Thirty members and friends of the Regimental Association gathered at the Colonel John Neale Centurion Tank on Tuesday 30 April 2019. John Baines was MC, Gordon Cole spoke on the career of Colonel John Neale, Graham Garvie gave a history of tank No 169073 and Ian Docking recited the Ode.
Among the members from outlying districts were Kelvin Robertson, Craig Aughtie, Paul Burchatt, Peter Branagan and Robert Morrison.
Centurion 169073 served the nation well as a training vehicle and on active service in South Vietnam. It was a great improvement on the General Grant tank with a bigger gun and the ability to fire accurately while moving.
Serving soldiers of regiments such as 8th/13th Victorian Mounted Rifles were converted to the new tank and National Servicemen received full-time training while at Puckapunyal.
In February 1968, C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, equipped with Centurion tanks was sent to Vietnam. Our tank was one of the twenty which served in Vietnam.
There were many doubters about the likely usefulness of the Centurion in the jungle and paddy field environment of South Vietnam. How would this very large tank perform?
No one needed to have worried. The tanks performed magnificently and were treasured by the infantry with whom they operated. ‘Tanks save lives’ was the catchcry.
Several Reserve officers were attached to the Squadron in Vietnam including Colonel John Neale and Major Gordon Cole.
In 1989, when most of the Centurion fleet was sold off, No 169073 was allocated to 8th/13th Victorian Mounted Rifles as a heritage vehicle. It was first displayed at Buna Barracks Albury and in 2000 moved to its current location at North Bandiana.
A lunch at the Blazing Stump Hotel, Thomas Mitchell Drive Wodonga, followed the service.