Battle of Long Tan – Applications for Review

In April 2015, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith SG MC (Retd) (former Officer Commanding D Company 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam on 18 August 1966) applied to the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal) for review of a decision by the Chief of Army to refuse to recommend 13 members of the Australian Army who fought at the Battle of Long Tan for a range of gallantry awards, including a Victoria Cross for the late Warrant Officer John ‘Jack’ Kirby DCM.

The Chief of Army’s decision was made in respect of submissions by Lieutenant Colonel Smith to the Tribunal’s Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour. Despite any previous considerations, Lieutenant Colonel Smith has a statutory entitlement under the Defence Act 1903 to seek review of the Chief of Army’s most recent decision in the Tribunal.

In hearing this Matter, the Tribunal considered the refusal to recommend the following 13 individuals for various defence honours and has now made the following recommendations.

Rank Name What has been awarded for service at Long Tan What Lieutenant Colonel Smith seeks What the Tribunal will recommend to Government
Warrant Officer Class 2 Kirby, John ‘Jack’
(deceased)
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) Victoria Cross for Australia No change to DCM
Lieutenant Roberts, F. Adrian Mention in Despatches Medal for Gallantry Medal for Gallantry
Corporal Moore, William
(deceased)
Mention in Despatches (MID) Medal for Gallantry No change to MID
Second Lieutenant Sharp, Gordon
(deceased)
Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Sergeant Alcorta, Francis Nil Medal for Gallantry Medal for Gallantry
Lance Corporal Magnussen, Barry (deceased) Nil Commendation for Gallantry Medal for Gallantry
Private Bextrum, Neil Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Private Brett, Ronald
(deceased)
Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Private Campbell, Ian Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Private Grimes, Noel Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Private May, Allen Nil Commendation for Gallantry No award
Private Peters, Geoffrey Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry
Private Roche, William Nil Commendation for Gallantry Commendation for Gallantry

All ranks used for the 13 individuals in the above table are the ranks at the time of the battle

Honours

In the Imperial honours system (applicable to Australians during the Vietnam War) the Victoria Cross was a level one honour, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was a level two honour, and the Mention in Despatches was a level four honour.

In the Australian honours system (applicable now) the Victoria Cross for Australia is a level one honour, the Star of Gallantry is a level two honour, the Medal for Gallantry is a level three honour, and the Commendation for Gallantry is a level four honour.  More details on honours and awards can be found in the following document – Honours and Awards Information Sheet.

Who heard this Matter

  • Mr Mark Sullivan AO (Chair of the Tribunal)
  • Rear Admiral James Goldrick AO, CSC, RAN (Retd)
  • Brigadier Kevin O’Brien CSC (Retd)
  • Mr Richard Rowe PSM
  • Ms Jane Schwager AO

Details of the Hearings

Dates:
Tuesday 1 March, Wednesday 2 March, and Thursday 3 March 2016 in  Maroochydore, Queensland

Read the Minister’s Press Release here: Media Release 12 February 2016

The Process of Applications for Review

The Tribunal has conducted this review in accordance with its Procedural Rules. In summary:

    • An applicant provides a copy of the decision of Defence (in this case the Chief of Army) which the applicant wants the Tribunal to review together with any material relevant to the application.
    • On receipt of the application for review, the Tribunal provides Defence with a copy of the application.  Defence is required to prepare a report regarding its original decision.
    • A copy of the Defence response is then forwarded to the applicant, who can provide the Tribunal with a written response.
    • The Tribunal then holds a hearing with the applicant. The Tribunal directs the manner of appearance and who else, beside the applicant, will appear.
    • The Tribunal then considers all the material placed before it and the law relevant to the honour or award the applicant has applied for.  For honours, the Tribunal makes recommendations to the Minister.
    • Together with its recommendations, the Tribunal writes a decision and reasons for decision.  A copy of the decision and reasons for decision are provided to the applicant and Defence.  The decision is then published on the Tribunal’s website.

The reports of this review can be found here.

Detail of previous Government reviews can be found here.

Other Links:

Detail of previous Government reviews can be found here.

About the Tribunal:  http://defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au/about/

About the Vietnam War (including the Battle of Long Tan):

https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/vietnam/

http://vietnam-war.commemoration.gov.au/vietnam-war/

How do I contact the Tribunal

Mail address:
Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal
Level 1, 105 Tennant Street, Fyshwick
Locked Bag 7765
Canberra BC ACT 2610

Telephone:
02 6266 1019

Email:
DHA.Tribunal@defence.gov.au

Media Enquiries:
James Cannon 0433 884 238

 

Insertion
by Ken McFadyen
Oil on canvas on hardboard, 1968

RAAF's first operation over North Korea
Robert Taylor
Oil on canvas, 1986