EMOTIONAL: Stanthorpe commemorated the Battle of Long Tan on Thursday, which marked 50 years since the battle.
EMOTIONAL: Stanthorpe commemorated the Battle of Long Tan on Thursday, which marked 50 years since the battle. Liana Turner

Stanthorpe remembers Battle of Long Tan

A SMALL but significant crowd gathered at Stanthorpe's Weeroona Park to mark 50 years since the Battle of Long Tan on Thursday afternoon.

The service offered a quiet moment of reflection for the Granite Belt's Vietnam veterans.

Ceremonies officer Norman Steele said it was significant for the Granite Belt's Vietnam veterans, which includes himself, to be able to mark the day.

"We do it every year and it's just to remember the battle and all those that have passed away,” Mr Steele said.

"But also for those blokes that are still here.

"It's just our way of getting together as a group.”

He said it was special to have members of the Pine Rivers RSL sub-branch, from north of Brisbane, visit for the ceremony.

"They travel around and came to Stanthorpe this year,” Mr Steele said. "It's very pleasing to see.”

Mr Steele said it was important for them to mark the day with the service.

But some veterans didn't have the same freedom, after the Vietnamese government made a late decision to cancel the ceremony in Long Tan.

The government later decided to allow small groups of visitors to the site under restricted access rules, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to allow Australians to access the site.

Mr Steele, who has been to the Long Tan site, said it had long been a tradition for Australian veterans to visit Long Tan on August 18.

"It's a shame ... but we've just got to be respectful of the Vietnamese government and I think all the veterans will continue to assist ... and continue the work that they've done over there since the end of the war,” he said.

Kerry Ryan, from Eukey, who served as part of the Australian Logistics Support Group at Vung Tau, said the day was a moment for reflection on the sacrifices made 50 years ago.

Vietnam veterans joined with the community in Stanthorpe on Thursday to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan.
Vietnam veterans joined with the community in Stanthorpe on Thursday to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan. Liana Turner

"It gives us an opportunity to bring our thoughts forward each year and to remember the fellows that died in the Vietnam conflicts and those who have since now passed away,” he said.

He also said it was a shame to see further conflict arise around the significant anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

"I think it's a sad reflection on the goodness that has since been done by veterans since the war has been over,” he said.

"It's a time of remembrance, not of uncomfortableness.”

While the Vietnamese government upheld the ban on a memorial ceremony, groups of 100 were allowed onto the site of Long Tan.

The Battle of Long Tan took place on August 18, 1966, when Australian troops were ambushed by Viet Cong soldiers.

A total of 18 Australians were killed in the battle, while 24 were wounded.

Stanthorpe Border Post


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