No Need for Heroes - book foreword


The sixties was an exciting and adventurous decade for the Royal Australian Engineers. A relatively small Corps, primarily engaged in construction and works service activities at the beginning of this period, it had doubled in size by 1970 and accumulated a breadth and depth of operational experience which placed it among the foremost western military engineering establishments.

Building on the base of experienced officers and warrant officers with World War II and Korean service, the Corps made a leap forward into a new era of professional endeavour. The deployment of 3 Field Troop to Vietnam under the command of my old friend Alec (Sandy) MacGregor was part of a continuum of growing overseas engagement by the Engineers. In 1965 sappers were on operations in Malaysia and Vietnam and remained engaged in a major construction program in Papa New Guinea. Clearly the Corps was well stretched and there were plenty of experiences to be enjoyed by anyone with a sense of adventure.

I imagine that some members of 3 Field Troop would find the use of the term adventure to be not quite appropriate as a description of their experiences. But their time with the 1RAR Battalion Group was certainly adventurous in many ways. More than that however, it was the most serious operational work, laying the base for the much larger Australian engineer effort to follow. We watched this field troop made up of all regular army soldiers approach its dangerous challenges with professional determination. It was a matter of some pride in the Corps that the combination of initiative and mateship, seen as the hallmark of the sappers, was being so overtly displayed. In this, they typified the Regular Army of that time.

I am pleased to say that I have served with many members of 3 Field Troop during my military career. A number of them gave a lot back to the Royal Australian Engineers over the years, drawing on these early experiences. Justifiably proud of their achievements, they were always ready to let anyone who would listen know that they were part of Australia's first major commitment to Vietnam.

There was always the risk of course that their contribution would be overshadowed by large scale Sapper effort which developed from April 1966 onwards. I am pleased to find that Alec (Sandy) MacGregor and his troops, with their typical good humour are not about to let us forget that they were there first, and that it wasn't an dangerous work -- there was some fun in it as well.


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