Tony Ey's veteran story

Anthony 'Tony' Ey was born in 1948 in Medindie, South Australia. He attended Urrbrae Agricultural College and joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1965. He trained at HMAS Cerberus [Navy]; the Navy's training base in Victoria.

Tony found an interest in clearance diving. As a clearance diver, he received training in weapons handling, explosive device disposal and sabotage, as well as combat swimming, ship attacks and counter-terrorism.

In 1970, 22-year-old Tony was deployed to Da Nang Port in South Vietnam where he served with the Clearance Diving Team 3 CDT3), 8th Contingent. His unit worked closely with United States forces during the war.

The main role of clearance divers was harbour defence. This involved protecting shipping against underwater attack from Viet Cong sapper/swimmers (saboteurs). The divers performed difficult and dangerous tasks, often in very unpleasant conditions. Their work was vital to the safety of both military and civilian shipping in South Vietnam.

Tony recalled feeling unwelcomed when returning from the war to Australia. He felt proud of the Australians' efforts and felt the Vietnam veterans weren't given the same respect as soldiers who returned from previous wars and conflicts.

Tony continued his naval career. He was posted to diving instruction and promoted to Senior Demolitions Instructor. He served there for 12 months before going on an exchange for 3 years to the United States Navy.

Tony retired from the Navy in 1985 as Chief Petty Officer. He wrote 2 books on his experience as a clearance diver in the RAN.

Tony Ey (Royal Australian Navy), Navy Clearance Diver


The Clearance Diving Branch is the Special Forces unit of the Royal Australian Navy. In Vietnam, the diving teams served with American forces. Tony Ey was in Da Nang.

"When we arrived we were issued with American camouflage uniforms, American weapons. We had American vehicles, American boats, we ate American food.

After we arrived the Americans realised that we had probably a greater capability than the American-trained, bomb disposal types. So they started to use us throughout the length and breadth of what they called I Corps, which was Military Region 1, in the north.

Their major role was in harbour defence, to protect shipping against underwater attack from VC, Viet Cong sapper swimmers.

On board the vessel it's not so bad but when you get underwater and search the hull, the visibility is zero, the water is dirty.

Quite often it's the middle of the night, a torch isn't going to do you much good anyway so, you have no choice but to use the ten eyes on the end of each finger and that's the way we were taught. You just feel. So you progressively search the ship the best way you can.

You're virtually on your own, you're isolated. You can't see anybody. You're in the water and you're below this ship and you're thinking that above you is thousands of tons of high explosives that may detonate at any second.

I know from the Second World War my father, they came home as heroes and they were made welcome everywhere they went. They were bought beers in the pub but we came home and we didn't talk about Vietnam. And to this day there's not a day goes by that I don't think about Vietnam.

It is so much a part of you that you can never ever, ever shake it and I think the main reason for that is the way we were treated when we came home. We were second class citizens and we thought we had done a great job. We were very proud of what we did.

We did our best and we came home to a pretty bad reception. The American experience was probably worse than ours I think but yeah it's something that stays with you for life."

Last updated:

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Tony Ey's veteran story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 17 July 2024,
Was this page helpful?
We can't respond to comments or queries via this form. Please contact us with your query instead.