Monday, 23 January 2012

A New Welsh Memorial

The Welsh Dragon to guard the Pilckem Ridge?

Those of us who regularly visit the Ypres Salient will be familiar with the various memorials to the different nations who served in the area. The Passchendaele Society has now suggested there should be a memorial to the Welsh who fought in the area. The Society and the Langemark Commune have joined forces and purchased a piece of ground near Iron Cross on the Pilckem Ridge. Planning permission has been granted and all that needs to be done now is to raise £80,000 for the building and transport of stone from Wales to complete the project!

It is totally appropriate this location has been chosen, as it was the area in 1917 where there was a very strong ‘Welsh’ involvement; 38th (Welsh) Division with all three Welsh Regiments represented, the 29th Division with the 2nd South Wales Borderers and the 2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment and the Welsh Guards in the Guards Division. However the memorial will honour all Welshmen serving in many other Welsh units throughout the Salient from 1914 onwards and in a multitude of non-Welsh units, and in artillery, medical, supply and Tunnelling Companies, amongst others.

As a ‘nation’, Wales lost more men per capita than any other nation involved in the conflict.

In Wales a committee, (what else?) has been set up to raise our share of the costs and already interest has been shown by ‘important’ personalities.

I will be doing my bit, but my request to you, my fellow guides, is to do what you can to raise the profile of the proposed memorial project amongst your clients, especially when visiting Hedd Wynn’s memorial plaque and Artillery Wood Cemetery.

The current proposals are to erect a Welsh slate ‘cromlech’ surmounted by a dragon on the site, quite unlike the ‘dragon’ at Mametz, which of course is dedicated to the 38th Welsh Division. The aim is to have the memorial in place before May 2014.

Anyone wishing to contribute towards the project can pay direct into a Lloyds/TSB account under Sort Code 30-93-53 and make cheques out to ‘Welsh memorial in Flanders campaign’.

For any other information don’t hesitate to contact me direct. I look forward to being amongst the Guides at the unveiling.

Gordon Hill. Badge 23. or

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Napoleonland - Fun for all the Family!

“Napoleonland”, the brainchild of former French minister and history buff Yves Jégo, is being touted as a rival to Disneyland – assuming, that is, it can gather the £180 million needed to leave the drawing board.

The plan is to build the unlikely amusement park on the site of the brilliant but doomed French leader’s final victory against the Austrians in the Battle of Montereau in 1814 just south of Paris.

The 1815 Battle of Waterloo, in which the Duke of Wellington ended Napoleon's rule in France, could be recreated on a daily basis with visitors perhaps even able be able to take part in the re-enactments.

They will also be able to take in a water show recreating the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, in which Lord Nelson scored a decisive victory over a French and Spanish coalition aboard HMS Victory but died in the process.

But the park will also give pride of place to Napoleon’s greatest victories, in particular the Battle of Austerlitz in which the Russo-Austrian army was decisively defeated.

“We are not going to take sides,” Mr Jégo said in a reference to widely differing accounts of Napoleon’s legacy in Britain and France ranging from brutal dictator to heroic visionary.

The park is also expected to house a museum, a hotel, shops, restaurants and a congress centre.

Other curious potential attractions include a ski run through a battlefield "surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses" and a recreation of Louis XVI being guillotined during the revolution – the precursor to Napoleon’s rise to power.

"It's going to be fun for the family,” he, Mr Jégo, told the Times.

Napoleon looms large in the French national psyche but has no national museum to his name. The park would help keep him on the map while boosting the local economy, with a potential 1.5 million visitors in its first year.

Mr Jégo hopes that construction work can start in 2014 and the park open its doors in 2017. He is due to provide more details on the attraction won February 18 - the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Montereau.

Henry Samuel writing in the Daily Telegraph 21st January 2012

Long Tan Vietnam

Veterans at the Long Tan Memorial -

Left : Terry Doyle (Ex Field Engineer and Tunnel Rat) 2nd from left Max Flower (Tracks) APC driver both served in Vietnam 70-72 period.

The Cross site at Long Tan is one of only two foreign War Memorials that has been allowed to be build and maintained in Vietnam by the Communist Government of today's Vietnam. The first is a French Memorial at Dien Bien Phu when the Colonial French Army were well and truly defeated in July 1954. I haven't seen the Memorial for some 16 years, I visited it at a time when I first ventured into the old North Vietnam, in the early post modern war time with the easing of permission for foreign (ex military) to return to Vietnam as welcomed tourists.

The other is at the site of the Battle of Long Tan, this is maintained by the Australian ex servicemen that served in Vietnam (with assistance from the Australian Government), in what was Australia's longest fought war - over 10 years. It represents not only the 18 men killed that day, 17 from Delta Company 6 RAR and one armour trooper back on that - Thursday 18th August 1966. It was one of the fiercest encounters with North Vietnamese and Local Force enemy up to that day. It is also a memorial to all Australian Forces that died trying to do the job our Government of the Day sent them there to do. It continues to also stand for those that made it home from the stinking jungles of Vietnam but haven't lived to enjoy their old age, due to Agent Orange or post traumatic syndrome (PTS) that has effected them since their experiences as young men in a war that didn't really have to be fought.

As my fellow Guild colleagues may or may not know the War between the early 60's until the Fall of Saigon (30th April 1975) was waged also by Australian, New Zealand, Korean & Pilipino military forces along side the yanks. We were told it was to endeavouring to stop the flow of communism in South East Asia, at the time it was referred to as the Domino theory, stop the (Communists) in Vietnam before it spread throughout SEA. As usual our valiant American allies were also supporting a corrupt Government in the South that they via the CIA and the assistance of a group of Senior Officers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (the South) murdered their President - as part of moving the war forward on their terms. Oh, to have the knowledge of what really happened those years ago !

I'm heading back to Vietnam (2nd-31st March,12) with another group of Australian military veterans, all much older than in days in which they served and fought in Vietnam some 50 - 40 years ago ! We will hold our own memorial service at the Cross in memory not only to those that fought and died 46 years ago but to all our "mates" that for whatever reason are not "onboard" with us today. It's always a moving time for those that make it back, it's dignified and "done proper" as we say. Each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan (18th August) the Vietnamese authorities allow us the hold a full on memorial service at the site. I attend each year, in 2011 we had some 350 in attendance, hosted by our Ambassador to Vietnam with the MC for formalities the Australian Defence Attaché based in Hanoi. It's the only time you'll see an Australian Serviceman in full uniform with ribbons in Vietnam (the DA) - today. Long Tan is a rubber plantation, as it was 46 years ago, the original cross was erected by members that survived the battle from 6RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) before their tour of duty ended. After November 1972 when the last Australian troops returned home from Vietnam and before the North over ran the South (30 Apr 75) the cross was maintained by those Oz troops that followed in service to our county.

Some time after the fall of the south, the original cross went missing, it was misplaced - a bloody huge cement cross ! After 1985 when the new government of Vietnam started to release it grip and open its closed doors to the outside world, the original cross was re-found, and is today in the Vietnamese Military museum at Bien Hoa. They say it was taken to be the head stone of a old French priest that survived the War. A new cross was erected in the same style as the original. When I first made it to the Long Tan Cross site more than 14 years ago, it was a very poor memorial, there was no fence other than strung barbwire, weeds and the red soil of the south. It wasn't a pretty site to remember the men of Delta Company 6RAR that died on this very spot in the "rubber" back in August 1966. Today's site still has the Cross as it's centre piece but it's tendered (maintained) by the very surviving relations of those that fought us on that day,(the enemy). It's kept clean, painted white, is properly fenced and stands out in the "rubber" and its sea of deep red soil. No names appear on the memorial, there's no need as those that make the journey back know it's importance to those that served.

On the 17-19th March, I'll also lead my veteran mates up to Dien Bien Phu and to the mountain jungle head quaters of the Viet Minh Army. I'll make sure I take a picture of the French memorial whilst in the area. Maybe if I can make it to the next AGM (where every it's held) I can present "Vietnam a war in our times for all the wrong reasons". As it's the start of the Lunar New Year in Vietnamese I say to you, Chuc Mung Nam Moi !

Best regards,

Dennis J Weatherall - (OSD Weathers)

Badge Number 34 SYDNEY Australia

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Bagpipes at Long Tan Vietnam

Pipers Iain Townsley (left) and Roy Gilmore play the bagpipes at the Long Tan Cross on Sunday 8th January 2012. This is believed to be the first time the pipes have been played at the Cross since 1969 when the memorial was first dedicated.

On Saturday, 7 January 2012, there was a grand opening of the Worldwide Arms Museum in Vung Tau. The museum, as reported in the Saigon Times on 9 January, “covers 1,500 square metres and displays over 1,000 military uniforms and ancient weapons from the U.K, France, Turkey, Mongolia and China, and especially a 19th century sword collection from Vietnam’s Muong ethnic minority people.”

To mark the occasion, owner, Robert Taylor, flew out two pipers from Melbourne. The pipers, Iain Townsley and Roy Gilmore (pipers with the VSR Association) played from the turrets of the castle-like museum.

The pipers play at the opening of the Worldwide Arms Museum in Vung Tau.

Officials from the Ministry of Culture in Hanoi were so impressed with the dignity of the event that they agreed to a request on behalf of the Veteran Community Vung Tau to allow the pipers to play at the Long Tan Cross the following day. The Long Tan Cross stands on the site of an horrific firefight in a rubber plantation between Australian and Viet Cong forces on 18 August 1966 close to the village of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Government has only allowed two foreign governments to erect memorials on its soil: the French (Dien Bien Phu) and the Australians (Long Tan). Permission to build the memorials was granted subject to visitors not wearing uniforms, medals, playing music or displaying national flags.

In a very significant gesture, on this occasion, not only did the Government officials generously allow the pipers to play several pieces of music, they also gave permission for them to wear their uniforms and medals as requested by the veteran community Vung Tau.

It is believed to be the first time the bagpipes have been played at Long Tan since the Cross was raised on 18 August 1969; the third anniversary of the Battle. (Photo: Australian War Memorial.)

From the roadway, the pipers played as they marched the 100 metres down the avenue towards the Cross. They continued playing a Lament at the Cross “Flowers of the Forest”. Before marching off Iain (from the SAS Association) played a Piobaireachd, “The Company’s Lament”. It was indeed a splendid sight and extremely moving.

Glenn Nolan (Former 6 RAR) who was in attendance believes that this is the first time that pipes have been heard at Long Tan since the Cross was raised on the third anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1969. “There wasn’t a dry eye”, said Glenn. “The hairs stood up on the back of everyone’s neck. It was a moving ceremony to say the least.”

This article is reproduced courtesy of the Vietnam Swans’ - see their website at