Snub to Governor General’s Medal Ceremony Offer to Long Tan Veterans

Governor General Quentin Bryce
Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce

A ceremony proposed by the Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, to present a gallantry citation 44 years after the bloody Battle of Long Tan has been stalled by red tape to the distress of a distinguished Vietnam War commander.

Retired Lt Colonel Harry Smith praised the Governor-General for her sincere offer to host the ceremony for surviving soldiers from the conflict and Next of Kin (NOK) on 17 August the Day before Long Tan Day but said the Army had failed to respect the offer.

The logistics of the event, including the transportation to and from Canberra, were down to Defence, and they simply didnt follow through. Simply failed to honour the GGs wishes. Absolutely appalling!

The office of the Governor-General contacted Smith a month ago with the offer to hold an event at Yarralumla for surviving soldiers of the battle and family members of those who died in the conflict in 1966 or have passed away since.

According to Smith, Her Excellency genuinely wanted to hold the ceremony to present the three Officer medals approved and gazetted in 2008, and bestow the Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) approved by the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal (DHAT) in September 2009.

I honestly believe the GG wishes to present the Gallantry Emblem to each man and/or NOK, which is great, and thus everyone, not just the officers, gets an award, comments Smith, the overall Commander of Delta Company 6RAR at Long Tan, in which 18 Australians died and 23 were wounded.

Of course, I am well aware of the hostile attitude in Defence as to the award of the UCG, and the presentation of the Citation and Streamer with the Emblems to my former Company.

However, it was all approved by the Government in October last year, and the implications relating to the Official Presentation by the GG must surely have been discussed, accepted and costed by Defence.

The Defence attitude is that the UCG should be held over to August next year. That attitude is not acceptable to most people I have spoken with. The medals and the UCG go hand in hand. The UCG emblems without the Citation and Streamer is not protocol and not acceptable.

The former Delta Company 6RAR 1966 originally had 124 people (including NOK of the 18 KIA at Long Tan) entitled to the UCG, and since then another 18 have passed on, leaving 89.

I am told there is no known address for some 18 people or their NOK. The years have taken a toll and there are others who have medical problems and are unable to travel. I know two who are having major surgery this month, says Smith.

Im also aware that the 2009 UCG for my former Company has caused controversy. The feeling is that the DHAT should have also approved contemporary Australian Unit Citations for all other units who supported us, along with units who also fought significant battles such as Coral-Balmoral and Bin Ba, and including Kapyong and Maryang San in Korea.

Lt Col Harry Smith (rtd) Former Officer Commanding D Coy, 6RAR

Nevertheless, DHAT saw fit to approve the UCG for just our former Company. It was first mooted for presentation in late 2009; then moved back to January this year at the request of 6RAR; then moved back to August 2011 by Defence, then brought forward by the GGs Office to 17th August.

I suggest Army HQ has made a very improper decision to rebuke the wishes of the GG which were advised to my men, and to delay the presentation for yet another year.

Smith added: I will now continue with my original plan for Long Tan Day, which is to accept the invitation of the Mayor of Rockhampton to open the Long Tan Memorial Gardens and name the 18 Hibiscus shrubs in honour of those killed in the Battle.

Smith has requested that his Star of Gallantry medal, equivalent to the award originally recommended in 1966, be now posted to his home along with his UCG emblem.

I have passed on my apology to the office of Her Excellency that the full ceremony is not going to take place. I am sure she will appreciate my views on the matter. As I have said many times, I owe my life to my men and I cannot partake in a ceremony which does not include them.

Media contact Graham Cassidy: Mobile 0419 202317


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