Osprey author Leigh Neville this week takes a look at another of the magnificent Naked Army cold cast 1:6 scale bronze figurines; the ‘RAR Soldier in Vietnam’, representative of the Diggers featured in the recent Australian film ‘Danger Close’ detailing the famous Battle of Long Tan. View the trailer here; https://youtu.be/AyUqZLwOo2Y
This sculpt depicts a patrolling Australian Army Digger from the early stages of the Vietnam War. He wears a mixture of US issue M56 and Australian Pattern 1908 and Pattern 1937 webbing and the famous ‘Jungle Green’ uniform with ‘Giggle’ hat (officially the ‘Hat Utility, Jungle Green’ but known as the ‘Giggle Hat’- and other more derogatory terms- as it was considered faintly ridiculous in appearance by the Diggers).
He carries the 7.62x51mm L1A1 produced at Lithgow under licence from Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale. The L1A1, or SLR (Self-Loading Rifle) as it was better known, was the standard issue rifle until it was replacing the F88 Steyr in the late 1980s. He also carries a 200 round belt of ‘link’ for the section machine gun, the M60. With typical innovation, he carries the ‘link’ in a homemade rubber sleeve to keep it clear of dirt and debris whilst patrolling.
Almost 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973. 428 Australian soldiers were killed during the conflict with greater than 3000 wounded. Australia’s initial contribution was the famous Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) of military advisers to the South Vietnamese but the AATTV was soon followed by soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) in 1965.
The 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) was established the following year bringing together a range of units including armour around two to three rotational infantry battalions until the eventual drawdown of the majority of the Australian Army commitment in 1971.