Bob Murray remembers Vietnam

Bob Murray joined the Australian Army when he was 15 years old.

He had completed his third year at the Gloucester District Rural School and achieved his intermediate certificate in 1957, the same year the army, navy and air force first attended Gloucester for recruitment. Having grown up on a farm, Bob thought it best to learn how to fix the equipment by completing a motor mechanic apprenticeship with the army.

Bob spent the first three years at the Army Apprentices School (AAS) in Balcombe, Victoria learning about mechanics, the next four years at the Maygar Barracks Workshop in Broadmeadows, Victoria and one year with the 101 Field Workshop in Ingleburn working on everything from tanks to generators. 

In early 1966, Craftsman Robert C Murray boarded a midnight flight to Vietnam from the Richmond RAAF Base, as part of the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers 1 Australian Task Force. 

The task force moved into Nui Dat, South Vietnam after two battalions had secured the area in a rubber plantation with their first priority being to set up power and communication for the headquarters. Before all the men had a chance to dig their weapons pits, to assist with protection during battle, the Viet Cong mortared (small projected bombs) the camp overnight, triggering the Battle of Long Tan.

Bob listed this evening as the worse experience while in Vietnam, but as he had signed up as a professional soldier, he went to war with his eyes wide open. He was almost at the end of his mandatory nine years of service before he got called up to go to Vietnam and said he would have been disappointed if he had missed out.

“I believe we thought we were infallible and it was going to be an adventure,” he recalled.

But most of Bob’s experience was about helping the locals who were caught up in the crossfire, using his skills to help fix broken equipment.

“I was called upon several times to go to villages to repair their generators, water pumps and rice mills, I was part of the WHAM team,” he smiled.  “Win Hearts And Minds.”

“I have no regrets and would do it all again,” Bob said.

Bob meet Annette Darvell shorty after arriving in Victoria and in 1964 they were married.  Annette said they made a conscious decision to not have children until Bob had finished his service. They have three children and five grandchildren. 

“We’ve had a good life,” Annette smiled.