~This book review was originally done for the W3 Coy website; however, there is an issue in the review that deserves a wider audience and further attention.
A Duty Done, Fred Fairhead [RARA SA 2014] – reviewed by Bruce Young, January 2015.
Although described as a summary of operations by the Royal Australian Regiment [RAR] in the Vietnam War 1965-1972, A Duty Done is more a report on the intense infantry war fought in and around Phuoc Tuy province by the Australian and ANZAC battalions in 1ATF. Published in 2014 by the RAR Association South Australia, the book commemorates three significant dates:
- 65th anniversary of the award of the prefix ‘Royal’ to the Australian Regiment [31 March 1949]
- 50th anniversary of the raising of 1RNZIR at Terendak Camp Malaysia [1 April 1964]
- 45th anniversary of the height of the RAR’s involvement in the Vietnam War [1968-1970]
Lt Col Fred Fairhead was the former intelligence officer of 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) on the units second tour so is well equipped to research and understand the extensive material available from the Australian War Memorial Museum and other contributors.
This is an excellent book for a veteran to revise his knowledge of what happened during his tour, concise but focussed on important issues, rewarding of good leadership and disdainful of poor decisions.
The maps are well prepared and attempt to identify where the action was and in what sequence; where soldiers have performed outstandingly or suffered loss, these are identified both in the narrative and in a panel at the conclusion of each action.
While mainly an infantry record Fred is inclusive of the artillery and armoured units without whose support, the infantry would have been more cruelly under the hammer. It hardly needs to be said that in reporting the infantry war Fred has included the actions of the New Zealand company's in the same seamless manner that we experienced when with our ANZAC compatriots. However, few of the W3 actions are covered in the narrative, including none where we lost people; this reinforces the need for us to maintain our own record for research purposes.
A Duty Done is 190 pages in A4 portrait with a soft cover, extensive maps and many photographs. While unlikely to be in your local library, a copy can be obtained from this link.
Now the challenge. The lack of New Zealand information may have something to do with separate record keeping between the two ANZAC nations and suggests a need for an online archive in New Zealand to rival the facilities of the Australian War Memorial Museum, something I suggest our senior officers from the era and the RNZRSA movement in general should vigorously pursue. I for one would enjoy adding to our own record from research obtained online by browsing through the records that HQ NZ V Force surely submitted to Army General Staff. Whether this archive should be held within Archives New Zealand or at say the National Army Museum should depend on which body can best catalogue the collection and offer it online.