Lest we forget: Albany to honour Vietnam War veterans at poignant service

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Albany Sub Branch RSL parade commander Steve Morrow, Vietnam Veterans' Phil Maguire, John Benson and Andy Roberts with service director Michael Tugwell.
Camera IconAlbany Sub Branch RSL parade commander Steve Morrow, Vietnam Veterans' Phil Maguire, John Benson and Andy Roberts with service director Michael Tugwell. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

Phil Maguire has clear memories of the day his number came up in the birthday ballot during the Vietnam War.

He had just finished his apprenticeship when he was conscripted and sent to war as a rifleman in September 1969.

He spent the next year in Vietnam, where a couple of the mates he had trained with were killed in action.

Memories of those men will come back to the 72-year-old at Albany’s Vietnam Veterans’ Day service on Sunday.

Mr Maguire will be one of three surviving Albany national servicemen to place a poppy on a white cross at the South East Asia Memorial at Princess Royal Fortress.

The three white crosses, set alongside slouch hats, will represent the trio of Albany national servicemen who paid the ultimate price during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Veterans Phil Maguire, John Benson and Andy Roberts with Albany RSL sub-branch service director Michael Tugwell.
Camera IconVietnam Veterans Phil Maguire, John Benson and Andy Roberts with Albany RSL sub-branch service director Michael Tugwell. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Private Ronald John Bell, Sapper Alan Leslie Duncuff and Private John Leonard McQuat were in their early 20s when their lives were tragically cut short.

They were among more than 200 Australian “nashos” killed in Vietnam.

Mr Maguire said regardless of public opinion of the Vietnam War back then and now, those who put their lives on the line for the country deserved recognition.

“Most of the people I knew were national servicemen, so they didn’t have any say in the matter,” he said.

“They were sacrificed, if you like.”

Albany RSL sub-branch service director Michael Tugwell said Sunday’s service would pay tribute to Vietnam veteran Harley Webb, who died last month.

Vietnam veteran Harley Webb with the bullet that he had removed after the Battle of Long Tan.
Camera IconVietnam veteran Harley Webb with the bullet that he had removed after the Battle of Long Tan. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Mr Webb was a national serviceman who was critically wounded in the Battle of Long Tan.

He survived those injuries, bringing home the bullet that nearly pierced his heart as a souvenir.

“His funeral, some 54 years later, saw close to 500 mourners come together to farewell him, and later to gather at the White Star Hotel in accordance with Harley’s wishes that they have a beer on him,” Mr Tugwell said.

“The funeral saw many former service members gather to pay last respects to one of their own.”

The service is scheduled to start at 2pm and will be followed by a public function at RSL headquarters on Stirling Terrace.

In the event of bad weather, the service will move to the RSL building. For details, contact Mr Tugwell on 0421 647 301 or email metco03@outlook.com.

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