Wargaming with the ANZAC's in Vietnam


Organisation of an ANZAC Infantry Company


The organisation presented here is representative of a standard Company of either the Royal Australian Regiment or the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment as deployed in Vietnam.

The New Zealanders were actually organised differently to their Australian counterparts, but when deployed to Vietnam under 1st ATF they were attached to an Australian Battalion and obliged to adopt Australian unit organisation. The RAR Company had significantly more personnel than the RNZIR Company (120 men as compared to 80 men).

Both 'Victor' and 'Whisky' Companys of the RNZIR were attached to an RAR Battalion (from December 1967 to November 1970) and formed what was to be known as 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion. 


The ANZAC Rifle Company had the following organisation (a few experiments by different battalions being the exception):

1.0 Company HQ

  • 1 x Major (OC, Owen SMG/M-16)
  • 1 x Captain (2IC, Owen SMG/M-16)
  • 1 x Warrant Officer Class 2 (CSM, L1A1 SLR/ M-16)
  • 1 x Private (OC's Batman/runner/ sometimes Signaller, L1A1 SLR)
  • Support Section consisting of :
    • 1 x Corporal (Section Commander, Owen SMG/M-16)
    • 1 x Lance Corporal (Section 2IC, Owen SMG/M-16/M-203/L1A1 SLR)
    • 2 x Privates (M60 GPMG machine gunners) - also carried a service pistol for when moving around in harbour
    • 2 x Privates (No. 2 on the gun, L1A1 SLR/ M-16)
    • 1 x Private (Forward scout, L1A1 SLR/ M-16)
    • 2 x Privates (Riflemen, L1A1 SLR/ M-16)
The CSM normally took overall responsibility for the Support Section with routine work being supervised by the Corporal.

Note- these weapon guidelines are pretty flexible- I've seen photo's of CHQ where M-79's, M-16's and even shotguns are visible (see ANZAC smallarms).

Also, the support section could carry either 2 x Bazooka (3.75"), or two L14A1 Carl Gustav. The "number one" for these weapons would be carrying an Owen SMG/M-16 while the number two would be carrying an L1A1 SLR. With this fit-out a fifth digger would be carrying the M-60. Due to ammo problems (the Swedes wouldn't allow the use of the the Carl Gustav in SVN) quite often the section carried two M-60 with tripod instead. This section was the first to go as replacements to the rifle platoons and may not be in existence at any one time.

1.1 Attached

The following may accompany the Company HQ;

  • 1 x Lt or 2Lt (FO - Fire Officer for Artillery)
  • 1 x Gunner (FO's batman)
  • 1 x Corporal (Engineer)
  • 2 x Sappers (Engineers)
  • 1 x Corporal (Medical Corps/Medic, L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Corporal (Signals Corps/Signaller- BN Tac net, Owen SMG/M-16/ L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Private (Signal Corps/Signaller- BN Admin net Owen SMG/M-16/ L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Private (tracker with tracking dog and M-16 - later war and not all battalions)

2.0  Rifle Platoon

The three rifle platoons had the following organisation:

2.1 Rifle Platoon HQ

  • 1 x Lt or 2LT (Platoon CO, Owen SMG/M-16)
  • 1 x Platoon Sergeant (L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Private (Signaller/runner, Owen SMG/M-16)
  • 1 x Private (runner, L1A1 SLR)

2.2 Three sections, each of:

  • Command and Scout group
    • 1 x Corporal (Section Command, Owen SMG/M-16)
    • 1 x Private (1st Scout, Owen SMG/M-16)
    • 1 x Private (2nd scout, L1A1 SLR)
  • Gun Group
    • 1 x Lance Corporal (Section 2IC, L1A1 SLR - Could have M-79 and later M-203)
    • 1 x Private (No 1 Gunner, GPMG M-60 and 9mm Browning pistol - if he bothered with it)
    • 1 x Private (No 2 gunner, L1A1 SLR and spare barrel for M-60)
  • Rifle Group
    • 1 x Private (No 1 Rifleman, L1A1 SLR and may have M-79/M-203 if one wasn't carried by the 2IC)
    • 1 x Private (No 2 Rifleman, L1A1 SLR)
    • 1 x Private (No 3 Rifleman, L1A1 SLR)
    • 1 x Private (No 4 Rifleman, L1A1 SLR)

Each man carried at least two M-26 (earlier No.36 Mills) fragmentation grenades. Typically there would be two to four Claymores (as well as a couple in each of the Pltn HQ, Coy HQ and Support Section) and, when available, up to 5 x M-72 per section as well. There were also a number of coloured and white phosphorous smoke grenades carried. For ambushes, some patrols and other tasks the weapons could be modified (eg extra M-60 or more M-16).

However, the section strengths were depleted for many reasons and the above perfect case was probably rare, first to go was generally the No3 Rifleman, then the No2 Rifleman.

Dallas Gavin wrote;

The problem is that all battalions had their own SOP and thus there were differences between the way 6RAR did things compared to 8RAR.  My instructors during IET's were a mix of 1RAR, 2RAR, 8RAR and 7RAR blokes and used to point out these differences.  I served in 8/9RAR and then 2/4RAR and so saw the differences for myself.  The above is "by the book" and only reference to Battalion histories can say what exactly was used at any time.

3.0  Back at base

Sections 1.0-2.0 was the strength of the Company when on operational work away from base. However, remaining back at base were the following;

  • 1 x Staff Sergeant (Company Quartermaster - CQMS - Owen SMG/M-16)
  • 1 x Lance Corporal/Private (assistant to CQMS/Storeman, L1A1 SLR)

These 2 were responsible for supplying rations, ammo etc to the troops in the field. They were also responsible for packing up the personal belongings of troops killed or seriously wounded or injured.

  • 1 x Corporal (Company Clerk - clerical duties etc, L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Lance Corporal (assistant to Company Clerk - this person's job also included formally identifying troops KIA or subsequently died of wounds if the wounded was still in country, L1A1 SLR)
  • 1 x Sergeant (Cook)
  • 2 x Corporals (Cooks)
  • 1 x Private (Cook)

LOBD's (left on base defence); those taken from the Platoons and left at base to defend the Company perimeter.  These people were also supplemented by those who were recovering from injury/illness.

Battalion

The RAR Battalion was organised with four Rifle Company's, a Support Company and an Admin Company. The Support Company varied but generally had all of the following;

  • Mortar Platoon - 8 x 81mm Mortars
  • Sustained Fire Machine Gun Platoon - 6 x GPMG M-60 on tripod
  • Assault Pioneer Platoon - organised as a rifle platoon but with access to specialist engineering stores such as bangalores, satchel charges, beehive charges and flame-throwers
  • Anti-Armour Platoon - 4 or 6 x 120mm Wombat (but in SVN could have US 90mm RCL and later ['69?] 106mm RCL).

There could also be any of the following:

  • Recce Platoon/ Tracker Platoon - two or three 5-7 man sections, with dogs if the latter.
  • Regimental Police Section - 1 x Sergeant and four to six other ranks.
  • 13 Platoon - more or less a BHQ defence Platoon

There was also a Signals Platoon that provided Company HQ, Battalion HQ and rear echelon signals.

The Support Company platoons could be assigned to companies as needed for specialist tasks or serve in direct/indirect fire support roles.

New Zealanders

Dallas Gavin wrote;

As for the Kiwis, here I'm on shaky ground. I do know that W COY, 2 RAR/NZ in '69 or '70 was an "Independent Rifle Company" organisation in that it had two 81mm, two tripod-mounted M-60 and a section of pioneers (all Kiwi) attached to it. However I don't know exactly what the internal organisation was- I know it was three rifle platoons of three sections organised roughly along our lines but... TO&E varied more than the above suggests.


COMMENTS

Bob Buick, MM, has pointed out the following;

"..... section had a Cpl, LCpl, 2xM60, 2 x scouts and 3 riflemen. The Pl HQ had no medic that was with CHQ. During operation a Bandsman (Stretcher Bearer maybe attached from CHQ to the platoon)..."

Dallas Gavan wrote;

I joined the Australian army in 1975 as a rifleman and all my training, etc, was conducted by Vietnam Vets.  The section Bob Buick mentions was, by the look of it, something peculiar to his battalion.

Another Australian Veteran wrote;

Mike,

I was in B Company of 7RAR on its second tour of Vietnam.

I served in Support Section attached to CHQ.  There were 8 of us and we carried 3 x armalites; 2 x M60 machine guns; and 3 x SLR's.  We were the most heavily armed Section in the Company.  On operation we were mainly attached to CHQ, often being its sole defence when the Platoons were on independent patrolling. On these occasions we would harbour up in very heavy jungle.  Compared to the Platoons we had it fairly easy - I often wondered why and found out when the Company first hit bunkers.  We were ordered to spearhead the attack - very scary business.  When we were working out of either Nui Dat or the Horseshoe we would conduct independent ambushing every second night.

Our Stretcher Bearers were our own.  Many of us did a 2 week Stretcher Bearer's course - 1 week in-house at Holsworthy and the other week in the casualty section of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

Our officers included a Captain who was 2IC of the Company.

1.0 Stretcher Bearers

The primary function of the Stretcher Bearer was as an Infantryman. We were trained to:

Stem blood flow, set splints, dress minor injuries and inject if necessary and with permission - These were to stabilise the wounded prior to evacuation to proper medical facilities

Identify tropical diseases

Most of the more thorough medical inspections were carried out on re-supply day by the Medical Corps Corporal attached to CHQ. I think that the term "Stretcher Bearer" is a hangover from past wars.  In effect, anyone who could had to help carry a stretcher.

2.0 Mix of equipment

There was no problem with spares for the mix of equipment.  Our main problem was carrying a full compliment of ammo for both of the M60's.  In the Platoon Sections there was nominally 10 people to share carrying the ammo for 1 gun.  In our Section there was 4 per gun.  But then again we didn't do as much patrolling as the Platoons.

3.0 CHQ Harbour

For longer term harbours CHQ would always have a Platoon in support.  These harbours were always in more open positions and close to water and a good LZ for helicopters.

For short term harbours (1 to 3 nights) often CHQ would move into position with the support of a Platoon, but the Platoon would immediately move on for their own independent patrolling.

On such occasions the dense jungle was a deliberate choice as this provided a natural defence.

(When moving the normal order of march would be to have the Platoon in front followed by CHQ heirarchy, with Support Sect bringing up the rear.)

On arrival at the selected harbour site we normally would locate the first gun on the track we used to come in - on the perimeter of the harbour - just in case we were being followed.  Once in position we would "stand to" for 10 or 15 minutes until we were satisfied that all was safe.  Once "stand down" was given then we placed early warning sentries anywhere between 20 to 50 metres to the front of the guns.  Claymores were placed out in front of the sentries position.  Standing orders were that if contact with the VC was made then the sentry would fire the claymores and all sentries would scamper back to the harbour by pre-determined routes. Those in harbour were also advised of the routes so that they knew where friendlies should be sighted.

While the sentries were out there was also people on the guns.  (Support Section found this very difficult with 2 guns and therefore 2 sentries.  On most occasions we were under strength and had to rely on variable support from the batmen, medic, engineers. The normal roster for us was 2 hours on, 4 hours off, alternating between gun and sentry duties during the day and on the gun at night.  At night support from others was restricted because they had to maintain a radio coverage.  I must admit that we did not have entire faith in non-infantry troops except for our Medic Corps Corporal who proved his reliability many times.)

After "stand down", back in harbour when appropriate, work would begin on digging shell scrapes, latrine and rubbish hole.  The Sig people would also establish radio communications.

All instructions for the above was done by field signals or close range  whispers.


Please contact me if you have any further information, or you know where I can find more information.


SOURCES

The Killing Zone; New Zealand infantry in Vietnam (1967-1971), Colin Smith

See also Caught in the Killing Zone by Colin Smith

My particular thanks to Dallas Gavin for his patience and continued help, and also to GS and GL for their excellent contributions.


 

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