THE DARWIN TANKS
The three Tanks at Darwin are 169012 - 169017 - 169041
Major Peter Branagan O. A. M.
Was kind enough to supply some up to date photos of these units when he was up there last month. Peter has on many occasions been of great assistance to me and has never failed to deliver when asked for help. Peter has on many occasions supplied photos when he has traveled around the country and overseas
169012 on display at the Vietnam Veterans site at Robertson Barracks Darwin.
She appears to have been repainted and now shows the C Sqn. name of "CORAL"
Her Vietnam action, barrel name of "Bunker Busta"
169017 This is the tank that Tpr. Mick Hannaford was killed in when in Vietnam
Two drivers died in Vietnam, the other being Tpr. James Kerr who died in 169005
Both deaths were the result of mines
She is now very nicely presented
169041 which as some of its history shows was the Atomic Tank
She also served in Vietnam and proudly bears the name "Binh Ba"
Replica .30 cal Flex
At the moment we are having built, a replica .30 cal, and also a .30 cal and a .50 cal barrel.
Hopefully some of those empty machine gun mount holes will be filled.
We also want to make a .50 cal for anyone that wants a full pair of guns in the turret mounts
The .30 cal of course can also be mounted on the Flex mount on the Cupola
PRICES AT THIS STAGE ARE UNKNOWN BUT HOPEFULLY ABOUT A THOUSAND UNDER WHAT IS ON OFFER AT THE MOMENT.
The first body that was built so as to check fit into the flex mount.
Body assemblies, so far we are up to the fifth body and its getting better each time
Various body items. Top right is the pistol grip, a molded item
The pistol grip just sitting in place, each build finds something that can be done better, or something that can be added. Its a very interesting exercise. First you need a .30 cal to take photos and measurements. Not all that easy to find. But find one we did and the guy was kind enough to lend it to me. But it meant a long drive to pick it up and deliver it to the factory and then drive home. That took all day. Then the next morning to return it which took another 4 hours. The barrel was in itself a major job as the cooling shroud presented problems we had not expected. It will be laser cut and that of course meant we had to have the holes exact. So today I am off to take some more measurements and photos of the barrel. Still it keeps me out of trouble I suppose!
Hit the civilian security check at the Puckapunyal main gate. Forgot my drivers license. They would not accept any other type of id it had to have a photo on it. Bloody hell. Back home to pick up my license. Took 3/4 hour each way (4 bloody trips in all) I was very tempted to get on my computer and print a ID card and add my picture. I could then laminate it and take it back. I have no doubt this would have gained me admission. It would have to be the worst sort of security I have ever come across. They never look inside in case I have a bomb in the boot, or on the way out again no check that I have not raided the Armory. I could by using a push bike enter Puckapunyal anywhere I wanted to (with the exception of the main gate). In well over 100 visits over the last 4 years, I have never been asked to show the pass. If I take three other people in with me they do not have to id themselves? At Bandiana I was refused entry to take a picture of the 100 gallon tank 40 meters from the security checkpoint. I could not even use the escort officer there . I would have taken about 5 minutes. I had just driven up from Melbourne! The next day being a weekend I drove straight in (No security ) and took my photo at my leisure. I was held by security at 4 base workshops. I had just spent 1/2 hour inspecting, taking photos and climbing all over 169080 which was on display at the entrance. (No signage saying no photos or no climbing on the tank) . I then saw another Centurion in a yard so walked over and took a photo of it through the wire fence. All this in full view of the security office. They sent a car out to apprehend me?? For climbing over the tank? No. For taking the photos of 169080, about 30 of them. No. For walking up to the fence and taking one photo of the one in the yard, Yep! I was held for over an hour and progressed through three levels of the security, establishment. In time the head guy from over the road was called and he asked me why I was taking the photos. I explained my interest in Centurions. He replied that he himself had served in the Regiment. Handed me a pass and said, "grab your camera and come with me". I was then taken into the yard and allowed to take my photos. A nice guy indeed. My next brush was in Queensland. Stopped at the gate and told the security guy we were from Victoria a (3 of us) and we wanted to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He said there were two and gave us detailed directions. We went to both and took many photos. On the way out we drove around the camp, as this was where all troops that went to Vietnam had to do a jungle course. On driving past a building there was a display outside of a large ship anchor and two large bombs. My mate (ex Navy) yell out , "Stop"! and proceeded to take a photo of the display. On arriving back at the gate we were approached and asked had we taken any photos while on the Army property? As there were three cameras and two video camera's on the seat it was in my opinion a pretty stupid question. They wanted to remove the films from the camera's and were becoming a little stroppy. I pointed out that neither were there any signs saying no photos, (pretty stupid at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial) and the chap on our way in would have to have been blind not to see the camera's in full view as we entered the establishment. As well he did not give us any warning or instruction about camera's, I felt he, and not us were at fault. He suggested we did not come back and while I would have liked to debate this point with him, the others thought, leave well enough alone. Ok I now feel much better and must point out that when I returned to Puckapunyal today, I did tell the lass on the gate that I had been upset, but not with her as she was only doing her job. She gave me a great smile.
The barrel cooler which showed the correct position and size of the drillings
The left and right hand side of the body. There is a lever on the right hand side which I would think is to lock the cocking arm on the open position. But I could not understand why? Could you just push it down, and release the cocking bolt allowing a round to be inserted into the barrel ready to fire. (I used a Besa in my day not a .30 cal so its all a bit new to me as well.)
This 30 cal was fitted with a flash eliminator, so was most likely off an APC.
My thanks to the Tank Museum for giving me access to the .30 cal, made the job a heap easier.
Another Cent ID Plate has been located
This plate is now in the Caboolture - Morayfield and District R.S.L.
It was donated by David Brandon and is the plate off 169024 one of the tanks destroyed by the scrap metal people at Gerogery
Photo by Des Kearton
The photos below were also donated by Des Kearton, but unfortunately were copied onto standard paper, not photo quality. I have cleaned them up and lightened them but unfortunately you cannot do anymore with them. Some I was not able to use, but the main ones are here.
But still much better than not having them.
Des Kearton and Barry Fuller at 1 Armoured Sqn.. workshops reunion 2002 in Qld.
Barry Fuller, Brian Evans and Tony Pearce - Tent mates of Des Kearton Nui Dat 1968
Sqn. Lines Nui Dat the first job build these quarters
Des Kearton driving the fitters track at Nui Dat 1968
Centurion V 12 outside the "Opera House" at Nui Dat
The Opera House Nui Dat - As well as fix the tanks they had to build this first with the help of the Engineers
Des with the lube truck
Barry Fuller with damaged rounds removed from 169080 which damaged it BER and it was returned to Australia and had a new hull fitted. the original hull is at the Puckapunyal Tank Museum and the rebuild is holding ground at the old 4 Base Workshops at Bandiana.
Photo Courtesy Ian Summers
Burnt rounds removed from 169080
This was the first ARV in Vietnam and I think the first Centurion to be delivered
Fitters Tracks Vietnam 1968
Unloading from the Clive Steele -1968
Des Kearton was the chap that suggested to the army where the spare road wheels on the Leopard tanks should befitted, and he was awarded a payment for this idea. He also did the same with the Abrams. Des also designed a Y shape - jacking cradle to lift the axles of the Unimog truck. The guys in the RAEME designed a heap of units that made their job a bit easier, lifting and support frames for the removal of the final drives is one that springs to mind and also one for the suspension stations.
The Accuracy of the Centurion main gun is well known. I was told by a gunner that if he was given accurate range he could put a 20 pounder into a guys shirt pocket. But Des sent me a report from an American in a spotter plane, who was observing the shelling of the Long Hai caves. He was amazed at the accuracy, as the shells were entering the cave entrances. In one case a large tree was in the front of a cave. One shot blew it out of the ground!
The loss of 169013
After my visit with Andrew to photograph the three Centurions he owned, I was driving home and started to wonder if he may be willing to loan one to the Museum. These tanks had been sitting there since the early 1990 without being put to any use, and I could see that one sitting in the Museum and maintained would be even better, as long as it was on loan. The tank at the museum is 169016 and it did not serve in Vietnam. This tank could be placed outside as a display near the entrance. Myself, I would have been pleased to display a veteran Vietnam tank, exactly as it appeared in the Vietnam conflict. On arriving home I rang Andrew and asked if he would be prepared to place 169013 on loan at the Museum. He asked me just what I was proposing, and as I had never asked anyone for a Centurion before, I was not all that sure myself. But I told him I was thinking of it being placed on loan for a 5 x 5 year loan, renewable with the agreement of both parties. I also said I would like to bring it up to a display condition as it was when in service in Vietnam. Andrew replied that the idea appealed to him, providing there was no cost to him. I then contacted the Museum and put the idea to them. There seemed to be some reluctance but I was told to ring back in a couple of weeks and speak to John Methven, when he returned from Hospital. I did this, and John, while concerned about how he could get the tank moved agreed with the idea. I then wrote a proposal, for Andrew, which covered many conditions, but two points in particular.
1: That a legal document be drawn up to cover both parties.
2: the loan was for 5 x 5 years, renewable.
I then emailed the proposal to the Museum for their approval, before forwarding it to Andrew. The reply came back that the proposal was ok, but the wording, Legal Document was to have the word Legal removed and the loan period was to be changed to 10 x 10 years renewable. These changes were not agreeable with me, so I did not forward the proposal on to Andrew. The next night I received a phone call from Andrew, enquiring about the progress. I explained what had happened and Andrew himself while not all that worried about the loan period, he still thought a 10 x 10 year was a long period. But the removal of the word Legal made the document more or less useless, and if in years to come, the people who originally set this up had maybe passed on, and Andrew or family wanted to regain possession of 169013, that there could be difficulties. Myself I can well imagine the legal situation that would be faced.
So we lost an excellent condition centurion which not only had served in Vietnam and also had a history, and had all the Vietnam fitting on board. I considered that with the items that I would supply, free of charge, that the cost to the Museum would have been about $100 a year, for fuel to keep the motor turned over and tracks free. The only other expense would be the moving it down to Phillip Island, which at the worst I believe would be around $1000 or less, maybe even done by the Army as an exercise.
I am disappointed in losing this great display, and as there are two Vietnam tanks on Andrew's property, I intend to do all I can to see that they go somewhere that they will be looked after, displayed as Vietnam configured Centurions, and put on public display.