A Court Martial in Vietnam

Following up on the post re: Nigel Wakefield (link below*), I did some searching as I wanted to confirm my memory was correct re: the Australian soldiers killed in Vietnam and buried in the Commonwealth Military Cemetary at Terendak, Malacca, West Malaysia.

Terendak was the home of 28 Commonwealth Brigade, usually consisting of troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
I was interested to see that cause of death of one of the soldiers, Lt Birse was listed as 'homicide'. Digging deeper, it turns out that Lt Birse was the victim of a 'fragging ' incident.

Lieutenant Robert Graham Birse, 4th Field regiment RAA died of grenade wounds at Phuoc Tuy on 10th December 1967.
A Gunner Newman was charged with murder.
A witness at the court-martial gave evidence that Newman said 'I'm going to throw a grenade into Birse's tent. He'll be in his pit. It won't hurt him, but it will blow his tent and his gear to the shithouse'.
Newman was convicted of manslaughter and received a five year gaol term but after eight months his sentence was quashed on appeal- the grounds being that all the evidence was circumstantial, and he was released.

There were two other court-martials of Australian intentional fratricide- in one case, the death of an officer by grenade and in the other, the death of two sergeants and the wounding of another by GSW from a rifle. The soldiers in these incidents were both found guilty and received sentences of life with hard labour.

All three cases got wide publicity in Australia but I don't know how well they were reported in UK. There is a newsreel regarding Gnr Newman's CM in Vietnam. **

As for the Australian servicemen and dependents, most were exhumed and repatriated in 2015, three, including Major Peter Badcoe VC remain buried at Terendak.

* Nigel Wakefield

** Vietnam Court Martial
 

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