Donald Barnby's story

Donald 'Don' Barnby joined the Australian Army in 1967 when he was 17. In 1970, he went through a rigorous entry selection for the Special Air Services Regiment (SASR). Out of 75 participants, Don was one of the 4 who passed.

Don was sent to Vietnam in 1971 and served in 2nd Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment [Australian War Memorial] (SASR). Based at the 1st Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat, the squadron's 's role was to gather intelligence on the enemy, locate their camps and bunkers, and pinpoint any tracks being used by the Viet Cong.

When Don celebrated his 21st birthday in Vietnam, it was particularly special. Thinking no one knew, he was surprised by the thoughtful gifts and good wishes from his comrades. Even a fruit cake from his mum was sent, although it arrived mouldy and 4 months late.

Like many service personnel, Don found the rapid transition from the battlefield back to Australia a difficult adjustment. With no formal debriefs, life was expected to go back to normal.

After leaving the Army in 1973, Don joined the Australian Capital Territory Police Force, now known as the Australian Federal Police (AFP). He undertook several roles, including community policing, special operations, witness protection, police rescue, Interpol, as well as personal protection for Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Governor-General Bill Hayden.

During his service with the AFP, Don served as an unarmed peacekeeper. He deployed overseas with the United Nations in Cyprus, Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, and East Timor.

After a lifetime of service, Don took on volunteering with the Photographs, Film and Sound team at the Australian War Memorial, conducting oral history interviews with veterans.

Last updated: 25 November 2022

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2022), Donald Barnby's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 9 June 2023,
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