Home' Napier Mail : April 3rd 2012 Contents 19
NAPIER MAIL, APRIL 4, 2012
Comrades recall buddy and brother
Fishing days: Jack aged 16, about to go fishing.
Between June 1964 and December 1972 around 3500 New Zealand
military personnel served in South Vietnam. In contrast to the First and
Second World Wars, this country's contribution was modest. At its
peak in 1968 the New Zealand force only numbered 543. Thirty-seven
died while on active service and 187 were wounded.
The Vietnam War -- sometimes referred to as the Second Indochina
War -- lasted from 1959 to 1975. In Vietnam it is often referred to as
the American War. It was fought between the communist Democratic
Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and its allies, and the US-backed
Republic of Vietnam in the south. It ended with the defeat of South
Vietnam in April 1975. Nearly 1.5 million soldiers and perhaps 2
million civilians died during the war.
As the nation gets ready to commemorate Anzac
Day on April 25 and a small community prepares
to honour 41530 Pte John (Jack) Stewart Williams
Victor 4 Company RNZIR on April 27, two old
mates, Geoff Dixon and Wayne Williams, share
their memories of their buddy and brother, lost to
the Vietnam War. Vivienne Haldale. reports
Well remembered: 41530 Pte John
(Jack) Stewart Williams, Victor 4
Anzac Day services in Napier: 6am dawn service, the Soundshell,
Marine Parade; 9am, Eskdale Church, Eskdale; 11am civic ceremony,
Memorial Square, Napier.
Anzac Day commemorations in Central Hawke's Bay: Waipawa: Dawn
service: 5.45am, Otane Town Hall; Citizens services: 9am, Onga Onga
Cenotaph; 9am, Tikokino Community Centre; 9.30am, Omakere
church Hall; 11am,Waipawa Town Hall. Waipukurau: Dawn service,
5.45am, Cenotaph, River Tce. Takapau: Citizens service, 10am,
Takapau RSA, Charlotte St.
There will be an unveiling ceremony of a memorial flag pole dedicated
to the memory of 41530 Pte John (Jack) Stewart Williams Victor 4
Company RNZIR at 1.30pm on Friday, April 27, at The Terrace Bilingual
Primary School (Jack attended 1958-62) 164 Porangahau Rd,
Waipukurau. All welcome.
Bruce and June
Farewell Jack: Jack William's burial ceremony at Terendak Military
Cemetery in Malaysia.
By VIVIENNE HALDALE
Dusk falls over the Courtenay
Rubber Plantation of Phuoc Tuy
Province, South Vietnam.
The men from Victor 4 Com-
pany are settling in for the night
after a tough day's mission. It is
June 17 1969.
The sound of a helicopter
penetrates the jungle and as it
reaches its mark it hovers over
Private Jack Williams' body is
carefully placed on a stretcher,
maneuvered into position and
Above the plantation swirling
rotors scuff up the dense green
Goodbye my friend,'' whispers
his friend Geoff Dixon, as the
chopper disappears from sight.
It was Jack's first and last day
taking part in Operation
The harsh reality of our situ-
ation really sank in then,'' says
Geoff, a good mate of Jack's since
their days at Burnham Military
camp in Christchurch as trainee
They had shared plenty of good
Jack, son of Bruce and June
Williams, joined the army straight
from school at Central Hawke's
Bay College in Waipukurau.
His brother Wayne recalled it
was the only thing Jack ever
wanted to do.
He had had a few mentors who
One was the Anglican Vicar,
Ralph Matthews, who was also a
Jack admired and looked up to
Another was a trainee vicar,
Bill Tuhiwai, whose brother Tom
served in Vietnam.
The Williams were a large
close-knit family of five siblings --
Jill was Jack's twin sister and
Wayne, 14 months younger, was
close to his big brother.
As a boy he was always known
as Jack the lad,'' says Wayne
He was popular and worked
hard, although he didn't always
like school work.
He helped dad do deliveries for
his business, had a paper round
and went haymaking in the
holidays. We often went off on
adventures together. Once I
remember -- we were about 11 or
12 -- we stocked up on food, put
packs on our backs, grabbed our
fishing rods and walked off to the
Tuki Tuki River.
We lit a fire and set up camp
for the weekend. I don't think
mum and dad even knew where
Jack spent many weekends
learning how to fly fish with one of
the teachers from college, Chas
Family camping holidays were
taken at Haumoana beach where
Jack would fish for kahawai with
his father and brothers.
In January 1965, Jack joined
the New Zealand Army as a reg-
ular force cadet.
A year later Geoff met Jack.
He was short, nuggety and
strong,'' says Geoff.
He was full of fun. A good
joker. When we went to parties,
another guy and I would challenge
anybody to punch Jack in the
stomach. He wouldn't budge an
inch -- their fists would just
bounce off. We won a few flagons
of beer over that trick.''
Eighteen months later, both
aged 18, they graduated into the
Regular Force Army to the
National Service Training Unit
(NSTU) at Burnham.''
After about 12 months we were
both posted to 1 Battalion Depot
which was the training and
replacement unit for 1 RNZIR, the
overseas battalion in Malaysia
and the stepping stone for infan-
tryman to Vietnam.''
Training for Vietnam was very
demanding, yet there was a goal
to be achieved for us young,
This was done in Australia,
West Coast, Canterbury and the
surrounding areas. We also were
doing live firing in snow, freezing
and blizzard conditions at Wai-
ouru when the Wahine ferry sank
in Wellington Harbour. This was
our training for the hot, tropical
conditions of South East Asia.''
As their departure date
approached, excitement grew.
Particularly when we saw
returning Vietnam veterans with
their massive stereo systems,
tailor-made shiny suits and flash
cars. We were in absolute awe of
But a car accident almost
derailed Jack's progress.
Geoff recalls: Jack and another
of our mates, Bill Skipper, had a
few beers in camp and decided to
go into Christchurch in Jack's old
Morris 8 car.
It had to be started with a pair
of scissors and had a top speed of
about 30 miles per hour. The win-
ter fog added to the problems as
the window wipers didn't work
and had to be manually activated
by an arm out the window.''
Jack or Skip [the driver is
unknown to this day] drove
straight into a steel power pole.
Both were admitted to Burwood
Hospital. Skip with his left leg
broken and Jack his right leg
Training for overseas continued
but Jack was limited to light
A final Battle Efficiency Test
would be the culmination and
decider of who would go overseas.
We had to a run in full battle
equipment including rifle, carry a
similar size soldier 100 yards with
his and your own equipment,
clamber over a six foot wall, jump
a nine foot ditch and fire five
rounds at a target. All activities
had to be completed within a
specific time limit. Funny though,
in all our time in the army, no one
has ever seen a six foot wall or a
nine foot ditch in the jungle.''
A few days before the test,
Jack's major plaster cast was
removed and he was granted a
special dispensation to attempt
the test with a smaller brace.
I accompanied Jack on that
bright sunny Saturday morning
with approximately 100 other
soldiers. We finished last with
about two minutes to spare.''
Their unit left for Malaysia on
November 1968 where they
trained and acclimatised in the
jungle for a further six months.
Yet as the date to fly out to
Vietnam approached, another
twist of fate befell Jack.
On our final exercise rapelling
from British helicopters, Jack
slipped and suffered severe rope
burns to his hands and thighs.
With extensive bandaging Jack
could only watch as the rest of the
company deployed to Vietnam on
May 8, 1969.''
He would eventually join them
a month later.
Geoff tells the story: At the
time, we were two weeks into our
first major operation, named
Lavarack, and Jack and several
others came out on the resupply
The resupply was of an urgent
nature, particularly with ammu-
nition, as we had encountered and
exchanged fire with a large North
Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong
unit who withdrew north.
After being restocked, we fol-
lowed up the enemy and in the
late afternoon our lead scouts
heard and smelt the enemy in
what appeared to be a heavily
defended and camouflaged bunker
system. The silent enemy signal
was passed back and everyone
took up their firing positions.
However one enemy sentry
was seen to raise his rifle to shoot
one of our guys. He was shot dead
instantly by the guy next to me
who had seen him.
Almost immediately all hell
broke loose and there was a mass-
ive hail of fire from both
The enemy also fired rocket
It was in this fight that Jack
was killed, aged 20.
Tom Tuhiwai who was Jack's
platoon sergeant, was near him
when he was killed in action, and
Jack would be later awarded the
Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Over the years, Geoff had kept
in touch with the Williams family
and Wayne had been adopted' by
Victor 4 Company, attending their
two-yearly reunions. For both the
company and Wayne it is a tribute
and a way of remembering Jack
and others who died in Vietnam.
Jack was buried in Malaysia in
the Commonwealth Military Cem-
etery at Terendak. It is a place
Wayne has visited three times.
The men of Victor 4 Company
have written a book, titled A
Soldier's View of the Vietnam War.
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