DANGER CLOSE: Ballina Long Tan veteran, the Reverend Richard
DANGER CLOSE: Ballina Long Tan veteran, the Reverend Richard "Shorty" Brown, was at Ballina Fair Cinemas last Thursday to see the film based on the Vietnam war battle. Graham Broadhead

Veteran revisits Long Tan in film

THE Reverend Richard "Shorty" Brown didn't really know what to expect when he went to Ballina Fair Cinemas last Thursday evening -- but he knew the story of the film he was about to see very well.

The Ballina man was among the audience who saw the film Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan at a session which was a fundraiser for Legacy.

The film depicts the fateful day on August 18, 1966, when the 108 members of Delta Company of the 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment -- with a New Zealand artillery officer in the group -- happened upon a force of an estimated 2500 North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Shorty in 1966 was an infantry soldier and is a veteran of that battle. He studied theology to join the Anglican church after 20 years of infantry service, and went on to become an army chaplain.

He admitted he had "moments" during the Long Tan film that were too close to reality.

The 74-year-old said it was good that the film brought the battle, in which 18 men lost their lives, more into the public domain.

But he did say that some of the scenes where creative licence won out over facts were disappointing -- but understood the work was a movie based on real events, not a documentary.

However, the portrayal of his "good mate" Private Paul Large who died in the battle, was "upsetting".

In the movie, Pte Large was depicted as somewhat of a rebel, bucking the authority of the officers.

"He wasn't like that at all," Shorty said.

"I was a bit disappointed. We trained together."

He said scenes in which Pte Large was shown to be "throttled" by the Officer Commanding, Major Harry Smith, and another in which Pte Large introduced another soldier to troop entertainer, Little Pattie, didn't happen.

He also was critical of the final battlefield scenes in which the surviving D Company troops were huddled in a small gully on the battlefield, with Major Smith, standing up giving orders to his troops.

"We were in the rubber plantation, and you couldn't stand up," Shorty said.

But overall, he said the movie did a good job at re-creating the battle, and highlighting how close the Australian troops came to being overrun by the much larger force.

"All the elements were there," he said.

"It showed the power of artillery -- without the (NZ artillery battery), we wouldn't be here.

"Bob (Sergeant Buick) did call artillery on to his own position.

"And without the Armoured Personnel Carriers (bringing fire support and reinforcements), we wouldn't be here."

Two RAAF helicopters also dropped ammunition for the troops.

Shorty said he could put his survival down to one main thing: "You don't want to die, so you fight for your life."

The film ends with a list of the names of the soldiers who died in the battle, and photographs.

It screens at Ballina Fair Cinemas until August 14.

Sunday, August 18, is Vietnam Veterans' Day, and commemoration services will be held at the Ballina cenotaph at 11am and at Elizabeth Ann Brown Park at Alstonville, also at 11am.


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