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"Chietains in Vietnam !"

Discussion in 'Post-World War 2 Armour' started by nuvolari, Nov 4, 2005.

  1. Gryle

    Gryle New Member

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    Armour in Vietnam

    Marlin, I really wouldn't be asking questions if I wasn't interested. Most of Australia's other procurements of the time favored lighter more reliable vehicles like the M113 and the Leopard over other competitors. It's just surprising to hear only now that something like the Chieftain was even considered, or that a British unit ended up under an Australian officer fighting the NVA in Da Nang of all places.
     
  2. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Armour in Vietnam

    Hello Gryle,
    Please do continue to ask questions, and I hope I hadn't seemed to be trying to put anyone off. The principal reason why I ever joined this Forum was to kick off a discussion on an episode of my first hand experience that I have always thought to be bizarre, but when you are only 21 (as I was back in 1968), and in the army, then you do as your told and don't ask too many questions. Back when this story happened, the only thing that struck me as odd was that it came as a complete surprise for us to be diverted in mid ocean from Australia to Vietnam.
    Over the years I have enquired of former members of my regiment as to their being aware of the situation, but they knew no more than I did ( at lot less, in fact, since virtually all of them were completely ignorant ).
    I have tried to trace my old C.O., but unfortunately he was one of the very few senior officers to have been cashiered since the end of WW2 ( he violently disagreed with the MoD's plan to do away with the Local Overseas Payment to soldiers stationed abroad and was court martialled for leaking info. to the press ), so no-one knows what became of him.
    The consensus of opinion is that the ship ( an Australian navy cargo ship ) was diverted to Vietnam because of its load of weapons and materiel was needed as a result of intel. on the Tet Offensive and that our tanks got unloaded and used just because they were there. As to why our armour was on the bloody thing in the first place, well, it is well known that the "Chieftain" consistently came behind the "Leopard" in tests and trials, so I think that the British Government were desperate to procure sales from anywhere anyhow. Most of the comments made on this Forum take no account of the vagaries of Government policies be they secret or otherwise. If I worked for the MoD I may have been able to answer these questions,but as wet behind the ears very junior army officer, all I knew was to salute and follow instructions !
    Ciao,
    Malladyne.
     
  3. merlin phpbb3

    merlin phpbb3 New Member

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    chieftains in Vietnam.

    marlon, before I go further into this subject please confirm that I have the facts correct.
    You were a commissioned officer of the 17th/21st. Lancers.?
    In 1968 you (17th/21st) were stationed in BAOR?
    Did you sign the Official Secrets Act?
    You were I presume a 'Regular' soldier.?
    Would you be prepared to forward your story to 'Calling All Tankmen' at the Bovington Museum Library?
    The 11th.Hussars (Cherrypickers) were the first regiment to receive their full compliment of Chieftains in BAOR in 1967, when did the 17th/21st start receiving them?
    I have some great photos of the 17th/21st in BAOR with Cents.
     
  4. Gryle

    Gryle New Member

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    Re: Armour in Vietnam

    Well thats the vagaries of Government for you, won't sell Chieftains to Israel even though they participated in design an development and bought a load of Centurions for the honor of doing so, but then turn around and offer a boat load to Australia.
     
  5. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Hello, and apologies for my absence !

    My God ! Is it me or is it this site ? I have had colossal problems lately both with my PC's and also trying to log on to this forum. Having had another member of this Forum ask me to change my name since it resembles his, I have been completely unable to access this Forum for any reason at all and have only finally managed it by enlisting the aid of Voitek my potty Polish IT professor. Voytek also sorted out my PC problems and told me that it was not impossible that I had picked up a bad virus from this Forum !
    Be that as it may, I do enjoy accessing this Forum, so will persist !

    Having said that, I do think that we put the saga of the Vietnamese Chieftains to bed, if only because I have resented the implications put forward by others that this event never happened. It is particularly galling that I have been interrogated by even the member who I tried to change my name for, and who steadfastly ignored my emails to him even on the subject of the name change he requested of me. Despite this he expresses an evinced desire to wish to repudiate my story.

    I mentioned in the first place the story of the Chieftains because I hoped to be able to throw more light on why they were ever sent. I suppose that I also hoped that I might find photos of one on a plinth in Hanoi, or something, or that I might even be able to get in touch with any of those who were associated with their going. I never dreamt that my story would provoke a cloud of suspicion, or that it would prompt people to want to try and disprove or prove my story ; I don't need proof of its happening, I was there, so I know it did !
    Marlin. Incidentally, to the member who asked me to change my name :-
    Tough luck, me old matey, I tried and have still to recover from the problems it caused me- why don't you just change yours ?
     
  6. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Hi Marlin,

    honestly without wishing to sound rude - it is probably you! :wink:

    The site has been running fine recently as far as I am aware, though I am sorry that you have had problems. Those bloody viruses are a pain (none are associated with this forum as far as I am aware). :angry:

    I'm glad you enjoy our forum, and I hope that you continue to do so.

    I should reiterate that if you post on this forum a highly controversial story then you must expect it to come under intense scrutiny - especially if many of the facts you present seem to be at odds with published history.

    One of the problems of Internet discussion is that it diminishes further the value of 'I was there' arguments.
    For example, I have stated on here that I am a 25 year old male, a Christian, working at Luton Uni, and recently married.
    I could easily be a 90 year old lesbian wicca, retired after a lifetime of being a dinnerlady. :grin:

    Please realise that I am not calling you a liar, or trying to be offensive (and I apologise if that is how I seem), I am just pointing out why it is very possible for people to be skeptical of your story.

    Regards,
    Ricky
     
  7. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Chieftains in Vietnam

    Fair comment, put reasonably and displaying a good sense of balance. I can't ask for more than that, and you have displayed all of those qualities in your response. Thank you, Ricky, for your obvious common sense and ability to keep a sense of proportion on things. In retrospect I should have been the first person to expect a querulous, nay sceptical, response from Forum readers ( all of whom seem to be knowledgeable buggers ! ), since that is the response I have generally been met with in the past- so much so that I normally keep shtum about it when in the company of ex-servicemen. Having said that, when examining the event, it is hard to understand quite what about it is incredible ( by that I mean lacking in credibilty ). There was an official British Army presence in Vietnam, albeit generally staff officers on secondment; there would seem to have been an Australian armoured presence there I believe, and there is no doubt as to the efforts of the MOD to sell more Centurions to Australia -and also, they hoped, Chieftains as well. If anything is hard to accept, it is that so many things went wrong with communications as to permit the deployment of armoured vehicles of mild steel construction in a war zone, but even though I only spent three years in the Army, I can categorically state that whilst it may have been a first class communications cock-up, it was by no means the most major or damaging snafu I ever witnessed, knowing as I do of fatalities amongst British servicemen in Canada caused by other foul-ups (this I definitely cannot discuss ! )
    Cheers,
    Marlin
     
  8. Gryle

    Gryle New Member

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    Re: Hello, and apologies for my absence !

    I wouldn't have bothered if I were you, you said yourself that you heard they were pushed off the docks, and if they weren't destroyed the Soviets would have been very happy to get their hands on the latest British MBT. I recall reading the US didn't sent M60s there for precisely that reason.

    Sensless waste to destroy perfectly good tanks like that, should have turned them over to the Australian Task Force there, they returned every last Cent to Australian, even managed to bring back an NVA? T72 clone (I forget the chinese type designation) that was "gifted" by the South Vietnamese govt.
     
  9. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Chieftains in Vietnam

    So much of the whole saga of these tanks ever being in Vietnam is an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle and shrouded in a mystery, that any part of the event is open to debate ( as we have seen here in this Forum ! ).
    This being so, it is possible that virtually any fate may have befallen these tanks- even winding up on a plinth in Hanoi !

    As for my source of the tale that they were all pushed off the dockside, well that was never altogether reliable in the first place, and I had my doubts about it from day one, although it has never occurred to me that the Chieftains would have been desired by the Russians. Surely had the Russians have wanted them ( a fact I now accept as being likely if what you say about the M.60's is correct ), then it would have been a piece of piss to have pulled em out of 40 feet of water, since the secret of their being in the drink would not have been kept from the North Vietnamese for long, given the amount of local labour that was employed at the port.

    You point about the M.60's does, though, open up another area of discussion. Though a very modern tank in 1968, only having just been released for service to the British Army, as far as I remember there was no startlingly new technology in a Chieftain. It didn't have Chobham armour or reactive armour, for example. The only thing that might have been deemed secret was the thermal lagging for the barrel. The multi fuel engine had already been used in the Centurion and was no great success anyway, so maybe we'd have liked the Russians to have copied it !
    All this being the case, why would the Yanks have been anxious to have prevented the Russians from getting their hands on an even older and less technically advanced tank such as their M.60. ?
    Beershark
     
  10. FNG phpbb3

    FNG phpbb3 New Member

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    theres more to a tank than electronics and gadgetry.

    Just knowing the top speed, range, armour thickness, ammo capacity, fire rate and aiming systems can help the enemy.

    FNG
     
  11. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Tank technology

    Yeah, I see what you mean ! I can also see why at the end of my three year short service commission I wasn't invited to aply for a commisssion in the Regular Army ! Still, that was no loss, since in no time after leaving the service I was earning more than a Major-General !!
    Beershark
     
  12. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Plus giving the Russians a present of our nice new L30 gun (and for the M60 the slightly older but top-notch L7 / M68 gun) would not be a good idea. :wink:


    Marlin, part of the issue with the whole Vietnam thing is that, officially, there was no British involvement - famously not even a marching band.
    Many people state that our Special Forces were unofficially sent, but I have never heard of staff officers being seconded over there.

    However, my ignorance is wide & far-reaching!
     
  13. nuvolari

    nuvolari Member

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    Chieftains in Vietnam

    I couldn't agree more with you about the guns, old bean, but frnakly way back then I didn't give a toss about the buggers. My last orders were to ensure the safety of the men and not to worry about the vehicles ( hence my not actually knowing what happened to 'em ). In the normal course of events we were ordered to destroy our own disabled tanks if it was impossible to recover them, and we would have used a thermite "grenade" for that purpose, having stacked one in the ammunition bins.

    Insofar as our presence being unofficial or otherwise, I am now sure that it was not official, at least in the context of our presence in Vietnam anyway.
    On board ship and had we have made it to Australia, then we were undoubtedly an official party, since the drill on the wearing of uniform was always strongly imposed, but you must remember that our ship, an Australian navy vessel, was diverted to Vietnam off its original course.
    It was at this point that things started to go awry ! Whatever status our presence had, there certainly were many British Army officers present, and in uniform ( or what passed for uniform ! ) because I remember thinking just how out of place some Guardee officers looked in their crisp and well pressed cotton drills, when most Americans and ALL of the Aussies slouched about in grubby camo trousers and T shirts.
    Marlin
     
  14. esquilax

    esquilax New Member

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    Chieftains

    I am
     
  15. esquilax

    esquilax New Member

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    Vietnamese Chieftains.

    I joined this Forum a couple of weeks ago, and although I am not interested in tanks, I am very interested in Rolls Royce engines and thought that maybe this forum could open up areas of interest for me in this respect . Unfortunately it hasn't done so far, but I live in hope. However, I am very pleased to say that I can add something very concrete to this Cheiftains in Vietnam discussion, and am even hopeful of being able to show some photos of these selfsame vehicles in Vietnam.
    Whilst I am attempting to recover them, I would be only too pleased to have Merlin get in touch with me on this subject, since I am positive I can help him if he wants help !
    About 20 years ago I lived near to Southampton and had as a neighbour a West German who was a First Officer with a steamship line serving the Far East. I well remember him telling me about and showing me photos of these tanks. Apparently,on one voyage to the far East his ship had run into some cargo containers that had been swept off the deck of another ship by a storm. His ship was quite badly holed along the waterline and he had to divert to the nearest possible port for repairs.
    Although I cannot remember the name of the port,it was definitely in Vietnam.
    When seeking to obtain quantities of sheet steel to effect the repairs, he and others of his crew visited a commercial scrapyard and steel stockist on the edge of the town. The Chinese owner of the business was keen to show them a crusher and compactor that he had made,and when looking at it they saw that this machinery was powered by a huge Rolls Royce engine ( this is why the German told me the story ! ). The Chinese said that the engine had come out of an "American " tank from the Vietnam war. He said that he had obtained a number of them all with the same type of engine and that he had either scrapped them or cannibalised the engine parts during the ten or so years he had these vehicles in his yard. But, it gets better yet ! He then walked his guests through the premises to where under a large canvas hangar was parked yet another tank that had been modified to accept a dozer blade, a pair of jibs, a powerful winch and other useful bits of kit. The turret (less gun) had been removed and lay on the ground nearby, and the "cockpit" of the tank had been fitted with a makeshift steel and canvas roof and sides.
    The Chinese said that this tank was much newer than the others and also more powerful to use as a bulldozer tank. Although I know very little of tanks, I can tell you that from the several photos that both myself and others saw of this machine, it was identified by people who were knowledgeable as being a Chieftain. What made people sit up when they saw the pics is that those who knew tanks (see below) stated categorically that it was a Chieftain !!
    Unfortunately my German neighbour returned to Germany when the Wall came down, but I do know people who are still in touch with him and have contacted him re the photos. If I get them I will publish them here.
    Esquilax.
    Amongst the people who saw these photos at our golf club when he showed them,was a R.E.M.E NCO and a Royal Engineers officer. They were both adamant that the tank was a Chieftain.
     
  16. esquilax

    esquilax New Member

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    Chieftains in Vietnam

    Amazingly I had a telephone call this morning from my old friend the German merchant marine officer ! Unfortunately, most of what he had to say was bad news, since, for a start, he reminded me that he gave all of the photos to me. This made me recall that I had sent them to Rolls-Royce in Derby for their comments. I guess that they must still be there now, since I don't ever remember getting a reply. This may be because the Chieftain didn't have a Rolls-Royce engine, and being told that one of their old tank engines from an obsolete Centurion had been found in Vietnam didn't light their fire very much either ! The other bit of bad news is that Helmut ( the German) is pretty sure that the port they made for after the collision was Haiphong. Since Haiphong is firmly in what was North Vietnam, and Merlin says his ship discharged in Cam Ranh Bay, then there is a discrepancy there. I suppose that the tanks could have been shipped all the way up the coast of Vietnam-who knows ? Mind you, it is hard to figure out how a Chieftain and some Centurions got into Vietnam at all unless thet are the vehicles mentioned by Merlin.
    Esquilax
     
  17. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    Just to clarify before the individuals concerned get upset...

    The account of the Chieftains in Vietnam was from Marlin, one of those questioning it was Merlin, two separate individuals.
     
  18. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    And it seems that esquilax and Marlin are the same person, as they have the same IP address.

    Is this true?
     
  19. FNG phpbb3

    FNG phpbb3 New Member

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    :grin:

    the plot thickens

    FNG
     
  20. Oli

    Oli New Member

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    Taking some damage to the credibility shields captain... :grin:
     

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