Military History

Cove Thoughts | Lessons from Long Tan

By The Cove August 18, 2020

As the years pass, and our veterans get older, there are fewer opportunities to hear their stories first hand. In this episode of Cove Thoughts, produced especially to commemorate this year's Vietnam Veterans' Day, we talk to David Sabben about his experiences as a platoon commander at the Battle of Long Tan.   


Fifty four years on, and the lessons of realistic training, flexibility and self discipline still stand true today. As such, we commend David's interview to all members of the profession of arms, regardless of their rank, trade or Corps.


If listening to David's story in this Cove Thoughts podcast has inspired you to learn more about the Battle of Long Tan, this official Long Tan website centralises a vast amount of information and links to other useful resources such as the 60 minutes episode as well a separate documentary on the battle. 

You may also be aware of the movie Danger Close, filmed in country Queensland and released in 2019. It is great depiction of this epic battle and highlights the complexities at all levels of command. This short YouTube clip contains interviews with three Long Tan veterans: Major Harry Smith (Officer Commanding Delta Company, 6 RAR), Sergeant Bob Buick (Platoon Sergeant, 11 Platoon) and Flight Lieutenant Bob Grandin (a RAAF helicopter co-pilot). It's a great snapshot of their thoughts on the Battle of Long Tan and their impression of the movie. 



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Sorry: for the first mention of 10 Platoon going forward I said "right hook" (at about the recording's 18:20 mark). That should have been "left hook", and was corrected later in the recording. Cheers, Dave.

We will NEVER forget

Dave, Thank you for sharing your story and lessons into a battle that helped define the Australian Army for many years. I found your thoughts into training and leadership both insightful and familiar. Well done to the team at the Cove for capturing and sharing such a personal story.

Excellent presentation. Dave thank you.

G'day Dave, as a National Serviceman and a Veteran of Fire Support Base CORAL may I extend my highest personal respect to each and every Hero who participated in this heroic Battle in 1966 - of Those on the Ground and in the Air. The promulgation by Federal Parliament to ratify an alignment of Vietnam Veterans Day as one of the Three National Commemorations that grants an opportunity for the Nation to express their pride in the sacrifice of All Those Who Have and Do Serve - to protect Australia. Thankyou David.

Thanks, Graham. The battles at Coral and Balmoral, as with many other firefights, contacts and battles in Vietnam, were more examples of Diggers trained for CRW but forced to adapted within minutes to Conventional Warfare. Such was the adaptability and versatility of well-trained soldiers. Repeated in other deployments where ground conditions superseded training anticipations. All more examples of the value of hard training before deployment. Keep safe. Dave.

Wow, such a brave heart

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