Geoff Hazel - First patrol
At one stage there the companies were out, battalion headquarters were in, and they said, "Oh, well", the new company clerk for A company has just been promoted to Corporal, "We'd like you to take him out on a taop patrol", tactical area of responsibility. We put out about six a night, four to six men, your main job was just observation and report back so that nothing could sneak in. "He wants you to take him out and show him how to run a patrol". Okay, I've never done one. Yep, well, I' been a corporal at that stage, I think for whole of five or six weeks. So I’m just a little bit senior to him.
So I went down. Yep, we can do this, got the place where they wanted us to go, went down, met the patrol, there was him, there was two guys that have been there from the start with us. No, one had come over from one of the other battalions for some reason, I don't know why, I think he'd been in hospital and came to us, one that been from the start, and two that had just arrived, they were going to replace some of the national service intake that was going home.
We went out, got out to a spot where I thought that this would make a nice spot. We got a bit old paddy bund we can get behind for a bit of protection if we need it. Right in a corner, solid stone grave behind us. And so I did the resection and all that, then we moved on five or 600 metres, sat down, cooked our dinner, put up a little hoochie, waved goodbye to the locals as they headed out of the paddy fields and went back to the village. And as soon as it was dark and they were all gone, went straight back to where we were supposed to be.
And at 10 past nine we had roster, somebody was watching all the time. 10 past nine, the bloke from A Company woke me up and he said, "We've got people out there". So we just sat there and then there was definitely sounds right near us. And we could sort of see stuff and, righto, called in elimination from the artillery. And I asked, "Where's it supposed to go off?" He said, "Well, if you're where you say you are it’ll be right over the top of your head." And it was. And with that, started the fight.
This is just the six of us and God knows how many of them. we were exchanging stuff, not a lot, because they never tried to attack, just kept our heads down and we made sure they didn't come any closer. And then at one stage and that was going on until, it was after two o'clock. So we were going for at least four or five hours. And one of the elimination, which they kept over us went way off beam and it went out over these paddy fields and I saw a group there of about forty and they're running, they're leaving.
So I started calling the artillery on to, because I’d set up fire plans and all that. And I remember I was just about to call the last round where I reckon they would have been, and a flare went off straight overhead again. And they weren't leaving. They were extras coming in. And I never forget, it was it was "Right 300. Drop 600. Enemy assault line . Five rounds. Fire for effect". And they did. I kept my eyes above the bund just long enough to see the first round right in amongst them and said, "Right 50. Repeat". And they just landed right in amongst them.
Those artillery boys really did. I mean, we would have gone, there was no way we were going to take that 40 with what we had, when they they'd also started shooting from the other side of us. And then after that it went quiet for a long while, they sent out a helicopter which flew around and shot up, all the ground all around us. And next morning, they said "Well, are you coming down?" and I said, "I'm not moving from here until somebody comes out and tells me there's nothing hiding around me".
It was a little bell flew out and he landed. And I though, "Righto, if he landed, it’s safe because they would have shot him". We did a sweep, there’d been 19 spots where there was ammunition around us. So we'd had a fair group. I was always wondering why nobody came out to save us. And when I got back I did a debrief and we got a good debrief, it was Major Stewart, an admin company guy and he said, "Well, we had two companies, one by helicopters one by armoured personnel carrier ready to go but we believe you were being used as bait for a trap for a larger ambush. So we were just sitting there waiting. And yeah, … I was the first corporal to command a unit in 3 Battalion…It was just before the Tet Offensive.