0peration Aussies Home set off on the 28th January to search Hill 82 with
Ground penetrating radar.
We arrived in Bien Hoa Peace hotel. We have stayed in this hotel in each
of our trips. First we had to get permission to use the radar in Hill
The local people’s committee has given us permission. But we have
to get the government in Hanoi to give theirs.
Jeff and Graeme the operators of the radar units who have
volunteered their time and equipment have shown us in the hotel courtyard
how the Radar works. We sit and wait for permission.
The local foreign affairs have us under lock up conditions as we can not
move without their say so. Other trips we have cheated and just driven
out to Hill 82.
Not this time we must have their members with us. No go
to Hill 82. The first week has passed still no go. Jim has been on the
phone and e-mail to Hanoi twice a day. No result.
We can walk around Bien Hoa but have followers in front and behind us
at all times. It gets a bit scary and seems like house arrest. Day 10
and still we sit.
The cost is rising as we still have to eat and drink.
Water is 3 dollars a bottle and most of us are drinking 4 bottles a day.
The radars and 3 of OAH Inc members have to leave 1200 hrs on 13th Feb.
It is now morning of 12th and permission is granted. What a bugger up.
We must have guides to go to Hill 82. eg: army and foreign affairs. Vietnam
TET celebrations start on 17th and every one must go to their home areas
to celebrate. No guides, so we don’t get to Hill 82.
I arrive home on 14th Feb. after wasting all that time
locked in the peace Hotel. The wet season is due in Vietnam and we need
it dry so looks like it will be Jan - Feb next year before OAH Inc can
dig Hill 82 and recover Tiny and Peter.
I am off to Alaric to get the soldiers retreat started out there. Alaric
is 89 k from Quilpie. The association has put in a couple of months cleaning
the homestead. I drive out with Laurie Drinkwater. Water is very limited
at present we have a 21,000 litre tank arriving in a couple of days. Also
plumbers to replace the guttering.
This went off ok and now we want rain. Plenty of work around Alaric keeps
Jim Bourke rang and he has the chance to take the radar back the end of
March. Great OAH Inc is heading back with out me.
16th of April I get a call from Wendy Mudford, Tiny’s
wife. What news OAH Inc has found Tiny and Peter. They were found 28 meters
from where I laid the poppies on 21st November 2005. After getting in
touch with Jim I find that on the 14th April David Thomas who has been
on all OAH trips
Asked Jim what’s on. Jim answered today is it if we don’t
find any sign we will have to give up.
David said I am going up to where Trevor talked to the boys on 21st Nov
2005 and will ask them to give us a sign, well bugger me dead within a
scoop or two the boys had kicked out the sole of a boot. Further scoops
turned up other items eg: the map I had given Tiny on the 6th Nov 65.
The government was informed and to their credit they flew
over the team needed to recover Tiny and Peter. OAH Inc and locals helped
the recovery. The mission will be complete when we have them in Australian
This achievement is due to Jim Bourke and his leadership.
There would not be one of us in OAH Inc that did not reckon it was his
Jim’s get up and go that has keep us going. OAH Inc now has to hand
Tiny and Peter over to the Vietnam government for them to check that the
two bodies are Australian. This could take a number of weeks.
Jim has asked me to accompany him, Gordon Peterson, Clive
Williams over to Hanoi on 3rd June to bring back our men. Jumped at the
chance and flew down to Canberra on the 2nd June. Met Jim and Gordon at
the Olims hotel. On the 3rd we took off in the government 737 for flight
We were joined with Clive, some of the Gillson clan, stretcher bearers
from 1RAR, RSM of 3rd Brigade, Acting CO of one battalion and army newspaper
Landed in Hanoi late on 3rd and taken to Daawoo hotel. Up early to go
to the ambassadors home for tea and bickies. Then out to airport for the
hand over of Tiny and Peter.
This was a great parade and I enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of it all.
Then a C130 flight to Darwin. We landed on Australian soil on the 5th
and all remarked we got them home. The next of kin were flown to Darwin
and we had the honour of parading them through the C130 to put hands on
the coffins containing Tiny and Peter. We did this twice and then let
them, the next of kin go and stand by the boys themselves.
The hug I got from Wendy was great as after the trip on 21st November
2005 I had told her we OAH Inc would bring them home.
It was then an early
flight on the 6th to get to Richmond for Australia’s welcome. This
took place at 1015 hrs.
Once again there was a lot of pomp and ceremony I met many of the blokes
from A Coy 65 who had made the welcome parade this was great as many I
had forgotten names but not the faces. I then went to Canberra on the
7th to await Tiny’s burial on the 12th. This day arrived and I was
asked to speak on Tiny’s service.
What an honour. People were saying write something down., but I couldn’t
so here is what I said " Tiny joined us in early 65 and I told him
he was joining the first section of the first platoon of the first company
of the first battalion and we were in the first division and lived in
hut 11 so he had a lot to live up to. He proved he was one of us in the
lead up to us being posted to Vietnam June 65.
On the 6th November 65 when I handed Tiny my map and compass to lead the
first section on Operation Hump I was certain he would do a great job.
What I did not know was that Operation Hump would last 15160 days. A Coy
1RAR of 65 could be pleased that Operation Hump was over when Peter was
buried in Melbourne on 15th June 2007 this was 15163 days after it started
on 6th November 65. Have I counted every day well, check me if you wish
but don’t forget leap years.
I am writing this before the end of June 2007 while every
thing is still clear in the head. I will remain in touch with Wendy and
Don in Napier New Zealand until I go to met up with Tiny and Peter in
that paradise up there.
Trevor Hagan OAM