Special Muswellbrook Vietnam Veterans Day dedication to honour Major General JD “Blue” Keldie MC

VIETNAM Veterans Day 2018 will have extra meaning for members of the Muswellbrook RSL sub-Branch this month.

While many ex-servicemen and women are expected to commemorate the occasion on Saturday, August 18, a special dedication of the Armoured Command Vehicle [ACV 577] in honour of Major General JD “Blue” Keldie MC will take place at the Muswellbrook Vietnam Memorial from 3pm.

“Blue, as he was affectionately known, but not to his face, commanded a Squadron 3rd Cavalry Regiment on operations during 1968, including Tet and the Battle for Fire Support Base Coral/Balmoral,” John Flood OAM said.

“The troop was awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry along with 1RAR, 3RAR and 12 Field Artillery for the defence of the FSBs against overwhelming North Vietnamese attack over many days.

“General Keldie’s son, David, will be present – in honour of his father – for the dedication.

“[Muswellbrook] RSL sub-Branch president Greg Cole extends an open invitation to attend this colourful event, which includes attendance by two buses of Vietnamese Allies from the Cabramatta ARVN Association.

“Our service is a feature for the Vietnamese community, who reciprocate with their huge ceremony at Cabramatta.”

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on August 18 every year. 

The day was originally known as Long Tan Day, chosen to commemorate the men of D Company, 6RAR who fought in the battle of Long Tan in 1966. 

On that occasion, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against more than 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan. 

The Australians prevailed, but only after fighting in torrential rain for four hours. 

They were nearly overrun, but were saved by a timely ammunition resupply, accurate artillery fire from the nearby Australian base, and the arrival of reinforcements by armoured personnel carrier. 

Eighteen Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded, the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier. 

After the battle, the bodies of 245 enemy soldiers were found, but there was evidence that many more bodies had been carried away.