Australian Unit Citation for 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery gallantry in Vietnam

Question – Not wishing to take anything away from this gallantry award to 161 Battery but why does the NZ Government now recognise this award, made by the Australian Government when it does not recognise other awards made by that same Government? 

The Government has agreed that Royal New Zealand Artillery personnel who served in the Vietnam War will be awarded the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry.

The award affects around 120 members of 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, who participated in the Battles of Coral and Balmoral in Vietnam between 12 May and 6 June 1968, as well as other New Zealand Armed Forces personnel directly involved in one or both battles.

“The Battles of Coral and Balmoral were among the largest and most protracted fought by the Australian Task Force in the Vietnam War. The 161 Battery gunners received high praise for the accuracy and volume of fire support they provided at critical stages of attacks on the Australian battalion positions,” says Ron Mark.

“The Australian Government last year awarded the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry in recognition of the ‘extraordinary gallantry’ the Australian units provided during the battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral between 12 May and 6 June 1968. The award was also offered by the Australian Government to 161 Battery Royal New Zealand Artillery.

“The Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry is awarded to a unit for ‘extraordinary gallantry’ as a team in warlike operations. It is not awarded for acts of gallantry performed by an individual or by small groups of personnel.

“A formal presentation by representatives of the Australian Government of this award is being planned at Linton Military Camp in March 2019,” says Ron Mark.

Eligible veterans who are not in contact with the Royal New Zealand Artillery Association should provide their contact details to New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals, Private Bag 905, Upper Hutt 5140.

Email: NZDF.pam@nzdf.mil.nz or telephone: 04 527 5280.

ENDS

Background Notes

History

161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery initially deployed to Vietnam near Bien Hoa in July 1965. They moved to Nui Dat in the neighbouring Phuoc Tuy province as part of the newly formed 1st Australian Task Force on 23 May 1966, and provided continuous fire support to successive Australian and New Zealand battalions from that date until withdrawn in May 1971.

One of the first major operations for the 1st Australian Task Force was to deploy 120 kilometres from their Nui Dat base to an area in Bien Hoa Province designated “Area of Operation Surfers”. This was an area important to the North Vietnamese Army offensive operations being conducted against Saigon in 1968. The Task Force established Fire Support Bases named Coral and Balmoral.

The battles that followed were among the largest and most protracted fought by the Australian Task Force in the Vietnam War. The gunners of 161 Battery received high praise for the accuracy and volume of fire support they provided at critical stages of attacks on the Australian battalion positions.

This is the first Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry offered to a New Zealand military unit. In 2010, approval was given for three New Zealand Army personnel who were attached to D Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966 to accept and wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry awarded to D Company.

Eligibility

Authority to wear the insignia associated with this unit citation is only for those veterans who participated in the battles, none of whom are serving New Zealand Defence Force military personnel. Current personnel of 161 Battery will not wear the insignia as a dress embellishment.

Information about the planned presentation in March 2019 will be sent to eligible veterans through the Royal New Zealand Artillery Association email and social media networks. Eligible veterans who are not in contact with the Royal New Zealand Artillery Association should provide their contact details to New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals, Private Bag 905, Upper Hutt 5140. Email: NZDF.pam@nzdf.mil.nz or telephone: 04 527 5280.

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