Locating Surveillance and Target Acquisition Association

 

 

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Radar Dedication Postponed (added 21 May 2017 - opens new window)

Download and View the "Congratulations Graham Whelan" PDF here (added 16 February 2017 - opens new window)

2017 ANZAC Day Reports (added 2 June 2017 - opens new window)

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RESTORATION PROJECTS AT 20TH STA REGIMENT - Apr 2015

 Keith Ayliffe and Terry Erbs, assisted by Sgt Andrew Whitelaw and his able crew, are working on refurbishing some of the historic items of equipment displayed in and around the barracks area occupied by the Regiment. 

Their first project is a much-weathered AN/KPQ-1 Mortar Locating Radar pedestal and antenna unit.  

Here are some of Terry’s photos of the initial dismantling phase of the project: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now where do we start? Dishes, Pedestal and Tripod intact. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Keith and Andrew prepare to remove the dish assembly.  A litre or seven of WD-40 required!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crew about to lift the dishes.  Note the fork lift truck….WHS rules!

Dare we say it? ………”In our day it was a two man lift!”

 

Dishes successfully lifted off

………And coming down. 

 

The pedestal comes off the Tripod…….after 45 years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedestal and Tripod finally separated. 

Thanks Terry for some great shots. Watch this space for further developments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handover of Refurbished AN/KPQ-1 Radar # A12 

24th April 2016

The semi-final chapter (*) in this project took place at 20th STA Regiment on ANZAC eve 2016. With visitors seated, the Regiment marched on and the ceremony began. 

 

Initially, MAJ Russ Hamsey introduced LSTA Association Immediate Past President Allan Harrison RFD who made the following handover presentation speech: 

LTCOL Grant, members of 20th STA Regt, former members of Det 131 Div Loc Bty, Ladies and Gentlemen: 

It is my privilege to represent the President, LSTAA, MAJ Joe Kaplun OAM, CMC on the occasion of this symbolic handover of the AN/KPQ-1 Radar #A12 to 20th STA Regiment. 

I say symbolic in the sense that the Regiment has been custodian of this radar set for many years since these equipments were withdrawn from service. At this time however, when we are recognising the 50th anniversary of the deployment of the Detachment, 131 Div Loc Bty RAA, onto active service in SVN, one of the many roles which this very radar played in that conflict has been brought into sharp focus.

 

At 0204 hours on the morning of 17th August 1966, The 1st ATF Base at Nui Dat came under intense artillery and mortar attack. Radar A12 was operational within the base at that time. Monsoonal rain was falling and the radar was swamped with rain clutter and massive numbers of incoming projectiles to the extent that no single lock-on was possible. However, the bearing and range to the hostile weapons was, and that information was reported to the Task Force Artillery Intelligence Office, or Arty Tac as it was known.  A pre-arranged counter battery fireplan was executed within minutes. 

Those bearing and range reports, combined with other reports received by Arty Tac were sufficient to justify the mounting of patrols seeking to gain valuable intelligence information from the hostile baseplate positions. Patrols from B Company 6 RAR found blood trails and clear evidence of abandoned fire positions, severely damaged by the counter battery fire. On 18th August, D Company 6 RAR commenced operation Smithfield in the Long Tan area, one of its tasks being to locate and examine further hostile mortar and artillery positions as indicated by Arty Tac. D Company initially encountered a small Vietcong patrol. A firefight quickly escalated and D Company found itself massively outnumbered by NVR Troops. The rest is history………..what we now know and commemorate as The Battle of Long Tan.  

The enemy plan was to overrun the Nui Dat base and had that happened, the results would have been catastrophic.  

So, from those reports from Radar A12, supported by other reports confirming those hostile positions, an operation which ultimately saved the TF base from potential annihilation was successfully mounted.  

LSTAA became interested in this particular radar some months ago when joining with the Regiment, in a program of historic equipment refurbishment, the brainchild of then 2 i/c MAJ Russ Hamsey. Two Vietnam veterans and Association members, Keith Ayliffe and Terry Erbs, both of whom are with us here today, joined with members of the Regiment in dismantling and refurbishing the radar, to the condition in which we see it today.  Early on in that process, identification plates proved that it is indeed Radar A12.  

An application is currently before DVA for a grant to construct a shelter to protect the radar from the elements so that it can be preserved and remain an object of historic significance to future generations of STA personnel. Without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to formally hand back Radar A12 to 20th STA Regiment, confident in the knowledge that it could not be in better hands.

 

Allan then introduced Kevin Browning OAM who delivered the following speech recognising the service delivered by members of the Detachment, 131 Div Loc Bty on active service in South Vietnam:

 

LT COL Grant, officers and soldiers of 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regt, Allan Harrison and Allen Morley the chairs of the Locating Surveillance and Target Acquisition and Detachment 131 Associations, fellow members of Detachment 131 Divisional Locating Battery, ladies and gentlemen. 

It is hard to believe that 50 years have passed since the first members of the Detachment were deployed to Vietnam and to put this into perspective please consider that at the time of their deployment it had been 50 years since the first Australian Imperial Force had arrived in France on their way to the western front during WW1  

The Detachment numbered no more than 70 at maximum strength and while other units such as 1, 4 and 12 Field Regiments rotated as an entity every 12 months, we rotated people in small groups, thus the Detachment served in name continuously from April 1966 to August 1971 and then several members were transferred to HQ battery 12 Field Regiment to continue to provide them with support until November 1971. It was not unusual to find people arriving and departing almost every week. In total 476 served in the Detachment, many of them National Servicemen. 

Those that arrived in April 1966 we affectionately call ‘the pioneers’ and we are honoured to have present with us today ‘pioneers’ Ian Board, George Lane, Merv Nairn, Ged Carroll, Ray Smith, Jim Fitzgerald, Kevin Thornton and Edward ‘spike’ Chase.

Today we stand by this AN/KPQ-1 radar, it symbolises the Detachment but it does not clearly define all elements which also included survey/sound rangers, artillery intelligence, listening posts, sensors, headquarter staff, workshops and catering. Our members were not to be found in one location but scattered across the task force base at Nui Dat and the Horseshoe and were to be deployed to all the fire support bases and further afield. They operated 24 hours a day 7 days a week and a lot of responsibility was placed on individuals. 

I have no hesitation in saying the unit was a cut above the average although we did at one time hold the dubious honour of the most soldiers per capita in the cells. The senior officers didn’t appreciate the individualism of the unit nor understand its efficiency.  

 

I know of no other unit reporting the unusual flying object of a fat man in a red suit being pulled by animals one Christmas Eve or the black lights moving through the jungle at night. One of our members was told to get his webbing and report back. He was then told he was immediately going out on patrol to set up an ambush. As he left camp he realised his magazine was empty so opened his basic pouch to change magazines and found only his shoe polish and brush. So opening his other pouch he found it only contained his tooth brush. So without ammunition he settled into the ambush position and was almost immediately bitten by something and had to be medevac’d out. That was initiative! 

Here, in addition to the radar, there is the Detachment’s plaque and a plaque with the names, listed alphabetically, of all 476 Detachment members including Jimmy Menz and Tom Checkley who gave the supreme sacrifice. We are grateful to the regiment for allowing this symbol of recognition of the Detachment to be established in your area. We hope it will symbolically recognise a link with you, 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment, our successors, of whom many have seen active service in Iraq and Afghanistan and Timor and the Solomons. We have watched your outstanding service and dedication with pride. 

I am honoured to now ask Merv Nairn to unveil the plaques and to place them in the care of 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment.

 

 Merv Nairn and CO LTCOL Peter Grant unveil the plaques.

(*) FOOTNOTE

Advice has been received that our application to DVA for a grant to construct a shelter for Radar A12 has been approved. Construction will start shortly, marking the final chapter of this story.

   

 

   
     

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