Vietnam First tour 7 RAR tracker dogs and their handlers in South Vietnam, 1967 In April 1967, 7 RAR embarked upon HMAS Sydney, bound for South Vietnam. Upon arrival they relieved the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR). By this time, the single Australian battalion that had originally been committed had been replaced by the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), consisting of two infantry battalions and various supporting units, based in Phuoc Tuy Province. Upon arrival the battalion joined the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) at 1 ATF's base at Nui Dat, however, the following month 6 RAR was replaced by the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) and it was with 2 RAR that the battalion served out its first year long tour of duty in South Vietnam. Over the course of those 12 months, 7 RAR took part in 26 battalion- level operations, as well as numerous small unit actions. Initially 7 RAR undertook security operations around Nui Dat as well as carrying out a few search and destroy taskings at a local level, however, their first major operation saw them take up a blocking position near Xuyen Moc in support of US and South Vietnamese forces who advanced through the May Tao mountains in an effort to locate the 275th Regiment (Viet Cong) and drive them towards 7 RAR's position. Ultimately, however, this operation failed as the VC unit was not located. In August 1967 the battalion was tasked to undertake an independent search and destroy operation to the north-west of Nui Dat, in the Hat Dich area. This operation, codenamed Operation Ballarat, led to the Battle of Suoi Chau Pha when 'A' Company, under Major Ewart O'Donnell fought an encounter battle with a reinforced Viet Cong company from the 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment. Five Australians were killed during the fighting, while another died of wounds later, and 19 others were wounded. It is believed that the Viet Cong suffered over 200 casualties in the battle, largely from supporting artillery and mortars. Throughout August and September 7 RAR took part in resettlement operations around Xa Bang. Later in September, the battalion lost a large number of its national servicemen who, having completed their two year obligation, were rotated back to Australia for discharge. The following month they took part in an Australian, US and South Vietnamese operation called Santa Fe which was launched in the May Tao Secret Zone in an attempt to find the Viet Cong's 5th Division. After this they undertook search and destroy operations around Nui Dat, however contact with the Viet Cong during this time was limited. In December 1967, 1 ATF was expanded to a brigade-group with the arrival of a third infantry battalion, 3 RAR, and a quantity of Centurion tanks. Between 24 January and 1 March 1968, 7 RAR deployed to Bien HoaLong Khanh border along with 2 RAR and subsequently took part in Operation Coburg during the Tet Offensive. On 9 April 1968, 7 RAR was relieved by 1 RAR and subsequently rotated back to Australia. Upon arrival in Sydney, the battalion was welcomed home by a large crowd and conducted a march through the streets. Throughout their deployment over 1,180 men had served in the battalion's ranks, of whom 16 had been killed and 124 wounded. Members of the battalion received the following decorations: one Distinguished Service Order (DSO), two Members of Order of the British Empire (MBEs), two Military Crosses (MCs), two Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCMs), three Military Medals (MMs) and 14 Mentions in Despatches (MIDs). Second tour Following 7 RAR's return to Australia it was based at Finschhafen Lines, at Holsworthy, New South Wales. It was there, on 6 October 1968, that the battalion finally received its Queen's and Regimental Colours in a ceremony presided over by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler. Following this the battalion undertook further training in preparation for its second tour of duty in South Vietnam, which came in early 1970. They arrived in country in February under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Grey, replacing 5 RAR. They arrived amidst an effort to pacify Phuoc Tuy. This effort involved 7 RAR in almost continuous operations, in an attempt to keep the Viet Cong off balance and separate them from the civilian population. During April and May 1970, 7 RAR took part in the task force level Operation Concrete which took place around Xuyen Moc with the aim of destroying the Viet Cong's D 445th Battalion. The battalion's role in Concrete was to operate in the Tan Ru region, carrying out a reconnaissance-in-force followed by ambush operations. Only three companies were available for wider operations, however, as 'C' Company was detached to provide training to the ARVN 18th Division, although it undertook local patrols and ambushes. Instead of being inserted by helicopter, the decision was made for the companies to deploy on foot and by Armoured Personnel Carrier. On 20 April, one of 'B' Company's platoons contacted a small Viet Cong force and engaged them in a brief firefight that left one VC dead. Two days later, in concert with artillery and Centurion tanks, 'B' Company was involved in capturing a bunker complex. Throughout June 1970 and February 1971, 1 ATF undertook a four- phased pacification operation known as Cung Chung in concert with South Vietnamese forces. This involved extensive patrolling, ambush and cordon and search operations. During one such operation on the night of 30 December 1970 Headquarters 'B' Company, 7 RAR and four APCs from 3rd Cavalry Regiment were contacted by a large group of Viet Cong. The communists assaulted the Australians four times before being repelled by heavy fire from the M113s. The following morning a clearing patrol found 21 bodies and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. Intelligence later assessed that a company from VC D445 Battalion had been destroyed. On 25 February 1971, 3 RAR relieved 7 RAR, and the battalion returned to Sydney, arriving there on 10 March 1971. This was the battalion's last tour of Vietnam. For its second tour, members of 7 RAR received the following decorations: one DSO, two MBEs, two MCs, two MMs, 5 MIDs and one British Empire Medal. Casualties included 17 killed and 89 wounded, many of them caused by mines lifted by the Viet Cong from the controversial barrier minefield laid previously by the Australians at Dat Do. Over the course of its two deployments, over 2,400 men served with 7 RAR of which 33 men killed and 220 wounded
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