From the time of the arrival of 30 military personnel in 1962, until the withdrawal of the last combat troops in 1973, almost 60, 000 Australians served in the Vietnam War. Upon their arrival back home, many found it difficult to recover from their experiences, and multiple organisations were established to aid these people, one of which is “Central Coast Veterans”.

On 3 May, Year 10 students studying History were lucky enough to meet a group of Vietnam War veterans from this organisation. The excursion began with a number of anecdotes from the ex-service volunteers, detailing their individual experiences before, during and after their time in Vietnam. Everyone was completely absorbed in each veteran’s story and when some spoke of their struggle to readjust after their return home, the ominous silence was so absolute that you could have heard a pin drop.

After these mini-presentations, the mood lightened as a mock conscription was held. Students whose birthdates were announced, had to join the “Hills Grammar Army” and act out the different roles servicemen and women had during the Vietnam War. Laughter filled the hall as people prepared invisible meals, fired invisible guns, and ran around saving the “injured”. Afterwards, we were able to try on (hilariously oversized) uniforms and inspect items used in the war, such as radio transmitters, the food that was given to troops, and the rounds that were used in some of the automatic guns.

The main attraction of this excursion was the NAMBUS, a bus filled with photographs, items of memorabilia, and a diorama of the Viet Cong tunnel systems used to house troops, transport supplies, and mount surprise attacks. We were given a guided tour of the many small exhibits within the bus and were able to learn about life as an Australian troop during the Vietnam War.

This excursion was one of the most thought-provoking and engaging experiences one could have. Not only did it deepen our knowledge of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and teach us about equipment and roles in the army, but it helped us truly understand how different each veteran’s encounters and judgements of the war is.

Claire Shi | Year 10 Student

Photos by Julia Neary: Vietnam Veterans Nambus – Mobile Museum, Kean Zhou