Barry Campton – OC Det 131 Div Loc Bty  SVN 13th Aug1966 to 28th Apr 1967

My army experience began in 1954 when I became a national service soldier at Brighton Camp in Tasmania. After completion of this Training the requirement was to attend at a CMF unit (Army Reserve) for a period of time. I then continued on as a CMF gunner achieving the rank of Sgt. I saw the light and in 1959 applied for training at OCS Portsea where I graduated in 1960.

Several postings including Malaya had me arriving at 131 Battery at North Fort as the Survey Officer. This unit was a combined Regular/CMF unit. From there postings included IG and SI on Locating Wing as well as a stint at Holsworthy in 131 Bty and 30 Gun Loc Bty.

In 1966, whilst BK at 132 Loc Bty the posting to Det 131 DLB in SVN to replace Jim Townley was raised.

Preparation as an individual replacement was easy. I boarded an Air France flight on 10 Aug flew via Manila. On the flight was Maj Gen Gurner who was the army’s senior medical man. He made me an honorary aide and we attended a cocktail party at the embassy. Continued on to Saigon when the champagne lifestyle ended. 

Arrived at Nui Dat on 12 Aug 66. A couple of nights later woke to find myself enduring some shrapnel flying around the area.

The next morning Jim Townley and I conducted crater analysis and recorded that the mortars had been in a straight line when fired. Also the details of a 70mm mountain gun were recorded. This information was passed up the line and some action was taken. Of course the next day was Long Tan.

There were no problems in the hand over as Jim had done a great job in deploying the equipment.

Some of the notable characters included


The saga of the ANKPQ radars was foremost in our minds and we did have some moments when we had to sell the benefits to senior officers. The RAEME did all in their power to keep them operational to the point that JimTownley and Bill Prenter (RAEME) travelled to Da Nang in search of spare parts.

An operation on Long Son Island (check spelling) was quite interesting as this saw the radars tracking over longer distances sometimes with success.

Trips to VungTau for the day where taken infrequently just to get away for some peace and quiet. An R&R visit to Hong Kong was very welcome.

Being a unit attached to the Task Force was difficult. As well as running our own Q Store and Orderly Room with none of the usual staff BSM etc. and being OC and Duty Officer in Arty Tac was not an efficient system.

With trepidation I approached Lt Col Don Begg CO of 1 Fd Regt to see if he could take 131DLB under command; he did.

My return to Australia on 29 Apr 67 was difficult. After landing in Darwin via a C130, we transferred to a civilian airline, which landed at the facilities area of Mascot Airport. No members of the public were allowed to see us!

No provision was made for the onward travel for those soldiers travelling interstate. Due to administrative oversight, some had to pay their own fare.  I think no one cared in the movement organisation because they assumed that everyone was going to Holsworthy for processing.

After SVN postings include :

Major Barry Campton.