RESTORATION PROJECTS AT 20TH STA REGIMENT - Apr 2015
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.
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.
and Andrew prepare to remove the dish assembly. A litre or seven of
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
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
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these equipments were withdrawn from service.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
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
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.
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.