Francis Adrian Roberts - Long Tan - Part 2
Department of Veterans' Affairs
I chose the route because there's a, we'd call it a river or a creek, called Suoi Da Bang, at a point when I'd been involved with the 173rd Airborne Bigrade fighting at Long Phuoc.
I'd seen a buffalo cart enter and exit and there was an agricultural dam or something so I knew I couldn't get swept down because it was raining like billyo at this stage. Monsoonal rain, it's got to be seen to be believed.
So anyway I took off and got to the wire of the engineers and blow me down they'd altered the gap that was there and the engineers were off at dinner so I had to send a runner over there, eventually got someone back, they opened the gate.
Then I got told to send two carriers back for the CO, he'd changed his mind and was going to come out with us so I did that and then I pushed on because I realised it was going to take us a while to get over this creek because of the rain and it certainly was. When I got to the creek, I expected them to catch up. Well they hadn't caught up with me, so I left another carrier.
Tony O'Shea was commanding that to secure the crossing. We actually did an assault crossing which means we put them across in small groups and secure the other side and come across because up on the hill I could see the artillery coming so I knew which way I was going and despite being ordered to halt and I could see the problem D Company was in.
I pushed on and we came up on the flat to cross this stream in flood which was going well over the legal speed for us to swim in. I might just digress and say that back in Australia the only water crossings we'd done were in Lake Eppalock which was dead flat, glassy and no current. Lovely graded entrances and exits.
The problem is if you go in too deep an angle the water gets ingested through the engine on the top even though you've got a bilge pump but it can't contain the water but this was alright but we were actually swimming but we had an additional problem, in the year the carrier had been running, our carriers had been running. All the shrouds, the black rubber thing that go along the track had become busted.
We had none and they're a very vital part of steering in the water. One of our carriers actually did a complete circle bumping against the dam so that stopped it sweeping downstream.
People don't seem to understand that was a battle of nature. Anyway, we got through amazingly quickly and we didn't drown anyone. A carrier got drowned the next day in much less difficult conditions.