Geoff Hazel - Coral Balmoral
I was pulled out of the operation before the one that became Coral Balmoral because A company was staying in base as the defensive unit which happened quite often, they rotated through. And the sig from B Company was actually going on R&R. So I went in and joined B Company, as their sig with, Bert Irwin was the major. We've done about 12 days, I think, in another area, and then we were picked up by helicopters. And we were being flown to be the first company on the ground at Coral, to set the security so everybody else could fly in.
Flying around, we were flying around for an extra hour and a half and we watched a battle on the ground between an American armoured unit and obviously, the VC of some sort. And we ended up landing, being told to land about 1500 metres away from where the original site was supposed to be. So we did, but then the helicopters were almost out of fuel. They had to go back so everything was delayed on that day. And that's why Coral on that first night was definitely not ready to be attacked. And we stayed there, the rest of 3 Battalion flew in and moved out. A staff of 1 Battalion flew in and moved out.
The first lot of guns were moved in. And then finally the final company of 1 Battalion moved in. And it would have been about 5.30 in the afternoon. And they were to take over from us as defence and we were to move out, we only got 700 metres before we had to set up. And we watched the attack that night on Coral because, and there was damn, nothing we could do. They attacked from one side where no infantry company was still not far away. We didn't, I mean, because we were on a different radio frequency. We didn't know everything that was going on but we just knew it was one hell of a fight.
And the next morning, we were told to move and move fast. And we were in a land cleared area as they called it, they'd been through with the dozers and the chains between them and all the trees were just lying on the ground and it was stinking hot and you're climbing over these trees. We're moving far faster than I think we should have. We had a firefight probably 10, 10 30 spotted a group that was obviously not us and then we kept moving. By the end of the day, towards the end of the day, I think I was the last one to go, he'd lost 11 people with heat exhaustion because you're just pushing in that particular environment way too hard.
And it was always one of the machine gunners or one of the radio operators because they were carrying extra equipment. They had extra weight to the what the normal soldier has. So yeah, there were 10 gone and then they were waiting for a helicopter to take one out and all of a sudden I didn't know where I was. And when I woke up, I was in an American hospital and I woke up and some bloke was saying "Scalpel". And I said, "I'm awake". He said "It’s all right. We've put in local anaesthetic".
I had two drips in the arm just with heatstroke. So that was three days in there, I was the only Australian that got there, there was 25th Evac, the others have been picked up by the RAAF and were taken to Vung Tau. So I ended up in the officers’ ward being very well looked after, thank you very much and I almost had my purple heart. Somebody was coming in pinning them on. And just before he got to meet the CEO turned up, just to check to see how I was, "What are you doing? No, Australians don't get those things".
Well, but then, once I got over that, that was when Coral was, sorry, Balmoral was being set up and A Company, the whole battalion, I think that was the only time in Balmoral where we had close to the full Battalion on the ground. Every other time you always had people you had to leave people back for base security, you people on leave, usually a platoon out or an operation was somewhere between 19 and 21 not 34. So your companies were only about 60 people. For Balmoral they had just about everybody out there that could. Anybody that was fit and healthy was out there. So I was out of hospital and was out there with A Company.