it was a really shuddering sort of thing, and we seemed to lift a little and when we came down our engines stopped, they conked out. And ah, panic. And we were sort of wallowing there and they were straddling us; we only just got out."

HMAS Hobart was awarded a US Navy Unit Commendation for 'exceptionally meritorious service.'

"I was proud that we did our job and when we were given a commendation I was proud that we did what we were told to do. And we came up against opposition and we won. We won out every time. Very proud of that. But when I think of at what price, and I think to myself, gee, we killed a lot of people today. I wonder how many people died today because of what we did.

Every time that gun barrel went off, I wonder how many people died because of that gun barrel and I watched it. And I helped give coordinates to where to fire. And that worked on me. I thought, you know, do I have a right to feel proud of that or not? I don't know."

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