A Routine Recovery

Bryan Coolahan, Adjutant of 106 Field Workshop, 1970-1971

I had been in Vietnam about a fortnight when we had a call out to collect a mined APC well up in the North East part of the Province. I can pronounce the location, cannot recall the spelling of the place. For those who remember, it was in the vicinity of Fire Support Base 'Ziggy' (Late in my tour I commanded a platoon sized fighting patrol from 106 that occupied a Fire Support Base, FSB 'Ziggy' that was in that vicinity. FSB 'Ziggy' had been occupied by Artillery and a Company of Infantry but they had to go elsewhere at short notice and we were redeployed at similar short notice to take their place. But that is another story.)

To get to this location we went South to Baria, East for a few hours, then North, that should give you an idea where we went. As usual we had an escort of a section of APC.

On arrival, the APC section with the mined APC were in all round defence just off a vehicle track in a fairly open area, with the jungle/forest vegetation about 200 metres away. They had been in this exposed position for some hours, they said they felt they were under observation and were keen to be elsewhere.

We had a Sapper with us with mine detection equipment and he went to work to clear a path to the mined APC so that we could get in and commence recovery. The sapper reported to me that he was getting too many metal readings (possibly from shrapnel from the mine?) in any event he was not confident he could make a path. He was not enthused at my suggestion we take our bayonets and probe a path. But short of levitating the crew from the mined APC (it had been fitted with belly armour so they had only minor wounds) and calling in an airstrike to destroy a repairable scarce resource, we had little choice. He was a good Digger, that Sapper.

We measured the wheel base width of the recovery vehicle, tied a toggle rope of the same length between us and slowly probed a pathway to the APC, using our bayonets to feel for mines, we found none.

We completed the recovery and were able to get out of the area before last light. I was able to confirm several months later from intelligence reports based on captured documentation, that our activity had been under observation by the VC. Subsequent ATF operations went into the area and located a bunker system.

This was, for us, a routine task

I would imagine our War Diary for that month read, among other things, '...and recovered five mined APCs...' of which this was just one.