Vietnam veteran reflects on his experience ahead of special ceremony

HISTORY: Des Leonard reflects on his experience in Vietnam inside a room  at the Stawell RSL dedicated to war memorabilia. Picture: Peter Pickering
HISTORY: Des Leonard reflects on his experience in Vietnam inside a room at the Stawell RSL dedicated to war memorabilia. Picture: Peter Pickering

A Vietnam War re-enactment ceremony at Stawell will honour Australians who risked their lives on the frontline. 

The Victorian Vietnam Veterans’ Ceremonial Team will visit Stawell from Melbourne to re-enact the battle of Long Tan at the Stawell Masonic Centre on Tuesday, April 11.

Stawell resident and RSL president Des Leonard is a Vietnam veteran and will be attending the ceremony. 

He said it was important to attend and relive a significant part of his life. 

“The Vietnam War was unique in many ways. While all three services were involved and served with distinction, it was predominantly a hard and bitter ground war,” he said.

From 1965 until late 1971, nine battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment served 16 12-month tours of duty during the Vietnam War.

“The level of army involved was reflected in the casualty figures,” Mr Leonard said.

“The Australian Army suffered 96 per cent of all Australian casualties in Vietnam.

“The nature of their service in Vietnam meant Australian soldiers endured longer periods in contact or imminent risk of contact with the enemy than at any time since the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.” 

Mr Leonard said he spent up to 30 days on patrol, in difficult terrain and under constant threat of contact.

“This was usual and followed by just three to four days of rest at base,” he said. 

“The strain of this continuous round of operations in a trying climate wore heavily on our men during their 12-month tour of duty.”

Mr Leonard also served on the converted aircraft carrier, HMAS Sydney, on its first tour. 

The carrier transported more than 16,000 soldiers to the war and many million tons of stores and equipment.

“This ceremony is a chance to officially remember those mates who did not return home, to mourn the passing of those who paid the ultimate price and did not return home. Lest we forget,” Mr Leonard said.

The ceremony will start at 8pm, followed by a supper.  

To attend, phone Neil and Sheila Thornton on 5358 5634.