Battle of Long Tan by Bruce Fletcher, 1970
Long Tan action, Vietnam, 18 August 1966: Oil on Canvas by Bruce Fletcher, 1970

A reconstruction of the Battle of Long Tan, Vietnam,18 August 1966, between 'D'Company and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces; several events that happened at intervals during the battle are shown here happening simultaneously. (The copyright is owned by the Australian War Memorial. Read the full copyright message that was attached to this picture when it was downloaded on July 1, 2006. )

Gary Jacobson

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: April 28, 2007
Awarded: April 28, 2007
LONG TAN

Come away, Mates, come away
Raise a tinny to brave men honored here today
Salute men of Long Tan’s matchless bravery
Sing solemn adoration’s praises with heartbreak balladry.
Hear bagpipes moaning sonorously low
As heartfelt homage to blokes of courage bestow.

For this day men of Australia proved dauntless
Forever kept in brother’s dinky di spirit ageless
August 1966, gone to flamin’ battle’s sacred oblation
Forged into darkening Long Tan rubber plantation
From the sixth battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
D Company from dusty Nui Dat was sent…

So far from home the Long Tan,
from Gibraltar Range and Hanging Rock
From Mulga Scrub to high Nowendoc
Weaving among Tumut trees, a keen Talbingo breeze
So far the Australian Alps, with cold Kosciusko nights
The Nullarbor Caves with Augusta’s crystal stalactites
Scenes painted forever in Anzac eyes…
Aussie warriors who do combat now for the victor’s prize.

Royal Australian Regiment’s 6th Battalion proved pesky pests
That presumptuous Vietcong’s malignant reign arrests
Got right up their nose, interrupting ruddy dominance
Gave a buggered frown to horn in on the arrogance
On VC Commander Nguyen Than Hong’s countenance
Though he outgunned us twenty to one with formidable forces
Viet Cong fifth Division, plus NVA regular defenses.

Flanked by Agent Orange’s flamin’ noxious balm
On one side… and on the other, murderous Vietcong
D company drew the card to march when VC mortared the calm
Discordant like a plaintive didgeridoo song
Starting the beaucoup bloody wrong

The VC had plotted a right dastardly little row
In the rubber plantation in the heartland of Vung Tau.
For diggers who’d not seen many a muster
Certainly not many like this blood and gut buster
Aussie swag mates were new and bricky green
Gung-ho naïve to the combat fray scene

Sent on a walkabout ‘round Charlie’s back yard
Turning Long Tan into a flamin’ boneyard
Bloody far from Wattie Creek, the Red Road far behind them
Rousting violent men who’ve seen duty clear to kill them
Reunite them with dust what made them
But before the enemy, Anzac’s vowed they would not bow
Before the bloody barney brawl cow.

Yet this explosive anger, ‘t was no bullock in the bush
Diabolic battle chased from this estate its peaceful hush
For truly said, there be real monsters here
Armed with caustic hatreds roiling fear
Pouring in, as men who know war solemnly predicted
Pulsing hearts beating like an adrenaline junky addicted.

Like restless winds off the Tasman Sea blew in the bloody row
Came a battle most dinky day…
Terrible war weapons roaring in bloody conflict
Fearing death too soon would gory punishment surely inflict
Remember Gallipoli, brave Aussies cried
As all around them brave diggers died.

The enemy came pouring in human wave assaults, again and again
Crashing, slashing through steaming torrents of monsoonal rain
Relentlessly maddening, slogging in tenaciously teeming crud
Charging through blankets of mist ‘n sticky mud
Fire-eating true life killers, the flamin’ Vietcong
The real thing, unlike mates training at Shoalwater Bay
We’d routed them, jokingly coined “Queensland Cong.”

Virulent VC wanted to shut diggers from Oz down
To lay brave Aussies under the ground
But Aussie hearts held firm, for their mates to inspire
Weathering the virulent VC mob’s mortar fire
Fighting off enraged VC hoping Aussies to expire
Lay them atop a burning funeral pyre.

Where hoary death’s a fair dinkum chance
Lads lives held in Galah war’s balance
Men teetered on the edge of life absurd
Far, far away from the jackass laughter of kookaburra bird
So skewer yourselves together, diggers
Keep your ammo dry, your finger on your triggers.

Do not squander life my brothers
Hold fast and go hard, like there be no others.
To this dustup, malicious bullets eschew
Diggers, muster up all the courage that’s in you
Pump up your bravery, make strong your sinew
To stay with you mates, till this bloody fight is through.

Far from spreading Wilga tree, the rubber plant battle raged
Blokes penned down, without escape from combat caged
Remembering a gentler life under snow gum and eucalypts
These proud men in slouch hats, many just conscripts
Moving forward under intense enemy fire fighting
Brave mates in mud and blood and tears horribly dying…

Marching bravely into Long Tan, diggers do as they were told
Sadly, some will never have bloody chance of ever growing old
Still dreaming of a land where coolabahs are still growing
In this bloody game of dice that danger bestowing
Yet hearing back in Nui Dat a loud thumping played
A rock concert for troops arrayed…

“Col Joye” and “Little Pattie”
Performed as staccato gunfire rained in combat sortie
Belting out, He’s My Blonde Headed, Stompie Wompie,
Heard in the Long Tan with a beat kinda bumpy
Thundering its sound as men breathed their last
Death flowing in a hundred sticky-wickets fast.

This Long Tan gambit put a real damper to festivities
Crashed dreams of dusty Nui Dat, with Long Tan banalities
Mates fighting for their lives with brickbats’n missiles
SLRs fending off Charlie’s nightmarish proposals.
Each step could be your last step to a warrior’s final slumbers
Think about it ‘n you’d go bloody bonkers…

Where sweet-and-sour smells with moldering rot combine;
Swirling in Old Nick’s bloody pungent harvest time.
Blokes keep ‘er head down, hide like a bleedin’ wallaby
Lest Charlie’s lullaby find ye
Here a stirring in war’s cantankerous stew
In the muddy, bloody ‘roo.

Resolute Aussies orchestrated VC obliteration
With effective infantry, artillery, armor and aviation
While the VC, those churlish little knaves
Assaulted Anzac bulwarks in dinky dau human waves.
Beacoup Aussies, with American and New Zealand assistance
Decimated in concert a bitter VC resistance.

Anzac mates tricked belligerent VC
Made them hesitate by brazen tactics, see
Made them think they faced a whole battalion force,
Xin loi, only a company of Aussies fought there, of course
Still they suffered twenty-four mates wounded,
eighteen killed in the Long Tan animosities
While Killing five hundred Charlies,
wounding seven hundred fifty.

Brothers gave all here… earning sweet grave’s berth
A single man from Cunderdin, a married mechanic from Perth
A mate from Dalby, a television cameraman from Tamworth
A farmhand from Thurgoona, a butcher from Brisbane
A married electrician from St Mary’s, a mate from Adelaide
A lad hailing from Wellington, a clerk from Launceston.

Privates to Second Lieutenants, no man among them wished to die
Leaving folks at home so teary, nothing to do but cry…
For blokes from Bendigo, Toowoomba, Goondiwindi
A Ballarat clerk, Wallsend station hand, a postman from Sydney
Fought on this gray looking blustery day
Clouds down among them, down ‘n dirty in battle’s queue.