Arthur Law's story

Arthur Alfred Law was born on 13 October 1942 in Northumberland, England. Both his parents served in World War II, his father in the Royal Navy and his mother with the Royal Air Force. In 1949, the family migrated to Australia and settled in Port Melbourne.

Arthur served in the school cadets and the Citizen Military Forces. His father had insisted he learn a trade. After school, he trained as a refrigeration mechanic with Frigrite in Port Melbourne. In 1962, before he could put his trade to practice, he joined the regular Australian Army.

Travelling was what inspired Arthur to join the Army. With some encouragement from a platoon sergeant, he applied for infantry in the hope of being posted to Malaya. After training at Ingleburn, he was posted to 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR). It became quickly apparent to Arthur that Malaya would be no holiday. As a soldier, when you were not at war, your time was spent training for war.

Posted to Papua New Guinea in 1964, Arthur spent 3 months patrolling in the harsh Papuan jungles before returning to Australia. It would prove a valuable preparation for what was to come.

As a Lance Corporal, Arthur deployed with 1 RAR to Vietnam in May 1965. The battalion was attached to the US Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. Its role was to protect the Bien Hoa airfield alongside US soldiers. Arthur remembers the distinct differences in tactical warfare between the Australians and Americans.

Only weeks before he was due to return home, Arthur was wounded in Operation Silver City, a heliborne assault. Eternally grateful for the US evacuation and hospital system, Arthur returned to Australia to recover.

It wasn't until he returned from Vietnam that he realised the feelings society had towards the war. Hateful comments were directed at him. Not wanting to cause trouble, and to stay out of fights, he refrained from telling people he was in the Army.

Arthur continued to serve in the Army for a further 17 years.

Arthur Law (Australian Army), Partners & Allies

Transcript

In 1965, the Australian Government agreed to send an infantry battalion to Vietnam: 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. Attached to the US Army's 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) in Bien Hoa, their number included a confident lance corporal named Arthur Law.

"We were very confident young men. Individually and collectively. We were world beaters. We'd been told so often how we were the best."

It wasn't long before they were in action alongside American troops. Their tactics were different.

"The American tactic when we first arrived there, was as soon as they contacted an enemy and started shooting, because of their terrific fire power they've got behind them, they would pull back a hundred metres so that they could employ their artillery and all that sort of stuff.

The enemy very quickly realised this and would move forward with them, if you're up close you can't use those weapons so it was down to you know, pistols and rifles and machine guns. And initially when we were having contacts we were getting quite a few kills, ‘cos they were moving forward on us, until they realised the blokes in the bush hats aren't Americans.

Quite often we would have Americans with us, to observe our way of doing it. Some were good, some were not so good. Same as our guys. They were quite brave people in so far as, when we got shot at, everybody was on their guts on the ground looking for where the shot was coming from and trying to return fire. The Americans would trade shots you know, they'd run forward and you know, real cowboy sort of stuff."

Just weeks before he was due to go home, Arthur was involved in Operation Silver City, a heliborne assault.

"And the next thing, shooting starts. And I'm down on my face on the ground and I've been shot through the leg and there's blood spraying everywhere. Ah, shit, you know.

I'm eternally thankful for the American evacuation system, their hospital system, which I reckon you could probably not get anywhere else in the world. You knew that if you were wounded and they could get you out before it really got bad, your chances of survival were almost a hundred per cent."

Interview Lance Corporal Arthur Law

Last updated:

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Arthur Law's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/arthur-laws-story
Was this page helpful?
We can't respond to comments or queries via this form. Please contact us with your query instead.
CAPTCHA