Archived Messages (2015-on) | 106 Field Workshop

The following messages were extracted from the database as they were seen to be of historical value - all other messages have been deleted - no new messages in relation to the extracts below can be added. Use the RAEME Association Queensland website portal if you have articles or matters to be addressed.

Sun, 28/12/2014 - 11:25, #1, John Strachan; 106 a TFMA Unit in SVN

In the website’s article on the Long Son patrol, there is a comment made ”… that 106 Fd Wksp in SVN was the only Task Force Maintenance Area Unit (TFMA) in the history of the Vietnam War to have a contact with the enemy in contested territory." Even though this statement remains part of the article, I made a comment to the 106 Management Committee team that this statement was in fact wrong. Rather than simply change it. It was suggested that discussion be raised on our forum because it is of historical interest.

Here goes ...

The words in the article are in fact extracted from a statement made by a ‘MAJ J. Tilbrook’ in a report prepared during a DVA claim assessment, also involving our own Alan Nolan. I know MAJ Tilbrook. He has been described as Jim Tilbrook. His correct Christian name is actually John. He is an ex RAAOC officer (RAAOC Corps historian). His name is often confused with John Tilbrook a prominent AFL footballer who was more commonly known in AFL circles as Jim Tilbrook. MAJ John Tilbrook heads an organisation called Writeway Research Services. He employs a number of retired officers of all different Corps. Writeway undertakes investigative research for DVA (under contract) for helping DVA validate veteran claims often SVN related. Tilbrook did not serve in the SVN theatre.

Tilbrook's words accurately described the contact detail as the only one by an independent Service unit. His description of 106 as a TFMA (Task Force Maintenance Area) unit is wrong. He has used a formal Divisional text book definition applicable to Service units in the conventional Divisional/Task Force setting applying in that era where the Division was the prime formation and Divisional support allocations and structures applied. In SVN there was no Divisional structure in place. The 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) was the forward operational force. Force maintenance units were established in a support group at Vung Tau (1 ALSG) and a Force HQ element was located in Saigon.

The majority of units at Nui Dat were 1 ATF units. There were also some 1 ALSG detachments and an USA artillery battery located there but there was no defined TFMA. 1 ATF, compared to a text book TF formation of the time, was 'oversized' with add-on units like the SAS, Armd Sqn, Civil Affairs, Artillery Locating Battery and the Re-enforcement unit and had imbedded logistic support capacity (Transport Squadron, Combat Supplies Platoon, Movements, Ordnance Field Park, Field Workshop and Field Ambulance). In other words, 1 ATF was structured specifically for the SVN theatre. It did not follow the conventional divisional model per the text books. It had all the add-on and additional Service units under command. Even many of the usual TF type units had establishments modified to suit the theatre.

When 106 Fd Wksp was raised it became one of the add-on units. The workshop’s own establishment was specifically modified to suit the 1 ATF operational requirements. 106 was given specific repair responsibilities beyond that of a conventional Divisional type field workshop; in particular this included A vehicle repairs and modifications (tanks and APCs) and gun repairs which would have normally been performed in a rear maintenance area. 106 also had to fit in with the integrated TF defence and operations’ arrangements. The Long Son Island incident occurred only because 106 had been tasked to undertake a TF tactical assignment which was beyond routine perimeter patrolling.

The workshop was a Service Unit by Corps assignment, by type and name; but, as a designated 1 ATF unit under command 1 ATF (as were all the other Service units located at Nui Dat), it was expected to undertake tactical assignments as and when ordered. When 106 post SVN was re-raised at Coopers Plains it was established as a 1st Division unit and had a conventional text book Divisional structure. Its allocation status was under command 1 Div EME and in support of the then 6 Bde at Enoggera. Whenever the Bde deployed as a formation, 106 would have deployed with other support units into a 6 Bde Maint Area (equiv to TFMA) in a conventional manner. When in the Bde Maint. Area 106’s command status would have been allocated under command of 6 Bde for operational control and administration but it still would have retained its primary divisional status as under command 1 Div EME. In this role it was a TFMA unit.

Sorry for my preaching about the nuances of command allocations. I am an ardent believer our words on the website should at least reflect known fact; but readers should understand it is difficult to change errors of fact in someone else's report published in other places. Hence we have left the words in place. This matter may seem to be irrelevant even pedantic. My contention is that it is important we should get our history, particularly our origins, as correct as we can get. My view is that the statement about TFMA in SVN can remain on our site as it is a cited statement in someone else’s report - but we should add a qualifying statement to ensure the record is correct.

The Long Son task was one carried out by 106 as a 1 ATF operational unit. There should be no imputation 106 was just a TFMA Service unit who happened to have a contact. The 106 men of the Long Son did the job asked of them on the same basis as for any other soldier in any of the Arms units of 1ATF. These men deserve the recognition, not for their trade skills, but for being soldiers and for a job well done.

John Strachan

Sun, 28/12/2014 - 20:11, #2, Steve Cartner; use of TFMA

I have just caught up with the discussion on 106. It is true to say 1ATF was not a standard structure, and I don’t profess to be an authoritarian on where Field Workshops can or should be deployed, but I believe it is flexible, and Vietnam is an example. Fd Wksps carry out 3rd line level of repairs, and back loading would go to a Base Workshop (4th and last level of repair). With the need for priority work on A vehs in 1968, a Centurion engine change could not be done in Nui Dat, this was a 3rd line repair, and beyond the LAD Sqn Sec, and to my knowledge there were not many engines in country. By raising 106 this overcame the repair and stores problem. I suppose the option was always there to send 102 forward, and have a reduced Base Wksp take its place.

Although a bit ambiguous, I’m happy to retain the ‘Task Force Maintenance Area Unit’ title as any reference is also accompanied by ‘Nui Dat’. I believe the title is more of a colloquial term, as some of the feed- back from RAE involved with Long Son also refers to the TFMA.

PS. We had a situation in ’71 where we had to do an urgent engine change at I Armd Regt. Pucka Area Wksp was overloaded, so I got around the problem by having Sgt Cook come over from the Wksp, with an engine, to supervise the LAD doing the exchange in a hangar. Technically we had the skills and stores for the job. A LAD doing a 3rd line level repair.

Mon, 29/12/2014 - 14:27, #3, csm; 1 ATF - TFMA

Vietnam was and still is unique - The traditional repair, maintenance and resupply of our Corps simply adapted from Combat and Communication Zones along a L of C. Good input from our Corps Director down enabled RAEME to meet this unique type of warfare. Essentially the Area of Operations was Phoc Tuy Province the war itself saw most boundaries disappear. President John Strachan has explained in depth the structures of 1 ATF and TFMA and they are poles apart; with 1 ATF being correct for Vietnam. What now? We have a report and the Management Committee Team has proven the statement TFMA to be wrong. We are the editors and publishers of this report to our website and we simply do two things:-

1. Ask the report writer to change that part of the article (good editor), or

2. If that becomes too pedantic in the mind of the author, then simply put in a "rider" addressing the issue.

Thank you, CSM

PS: Your research into TFMA is even more thorough that the 88 Tac sign debate evolving from initial recipient 101 Inf Wksp.

Mon, 12/01/2015 - 11:00, #1, dodderer; Centurion engine changes

Following Steve Cartner's mention of an engine change being carried out at LAD level in 1971, the following may be of interest to members: In mid 1968, I had just re-enlisted following a 4 1/2 year break from service and was posted directly back to Puckapunyal to rejoin the 1 Armoured Regiment (1AR) LAD without having to go to Kapooka. Shortly after arrival I was detailed to prepare for a Centurion engine change in the C Squadron hangar at Kapyong Barracks, what I understood to be a training exercise. While I had worked on Centurions for a number of years previously, I had never carried out an engine change and had very little idea where to begin, apart from having seen what happened at Puckapunyal Workshop Company (PWC) in the early 1960s. As I'd observed at PWC, I took all of the engine and transmission decks off, removed the radiators, fans, gear box, aux gen and fuel tanks before lifting the engine.

At the start I was provided with a crew to assist me, however, when we lifted the engine, we discovered that the water rail was cracked, obviously the cause of the engine failure. Having lifted the water rail, made much easier with all of the decks and other components removed, we had to wait for a new one. At this point, all of my helpers were re-deployed and I was left to myself to get on with the job of cleaning out the hull interior before doing some research on how to go about re-aligning the drive train components; not a simple task for me as I had to locate and acquire the necessary jigs and other equipment to carry out this task. The new water rail finally arrived and I started setting it all up ready for the replacement procedures. The CO of 1 AR at the time was LTCOL Wilton, who occasionally checked on my progress and on one occasion commented that engine changes were carried out in something like 9 hours in Vietnam. It is probably as well that he didn't hear my muttered response.

As I had no helpers, I had to beg for assistance as required which further added to the delays. Needless to say, I have forgotten most of what had to be done with the re-alignment, it was quite an experience and the job was completed some three weeks after I'd started. It gave me quite a thrill when the tank went through the hangar gateway to proceed to the Pucka range in company with two others, one rebuild from 4 Base Workshop and one engine change from PWC, the feeling was made even sweeter when mine was the only one to reach its destination without a breakdown.

That engine change gave me some excellent experience but was a stark contrast to my first engine change when I arrived at 106 Fd Wksp in December 1968 as a member of a Forward Repair Team (FRT). A quick replacement procedure had been devised and so few components needed to be removed, thus speeding up the whole process. The best time my FRT crew managed was 7 1/2 hours, with the able assistance of a first class tank crew, which I recall was commanded by Sgt Jim De Turt who is quoted in "Cannister! ON! FIRE!" as complaining about the FRT crew drinking all of his coffee while the tank crew finished off the crew tasks.

For the information of readers, the LAD OC at the time was Captain Ed Sullivan (ex 9th Intake Apprentice), WO1 Dennis (Junior) Kerr (ex 8th Intake) and WO2 John Putland, one of the LAD section leaders.

Frank Owen

Mon, 19/01/2015 - 11:15, #2, tommo; Phydeaux

I read Franks Cent article and then tried to fathom out why he earmarked his article ‘Phydeaux’? I looked it up on the internet and it referred to a shop that was a pet shop in Adelaide. Just wondering! The first Centurion engine change done by 106 Fd Wksp was carried out by WO John Putland in November 68. It was done in the field under a Tarp in the dead of night and with just one torch between them. It took John 22 hours. Later john achieved better during the day, he did one at ten and a half hours. Read all about Johns adventure with his first engine change in Vietnam, go to click on Tech Support then Centurion, then Engine Change. Just one other thought WO John Putland was never in the Armd Regt LAD Vietnam he was a direct posting to Vietnam and my tent mate.

Sun, 25/01/2015 - 16:34, #3, dodderer; Nom de plume

In answer to Thommo's query, 'Phydeaux' was used because of my lack of understanding of computer and has no relevance to 106 Fd Wksp. Maybe I should have used "The dodderer" but have decided my name will be sufficient for the future.

On the topic of using tarps to carry out engine changes at night time, my first was not long after I arrived in December '68 (I think). We didn't have a Fitter's Track and the new engine was slung under a Chinook with the crew sitting around the observation hole in the floor. The change was carried out overnight using a wrecker at the FSB with tarps as a form of concealment. After it was all over, we rested against the engine box and waited patiently for another Chinook to take us back to Nui Dat with the old engine

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 10:41, #4, claudepalmer@bi...; CENTURION ENGINE CHANGES

The Cent was first designed circa 1943! But, due to mismanagement of Brit wartime resources, including the ongoing manufacture of tanks which had no hope of survival against the German panzers such as the Panther and Tiger, the Cent did not start production until late 1944, too late for even the push into Germany! At the time, the average battlefield life of Brit tanks was 12 Hours, so the Cent was designed accordingly, with little consideration of maintainability. Engine changes in the field were never envisaged! So all the more credit to those Crafties who performed those changes!

Incidentally, the Mk 1 Cent had the 17 pr (the only really useful Brit anti tank gun, and the first to fire APDS), and the coax MG was a 7.92 mm BESA, because the Brits had captured a large number from the Germans, and the BESA fired from a closed bolt, minimising fumes inside the tank.

Wed, 04/03/2015 - 16:23, (Reply to #4) #5, tommo; 7.92 mm Besa MG takes a life at Puckapunyal

I was at the 1st Armd Regt LAD when we still had 7.92mm Besa MGs that had a habit of when they were hot, the ammunition, if ejected would cook off either in the cartridge bag or if ejected hard enough when being cleared by hand would cook off on the floor of the tank. Result, was the bullet itself would do a couple of circuits around the floor which most times resulted in having your legs bruised.

While I was Tiffy on No2 range, one day the Tankies were firing the Besa and those days we had safety personnel on top of the turret keeping an eye on proceedings, when the tank in my immediate front had been firing for some time, and in those days NS would be given an opportunity to fire the Cent Armament when I heard the NS lad yell out he had a stoppage and couldn’t clear the weapon. The Sgt safety person, told the NS soldier to jump out and he jumped in and cleared the weapon and as usual after clearing the weapon he fired a short burst. The NS lad had for some reason jumped down in front of the MG and was bending down, latter it was claimed he was trying to retrieve an oil can (???) and I seen him cop the full burst of the MG. He was dead before he hit the ground.

ASM Bob Thompson

PS. The Safety Sgt who I knew, never got over the accident and he later took his discharge.

Thu, 16/07/2015 - 10:44, #1, tommo; Articles on M60 to M58 & John Gorton in Vietnam visit 1RAR

Hi, I thought you might be interested in an article by Mike Cecil on small arms. It's titled GPMG M58 to M60 to M58 there is also an article on when the PM John Gorton inspected 1RAR in Vietnam, 1968 and a Cpl complained about the M60. Go to then Articles and then Small Arms.Regards Bob Thompson

Thu, 16/07/2015 - 16:10, #2, claudepalmer@bi...; GPMG M60 to MAG 58

Mike Cecil's conclusion is so true! In 1967/68, I was Deputy Assistant Master General of Ordnance, having graduated from the Royal Military College of Science, where one project was the Technical and User Evaluation of the General Purpose/Light Machine Guns of the Allied Nations at that time. From memory, the worst was the French GPMG, the next worst was the M60! The most robust and reliable was, of course, the L4A4 7.62 mm Bren, the next best was the MAG58. In 1966, Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory had set up production conversion of Mk3 Brens to 7.62mm. An offer was made to Australia to supply at $ A 400 each! The (then) Director of Infantry rejected that offer on the grounds of 'standardisation with the USA!'

Fast forward to Nui Dat, 1969. I received an urgent request from Battalion CO (then) Lt Col Colin Kahn to come to a meeting of some of his GPMG Gunners. Some had used the L4A4 Bren in Malaysia, and found the L4A4 excellent as the Section firepower! But they had experienced stoppages with the M60 in contacts with the enemy! I explained that the M60 must be handled more carefully than a Bren, since the M60 was NOT as robust. I had brought a 106 Wksp M60 with me, and demonstrated its reliability by firing two belts in a variety of attitudes. One of the gunners produced his M60, newly issued. It would fire one burst of about 5 rounds, then stop. Cocked, another burst, then stopped!

I took that M60 back to 106, where the 106 Artificers and I stripped and minutely inspected that MG. All we could see was a rubbing mark on the left side of the operating rod. Inserting a little finger inside the receiver, one felt a protruding rivet, which was fouling the rod! The US supply system had been issuing the wrong rivets for repair. The result was that, newly lubed, the M60 would fire normally, but, once the lube dried, would have stoppages.

Tue, 22/03/2016 - 22:14, #1, John Strachan; 105 Howitzer Rebuild 1971

A new article has been posted on this website in the last day or so. The article concerns the rebuild of 105 mm Howitzers in South Vietnam in 1971. The article was written by David Miller, who, as a Captain in the 106 GE platoon at the time, led the team responsible for the rebuild. The photos were also taken by David. The association has taken steps to have this article recorded within the Australian War Memorial historical records system. It is a very good and interesting read. Thanks to David. If any SVN 106er, or latter 106er, has any other factual or event article you would like to have published please send them in - the website tells you how.

Cheers, John Strachan, President, 106 Fd Wksp RAEME Assoc Inc

Sun, 03/04/2016 - 10:23, #2, tommo; 105 Howitzer Rebuild 1971 anomalies

Hi, As the original Art Gun (ASM) posted to 106 Fd Wksp and having extensive experience on L5 and M2A2 105 How. Guns, I read with interest the article written by Capt. David Miller (Electrical) OC GE Pl. and supported by 2nd Lt. Strachan (QM) about the refurbishment of 12 Fd Regt and Force reserve guns (Total 22) It is a good article. If it was going to be just that, a good article I wouldn’t be concerned BUT John Strachan has indicated and I quote, “The association has taken steps to have this article recorded within the Australian War Memorial historical records system” Seeing it is to be historical fact, I feel that the following mistakes should be rectified:

1. Page 6. "I was faced with a decision on one very tight fit on a gun urgently needed. One round fired on Charge One found the recoil OK but the gun wouldn’t fully run back into “battery”. Two more rounds on successively higher charges, with greasing in between, solved the problem and the gun was released for use."

Number 1. Suggests that David Miller made the decision to have the gun fired prior to it’s being declared serviceable and returned to the unit. The usual action by the Wksp should be to have the Gun pulled back. This simulates firing. The other glairing mistake is that should the Gun not be in the home position the breach block won’t open fully so that you can’t load or extract the spent cartridge

2. Page 8. "I was able to tell the researcher that, although the rapid firing at FSB Coral (and later the Long Tan battle) would have contributed to the need for the rebuild."

.Number 2. The battle of Long Tan was 18Aug1966 and the Guns we used were L5 Pack How. Not M2A2’s and Coral was 1968 and I was there, David has already acknowledged his mistake, BUT has not amended his article.

I have asked to have the article removed and amended but John Strachan has said: "I do not accept that the Association should withdraw the article". It appears the article has already been forwarded to the AWM historical section; hence my concern.

Bob Thompson ASM

Sun, 03/04/2016 - 13:41, (Reply to #2) #3, John Strachan; Gun rebuild

What is not shown on this site is the to and fro correspondence between me and Bob Thompson. I will not go into that detail here. Put simply, Bob will not accept that the Gun rebuild article from David Miller is a general interest one and is not a technical paper. Bob has already proposed an edited and truncated article to post on his own RAEME info website as a technical article. David Miller, as the article's author, does not want this. No one is arguing that what Bob is saying about technical procedures is incorrect. However, the technical processes are not the story. Therefore the fact these are not included in the story is irrelevant.

There is an error in fact about the dates applicable to Long Tan and FSB Coral; however this error does not alter the thrust of the story and in fact this part of the story is accurate in that it represents what actually occurred then even if there was a date error. Apparently others who posed the question of the author were under the same misinterpretation of the date sequence.

The article has been sent to the AWM for possible, note possible, publication in the AWM Wartime magazine as a general interest story. If the AWM were to opt to include the detail in the historical facts arena they are likely to fact check with the author and if published it is most unlikely the article would be recorded in full. The Gun article is a good story. It is the story about a problem, a fix by a small group of SVN 106ers and an outcome. If any changes are to be made to the article then that is the prerogative of the author, his alone and not mine. Hence the article, published with his approval, remains as is. There is no necessity for change as suggested as it is NOT a technical paper.

John Strachan

PS - Bob. Thanks for reminding me I was a 2LT (QM) (68/69); I had forgotten as it was almost a lifetime ago. Why need to mention this re an event in 1971 and a publication in 2016 is beyond me. Somehow, I suspect it may relate to your written opinions on standing and one’s technical knowledge on matters RAEME and therefore my capacity to know how to handle this article on behalf of the Association.

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 10:27, #4, tommo; Anomalies Addressed

Hi, I have received an email from David Miller with a copy of his amended article and he has acknowledged the two areas I was concerned about. The amended article will appear shortly in the place of the existing one. The article is a good one telling accurately the story of the guns that were repaired by 106 Fd Wksp in 1971. Quite an achievement. As I have indicated it is a technical article now amended is accurate. David has also given me permission to have it included on my website As you all know RAEME is responsible (loosely interpreted) for the repair, modification and maintaining of Aust army equipment as well as being soldiers. Service people usually refer to us as Spanners.

RAAOC (loosely interpreted) are responsible for procurement, store and issue of equipment, for which they are responsible and of course have to be soldiers as well. They are usually referred to as Blanket Counters. I mention this because I have been threatened with litigation re my reference to members of RAAOC using the term “Blanket Counters”. I have also been informed that John Strachan will notify the AWM re the change in David's article so as to complete its accuracy.

Regards, Bob Thompson

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:39, #5, webadmin; Gun Rebuild, The, amended

The amended article is now posted. It now has a pale green background. If otherwise you may still be seeing the original copy. You probably need to refresh your browser's cache to stop it from reading the old page/article temporarily stored in your computer.. If you are unsure how to refresh the cache use the following link and follow the instructions. Link:

Tue, 19/04/2016 - 23:36, #1, tommo; 105 Howitzer Rebuild 1971 Article by Lt Col David Miller

Hi, There has been much to say about the article submitted by Lt Col. David Miller re his involvement as a Capt. OC GE platoon 106 Fd wksp in 1971 when the Wksp carried out reclamation that was to repair guns that really needed to be done in a Base Wksp. and to be successful with the outcome. Capt Miller and his crew deserved the accolades that are now heaped upon them. I was told that the article was in fact and I quote: “The gun article is a good story” The article is a technical article that you will see when you read it. I was also told when I requested changes to bring the article up to RAEME standards that: “There is no necessity for changes as suggested (by me) as the article is NOT a technical paper.” You will see that the article is definitely technical. I too have also forwarded the article to the AWM.

You will see when you read the article that I have asked for comments from, Lt Col C.V.L. Palmer, Lt Col Jim Hislop, Major Ross Bland and I have made a comment myself. I know you will enjoy the article. Go to then On Ops then you will see the article. Enjoy.

Bob Thompson.

Mon, 17/10/2016 - 22:54, #1, dodderer; Watson's Bay

Bob's mention of Watson's Bay brought back a memory. I can't quite remember how long I was there but it was a few days, probably close to a week in late November early December 1968. I, like everyone else, had just the one set of polyesters and was reluctant to get them dirty. As a recently re-enlisted Crafty, I was rostered for a couple of days mess duties (dixy bashing) in the Sergeants' Mess. There was a bloody obnoxious little Sergeant there, RAASC I think, and he objected to me being shirtless and with a mess table cloth wrapped around me to keep the soap and grease off my trousers. I seem to recall the threat of a charge but it didn't come to anything. That took up one or two days I think.

The next thing was a Cocktail Party in the Victoria Barracks Officers Mess. I don't think I'd ever seen so much brass in one place and there was one elderly Major who looke really out of place. Lt General Sir Thomas Daley was present and I seemed to spend a bit of time getting him and his colleagues’ drinks, to the point where he was hoping that his Doctor didn't see him. It was an interesting but not really enjoyable prelude to the two and a half day C130 flight from Richmond to Darwin, overnight booze up; Darwin to Butterworth, another overnight booze up and then a short trip to Vung Tau with some mail and nurses who would be RTA with a converted Casevac flight.