104 Signal Squadron 50th Birthday in Darwin

 

by Callsign Rabbit

104 Logo Darwin

Background

104 Signal Squadron (104 Sig Sqn) was raised on the 30th Nov 1965 at Wacol, Brisbane.  It replaced 103 Sig Sqn in South Vietnam as the Task Force Signal Squadron in April 1967 and remained until November 1971, when the 1st Australian Task Force was withdrawn. 

On returning to Australian it was located at Ingleburn, Holsworthy and is now at Palmerston near Darwin and is still supporting the 1st Brigade (Renamed 1st Australian Task Force).  It has maintained the armoured communications skills that started development on the battle fields in Vietnam and developed many other skills since, including supporting airborne operations.

The unit is no longer an independent squadron and is now part of the 1st Combat Signal Regiment (1CSR) which has had involvement with deployments to Solomon Islands, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

 50th Birthday Parade

A few ex members of 104 Sig Sqn including a small number of Vietnam Veterans made the long trip to Darwin to help 1CSR celebrate the 50th and the first event was the parade.   After passing though security, which was streamlined for us old warriors, the first thing noticed was the parade ground at the front of the large 1CSR compound; it had a number of vehicles and antennas.  The vehicle in the pride of place, at the centre of the parade ground, was our old Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV) from the Vietnam war, Callsign 85C!    This set the awe-inspiring day for all that attended.

104 Sig Sqn and its sister 105 Sig Sqn marched on to the parade ground along with the Princess Anne Banner and other members of 1CSR under the command of CO, 1CSR, Lt Col Darren Moore.  The temperature was 35 Deg and the Brigadier was a little delayed to review the troops but not one man or women succumbed to the heat.  A well conducted parade in the Darwin weather as it builds up to the wet season.   We were all so proud of our old squadron and our new regiment.

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

1CSR on parade for the 50th Anniversary of the forming of 104 Sig Sqn from service in South Vietnam. 
104 Sig Sqn (left), 105 Sig Sqn (Right) and the Princess Anne Banner in the centre in front of
Vietnam Veteran ACV Callsign 85C.

Morning Tea and Display

After the parade it was off to the large covered area at the front of the Abraham Club for a bit of morning tea with the troops.  The OC, 104 Sig Sqn, Maj Brenton Lawlor addressed the gathering and welcomed the visiting old and bold.  He also invited us to view some of their equipment and weapons which were setup in a display by 1CSR. 

While all our Vietnam equipment has long gone to museums and the tip, their new equipment included Satellite Terminals, Tactical Servers, VHF and HF Radios in 6 wheel Mercedes-Benz and Bushmasters (PMV) vehicles.   Also lots of weapons including 5.56mm and 7.62mm belt-fed machine guns which replaced our old Vietnam era “Pig” M60’s.

However one bit of equipment has survived and that distinctive noise of the tracks on the roadway was heard as old Callsign 85C fired up and came from the parade ground into the compound display area under her own stream and parked next to an FFR PMV Bushmaster.  The Vietnam Veterans were like groupies, with glazed eyes, all over the old track! 

   104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

ACV Callsign 85C L-R Denis Hare, Ross Stickman and Ken Mackenzie.

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

ACV Callsign 85C on parade with the Princess Anne Banner.

Memorial Service

After the morning tea and display, a small memorial service was held at the 104 Sig Sqn memorial to our Vietnam war dead.   104 Sig Sqn, visitors and other members of 1CSR gathered around the memorial, which is located at the front of RHQ.  The OC and padre said a few words and two Vietnam Veterans, Ross Stickman and Ken Mackenzie laid a wreath on behalf of us all, remembering Cpl Denis Donnelly, Sig Alexander Young and Sig Dennis Abraham, who made the ultimate sacrifice in South Vietnam. Lest we forget.

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

Ross Stickman (insert left) and Ken Mackenzie (insert right) laying the wreath at the 104 Sig Sqn memorial, at the front of RHQ 1CSR. Ross arrived in South Vietnam on the 16 Apr 1967 and Ken left South Vietnam in Nov 71. The two 104 Sig Sqn war veterans were representing our almost five years war service in South Vietnam and honouring our war dead. Note the chook near the memorial - its last owner was Saddam Hussein!

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

OC, 104 Sig Sqn and attending Vietnam veterans at the war memorial at 1CSR.  L-R Major Brenton Lawlor, Ken Mackenzie, Denis Hare, Mick Beeston, Mal Fergusson, Harry Martin and Ross Stickman.

Dinner

The 104 Sig Sqn 50th Anniversary Dinner was an all ranks affair based on a formal dinner but a little semi-formal, that allowed all ranks to enjoy the evening, with the Vietnam Veterans and other visitors mixed across the tables.  This gave the young soldiers a chance to meet the past members of the unit and enjoy each other’s company.

On display at the dinner was memorabilia from 104 Sig Sqn service to the nation over 50th years.  One was a 104 flag that had watched over us in South Vietnam many years ago at Nui Dat.  It had been located in South Australia and presented to 1CSR by Malcolm Fergusson early in the week.   Being based in Darwin, 104 Sig Sqn now has a crocodile in its unofficial signage and a young crocodile was also present!

  104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

104 Sig Sqn current soldiers enjoying the 50th Anniversary Dinner at the Double Tree Hilton in Darwin.
  

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

OC, Major Brenton Lawlor and the youngest 104 soldier Signaller Dylan Neumann
cutting the birthday cake at the dinner.

A number of presentations during the evening were made, including a plaque and gift voucher on behalf of the 104 Sig Sqn veterans, by me, to the 104 Sig Sqn soldier of the year, Signaller Andrew Gordon.  The $100 gift voucher from the military shop was funded from the 104 Sig Sqn old and bold reunion account.  Also at the dinner was the traditional birthday cake, which was formally cut by Major Brendon Lawlor (OC) and youngest soldier from 104 Sig Sqn, Signaller Dylan Neumann. A very enjoyable night.

104 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday in Darwin

Little bit of History in this photo. L-R Malcolm Fergusson (104 South Vietnam), Major Brenton Lawlor (OC, 104 Sig Sqn), Lt Col David Jenkins (Past OC 104 and took most of 104 to Afghanistan as part of the FCU-1), Ken Mackenize (104 South Vietnam), Col Susan Coyle (Past OC 104 and took 104 to the Solomon Islands), Denis Hare (104 South Vietnam) and Lt Col Darren Moore (CO, 1st Combat Signal Regiment). All standing in front of a 104 Sig Sqn flag from South Vietnam.

In summary

It was great to see and talk to the Officers, SNCO’s, men and women of 1CSR.  All were very engaging and clearly enjoyed having us old fellows with them for the day.  Many are war veterans also, so the understanding of each generations service to our nation, was of great respect.   Well done 104 Sig Sqn and 1CSR you did us proud.  We hope to see some of you on the Gold Coast in May 2016 and we are planning to attend the 100th birthday in Nov 2065 (maybe)!

About the Author: Denis Hare, BEM (AKA Callsign Rabbit) served in 104 Sig Sqn in South Vietnam in 1967/68 as a Cpl Draughtsman Signals (Dtmn Sigs).  He served 23 years in RASigs and retired as a WO1 Supervisor Technical Telecommunications (STT).


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