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Category: Conflicts/Vietnam

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New Zealand Artillery of the Vietnam War 161 Bty tac sign
161 Battery
Click image for article Photo courtesy of Peter 'Doggo' Downs



  • In June 1964 the New Zealand Government sent a detachment of Royal New Zealand Engineers to assist the United States forces in defending the Republic of South Vietnam from invasion by the North. The Engineers were replaced in June 1965 by 161 Battery, RNZA. 

  • Other military units were to follow and 161 Bty served with Royal Australian Artillery Field Regiments, usually as part of the 1st Australian Task Force in support of Australian and New Zealand infantry units. The battery left Vietnam in May 1971 after providing virtually continuous fire support to 1 ATF components and other friendly forces for six years.

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

Approximately 750 members of 161 Bty served in Vietnam after training at 161 Battery Depot. Tours of duty were 12 months with reinforcements being rotated through the battery each month.

Initially, the battery was equipped with four 105mm L5 pack howitzers, but this was later increased to six. These pieces were considered ideal for the current mobile type of operations because they could be lifted by the helicopters which were then available and were needed only for short periods in each fire base. 

  • Later operations required sustained fire for longer periods, and the L5s were replaced in 1967 with 105mm M2A2 howitzers which were lifted by the larger twin-rotor CH47 Chinook helicopter.

The Vietnamese Unit Citation (Cross of Gallantry with Palm Leaf)  was presented to 161 Bty in 1977 for service during the Vietnam war (inc Long Tan)
1995 the unit received the Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) in recognition of service with the United States 173D Airborne Brigade (in 1965) with 1RAR.
  • Original strength:9 officers, 101 other ranks

  • Main engagement:  Battle of Long Tan

  • Today: 161 Battery exists today as part of 16 Field Regiment.

More details at

B Battery Dunedin RNZA 161 Battery RNZA old version 161 Battery RNZA current version
The 161 Bty Panther
  • The 161 Battery emblem is a Panther Argent, spotted of various colours, fire issuant from the mouth and ears proper, gorged with a plain collar and chained Or. Field: Sky Blue.
When the emblem was awarded, the panther was depicted in a very small, difficult to distinguish state on the copy of Raglan's Achievement held by the Regiment, so the then Adjutant, Captain Bill Barnes, painted, in oils on canvas, a very fine portrait (17 x 19 cm) of the panther on a shield to use as the basis for creation of 161 Bty shields, ties, notepaper, etc. This is Bill's original sketch.
History of the emblem

In July, 1965 the Regular Force Artillery Battery of 16th Field Regiment, 161 Battery was deployed on active service to South Vietnam where initially the Battery served under the operational command of 173rd Airborne Brigade, US Army, based at Bien Hoa. Later 161 Battery was relocated to Nui Dat as part of the 1st Australian Task Force. The Battery returned to New Zealand after almost six years of war in May 1971. The New Zealand military involvement in the Vietnam conflict was a most unpopular political decision, and here in New Zealand anti-war protests occurred almost daily throughout the major cities and larger centres of population.

In the small Waikato town of Raglan the citizens rallied to the call of one of the town's leading lights, Mr Douglas Arter who was heavily involved with all of the many and varied local organisations. The townsfolk adopted 161 Battery as their own and sent food parcels, letters, comfort packs, books, (New Zealand beer), and a host of other small touches which make life just a little more comfortable for the New Zealand fighting man. At one point during the war, 161 Battery managed to smuggle Doug Arter aboard an aircraft, and a (now) very famous photograph exists showing Doug and Lt. Hugh Weatherhead, RNZA "brewing up" in a Fire Support Base in South Vietnam.

Upon 161 Battery's return to New Zealand it was felt by all ranks that something of the town of Raglan should be adopted by the Battery as a symbol of friendship. The Battery Commander approached the Raglan County Council requesting permission to emblazon the Raglan Coat of Arms upon the Gun Shields of the units howitzers. This was considered a very appropriate distinction by the County Council, however it was thought that perhaps Lord Raglan would possibly need to give his consent?

Lord Raglan

161 Battery then communicated with Lord Raglan who was very much in favour of the idea and personally approached the College of Arms on the behalf of 161 Battery RNZA. Permission to emblazon the full achievement of Lord Raglan's Arms was denied by Richmond Herald of Arms who explained to Lord Raglan that "it is contrary to the law of arms for you (Lord Raglan) to alienate your arms". Richmond Herald of Arms suggested that Lord Raglan grant 161 Battery the use of one of his supporters and this was readily agreed to by Lord Raglan.


The supporters of the Raglan Arms are (dexter) a Panther, and (sinister) a Wyvern. As there are numerous Dragons borne by British regiments as emblems, the Battery chose the Panther as its official unit insignia. It was also felt that the Panther was such a unique emblem that it would never be forgotten, nor the reason for its adoption. It was officially adopted and emblazoned on the gun shields on the 20th August 1972.


The Panther is normally displayed on a Sky Blue field. Within a Field Artillery Regiment there are normally three (or four) Gun Batteries. Each Battery has a brightly coloured "skirt" attached to its' individual Artillery survey director. The director skirt for 161 Battery is Sky Blue.

Mike Subritzky
Previously published: The Commonwealth Heraldry Bulletin No 21, 1995
Sources: Conversation -
Subritzky/Lt. Col. J.M. Masters, MC
Subritzky/Lt. Col. B. Dreyer
Subritzky/Brig. G.D. Birch, MBE
Subritzky/Chev. D.W. Arter, KLJ


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