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1200393 Corporal
GEORGE EDWARD WILKINSON
Royal Australian Engineers
(formerly 15996 Private, 3
rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment)

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2003. All Rights Reserved.

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from the soldier’s service papers obtained from the Queensland Branch Office of the Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.[1] Photocopies of these documents were sent to the wife of the late Corporal Wilkinson in March of 1998 in accordance with her request under the Freedom of Information Act of 1982. These photocopies were obtained by the author at the time that he acquired Corporal Wilkinson's medals. In addition to the photocopies of his service papers, many original documents pertaining to Corporal Wilkinson's military service also were acquired. These are specifically mentioned in the endnotes to this narrative where applicable.

The Wilkinson collection, presently in the possession of the author, consists of the following items:

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

George Edward Wilkinson was born on the 23rd of November 1941 in Beaudesert, a town located about 40 miles due south of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. His father, Ernest William Wilkinson was a dairy farmer in Beaudesert. George had a number of brothers and sisters whose names were not determined at the time of preparation of this narrative.[2] The Wilkinsons were members of the Church of England.

As a youth, George worked with his father as a farm hand and as a truck driver, apparently on a part time basis while he attended school. Having grown up on a farm in a rural environment, George was probably a hunter and an excellent shot with a rifle. This statement is based on the fact that after joining the army and receiving his basic training as an infantry soldier, George was posted to duties as a sniper.

In 1953, at the age of 12, George left school to work on his father's dairy farm full time. In 1961 he decided to join the army, perhaps following in the footsteps of one of his brothers.[3]

3. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

George Edward Wilkinson, c. 1961

The following is a description of George Edward Wilkinson at the time of his first enlistment in the Army in 1961:

Height :

5 feet 7 inches.

Weight :

158 pounds.

Eyes :

Blue.

Hair :

Brown.

Chest measurement (normal):

37 inches.

Chest measurement (expanded):

40 inches.

Waist:

34 inches.

General physical development:

Good.

Distinctive marks:

Scars above the right knee and on the 4th knuckle of the left hand.

The following is a description of George Edward Wilkinson at the time of his second enlistment in the Army in 1964:

Height:

5 feet 7 inches.

Weight:

164 pounds.

Eyes:

Blue-grey.

Hair:

Fair.

Complexion:

Fair.

Chest measurement (normal):

41 inches.

Chest measurement (expanded):

43 inches.

Distinctive marks:

Multiple scars on the knees, scar on the lower third of the left shin, vaccination mark on upper right arm, light brown hairy mole on the brow.

The following is a description of George Edward Wilkinson at the time that his physical condition was examined by a medical board in December of 1971 after his final return from South Vietnam:

Age:

30 years.

Height:

5 feet 7 inches.

Weight:

154 pounds.

Eyes:

Grey.

Hair:

Fair.

Complexion:

Fair.

Blood pressure:

140/80

Wilkinson weighed 164 pounds when he enlisted in 1964. By April of 1968 he had gained 14 pounds, weighing in at 182 pounds. In June 1970, while serving in South Vietnam, he suffered from insomnia and anorexia and dropped in weight from 182 pounds to 154 pounds. By the time of his discharge from the Army in 1973 he weighed 170 pounds.

4. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

First Enlistment (1961)

George Wilkinson first enlisted for a period of six years in the Australian Regular Army (ARA) at the Northern Command Personnel Depot on the 17th of March 1961. He was not married at the time of his enlistment. He enlisted in the infantry and on the 6th of April 1961 he was sent to the 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTB) at Kapooka, near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. After completing his recruit training on the 10th of July 1961 he was transferred to the Infantry Training Center (ITC), Eastern Command for advanced individual training as an infantryman.

3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1961-1962)

Three months after completing his training at the ITC, on the 11th of October 1961, he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment within the Northern Command. At the time of his transfer he became Private George Edward Wilkinson, Army Number 15996. On the day following his arrival in the 3rd RAR he was posted for duties as a sniper. It may be assumed that Wilkinson had some experience with rifles as a young man on his father's farm and that he demonstrated his proficiency with the rifle while in training as a recruit. Undoubtedly his marksmanship abilities had much to do with him being posted as a sniper immediately upon reporting to his regiment.

Compassionate Discharge (1962-1964)

George served for a little less than a year with the 3rd Battalion, RAR when he applied for a discharge on compassionate grounds for family reasons. Apparently his father's business was not doing well and extra money was needed by the family, more money than that earned by a private in the Army. His request for discharge was favorably considered and he was transferred to the Northern Area Command Personnel Depot on the 17th of August 1962 in preparation for his discharge. After the necessary administrative and medical details were attended to at the Personnel Depot, he was discharged from the Army on the 24th of August 1962. He left the service and went home to work as a Plant Operator.[4] He continued in this line of work until the autumn of 1964 when his family's situation apparently improved to the point where he could consider joining the Army again. His experience as a Plant Operator was valuable to him and apparently would be of considerable value to the Army as well.

Second Enlistment (1964)

George Wilkinson reenlisted for six years in the Australian Regular Army for a second time on the 30th of November 1964. His enlistment took place at the Northern Command Personnel Depot. Immediately upon his reenlistment he was again sent to the 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka where he remained for a little over four months before being assigned to the Royal Australian Engineers as a Sapper, Army Number 1200393. On the 13th of May 1965 he reported to the School of Military Engineering at Moorebank in Sydney, New South Wales, where he began the Basic Field Engineering Course. It is interesting to note that although during his first enlistment Wilkinson had been an infantryman (and a trained sniper), it was decided that on his second enlistment he would be assigned to the Royal Australian Engineers. It is probable that this decision had been made because he had been a Plant Operator in civilian life, from August of 1962 until November of 1964. A basic infantryman was easy to train. A skilled Plant Operator was harder to find and apparently the Army had need of this skill in 1964.

5. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

Papua, New Guinea (1965)

Sapper Wilkinson completed the Basic Field Engineering Course on the 15th of July 1965 and was posted to 17 Construction Squadron, RAE as a Plant Operator. He served with this squadron until the 14th of October 1965 when he was assigned to the Papua, New Guinea (PNG) Command. He left from Sydney by air late in the evening on this same date and arrived at Port Moresby, New Guinea the following morning. On New Guinea he was assigned field engineering duties with an Employment Category Number (ECN) 353.[5]

George Wilkinson's assignment to Papua, New Guinea came about as the result of the start of a small, undeclared war fought between Indonesia and Malaya that came to involve both Australian and British Troops. In December of 1962 a small party of insurgents backed by Indonesia attempted to seize power in Brunei but was defeated by British troops then stationed in Singapore. Early in 1963 military activities increased along the Indonesian side of the border in Borneo and continued throughout the year. Indonesian regular army troops became involved in the fray in 1964.

The Australian involvement in this small war was as part of the British Commonwealth force in the area under British command. Australia committed troops to operations against Indonesia in Borneo and West Malaysia. Engineer activities in Papua, New Guinea involved many field engineering tasks and some larger construction projects including water supply for the Popondetta region, road and bridge construction from Kokoda to Oro Bay, hospitals and airstrips at Popondetta, Tufi and Horanda, and administrative buildings throughout the region. These were all new construction tasks that where undertaken in addition to the maintenance of existing airfields, roads, bridges, wharves, hospitals and government buildings.

Home Service (1965-1966)

Sapper Wilkinson served in New Guinea until the 14th of December 1965 when he was detached from the PNG Command and flew from Port Moresby to Sydney. On his return to Australia he appears to have taken some leave before reporting to the School of Military Engineering to begin a Plant Operator Course on the 23rd of February 1966. For his service in Papua, New Guinea Wilkinson became eligible for the award of the Australian Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp PNG. This medal was issued to his wife in 1999 after Wilkinson's death and is now in the author's collection.[6]

While Sapper Wilkinson was attending the Plant Operator Course at the School of Military Engineering, the 1st Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers deployed to South Vietnam.[7] Although he did not know it at the time, this squadron was soon to become his home for about three years.

South Vietnam (1966-1967)

Wilkinson was posted to 21 Engineer Support Troop as a Plant Operator on the 25th of May 1966, one day before the completion of the Plant Operator Course at the S.M.E. He remained with 21 Engineer Support Troop until the 13th of June 1966 when he emplaned at Richmond, New South Wales for posting to Special Service Vietnam (Southern Zone). He arrived in Saigon on the 14th of June and was immediately posted to the 1st Field Squadron with the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) at their operation base in Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy Province, located about 50 miles southeast of Saigon. 21 Engineer Support Troop also deployed to Nui Dat and was attached to 1st Field Engineer Squadron, thus changing the squadron's designation to 1 Field Engineer Squadron Group, RAE.

Nui Dat was a relatively small hill on Route 2, south of Binh Ba and north of Hoa Long, near the center of Phuoc Tuy Province. It was surrounded by an old rubber plantation in which 1 ATF built its operational base. Besides the 1st Field Squadron Group, RAE, Nui Dat was home to two battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment, a cavalry squadron, three batteries of field artillery, a signals squadron and a light aircraft unit. Two U.S. Army artillery batteries also provided fire support from Nui Dat.

Nui Dat was the base camp for these units, the place where they rested and refitted for the next combat operation. The combat units stationed at Nui Dat, supported by combat engineers from 1 Field Squadron, operated in a number of provinces including Long Khanh, Bien Hoa and Binh Tuy. Many operations took place in the rice paddies and jungles of Phuoc Tuy Province where fierce battles were fought at Long Tan, the "Long Green," the May Tao mountains, and around the Long Hai, Nui Dinh and Nui Thi Vai hills.

Home Service (1967-1968)

Wilkinson served with the 1st Field Squadron Group at Nui Dat from the 14th of June 1966 until the 15th of June 1967 when he flew home from Saigon to Darwin, Australia after completing his initial tour of duty of one year in South Vietnam. He then traveled to Sydney where he was posted to the 7th Field Company, RAE as a Plant Operator. He served with this squadron until the 24th of June 1968 when he was again posted to the 1st Field Squadron Group in South Vietnam.

South Vietnam (1968-1970).

Wilkinson left Sydney for Darwin on the 24th of June. He departed from Darwin on the 25th of June 1968 and arrived in Saigon on the same day. His orders again assigned him to Special Service Vietnam (Southern Zone) where he was posted to 21 Engineer Support Troop attached to 1 Field Squadron as a Plant Operator. He would serve with this unit under command of 1st Field Squadron until 1970 when he was permanently assigned home. During the years 1968 to 1970 he returned home to Australia on leave numerous times as shown in the table below. The dates in the table below indicate that Wilkinson served consecutively from the 25th of June 1968 until the 23rd of July 1970, except for periods of leave and R&R in Australia that varied from 7 days to as much as 90 days.

Date of Departure

Departed from:

Date of Arrival

Arrived at:

25 Jun 1969

Saigon

25 Jun 1969

Sydney

22 Jul 1969

Sydney

22 Jul 1969

Darwin

23 Jul 1969

Darwin

23 Jul 1969

Saigon

19 Oct 1969

Saigon

20 Oct 1969

Sydney via Darwin

26 Oct 1969

Darwin via Sydney

27 Oct 1969

Saigon

21 Jan 1970

Saigon[8]

21 Jan 1970

Sydney

17 Feb 1970

Sydney

18 Feb 1970

Saigon

During his period of service in South Vietnam, the engineer effort in the Nui Dat area consisted of engineering support of Australian combat operations in the Southern Zone as well as some major construction projects. The most significant projects consisted of construction and maintenance of the base camp for the 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat, which included roads, the base helipad and fire support positions for the artillery as well as living quarters and utilities for the camp. The engineers also constructed Luscombe Field, a military airstrip capable of supporting Australian and U.S. Army aircraft including Caribous and eventually C-130's.

The site for Luscombe Field and the camp helipads was selected by the 1st Field Squadron with the approval of the Task Force Commander. Vegetation, gradients and other technical factors went into the decision to construct the field where it ultimately was built. Substantial drainage and excavation work was needed to construct the airstrip as well as clearing of large rubber trees, some as high as 45 feet. Cut and fill operations were performed between the dry and wet seasons of the year in order to reduce the need to haul water for soils compaction or to avoid placing palliatives to keep down dust. Two 48-inch diameter, 150-foot long steel culvert pipes had to be placed under the roadway for drainage and over 50,000 cubic yards of earth moving was required to construct Luscombe Field. Wilkinson and the other Plant Operators of 21 Engineer Support Squadron, RAE, under the command of the 1st Field Squadron, operated their earthmoving equipment from daylight till dark, clearing, cutting, hauling and compacting. When the bulk of the earthmoving for the airstrip was completed, it was topped off with about 5,000 cubic yards of select laterite,[9] a tropical soil, as a surface course. Eventually the surface of the runway was sealed with a bituminous dust palliative. In addition to the airstrip, the 1st Field Squadron also constructed workshops, parking areas and accommodation for 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight, the primary users of Luscombe Field.

1 Field Squadron Casualties (1966-1970)

The intensity of engineer combat operations in which the 1st Field Squadron was involved can best be illustrated by the number of casualties suffered by the unit during its time in Vietnam. The following table is the Roll of Honour of men who served in the 1st Field Squadron and 21 Engineer Support Troop during the time that Corporal Wilkinson was in these units. The names are presented in chronological order by rank.

Name

Number

Rank

Date of Death

Cause of Death

Bowtell, R.W.

213151

Corporal

11 Jan 1966

Killed in action

Prowse, L.

18409

Sapper

25 Jul 1966

Died of wounds

Deed, R.J.P.

3788300

Sapper

10 May 1967

Died of injuries

Brady, G.V.

2782812

Sapper

20 May 1967

Accidentally killed

O'Hara, J.L.

2782779

Sapper

20 May 1967

Accidentally killed

Brooks, D.L.[10]

3787889

Sapper

22 May 1967

Died of injuries

Renshaw, T.J.

3788172

Sapper

30 May 1967

Killed in action

Wride, D.S.

18665

Sapper

10 Jul 1967

Accidentally killed

Moore, B.J.

242811

Staff Sergeant

16 Nov 1967

Killed in action

Hutchison, M.J.

1200455

Sapper

16 Nov 1967

Killed in action

McLachlan, C.W.

13053

Sergeant

18 Feb 1968

Killed in action

Garrett, J.E.[11]

1200473

Lance Corporal

18 Feb 1968

Killed in action

Pattison, A.G.

44042

Sapper

18 Feb 1968

Killed in action

Steen, D.J.

4719232

Sapper

18 Feb 1968

Killed in action

Coombs, G.J.

6708750

Sapper

22 Mar 1968

Killed in action

Tobin, V.J.

55251

Sapper

22 Mar 1968

Killed in action

Gollagher, P.J.[12]

172377

Staff Sergeant

5 Apr 1968

Killed in action

Nicholson, K.R.

2412486

Sapper

12 Apr 1968

Killed in action

Le Bherz, N.W.

18395

Sapper

14 Sep 1968

Accidentally killed

Bramble, P.J.[13]

2789684

Sapper

22 May 1969

Killed in action

Davies, R.E.

38530

Sapper

28 May 1969

Killed in action

Smillie, R.G.

39281

Sapper

23 Jul 1969

Killed in action

Smith, J.

3794831

Sapper

23 Jul 1969

Killed in action

Hansen, B.V.[14]

218451

Lance Corporal

21 Oct 1969

Killed in action

Duncuff, A.L.

5716228

Sapper

25 Oct 1969

Killed in action

Lisle, A.

2791437

Sapper

12 Nov 1969

Died of wounds

Greene, J.G.[15]

2791447

Sapper

8 Dec 1969

Killed in action

Engstrom, R.J.

18797

Corporal

30 Jan 1970

Killed in action

Hollis, A.E.[16]

2786682

Sapper

30 Jan 1970

Killed in action

Hubble, R.N.[17]

55566

Sapper

20 Feb 1970

Killed in action

Hurst, H.W.[18]

2791326

Sapper

29 Apr 1970

Killed in action

Bartholomew, G.T.[19]

2782555

Sapper

18 May 1970

Accidentally killed

Scott, I.N.

1735424

Sapper

14 Jun 1970

Killed in action

Penneyston, P.L.

6709611

Sapper

2 Aug 1970

Killed in action

The table above lists 34 total casualties of whom three (8.8%) were senior non-commissioned officers, four (11.8%) were junior non-commissioned officers and the remainder (79.4%) were sappers. Twenty-five (73.5%) were killed in action, four (11.8%) died of wounds and five (14.7%) were non-battle casualty who were killed in accidents.

Home Service (1970-1973)

Corporal Wilkinson left South Vietnam for good on the 23rd of July 1970. He departed from Saigon for Sydney on that date and on his arrival in Australia he was posted to the 7th Field Squadron, RAE as a Plant Operator. On the 30th of November 1970 he re-engaged in the Regular Army for a period of three years. For his service in South Vietnam, Corporal Wilkinson was awarded the Australian Active Service Medal with clasp [VIETNAM], the Vietnamese Campaign Medal[20] and the Vietnamese Service Medal with clasp [1960].[21]

The people of his hometown of Beaudesert celebrated George Wilkinson's safe return from Vietnam by awarding him an "Honour the Brave" certificate. The certificate reads as follows:

Honour the Brave
To
George E. Wilkinson

On behalf of the Council of the Shire of Beaudesert and the Citizens'
Committee, we wish to record your patriotism, devotion to duty and
self-sacrificing service for which you have won our admiration and
most sincere appreciation.

We join with you in thanksgiving to God for your safe homecoming,
and pray that you may be long spared to enjoy the happiness and
prosperity which you, as an ex-serviceman, so richly deserve.

On the 4th of February 1971, while still assigned to the 7th Field Squadron, Wilkinson attended the Assistant Supervisor PRA Course at the School of Military Engineering. The purpose of this course was to train Assistant Supervisors in Plant, Roads and Airfields work. The subjects covered in the course included safety, output, documentation, maintenance and servicing, drainage, roads, airfields and helipoints, soils, surveying, drawing interpretation, job planning, earthworks, bituminous construction, soil stabilisation, quarrying and plant training. Wilkinson successfully completed this course on the 23rd of April 1971and was the only man in the course to be awarded a "B" pass.

On the 1st of January 1972 he was posted to the 2nd Engineer Field Regiment at Enoggera Barracks in Queensland. While serving with this unit his performance was highly praised in letters of recommendation by two of the unit's officers. These letters may have been written with the intent of endorsing Wilkinson's promotion to the rank of Sergeant or they may have been intended to serve him as letters of recommendation in civilian life after leaving the Army. On the 26th of June 1973 Lieutenant B. Jones, RAE wrote the following:

To Whom It May Concern

I have known George Wilkinson for one year. During this period I have found him to be of sober and mature character. He is a qualified operator of a wide range of earth moving plant and equipment, and he has applied himself to his job with zeal. He holds the rank of Corporal and is fully qualified for the rank of Sergeant. His control of men and his skill in employment of equipment is well advanced for the rank he has attained.

His sound judgement of situations and his mature decisions make him accept responsibility with ease. I would recommend him with pleasure to any future employer.

In October of 1973 Captain P.C. Cooper, RAE, M.I.E. Aust. had this to say about Wilkinson:

To Whom It May Concern

This is to say I have personally known George WILKINSON for two years in which he served directly under me for 12 months and with me in the same unit for a further 12 months. In that time he has shown himself to be a quiet, reliable and competant [sic] plant supervisor of sober habit.

While under my command (South Vietnam 1969-70) he carried out and supervised road construction from initial survey to the laying of a 14 ft sealed pavement. His knowledge of bitumen equipment was well above average. He also spent a number of months on large land clearing projects in South Vietnam in which he showed good management ability of plant.

In his present position I have observed him work in the planning and supervision of projects as a member of our unit design staff. His immediate supervisors indicate that he has worked well in this position.

If asked if I wanted him as a member of my staff in the future I would say that I prefer him to most as a plant supervisor.

Corporal Wilkinson continued to serve with the 2nd Field Engineer Regiment until his discharge from the Army on the 29th of November 1973.

6. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: George Wilkinson received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment


Rank or Position

17 March 1961

Recruit, upon his first enlistment in the Australian Regular Army.

11 October 1961

Private, upon completion of recruit training and assignment to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

30 November 1964

Recruit, upon his second enlistment in the Australian Regular Army.

7 April 1965

Sapper, upon assignment to the Royal Australian Engineers.

17 September 1968

Appointed Lance Corporal.

1 November 1968

Appointed Temporary Corporal.

23 March 1969

Promoted to substantive rank of Corporal.

4 December 1969

Appointed Acting Sergeant.[22]

b. Conduct: There are no notations in Wilkinson's service papers regarding his conduct. It does not appear that he committed any infractions that required unit punishment or court martial during either of his enlistments. In the General Remarks section of his Certificate of Discharge issued to him at the termination of his second enlistment there is the comment that "service rendered was satisfactory and general military conduct was very good."

EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: George Edward Wilkinson earned the following Certificates of Education during his time in service:[23]

Date

Certificate of Education

29 June 1961

Awarded 3rd Class Certificate of Education for proficiency in English, Arithmetic and Social Studies. Australian Army Education Corps Certificate No. 6318.[24]

11 April 1970

Awarded 2nd Class Certificate of Education for proficiency in English, Arithmetic, and Social Studies. Royal Australian Army Education Corps Certificate No. 15430.[25]

2 February 1973

Awarded 1st Class Certificate of Education with the following marks: Arithmetic (C), Geography (P), Australian History (C), Social Studies (P), Bookkeeping and Commercial Principles (P) and English (P). Royal Australian Army Education Corps Certificate No. 15806.[26]

b. Qualifications: George Edward Wilkinson earned the following qualifications during his time in service. The ECN designations shown in the table represent the Australian Army's Employment Category Number as shown in his service papers. These numbers do not coincide with the numbers used in the present day Australian Army.

Date

Qualification

12 October 1961

Infantryman (Sniper) (ECN 343)

7 April 1965

Combat Engineer (ECN 096)

15 July 1965

Plant Operator (ECN 671)

1 December 1965

Field Engineering (ECN 353)

26 May 1966

Completed Plant Operator Course at S.M.E. (ECN 671)

10 May 1967

Trade Qualification: Plant Operator (ECN 671)

1 November 1968

Trade changed from Plant Operator (ECN 671) to (ECN 270)

23 April 1971

Completed Assistant Supervisor PRA[27] Course (ECN T027)[28]

8. MEDICAL INFORMATION

At the time of his first enlistment in the army, George Wilkinson indicated that he had had chicken pox, measles and mumps as a child.

The following medical information was taken from his service records during his time in service. It will be noted that he suffered from quite a number of ailments during his time in service, many of them occurring while he was in Vietnam.

Location

Date of Admission or Examination

Ailment

Period of Hospitalization or Treatment

Northern Command Personnel Depot

17 Mar 1961

Medical examination on enlistment

Blood pressure: 130/85. Blood group A positive. Medical Category I (fit for general service)

3 RAR, Northern Command

26 Oct 1961

Heat exhaustion

Rest

3 RAR, Northern Command

23 May 1962

Inoculations

Re-vaccinated for smallpox and given cholera shot and tetanus booster shot.

3 RAR, Northern Command

7 Jun 1962

Inoculation

Received cholera booster shot.

Beaudesert, Queensland

9 Jun 1962

Injuries suffered
in an automobile accident(+)

Admitted to Beaudesert Hospital and transferred to Camp Hospital at Northern Command.

Northern Command Personnel Depot

22 Aug 1962

Medical Board

Medical Board convened prior to discharge. Medical Category: Class I.

Brisbane

12 Oct 1964

Medical examination for second enlistment

Blood group A positive. Medical Category I (fit for general service)(#)

1st Recruit Training Battalion,
Kapooka

23 Mar 1965

Medical Examination

Determined to be fit for general service.

School of Military Engineering

15 Jun 1965

Training Accident

Suffered a lacerated hand with no bone injury. Nylon sutures required for laceration.(@)

17 Construction Squadron

12 Oct 1965

Medical Examination

Determined to be fit for overseas deployment.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

8 May 1967

Influenza

Treated at base camp hospital.

Sydney, New South Wales

5 Apr 1968

Medical Examination

Fit for duty. Weight 182 pounds. 18 pounds heavier than weight on enlistment.

School of Military Engineering

9 Jun 1968

Medical Examination

Fit for duty.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

10 Sep 1968

Sore throat

Treated at 8 Field Ambulance in base camp.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

13 Jan 1969

Medical Examination

Examined at 8 Field Ambulance in base camp. Fit for duty.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

1 Sep 1969

Medical Examination

Examined at 8 Field Ambulance in base camp. Fit for duty.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

26 Dec 1969

Severe headache

Treated at medical facility, 1st Field Engineer Regiment.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

16 Jan 1970

Medical Examination

Fit for duty.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

12 Apr 1970

Eye injury

Treated at base camp.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

6 Jun 1970

Vomiting and insomnia

Treated at base camp.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

9 Jun 1970

Insomnia and anorexia

Treated at base camp.

Nui Dat,
South Vietnam

13 Jun 1970

Injured elbow playing badminton

Treated at base camp.

Northern Command Personnel Depot

3 Dec 1971

Medical Board

Fit for duty.

2nd Field Engineer Regiment

20 Nov 1972

Muscle pain.

Treated at unit medical facility.

2nd Field Engineer Regiment

16 May 1973

Enlarged glands
in neck following
a cold

Treated at unit medical facility.

2nd Field Engineer Regiment

29 Aug 1973

Bronchitis

Treated at unit medical facility.

2nd Field Engineer Regiment

2-5 Nov 1973

Medical examination and board

Medical examination and assessment prior to discharge.(**)

Notes Regarding Medical Information:

(+) While on leave, George Wilkinson was in a serious automobile accident. He was travelling from Beaudesert in his car on the 9th of June 1962 when he took a corner too wide and his right hand back wheel slipped off the pavement causing his vehicle to go into a spin. When he attempted to correct the spin the vehicle turned over. He claims that he was travelling between 35 and 40 miles per hour at the time of the accident. According to the Report of an Injury or Illness (AAF D11), Wilkinson suffered a contusion of the left acromic clavicular joint,[29] abrasions and neurogenic shock.[30] The report indicates that 213943 Private B.M. Mc Gregor of "B" Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was a witness to the accident.[31] Wilkinson was treated for his injuries for 10 days and released from hospital on the 18th of June 1962. His commanding officer did not deem it necessary to investigate the accident and no disciplinary measures were considered necessary.

(#) During this examination it was noted that Wilkinson's blood pressure was reported to always be slightly elevated. His previous seizure during the alcoholic episode in 1962 also was noted along with his habitual nail biting and a nervous condition that had previously be diagnosed at South Brisbane hospital. None of these conditions, however, were considered to be disqualifying for military service.

(@) This injury occurred while Wilkinson was assisting to move an air compressor with three other men. The engine access panel on the compressor apparently was in a raised position while the compressor was being moved. The panel came loose and fell on Wilkinson's hand, catching it between the panel and the compressor frame. His hand was x-rayed and no fractures were noted. Witnesses to the accident included 214777 Sergeant G. Burden, 216060 Sapper J.R.G. Vickers and 216074 Sapper W.J. Steel. His injury was considered to have been sustained in the line of duty and his commanding officer did not deem it necessary to investigate the accident further or to refer it to a Medical Board.

(**) During this examination it was determined that Wilkinson suffered from bronchitis, knee, back and joint injuries, abnormal eustachian tubes and abnormal eyesight.

9. MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL INFORMATION

When George Wilkinson entered in the Army on his first enlistment in 1961 his father was designated as his next of kin.[34] As George did not marry during that enlistment, his father remained as his next of kin. When George re-enlisted in 1964 he was still unmarried and his father again was designated as his next of kin. On the 6th of October 1969, while George was serving in South Vietnam, he indicated again that his father was his next of kin. He gave his father's address at that time as Pine Creek, Canungra, Queensland.

George Wilkinson married on the 8th of January 1972. At that time he changed his next of kin from his father to his wife, Mrs. Patricia June Wilkinson of 23 Hoolan Street, Stafford, Brisbane, Queensland. Mrs. Wilkinson had four near-grown sons from a previous marriage. Three of the boys were named Malcolm, Phillip and Leslie. The name of the fourth son is not known. The Wilkinsons had two daughters; Ann, who was born on the 30th of September 1972 and Rose, whose date of birth is unknown.

10. DISCHARGE

George Edward Wilkinson was discharged from the Army the first time at Brisbane, Queensland on the 24th of August 1962 on compassionate grounds for family reasons. His total service during this enlistment was reckoned as shown in the table below:

Employment During Service

Period of Service

Recruit and Corps Training (Infantry)

7 months

Regimental Duties (Sniper) with the
3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment

10 months

Total Effective Service:

1 year and 161 days

He was discharged for the second time on the 29th of November 1973 upon expiration of his period of service. His total service during his second enlistment is as shown in the table below:

Employment During Service

Period of Service

Recruit, Corps and Trade Training

8 months

Regimental and Plant Operator Duties with Engineer Units

8 years and 4 months

Total Effective Service:

9 years exactly

Wilkinson's service at home and abroad, as well as his total service for both enlistments, is as shown in the following table:

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

7 years and 121 days

Service Abroad

3 years and 40 days

Total Service

10 years and 161 days

11. POST SERVICE LIFE

After his discharge from the Army, George Wilkinson worked at a number of different jobs with a commercial construction firm and with government agencies. He was employed by Thiess Construction, one of the leading integrated engineering and services providers in Australasia. Thiess Construction operated throughout Australasia, South East Asia and the near Pacific with core disciplines in building, civil engineering, mining, process engineering, oil and gas, environmental services, utilities services, telecommunications, and facilities operations and maintenance. It is still a thriving design-build firm today.

Besides Thiess Construction, Wilkinson also found employment with the Queensland Department of Main Roads. This agency is the steward of 34,000 kilometers of Queensland's state controlled road network, which is 20 percent of the state's total road network, carrying 80 percent of the traffic. Additionally, Wilkinson acted as overseer of works in a number of shire councils and in 1996 he was working as overseer for the Winton shire council.

In addition to his work, George was an active member of the Returned Services League (RSL) and particularly enjoyed addressing school children at ANZAC Day ceremonies. On the 25th of April 1996 he represented Vietnam War Veterans at the ANZAC Day ceremonies in Winton, Queensland. In an interview with a reporter from Queensland County Life, George Wilkinson expressed his feelings regarding veterans of previous generations. George was quoted as saying that ANZAC Day to him was a "remembrance of the people we fought with and who didn't come back with, plus the remembrance of the Anzacs themselves."[35]

George also was an active member of Rotary, a Justice of the Peace, and was active in helping and supporting war widows.

George Wilkinson died sometime between the 25th of April and the 5th of June 1996.[36] His eulogy was delivered at his funeral by one of his widow's sons. The text of the eulogy is presented below:

GEORGE EDWARD WILKINSON

George was with us just 54 years. During his life George had not gathered an abundance of worldly goods, but what he had he shared with others. George touched the lives of many although we never once heard him boast about any of his accomplishments -- indeed much of what George did in service to others has come to light only in the past week since his untimely death. His focus was always outward, toward family, work, country and society.

Concerning family, George left school at the age of 12 to help out on his father's dairy farm. When George left home, he never missed an opportunity to visit his brothers and sisters and his parents although he was often separated from them by large distances.

George deeply loved his wife, and my mum, Pat, and his two daughters Ann and Rose and there was never a time when they wanted for the necessities of life. Although many knew George as a man of principle, it is not common knowledge that in many ways his high principles were engendered by the many hours of personal Bible study he shared with Pat. When mum and George married in 1972, he met the challenge of unselfishly caring for and raising four near-grown boys and for that my three brothers, Malcolm, Phillip and Leslie, and I are eternally indebted.

Although to many George was very reserved, in the workplace he was renowned as an honest and hard worker and continually sought to improved himself through further study. He could listen and empathize with people from all walks of life. These qualities being recognized by those in authority were instrumental in George gaining positions of significant responsibility in Thiess Construction, the Department of Main Roads and as the overseer of works in a number of shire councils.

George served his country for ten years in the armed forces, completing four terms of service in Vietnam. As an adviser to the US forces in Vietnam, George was awarded two purple hearts for injury under enemy fire.[37] Recently, he was one of only a very few who were awarded a medal signifying his special and valued contribution to the service of our country in South-East Asia. Although George retired from active duty in 1973, he has continued to be an active member of the RSL.

George served the community as a member of Rotary and was a legatee serving the widows of war. He was also a Justice of the Peace. As a representative of the RSL, George was invited to address school children at ANZAC Day ceremonies. On one such occasion George said to his young audience and I quote:

"I have seen what war can do to a country and its people firsthand, so let's hope that this does not happen in our country and that the sacrifice of young men and women will not be necessary ever again.

We all know that the Gallipoli Battle was a defeat, but we can be glorious in defeat as well as in victory. You can lose a battle and still win a war, but let us pray that it doesn't happen again. We have proved in the past that we can win wars, let us pray that in the future we can prove that we can win peace."

It is fair to say that George was a casualty of the war in Vietnam. The tragedies he experienced contributed to his ill health to which he finally succumbed. However, his experience never marred his attitude of service toward others. George just didn't talk about winning peace he was a peacemaker in all his actions. And to all of us here today, let's not allow George to depart this life in vain, but let us strive to win peace through service to one another -- just as George did throughout his life.

ADDENDUM NO. 1

The following information was provided by 4411027 Gerald Goggins, RAE who served in 17 Construction Squadron in Vietnam.

Goggins was posted to 10 Troop at Nui Dat upon his arrival in South Vietnam in September of 1967.  He made the move with the squadron from Vung Tau to Nui Dat in May of 1968 while  the squadron was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Van Gelder, RAE.  Goggins served in the squadron for 15 months and completed his tour in December of 1968.  

REFERENCES

Books

FESTBERG, A.N. Australian Army Insignia, 1903-1966. Military Historical Society of Australia, Victoria Branch, Bentleigh, Victoria, 1967.

Documents

1. Certificates

AAF A16-1 Certificate of Discharge (11 Sep 1962).

AAF A16-1 Certificate of Discharge (18 Dec 1973).

AAF C24, Certificate of Training, Course 2/71 Assistant Supervisor PRA.

AAF C32, First Class Certificate of Education, No. 15803.

AAF C33, Second Class Certificate of Education, No. 15430.

AAF C34, Third Class Certificate of Education No. 6318.

Honour the Brave Certificate, Council of the Shire of Beaudesert, Australia

Eulogy for George Edward Wilkinson.

2. Letters

Letter from Dr. H.A. Urquhart to D.D.M.S. Headquarters Northern Command, dated 8 June 1962, re: 15996 Private Wilkinson, G.E., 3 Bn R.A.R.

Letter of Recommendation from Lieutenant B. Jones, 2 Field Engineer Regiment, dated 26 June 1973.

Letter of Recommendation from Captain P.C. Cooper, 2 Field Engineer Regiment, dated October 1973.

Letter from Geraldine McKerrow to Mrs. Wilkinson, dated 5 June 1996, re: Death of George Wilkinson.

Directorate of Honours and Awards, Army Medals Section to Mrs. P.J. Wilkinson, dated 31 March 1999, re: Award of the Australian Service Medal 1945/75 to 1200393 Corporal G.E. Wilkinson.

3. Newspaper Articles

Queensland Country Life, May 9, 1996, p. 64. Anzacs remembered at Winton by Louisa McKerrow.

Original draft of Queensland Country Life article entitled ANZAC DAY by Louisa McKerrow.

4. Service Papers

Record of Service, AF B 103-1 & 2.

Australian Army Attendance and Treatment Cards, F MED 5.

In-Out-Patient Reference Sheets, F MED 6.

Sick Reports, AAF A46B.

Notification of Medical Assessment, AAF D20.

Australian Army Discharge History Questionnaire, F MED 2A.

Australian Army Medical Board Examination Record, F MED 1.

Australian Military Forces Medical Examination Record, F MED 1.

Australian Military Forces Report of an Injury of Illness, AAF D11.

Result of Medical Reclassification or Medical Board.

Field Medical Card, F MED 26.

In Patient History Sheet, 1 Camp Hospital.

Treatment Sheet, 1 Camp Hospital.

Australian Defence Forces Final Medical Board, AA Form D.2.

Australian Defence Forces Record of Medical Examination of Recruit, AAF D1.

World Health Organization International Certificates of Vaccination.

Commonwealth of Australian Department of Immigration Passport.

Internet Web Sites

Statistical Data on the Vietnam War:

http://www.ausvets.com.au/vietnam/vietstats.htm

The 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province:

http://www.vietvet.org

Luscombe Field:

http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-air-support/vietnam/luscombe.htm

Engineers Roll of Honour:

http://members.optushome.com.au/glaust/roll-1.htm

Royal Australian Engineers Employment Category Numbers: http://www.defence.gov.au/army/stayarmy/RAE_files/RAE.html

Australian and New Zealand Units of the Vietnam War:

http://www.soft.net.uk/entrinet/anzac_links.htm

3 Troop, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers:

http://members.optushome.com.au/glaust/rae-svn.htm

 ENDNOTES

[1] Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs, Queensland Branch Office, Amp Place, 10 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Queensland. Postal address: GPO Box 4001, Brisbane, Queensland. Telephone: (07) 3223 8333, Facsimile: (07) 3223 8585. Freedom of Information Section: (07) 3223 8819.

[2] In a eulogy for George Wilkinson, his stepson mentions that George had a number of brothers and sisters, although he is not specific with regard to number or names.

[3] This is a surmise on the author's part. In George Wilkinson's personal possessions the author found a portrait photograph of a young soldier. On the back of the photograph was written the name Les Wilkinson and the date 1959.

[4] It is not clear from his records whether he worked as a Plant Operator for his father on the family farm or whether he took a job with another firm and supplemented the family income from his earnings.

[5] Plant, Roads and Airfields.

[6] The ECN is equivalent to the United States Army's MOS or Military Occupational Specialty. It should be noted that the Employment Category Numbers used in the Australian Army today have changed considerably since the 1960s.

[7] Plant, Roads and Airfields.

[8] Mrs. Wilkinson received a letter from the Directorate of Honours and Awards, Army Medals Section, Melbourne, Victory dated 31 March 1999. The letter, signed by M.L.A. Deveille, Staff Officer, CARO Medals, reads as follows:

I have much pleasure in informing you that His Excellency The Governor-General has approved the award of the Australian Service Medal 1945/75 with Clasp PNG to ex 1200393 CPL GE WILKINSON in recognition for his service with the Australian Army.

The original of this letter is in the author's possession.

[9] The 1st Field Squadron deployed to South Vietnam on the 1st of April 1966.

[10] The author arrived in Saigon for a tour of duty in South Vietnam about this time.

[11] The author is intimately familiar with this material, as it was the soil used primarily in the construction of the Bangkok By-Pass Highway when the author served with the 809th Engineer Battalion (Construction) in Thailand from 1963 to 1964.

[12] Daniel L. Brooks, age 22. Brooks was a Sapper with 1 Field Squadron who was wounded when an M16 mine exploded accidentally during the laying of a "barrier" minefield at the Horseshoe in May of 1967. He died of wounds at the U.S. 24th Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh 13 days later.

[13] Lance Corporal John E. Garrett, age 20, with 3 Troop, 1 Field Squadron was killed in an enemy attack during the Tet Offensive at 0115 hours on 18 February 1968 in Bien Hoa.

[14] Staff Sergeant Peter J. Gollagher, age 32, served with 2 Troop, 1 Field Squadron. On his first operation in the Long Hai Hills on a search and destroy mission, he was shot in the neck while clearing a tunnel on 5 April 1968.

[15] Peter J. Bramble, age 21. Bramble was a Sapper with 1 Field Squadron who died in 1 Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau five and a half hours after he was injured in a min explosion in Phuoc Tuy on 22 May 1969.

[16] Lance Corporal Bryant V. Hansen, age 20, was killed in an explosion while clearing a bobby trapped area in Phuoc Tuy Province on 21 October 1968.

[17] Sapper John G. Greene, age 21, was killed when his armoured personnel carrier hit a mine in Phuoc Tuy Province on 8 December 1969.

[18] Sapper Anthony E. Hollis, age 23, was killed by an enemy mine in Phuoc Tuy Province on 30 January 1970.

[19] Sapper Rodney N. Hubble, age 19, was killed by a mine in Phuoc Tuy Province on 28 February 1970.

[20] Sapper Harold W. Hurst, age 21, was killed when a landrover he was in detonated an anti-tank mine in Phuoc Tuy Province on 29 April 1970.

[21] Glen T. Bartholomew, age 22. A Sapper with 1 Field Squadron, he died at a place called the Horseshoe in Phuoc Tuy Province at 0400 hours on 10 May 1967 when he shot himself in the chest with a pistol while having a nightmare. He was listed as a non-battle casualty.

[22] Wilkinson was awarded the Vietnamese Campaign Medal on the 15th of September 1971.

[23] The Vietnamese Service Medal was issued by the Republic of South Vietnam.

[24] He eventually reverted back to his substantive rank of Corporal, but the date when he ceased to act as a Sergeant is not noted in his service record.

[25] The original Certificates of Education are in the author's collection.

[26] The original AAF C34 Certificate of Education is in the author's possession.

[27] The original AAF C33 Certificate of Education is in the author's possession.

[28] The original AAF C32 Certificate of Education is in the author's possession. This certificate was signed by Colonel P.R. Shackelton, Director of Army Education.

[29] Plant, Roads and Airfields.

[30] The original AAF C24 Certificate of Training for this course is in the author's possession.

[31] The outer end of the scapula to which the collarbone is attached.

[32] Shock to the nervous system.

[33] The author has a photograph of Private G.E. Wilkinson standing with a friend whose name is Brian Mc Greggor [sic] in front of Tommy's Restaurant at 549 Queen Street in Brisbane in 1961. Although Mc Gregor is in civilian clothes in the photograph, this is probably the same B.M. Mc Gregor who witnessed the accident.

[34] This is indicated in his service papers where on the 12th of April 1962 he prepared a will designating his father was his next of kin.

[35] The ANZAC day activities, along with a photograph of George Wilkinson, were published in Queensland Country Life on 9 May 1996.

[36] The exact date of his death is not known. He appears in a photograph taken at ANZAC Day in Winton on the 25th of April 1996. His wife subsequently received a letter dated the 5th of June 1996 from a Mrs. McKerrow, in which she expresses her sympathy to Mrs. Wilkinson on the death of her husband. Both the newspaper cutting and Mrs. McKerrow's letter are in the author's possession.

[37] There is no indication in his service record that he was an adviser to U.S. military forces during his tours of duty in Vietnam. Furthermore, the Purple Heart only is awarded to U.S. military personnel who are wounded in combat operations with the enemy. It appears that the person delivering this eulogy may have misunderstood something that Wilkinson told him about his service in Vietnam.