Battle of Long Tan soldiers ‘finally’ awarded bravery medals 50 years on

Ten Australian soldiers have been recognised for their bravery more than 50 years after they fought in the Vietnam War’s Battle of Long Tan.

Australian soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War's Battle of Long Tan stand with Government General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

On 18 August, 1966, members of D Company, who were outnumbered 20 to one, fought against the odds to defeat the Viet Cong.

About 245 Viet Cong were killed in the rubber plantation and 18 Australians were killed and more were wounded.

But for half a century many of the men received no official recognition of their courage, despite sustained campaigning for recognition.

Long Tan soldiers recognised with bravery awards:

  1. Frank Alcorta OAM
  2. The late Barry Eugene Magnussen
  3. Colonel Francis Adrian Roberts OAM
  4. Neil Raymond Bextrum
  5. The late Ronald Howard Brett
  6. Ian Martin Campbell
  7. Noel John Grimes
  8. Geoffrey Michael Peters
  9. William Alfred Roche
  10. The late Second Lieutenant Gordon Cameron Sharp

Now 10 of those soldiers have been recognised at Government House in Canberra.


Presenting them with their bravery awards, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove told them they were brave, dedicated and professional.

“Today many years after the event we think we have discovered all of those whose special efforts needed to be recognised,” he said.

“Let nobody dispute that the Battle of Long Tan stands as the emblem of that long war … we recognise people who for 50 years have been waiting.

“I commend the way you fought 50 years ago. Well done.”

Three of the medals were accepted posthumously, including for Gordon Sharp — the only Australian officer to die in the battle.

His nephew collected the medal for courage on his behalf.

‘End of 50 years of frustration’

Company Commander Harry Smith has long fought for recognition for Long Tan’s frontline soldiers.

He said a 30-year secrecy period and bureaucratic red tape stood in the way of the awards.

“I can go home and pick up cases and cases of paperwork and throw it in the bin and get on with life,” he said.

“I’m very pleased for the soldiers and their families and loved ones, that they’ve finally got the recognition they should have got in 1966.

“I think it’s the end of 50 years of frustration.”

Colonel Francis Roberts said the battle was “hell” but his fellow soldiers helped him through.

“It was rainy, stormy, thunder and lightning, artillery fire was all over the place, lots of bullets flying around, lots of dead people,” he said.

“The thing that amazed me was the steadfastness of the Australian soldiers. A lot of them were 20, 21, 22 years old and they didn’t waver … I admire that.”

Frank Alcorta said it was a “momentous occasion” in his life to be recognised.

“I’m only sad that my wife, who passed away in 2010, couldn’t be here,” he said.

“I can remember everything [from the war]. I go to the supermarket and I can’t remember what I went there for, but those memories [from Long Tan] never leave you.”

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