War vets hoping to be at anniversary

By Imran Ali

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Percy Blundell fills in his application form for a chance to be part of the Battle of Long Tan's 50th commemorations in Canberra this August. Photo / John Stone
Percy Blundell fills in his application form for a chance to be part of the Battle of Long Tan's 50th commemorations in Canberra this August. Photo / John Stone

Two of about 20 Vietnam war veterans living in Northland have already put their name in a ballot for a trip to Canberra for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

Now Percy Blundell and Bill Lillicrapp are urging other Vietnam War veterans to fill in their applications to stand a chance to be among 35 from New Zealand vets selected to attend the commemorations on August 18, this year.

The Battle of Long Tan (August 18, 1966) took place in a rubber plantation near Long Tan, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam.

Eighteen soldiers from New Zealand, Australia, and the United States were killed and 24 wounded. Northlander Brigadier Harry Honnor was the commander of the 161 Battery that put 1100 rounds of ammunition within two-and-a-half hours to support the Royal Australian regiment during the battle.

He died last year. Commemorations will be held in Wellington and Canberra in August.

The New Zealand Force is inviting expressions of interest to select 35 Vietnam veterans from a general veterans' category through a ballot to travel to Canberra. An additional five veterans who served with 161 Battery in Vietnam will be selected from a separate category in the ballot. Those selected must be cleared by their GPs to travel.

Mr Lillicrapp is having a second tilt at the balloting process, having won a trip to Gallipoli during the 95th commemorations in 2010. He was among three Northlanders and 25 from throughout the country to attend the commemorations.

He sent in his application for Canberra on Wednesday and hopes he is second-time lucky.

"About 3700 went to the war from New Zealand. Probably half are dead so the chances of getting in are pretty low," Mr Lillicrapp said.

But he said people have got to be in to win.

"I've been telling a couple of friends to go out and do it."

For Mr Blundell, it would be the first time for him to be selected should his name come out in the ballot. He has applied a couple of times in the past but luck did not favour him.

To register your interest for the Canberra trip, email: commemorations@nzdf.mil.nz to request a registration form.

- Northern Advocate

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