For those who served

Holly ThompsonManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Scott Thompson stands in front of the Manjimup War Memorial, where Richard Aldersea’s name is inscribed.
Camera IconScott Thompson stands in front of the Manjimup War Memorial, where Richard Aldersea’s name is inscribed. Credit: Holly Thompson

Manjimup resident Scott Thompson and his family will commemorate Anzac Day this year, like many others, to remember a family member who served in the Australian Army.

His great uncle Richard Aldersea, born in 1946, lost his life in the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam on August 18, 1966, and the family has remembered his life and sacrifice by laying a wreath every year at the Anzac Day morning memorial service.

Richard spent his childhood in Quinninup and Northcliffe and went to school in the region, before moving to Perth with his family, including his older brother and two older sisters.

Scott’s grandmother Joan Aldersea said she was certain Richard joined the army to follow in his older brother’s footsteps.

“My husband Jim, Richard’s older brother, had to do national service because it was compulsory at the time,” she said.

“Richard said he was going to join up as soon as he was old enough to be just like Jim, even though his parents did not want him to.”

Joan said one day he came home and told his parents he had joined up when he was about 20 years old.

He spent only two months in Vietnam, landing in June 1966 and died in August.

“Richard was the machine gunner in the sixth battalion and eleventh platoon,” Scott said.

“They sent out three platoons – 10, 11 and 12 – they came under heavy attack and spent about three hours on a battlefield the size of three football ovals in torrential downpours with no cover against 1500-to-2000-strong.”

He said there had been 105 Australian and three New Zealand soldiers in the three platoons and 18 Australians lost their lives, including Richard, and 24 were injured.

The family has several treasured items to remember Richard by, including letters he wrote to Jim and Joan.

“He wrote letters to us while he was away and I have given them to my youngest child Colin, who I was pregnant with at the time Richard was lost in action,” Joan said.

“I told Jim if he was a boy he was going to be named after Richard and now it is his second name.”

Richard also received some medals for his service, which Joan keeps replicas of.

“His sister, who lives in Victoria, has the real ones and I had these replicas made to keep for myself and his family down here to remember him by,” Joan said.

The medals include several Australian Army medals, the Vietnam medal and a medal awarded to Richard by the Vietnam government.

Both Joan and Scott said Anzac Day for them had always been about remembering Richard and honouring his memory and the memory of all other soldiers who have lost their lives in war.

“Granddad has always gone along, represented the family and laid a wreath at Anzac Day services and we followed suit and went along to support him,” Scott said.

“He always struggled with losing his brother, I have been lucky to be able to share all the memories of the good times and all the mischief that Richard got into.”

He said now his grandfather had died, the rest of the family had taken on this responsibility.

Scott and family will be at the Manjimup morning service tomorrow to lay a wreath at the memorial in town and will also attend the dawn service.

“As a family member I am extremely proud not only of my great uncle but every soldier that was in that battle,” Scott said.

“I am proud to be Australian, all of our achievements and I also remember there are no winners in war, we all just lose our loved ones.”

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