Neil Weekes (Australian Army), The Battle of Coral/Balmoral - Part 2
As a national serviceman, Neil Weekes commanded a platoon in Vietnam during the battles for the two fire support bases, Coral and Balmoral. After returning to civilian life in Australia, he chose to re-enter the Army.
Having survived one enemy attack on Fire Support Base Coral, Neil Weekes was hoping for more defensive support.
"No defence wire comes in, no defence stores come in, no sandbags come in, no extra shovels or picks to dig the holes that we want to get right down so you're looking out of a fire pit. Nothing like that comes in, so we're now at last light. One roll of concertina wire. One roll of concertina wire. It goes for about 15 metres. That is the only defensive store I had in front of my platoon. Besides my Claymore mines.
And by the way we had no protection. Like the soldiers have nowadays. They go out into battle and they wear bulletproof vests. The only bulletproof vest we had was a green khaki shirt. We had no helmets; we had little, floppy hats and shirts.
At roundabout two thirty, all hell broke loose. And we were suddenly under very heavy attack. You can't imagine the sound of battle. You've got big explosions which are enemy mortars, you've got the artillery now just behind us, they're starting to fire. The mortars are firing; we've got artillery coming in from Tan Uyen, the big American guns. It is horrendous. You can't yell, you can't scream.
You've either got to get right up beside a guy and give him the word of command and even then you're screaming your lungs out. I try to plug the hole with artillery fire, calling it in very close, 'danger close' as they call it, 25 metres out, and I move it left to right, forward and back. At this stage there was a danger that the whole battalion could be overrun. Had the enemy come through that gap and had we not blocked them through that gap, had they been able to regroup and come through that gap, they'd have taken out the whole battalion. We'd have lost 700 men.
I had to counter-attack and take that position back. By the way the enemy are very close at this stage. We're shooting enemy from here to you away. It wasn't until roundabout 10 o'clock that morning that we secured the fire support base. By that time, we'd had a Sioux helicopter up in the air saying the enemy are out here in their hundreds, pulling their dead and wounded away. I had seen quite a few enemy dead by then.
And you, again, how to say this without seeming to be some horrible beast. You couldn't really look at them as fellow human beings. It would have turned you mad. This guy was going to kill me; he's dead, get on with the war. But seeing your own dead, the guys that you knew, you'd trained with them. And then we have a company service. Padre, prayers. We have a battalion service after that. The whole battalion gets together. And we go through playing of The Last Post, a minute's silence, The Ode... and then the war goes on."
Neil was awarded the Military Cross for that night. Back home, school teaching no longer worked for him so he re-joined the army.