Did any British Forces Serve In Vietnam?

Prior to the Longtab "Special Forces" tab to indicate passing Q course, Soldiers assigned to SF wore the Beret without the full flash behind the crest. They wore a cut down flash called a candy bar with the crest pinned above the bar. They tended to be drivers, supply clerks, chaplains, etc.
Yep, and apparently upset the real Q course qualified A Team USSF blokes.
 
I purchased a copy of 'Britain and the wars in Vietnam' by Gerald Prenderghast not long ago from Amazon.

It is quite well researched with reference to the relevant Government files and ironically it quotes arrse as a source of reference especially this thread. Much of the research and conclusions come to the same result on here with all the work by that Chippy Mick feller. There is one interesting part though about mercenaries.

Henry Brandon, a well-respected Sunday Times reporter with an international repution wrote an article for that paper on the 1st October 1967. The article was concerned with the difficulties the Americans were experiencing with the viet cong, but there was one passage particulary relevant to the unofficial involvement of British citizens, which reads as follows:

How deeply these guerrillas (the viet cong) are entrenched in some places, I learnt at a camp of mercenaries near Da Nang. They concisted of a conglomeration of foreign soldiers - some British, some Australian, some Chinese, some viet cong defectors.

The Forign Office was naturally concerned, and so the British ambassador in Washington was asked to interview Brandon to confirm his facts. Part of the ambassador's reply is included in this passage:

He said what he had written was perfectly true. There were quite a few British subjects who had been recruited by the Australians and who were really "adventurers."Apparently there are groups of special forces made up of peaple of this sort from various countries such as Britain, Australia, China and defectors from the viet cong who are by far the toughest and most formidable troops in Vietnam. These special forces are generally held in reserve and flown in as soon as the battle begins to develop. I could not get it quite clear what their exact connection with either the American, Australian or South Vietnamese forces is, but they are under allied command and tended to be grouped together.

GB states : No other corroborated reference to foreign nations serving against the Viet Cong in Vietnam is recorded in UK, US, Australian or New Zealand govrnment records, but the reputation of the reporter concerned makes the truth of the story difficult to dispute.

I believe that Brandon came across the CIDG Mike Force formed in January 1966 under Captain Felix Fazekas Australian army at Marble Mountain Da Nang. This was after the battle of Tra Bong in November 1965 where Warrant Officer Dasher Wheatley was KIA and awarded the first VC of the war for his bravery.

This was a battalion strengh unit under USSF command whose job it was to fly in to the assistance of Besieged A Teams in their camps. (See Colonel John Wayne in the Green Berets). Their soldiers were Montanyards and Chinese Nung mercenaries trained and paid by USSF.

Their was a battalion in each of the 4 Corp areas. They were trained as a quick reaction force backed up by air power. One of the reasons was that previously US and Vietnamese troops had been reluctant to come to the assistance of camps under attack.

The Australians (part of AATV) were embeded in command positions in the I Corp Mike force with the Americans and were some of the biggest battles that Australian army personnel were involved with in that war. No doubt some of those men would have been British born and have served in the British army prior to moving to Australia. They would have been wearing USSF Tiger Stripes uniform, M56 webbing and carrying M16s.

Brandon would have instanly picked out the British accents. Although I would not describe them as adventurers.

AATV members later also served with the USSF Mike Force in II Corp in the central highlands.

Captain Fazekas, described as a bit of a Prussian was no newcomer to war. Born in Hungary, as a young teenager at a military institute during the later stages of the Second World war when called out with his fellow students to try to repel advancing Russian tanks.
 
Two interesting articles from the book are about the RFA:

In July or August 1966 RFA Tidespring was ordered to RAS the American carrier USS Coral Sea well inside the Gulf of Tonkin, as the two available US oilers were under repair in Subic Bay, Phillipines. The crew voted on it which was carried, as it meant the crew received danger pay. When the RAS was carried out, the crew were close enough to hear explosions on the mainland.

In February/March 1971 RFA Tarbatness was ordered to enter hostile Vietnamese waters to offload stores. These were off-loaded onto pontoons using the ships cranes. The whole operation took six hours.
 
A number of Royal Navy ships visited Saigon in 1962 and 1963 including HMS Lion a 'Tiger' class cruiser of 12,000 tons and carrying a Rear Admiral. The visit was very succesful but preditably the North made progaganda out of the visit due to Britain's position as a member of the International Commission.

Unfortunatly, relations between Saigon and the UK were to deteriate significantly less than a month later when the South Vietnamese Army fired on a peaceful Buddist festival killing nine civilians. This was given as the reason for the cancellation of visit and joint exercise with the South Vietnamese by the Royal Navy's Inshore Flottila which had been scheduled for 12-18 September 1963.

No record exists of subsequent visits before 1975 and this was probably a response to Diem's assassination and American escalation of the fighting.
 

exspy

LE
In February/March 1971 RFA Tarbatness was ordered to enter hostile Vietnamese waters to offload stores. These were off-loaded onto pontoons using the ships cranes. The whole operation took six hours.
What exactly does "hostile Vietnamese waters" mean? Hostile waters North or South? Would an RFA ship be ordered to sail to the North and offload stores? Aiding the Communists? Maybe I'm missing something.

Cheers,
Dan.
 
What exactly does "hostile Vietnamese waters" mean? Hostile waters North or South? Would an RFA ship be ordered to sail to the North and offload stores? Aiding the Communists? Maybe I'm missing something.

Cheers,
Dan.
Sorry, it was South Vietnam, off loading stores for the US armed forces who provided air cover with gunships according to the book. It didn't say what port, but at a guess I would say Vung Tau.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
When we moved from Hong Kong to Malaya in 1965, we went by ship - an old RFA something like Galahad or such. Anyway, we sailed past the coast of Vietnam and had an escort of a USN Corvette. Also aircraft were about. The Bofors on the ship were manned too. Can I get a Vietnam medal?
 
Captain Fazekas, described as a bit of a Prussian was no newcomer to war. Born in Hungary, as a young teenager at a military institute during the later stages of the Second World war when called out with his fellow students to try to repel advancing Russian tanks.
Not that unusual a background for an early Green Beret.
 
Not that unusual a background for an early Green Beret.
Actually he was Australian Army. A lot of the early USSF when formed in 1952 were from Eastern Europe. The mission in WW3 was to parachute into Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Ukraine and the Baltic states and fight with anti soviet guerilla groups.

Although by that stage a lot of them had been infiltrated by the NKVD/KGB and destroyed thanks to traitors like Philby and Blake.

A lot of them had fought in the German Army including Waffen SS units like the 15th and 19th Latvian Divisions and the 20th Estonian Division.

One of the most famous was Larry Thorne, a hero of the Soviet/Finnish war in 1939/40 who later attended Waffen SS officers training with the full support of the Finnish government. After Finland dropped out of the war, his history is hazy but it is believed he carried on fighting with the 11th Freiwillingen Division Nordland on the Russian front including its last days in Berlin in 1945.

After the war he made his way to America where he enlisted in the Signal Corp of the US Army under the Lodge Act. From their he gravitated to USSF and served in the early days in Vietnam. He was killed in a helicopter crash in 1965 on the Cambodian border.

He remained MIA for many decades before his body with the rest of the crew was recovered. He was buried with full miitary honours in Arlington cemetery. There can't be many former Waffen SS officers buried there.
 
Not that unusual a background for an early Green Beret.
Fazekas collected the MC in Vietnam, I think for the same action that saw Kevin Wheatley earn his posthumous VC. He also probably collected an Iron Cross fighting against the Russians. There are details in the Australians in Vietnam thread from 2014.
 

Cutaway

LE
Kit Reviewer
Apparently some in the Merchant Navy tried and succeeded in securing medals from the Americans.
As others have said, no they didn't.

Only seamen who had been using a US certificate of discharge while sailing in Vietnamese waters in support of US and allied operations between 04 JUL 1965 and 15 AUG 1973 are eligible.

According to the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration.
But wtf would they know ?
 

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