Military History

This Week in History | Week 34

By The Cove August 16, 2020

Week 34 | 17 - 23 August


18 August 1966 | Battle of Long Tan

Amid a tropical downpour, 108 men of D Company, 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR), supported by artillery and a timely resupply by the RAAF, fought off an attack by an enemy force of more than 2,000 in a rubber plantation near the abandoned village of Long Tan. The arrival of Armoured Personnel Carriers carrying reinforcements brought the action to an end. Seventeen Australians were killed, one died of wounds, and 24 were wounded. More than 245 enemy bodies were later counted, but many more had been taken away.


18 August 1971 | Australian Government announces withdrawal from Vietnam

On 18 August 1971, Australia and New Zealand decided to withdraw their troops from Vietnam. The Australian Prime Minister, William McMahon, announced that the First Australian Task Force (1 ATF) would cease operations in October and start a phased withdrawal from the country. The Battle of Nui Le on 21 September proved to be the last major battle fought by Australian forces in the war and resulted in five Australians killed and 30 wounded. On 16 October, Australian forces handed over control of the base at Nui Dat to South Vietnamese forces, while the main body from 4th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR), the last Australian infantry battalion in South Vietnam, sailed for Australia on board HMAS Sydney on 09 December 1971.

20 August 1994 | Main body of Australian contingent to UNAMIR II arrived in Kigali

In 1994, Rwanda experienced one of the most hoffic acts of genocide since the holocaust. In just 100 days, an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists. The victims were members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin. In response, Australia sent two contingents to Rwanda as part of United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda II (UNAMIRII), each rotation serving for six months. The first Australian contingent, comprising 308 members, arrived in the country on 20 August. It was under the command of Colonel Wayne Ramsey, a medical officer who took on the role of UNAMIR force medical officer.

The Australian Medical Support Force, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Patrick McIntosh, provided UNAMIR’s medical support and was made up of a medical company, an infantry company group from 2/4 RAR, four Armoured Personnel Carriers and a logistic support company. The medical company included two specialist surgical teams, a preventative medical section, a medical support platoon (providing pathology and pharmacy functions), and a dental capacity.

The medical unit was not based on an established medical unit but instead drew its members from the three services - 17 from the RAAF, seven from the RAN, and the rest from the army. Twenty-six members of the medical team were women.


21 August 1915 | Last major fighting on Gallipoli takes place at Hill 60

'We gained about 400 yards [366m] in four days fighting, 1,000 men killed and wounded. Land is very dear here.' Corporal James Watson of the Auckland Mounted Rifles

Hill 60 was a low rise in the foothills on the north-western end of Anzac Cove. The fight for Hill 60 was part of the August Offensive, the last major Allied offensive operation on the peninsula. The operation was planned to strengthen a narrow strip of foreshore that connected British forces at Suvla with the Anzac positions further south.

The first unsuccessful attempt to seize Hill 60 from the Turks on 21 August was poorly planned. A further attack on 27 August ended with 3 days of intense fighting, during which objectives were taken, lost and retaken. British, New Zealand and Australian units failed to secure the crest. Further attacks were called off on 29 August because a weak but sufficient link had been formed with the British forces at Suvla.



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.

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