The platoon was the basic fighting unit of the Australian Infantry. Three platoons formed a company and 6 companies formed a battalion. At full strength a platoon comprised 34 soldiers made up of 10 men in each of 3 sections, with a further 4 men in platoon headquarters. However, usually in Vietnam full strength meant 9 men to each section. More frequently platoons were under-strength and down to 7 in each section (with one scout and two riflemen deleted).
Each full-strength section was made up of 2 scouts, a commander with rank of corporal, a machine gunner and his No. 2, a section 2IC with the rank of Lance Corporal and 4 riflemen. Platoon Headquarters was made up of a lieutenant, a sergeant, a signalman and a batman (‘servant’).
“The platoon in the image below is of 4 Platoon B Company
5RAR, 1966-7. Throughout that year the platoon lost 11 KIA
plus another 3 support personnel accompanying them on patrol
(a medic and an APC crew of 2). From the group present here (January 1967),
5, plus 2 not present in photo, were later killed (red dot) and 10 wounded by mines ... ... the remainder … affected for life!
A company comprised of 3 platoons, Each contained 3o odd ‘grunts’;
Split into H.Q. and 3 rifle sections,
For a tour to last 12 months.
Headquarters ’twas led by a ‘Louie’,
His batman and sergeant in tow;
And only link to base and ‘arty’,
’Twas via the ‘sig’s’ rad-i-o.
Two scouts out front of a corporal,
In this section that was mine;
Four rifles behind two gunners,
A grand total making nine.
Crammed tight, inside each ‘chopper’,
In and onto each APC;
Eyes alert for any signs,
Of mines and booby traps, or VC.
Assaulting Cong in bunkers,
Extended line, left to the right;
An awesome sight of 9 blazing guns,
Firepower seen at its height.
Six S.L.Rs, an M.60,
And two Armalites spat without pause;
Death from modern technology,
Not seen in previous wars.
Back in camp, a picket roster,
Ubiquitous, for everyone;
Two in a pit, close to the wire,
Two hours each night on the Gun.
For others, if lucky, a movie,
Or card games, inside some tents;
Maybe, down at the ‘boozer’,
Sinking ‘tinnies’ for just ten cents.
Out on patrol in thick jungle,
Apart 10 metres in file;
Arrowhead in paddies or ‘rubber’,
Each spread 30 our style.
And regardless of extreme conditions,
During ‘The Dry’ or ‘The Wet’s’ monsoons;
Our daily task ’twas ‘search and destroy’,
In units called ‘rifle platoons’.