Sunshine Coast Vietnam War veteran Laurie Drinkwater fought in the Battle of Long Tan.
Sunshine Coast Vietnam War veteran Laurie Drinkwater fought in the Battle of Long Tan. Contributed

Long Tan let-down not a total loss for Coast veteran

THE disappointment of not being allowed to hold 50-year Battle of Long Tan commemorations on site did not render veteran Laurie Drinkwater's Vietnam trip a total loss.

Mr Drinkwater, of Bli Bli, was section commander of 12 Platoon in 6th Royal Australian Regiment's D Company on August 18, 1966.

"Before the battle started we weren't expecting much action as we thought that the enemy would have left the area as they had taken casualties the night before," Mr Drinkwater said.

"The rain was horrendous, and as the battle wore on things started to look pretty grim."

By the end of the battle 17 soldiers from D Company and one from the 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron were killed and 21 wounded.

The enemy left 245 dead and many more wounded.

Mr Drinkwater, 77, travelled with fellow veterans as well as his grandson to Vietnam earlier this month with the intention of marking the 50th anniversary in the rubber plantation site of death and destruction.

"A lot of the old Company were going back including my old boss.

"I also wanted to take my grandson with me, because he is going into the army in the near future and I thought it would be a good experience for him."

But they found out shortly before the planned ceremony the Vietnamese authorities would not be allowing them onto the site.

Mr Drinkwater said it appeared to be politicians flexing their muscles.

"Well it was a long way to travel and then told we could not go to conclude our pilgrimage.

"It was very disappointing, but when you are in somebody else's country, dems (sic) the rules."

They instead went back to their hotel and held a small tour group service in one of the function rooms.

But the disappointment has not made him regret the trip.

The people he met were friendly.

"I am glad I went with my grandson.

"We really bonded and talked a lot about things that probably would not have been said if we had not been in that situation."

He said it was important for younger generations to learn about battles such as Long Tan.

"We should learn by our mistakes.

"We should keep the memory of our brave forefathers alive and we should keep eternal valiance against people that may want to do us harm."

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