Unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Services 

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Category: Conflicts/Vietnam

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Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy Province, South Viet Nam Click to enlarge
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Tent lines of  2 Plt, "A" Coy, 7RAR, among the rubber trees at the 1 ATF base.  

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SAS Hill 2000

Map of Phuoc Tuy
Headquarters 1st Australian Task Force (April 1966 to December 1971)
Headquarters Building, 1ATF "Head Office" ... the Headquarters building, Nui Dat circa 1967

Head Quarters Company, 1st Australian Task Force (HQ Coy, 1 ATF) and its sub unit, Defence & Employment (D&E) Platoon were formed in the early months of 1966.  

They were made up from elements of various units including 8 & 12 Platoons, “C” Company, 7 RAR at Puckapunyal, Victoria, and transferred to Holsworthy after the Government of the day announced that it was going to send a Task Force to South Vietnam.

Headquarter Company’s function in South Vietnam was to provide administrative and logistical support staff to Head Quarters, 1st Australian Task Force. This included a broad spectrum of specialist staff ranging from Intelligence personnel right through to the paymaster, just to name two categories.

HQ Coy, 1 ATF also had a platoon of Infantry soldiers, D&E platoon, who in the early days of the Task Force were employed as working parties in building the facilities required by Head Quarters of the Task Force.

The platoon also had a key role in the defence of Head Quarters, 1 ATF should the Task Force Base at Nui Dat be invaded. Their role was to provide a last line defence to the Head Quarters area including the vital telecommunications area of the Base. 
Headquarters Company, 1ATF had as it's emblem a red kangaroo on a yellow shield bordered by green, and was affectionately known by the soldiers as the "Red Rat".


badge and text about HQ 1ATF from

Whenever Task Force Head Quarters moved into the field, D&E platoon provided its perimeter defence. The first occasion of this happening was Operation "Hayman" on 6 November 1966, which also saw the first large scale aerial insertion onto unsecured landing zones, of the Task Force, on Long Son Island. D&E platoon were also present at the Battle of Fire Support Base "Coral" in May 1968. Again on 5 June 1971, Task Force Head Quarters moved to "Courtenay Hill" which had been previously secured by D&E platoon, following the withdrawal of a company of 2 RAR, to conduct Operation "Overlord" and the battle of Long Khanh. This was possibly the last time that the Task Force established a forward headquarters out of the Base.  

D&E platoon’s role altered over the many years that Australians were present in South Vietnam. As an Infantry platoon of 3 sections of about 36 to 40 soldiers, it become an extra resource available for use by the Task Force Commander. In 1970-71, it became the “eyes and ears” of the Task Force out in the field and gathered first hand intelligence that the Task Force used to plan operations. It was the Task Force’s Recce (reconnaissance) platoon and carried out “long range” patrols at times to gather such information during its normal operations. As such, it was equipped appropriately.  

Defence & Employment platoon, 1st Australian Task Force, was the longest continually serving Infantry platoon in South Vietnam, being continually reinforced through the 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, and was only removed from the Order of Battle when the 1st Australian Task Force withdrew from Nui Dat to Vung Tau in late 1971.

Deep in the lines at Nui Dat   

Kanga Pad, Nui Dat with SAS Hill in the background

Looking across the NZ gun position towards SAS Hill. Photo courtesy NZ Captain Mike Dakin


Nui Dat, Vietnam. September 1971. The `Nui Dat Rest Centre. Home for wayward VC'. The sign at the prisoner of war compound used to house captured Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops. The centre offers bed and breakfast, body guards and running water. The shows a picture of a Kangaroo in a bowler hat carrying a jug of water. AWM text and image.

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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces