Harry Esler and his Grandchildren
Sadly, another of the brave, gallant, Battle of Long Tan veterans has passed away this week.
20 year old Harry Esler was conscripted into the Australian Army in 1965 as part of the very first intake of Australian National Servicemen for the Vietnam War. After National Service training, Private Harry Esler was posted to 10 Platoon, D Company, 6RAR in September 1965 and he would go on and fight as a 21 year old riflemen in the incredible Battle of Long Tan.
Harry was 70 years young, and sadly he passed away on Wednesday morning, 15th April 2015 at his home in Newcastle. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fellow Vietnam warriors this week.
UPDATE - The funeral service for the late Harry Esler will be held at:
9.30am, Wednesday 22nd April, 2015
The Chapel of Pettigrew Funeral Home,
3 Harris Street, Wallsend, NSW
I’ve pulled together some of the interesting moments during the Battle of Long Tan which included Private Harry Esler:
- Esler says, “They stuck us on a plane and flew us to Vietnam. We landed on a beach and I thought, This is it. This is going to be great. A nice little beach at Vung Tau. Then they whipped us up to Nui Dat into the middle of a rubber plantation. When we got there it was all mud. There was no machinery to help us, we had to do it all by hand.” (more…)
These are some recollections about a young Australian, Paul Large from Coolah in rural New South Wales who departed for the Vietnam War on his 21st birthday. He was killed in action 10 weeks later at the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966. Paul was the only brother of five sisters.
“… The CO of Canungra announced on Friday night that Delta Company was the best company, and 12 Platoon the best platoon, that has been through since World War II. It might not seem like much to you, but, believe me, it is an achievement that any company would be proud to have. We will have a reputation to live up to, but after working with all the blokes out there, we are all sure we can live up to it.”
Private Paul Large, 12 Platoon, Delta Company 6 RAR, writing home to his parents about the training at Canungra, Queensland, on the eve of departing for Vietnam. The letter is dated 3rd April 1966, five months before the Battle of Long Tan.
By Lawrie Lovegrove, ‘Duck’. A mate of Paul Large.
Paul Large, 20, enjoying a beer at a pub in Brisbane in May 1966.
My earliest contact with Largie at Coolah was after my good mate Mick Donohue left the Catholic school to attend the public school, although it was some years after. Largie at that time ran with a different mob of mates, as all young fellows do from time to time — blokes like “Grimmy” Graham and “Bogan” Elliott are two that spring to mind. It wasn’t until Largie’s Dad and Mum, Vic and Dulce, moved to the house in Hospital Street where he was more closer to our territory that we started to knock around together more. Most kids up to the age of 12-13 seemed to stick to their own “territory”, but after that moved further afield and went bush and became “free-range ferals”. Fences were just something you climbed over, to keep stock in, not necessarily someone’s boundary. We never did any harm while on someone’s land, just chased kangaroos and rabbits with Sticks and rocks. Of course, it’s so different today, but looking back it was probably the reason we grew healthy and quickly.
But going back again to the pre-Hospital Street days when Largie lived in Binnia Street opposite old “By Golly” McCann’s, we used to spend time down by the creek, catching yabbies, swimming, pelting flat spinners on the water, and generally having a good time, always accompanied by Largie’s old black mongrel, Monty. We never got bored, unlike kids today. We always found other things to do, new territory to conquer, and made our own fun. During these times, Largie was always an innovator, suggesting we do this or that, and either leading or urging someone else to do something he wasn’t quite game enough to do himself. I can’t say I have any memory of Largie with a serious face. (more…)
Dedication of the Long Tan Cross, 18th August 1969
The links that bind Australian and New Zealand soldiers, past and present, will be underscored when veterans of the historic Battle of Long Tan join with troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan for a very special charity event in Canberra next month.
This event will feature a first ever screening on the big screen of the critically acclaimed and award-winning documentary The Battle of Long Tan narrated by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation, Clash of the Titans) at Dendy Cinemas in the Canberra Mall.
The event on Thursday, 16 August, which has the full support of former Chief of the Australian Army LTGEN Peter Leahy AC (Retd), is being held in advance of the 46th anniversary of the Long Tan conflict – one of the most savage of the Vietnam War.
All proceeds raised will be shared between Australia’s two major independent soldier support groups – Soldier On soldieron.org.au and The Commando Welfare Trust commandotrust.com.
This event will bring together an array of military veterans, family, next of kin, serving soldiers, politicians, and representatives of the business and entertainment sectors.
One of the misconceptions I see time and time again in online forums and in the media is around the success or failure of movies based on their box office performance and their budget and therefore whether the movie actually makes any money for the producers, production company and investors (if any). I’ve also written a previous blog post called ‘Can Australian Films Make Money‘ which outlines why many Australian films don’t make money and the key attributes filmmakers should be focused on.
I must point out that there is no such thing as ‘build it and they will come’, in our case make a film, get a small distribution deal and people will come and see it. The majority of Australian films suffer from poor to non-existent marketing, unrealistic expectations about audience interest, not enough investment in marketing or poorly targeted marketing. Mao’s Last Dancer achieved $15m at the Australian box office off the back of a best selling book (existing audience) and a $2.5m+ marketing budget. Even great films like ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘ which did extremely well in Australia and New Zealand and generated critical acclaim, can do poorly with poor distribution deals – in this case a poor U.S. distribution deal. I have outlined a detailed case study of Paranormal Activity which was made for USD$15k and earned some USD$180m at the box office through a very smart marketing strategy and campaign in one of my other blog posts ‘The Future of Filmmaking: Seizing back control of the Six Pillars of Cinema‘.
Now, before I outline a couple of detailed breakdowns of what a movie might earn and the expenses and fees associated with it (tables below), it is important to note the different distribution relationships independent producers have with the distributors:
- In-house studio production
- Negative pick-up
- Distribution agreement
Following the recent approval of the script outline for the feature dramatisation LONG TAN written by The Story Shop (James Nicholas, Karel Segers, Paul Sullivan), Sydney based scriptwriter Jack Brislee has been brought onboard to complete the script writing team.
Jack is the author of 16 screenplays, one novel and one play. He has written comedies, dramas and adapted 5 books for the screen.
LONG TAN Producer Martin Walsh said, “We are very excited to have Jack Brislee onboard to write the script for our LONG TAN movie along with James, Karel and Paul. The Story Shop team have really captured the essence of this story in the Outline and we know we now have the right approach to telling this very important, unique story and critically in a way which will work across all audiences and on the big screen”. (more…)
Company Sergeant Major WO2 Jack Kirby, D Coy 6RAR on the morning after the Battle of Long Tan
The Commander at the helm of the historical and bloody Battle of Long Tan has welcomed the addition of an ‘unsung hero’ of the Vietnam War to the list of candidates for a retrospective Victoria Cross.
Lt Colonel (Retired) Harry Smith said it was “only right and proper” that the Defence Honours Awards Tribunal investigate posthumous VCs for soldiers in the Vietnam and Korean conflicts alongside those for the two World Wars.
“I am cheered that my formal application for Warrant Officer Jack Kirby for his sustained gallantry at Long Tan has been accepted. Throughout the battle ‘Big Jack’ disregarded his own safety while braving enemy fire to distribute ammunition,” commented Smith. You can read more about what Jack Kirby did during The Battle of Long Tan in our previous blog post: Jack Kirby – An Unsung Hero of The Battle of Long Tan.
We are very busy working on the next script draft for our Long Tan movie and we wanted to let you in on some of the steps we are currently working through during the development phase.
The first thing we wanted to outline is that obviously a movie is not a documentary (and we’ve already done one of those anyway!) and therefore there are certain techniques, dramatisations and liberties we need to take in order to make a great, memorable movie. However, we are keeping these to an absolute minimum. The fact that we are dealing with a true story actually complicates our task even more but at the same time it also presents us with a huge array of story and character opportunities.
Movie - Step Outline Cards
We are currently working through what is called the ‘Step Outline’ phase. A Step Outline is around 40 odd pages and each step is effectively a short description of each scene, what happens in that scene and who is in it. To the right is an example of a Step Outline, in this case for the Die Hard movie:
This step outline is our roadmap for another full draft script.
Once this step outline is complete and we are happy with it, we then move to a full draft script. A full draft script is usually around 1 page per minute of screen time. (more…)
By Tim McCormack
“What an extraordinary coincidence that two young McCormack’s, unrelated and from different states, ended up dying next to each other on a battlefield in Vietnam.”
Albert McCormack at 19, just a few months before being conscripted for National Service.
A knock at the door….the fateful telegram….and then the 20th August 1966 headlines in that evening’s edition of the Examiner Express – ‘Launceston Boy Killed in Viet. Battle’ – thrust the Vietnam War into the face of every Tasmanian. Albert Frederick McCormack was Effie and George McCormack’s youngest and Tasmania’s first son to die in the conflict that hardly seemed real in the distant ‘Apple Isle’…until Long Tan.
Albert’s life began and ended in war. He was born on 20 March 1945 before World War II had ended in either Europe or the Pacific. Twenty-one years later his life was cut short in the hail of bullets that has come to represent the defining Australian battle of the Vietnam War – in a rubber plantation on the outskirts of the hamlet of Long Tan.
From time to time I get emails or requests for more information or a detailed list of names of those who fought in the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966.
There were 105 soldiers from D Company, 6RAR and 3 soldiers from 161 Battery RNZA who fought on the battlefield at Long Tan. The list below totals more than 108 as some members of D Coy were on language courses and attending to other duties at the time of the battle. However, all members of D Coy, 6RAR from August 1966 are entitled to wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) and the U.S. and South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citations for Gallantry. (more…)
Today, Thursday 18 August 2011 is the 45th Anniversary of the legendary Battle of Long Tan.
The long wait for proper recognition of the gallantry of those who fought and died in this battle is almost over.
45 years ago today 105 Australians and 3 New Zealanders fought and defeated an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers in a rubber plantation in South Vietnam called Long Tan. This three and a half hour battle was so fierce it resulted in the deaths of 18 Australians and more than 500 enemy.
43 years ago U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for gallantry to D Company, 6RAR for extraordinary heroism. A similar award was also given by the South Vietnamese President. However, no unit citation was given by the Australian or New Zealand governments and individual awards were downgraded or not given at all. Some of these individual awards have only recently been upgraded.
2Lt Dave Sabben (21 yrs) - Former platoon commander 12 Platoon, D Coy, 6RAR
Today, at Gallipoli Army Barracks at Enoggera in Brisbane, the long wait for proper recognition comes to an end. At 3pm today, Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce will formally present the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) to the surviving Long Tan veterans of D Coy, 6RAR. In addition, former 12 Platoon Commander Dave Sabben will also be presented his upgraded individual medal, the Medal for Gallantry (MG) for his acts of leadership and gallantry on the battlefield at Long Tan. Current soldiers of 6RAR who have recently returned from a second tour of Afghanistan will formally troop the colours and be on parade during this historic ceremony. Many surviving Long Tan veterans will be on parade today, many with their family present along with a number of Next of Kin of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country 45 years ago.