Battle of Balmoral ; Vietnamese recovery of NVA remains – Australian assistance: More information

Hi Ray,

I’ve found some further information on the Vietnamese recovery of NVA remains following the Battle of Balmoral IN Mat 1968 – ie additional to the material I sent on 13 April.

I posted the short section below – as a comment to the comment item by “William Thomas Laidlaw” on Balmoral more recently.

“I’ve now found some recent advice on the Australian military assisting the Vietnamese with the recovery of NVA remains from the May 1968 Battle of Balmoral – and have posted it to the FRONTLINE website (of Ray Payne).

The Australian Army person in the on-site photograph of the “search” is not a “WO2” – but WO2 Duncan Reid, the Defence Admin Assistant at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi. The successful search has been undertaken based on information provided by vets and family of 3RAR members. Specifically Luke Johnston (son of David Johnston, 3RAR vet) and John Bryant (3RAR vet).

Our Defence Section in Hanoi was involved in facilitating contact between Luke Johnston and John Bryant and the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence. The search and recovery is now reportedly ‘wrapping up’, and a memorial service is to be conducted either next Tuesday 23 April or Friday 26 April.”

Regards, Ernie

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  • Luke Johnston April 20, 2024   Reply →

    Hi Ernie, It’s Luke Johnston here.Thanks for getting the details across.There has been a tweet by the Australian ambassador here and a Facebook post by the defence attache, but until recently only a couple of news reports in Australia on this work including nterviews with a US origin Australian war correspondent not connected with us in any way. ABC Gippsland picked up an interview with John Bryant on Wednesday this week.

    I have been involved in this search since 2019 when veteran John Bryant asked if i could attempt to locate the burial site. I spent much of Covid 2020 here mapping out sbs exploring all unitvs activities throughout Op Toàn Thắng 1 (Phase 2), recovering Australian army artifacts and finally locating 4 section 11 Pl 3RAR first tour gun pit at the Balmoral battalion defensive position in Bình Dương Province.That location then provided a control point from which Glenm Hines created a search chord that has now been explored by the Vietnamese military martyrs recovery team with both John Bryant and I onsite assisting. The search has successfully recovered 20 men, many person use items, and discarded allied ration pack trash.The search is actually ongoing but as noted there will be a State funeral service for those already recovered. I cannot give further details on the ongoing search as it has not been released by state media (which has included prime time national state broadcaster VTC and various provincial media) but both John and I are hopeful of recovering additional remains.The Australian defence attache played an important role in promoting the search and securing John and my place as foreigners on what is otherwise a sensitive military operation. The images of WO2 Duncan Reid and Ngọc Anh from the Dfendey Attache office were taken during a 2 day visit to the site.

    Regards Luke

    PS I tried emailing you a few weeks ago (reply to your last email to me) but it said the address was no longer valid. Please email me as i was hoping to ask you about a document you created on Đồng Tràm and Sở Hội).

  • William Thomas Laidlaw April 20, 2024   Reply →

    Legend mate.This hast been an incredible journey.Still ongoing. Not for public comment as we can only report on what stars media has…but we just cracked open a new crater that in the 1968 photo shows several burning bodies lying around on the rim. We hope to find those blokes early next week before the official burial service of those already interred
    This is from Luke

  • Ernest Chamberlain April 22, 2024   Reply →

    Hi Luke,
    I’ve recently been in contact with a Vietnamese historian ((anh Lam)) who knows you – including your interest in the Battles of Balmoral and Coral (ie Đồng Tràm and Sở Hội) . He has passed photos etc of the Đồng Tràm/Balmoral recovery efforts to me recently.
    As you know, I’ve written a lengthy “note” on the Battles of Coral and Balmoral – with maps and photographs and placed it on the Internet as “free to read”. If you would like a 63-page copy of that note for your records, you can also just email me at: [email protected] . A few years ago, I also wrote a lengthier note on “The Fall of Phuoc Tuy” – which I could also email to you if you haven’t seen it.
    Best wishes, Ernie Chamberlain

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