Francis Adrian Roberts - Long Tan - Part 3
Department of Veterans' Affairs
I put my carrier into two up formation, that is, two forward one back, two forward one back and myself in the middle. In the normal course of evens I would have had a reserve section but they were still stuffing around picking the CO up.
We crossed the road that ran between Long Phouc and Long Tan. That village was just a ruin from the previous year, or something, the Vietnamese and Americans had gone in there. And we burst, the rubber, the young rubber on the outside was about group commander head height, you couldn't see down, and once we came through that it was in a way like the ground stood up. They were all, these dudes in green and they had packs on their back and what have you.
Camouflage. And just for a split second I thought they were our dudes but they…Corporal Gross on the far right, he said "Contact. Enemy." He was part aboriginal. I don't know what part, but he was an aboriginal guy, and he yelled out, he lives in Queensland now, so we began to fire.
The enemy withdrew in very good order. They had rattan loops around their ankles and were dragging their wounded back and by fire and movement, that is to say, some of them were firing at us and others were pulling their people back. Something in the order of 100 people.
We had a frontage of about 120 metres and they were more or less evenly distributed across our front. We got through that group then we hit a second, a second wave, a distinct second wave that these people, again approximately around 100-150, I don't know, and they were all withdrawing. The first lot had been going towards the Task force.
What happened was Clements, who was my far-left carrier and the carriers I had borrowed to make up the troop, had no gun shields. Clements was hit in the tummy. Ironically, the doctor told me that the flak jacket that he got from the Americans slowed the bullet down or bullets and they tumbled around inside him. He was badly wounded. I sent, I sent that carrier back. I've got to say it was a moment of compassion. If I'd have been a rock-hard soldier, I suppose I wouldn't have done it. He lived until he was twenty, till the 27th August.
The American Red Cross, doughnut dollies they were called, told me that I'd at least given Pete a few…and it didn't make a material difference to our situation. On the right I was using a sunken road as the axis 'cause that led towards Harry Smith's position. On the right hand side, the carrier just over the road from me, Corporal Carter's carrier, his 50 calibre had jammed and he leapt up on top with an Owen machine gun and killed the crew of a recoilless rifle who, subsequent to the action, I discovered, they fired, hit a rubber tree, then fired again and hit the same rubber tree.
The rain had got into their gun sight and it caused … and that's why they missed, why they lost their lives. All those other people were trying to kill us and we were trying to kill them. Terrible. It's terrible when you have to run over and through people. Anyway, about this time the CO, after this had happened, that's when the CO finally got to us.