Goulburn’s only known survivor of the Battle of Long Tan, regarded as one fiercest battles of the Vietnam War in which Australian troops engaged in action against the Viet Cong turns 80 today, February 11.
Corporal Walter 'Wally' Raymond Buckland fought in the Battle of Long Tan in 12 Platoon, Delta Company, 6RAR and who did two tours of Vietnam.
He was born in Goulburn, on February 11, 1939. He began his regular Australian Army career with 1RAR on March 12, 1966. He was then transferred to 6RAR on June 5,1966 along with the first intake of Australian National Servicemen for his first tour of Vietnam through to March 22, 1967. Wally was then transferred to 3RAR on February 15, 1971 for his second tour of Vietnam through to October 16, 1971.
Corporal Walter Buckland suffers from dementia and is now a resident at the Gill Waminda Nursing Home in Mary Street Goulburn. He has visits from his mates like Howard Bye, Les Reko and Peter and Helen Corbbut, no family to support. For the past couple of years it has been those mates who have ensured he did not miss the Long Tan commemorations in Belmore Park. A call went out over Facebook for people to send Mr Buckland birthday greetings cards, to brighten up his room. No doubt he will also receive visits from some of Goulburn’s former service personnel and friends.
Over the weekend and today, his actual birthday, Mr Buckland received many visits from friends and former army mates. He received dozens of cards and several special mementos of his years of military service. The officer commanding Long Tan Company RMC Duntroon and his sergeant made a surprise appearance at the gathering. The Company is a regular participant in the Goulburn Anzac Day marches.
The staff at Waminda said it was a huge surprise for who is still able to recount numerous interesting stories of his life in the army, though he does have trouble remembering what happened in recent hours. One of the staff said they were expecting more visitors for Mr Buckland, some still serving military personnel too.
The Battle of Long Tan on August 18,1966 took place in a rubber plantation near Long Tan, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The action was fought between Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units and elements of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) shortly after its lodgement in Phuoc Tuy.