William (Billy) Thompson
Wadandi Boodja
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Royal Australian Medical Corps
Australian Army

Medals
Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp
Vietnam Medal
Defence Force Service Medal with clasp
Australian Defence Medal
Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation
Infantry Combat Badge
Returned from Active Service Badge

 

I was born in Geraldton, Western Australia in 1950. I’m from the Harris Family Mob in Busselton / Margaret River area, Wadandi Boodja, and our people are Noongar. My grandfather was Friday Thompson, our family has a long history of military service. A lot of my Uncles, brother and cousins served, in the Army and the Air Force.

When I was 19, I volunteered for National Service in 1969, and was called up in 1970. After training I was sent to Ingleburn NSW, at the Infantry Centre, and then was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment at Woodside SA., prior to going to Vietnam in February 1971.

I was young and I found it really exciting to be over there. It was what the Army had trained us for, to go and fight and that’s what we did. We had to seek out and destroy the enemy in their bases. We attacked a big enemy bunker system near the Courtney Rubber Plantation in the province of Long Khanh on 6  June  1971 as part of Operation Overlord. I had my 21 birthday during that operation. We were in the middle of all the fighting and it was raining hard, I was on guard duty, soaking wet standing in a gun pit. Then in August, the government told us they were withdrawing us from Vietnam, and we returned to Australia in October 1971.

 It was dangerous over there, but at the time it didn’t really worry me. People would ask, ‘What was is like?’ and I’d say “I was six foot tall and bulletproof’,  but when you’re young, you get out there and do things ’cause you have no fear at all.

After I returned from Vietnam, I joined Army Reserve and bought my house in Perth. Then I reenlisted in the Regular Army as a Medic in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corp. I was part of 1 RAR in 1987 when the Fijian coup happened. We were put on standby as part of Operation Morris Dance in case we had to move in and help evacuate civilians. The RAAF flew us out to Norfolk Island to join our ships sailing off Fiji, along what they called the Bongo Line. It was an uprising, so we were fully kitted up for war and carried live ammunition and grenades. I stayed on in the Army until 1997.

When I left the army, I felt alone, I felt nowhere, wondering what can I do now? My wife and I built our house in Beverley, and when it was finished, I still felt alone.  The psychiatrist told me, that because I’d reenlisted after Vietnam, I’d been buffered by still having all my mates around me and looking out for me. That’s why I hadn’t broken down even though the stress was coming out and I’d been on the verge. He advised me to keep up my contact with people and join committees. So, even though I did suffer from PTSD, I’ve done what the psychiatrist told me, and it’s done me good.

I’ve been the Chairperson for the South West Boojarah Aboriginal group for 23 years. Now, I’m the Chair of the Aboriginal Cultural Advice Committee at Karri Karrak Corporation, the Traditional Custodians/Owners of the Busselton region. I’m also on the Wadjemup Project for Rottnest Island, where my great-grandfather was imprisoned for 6 months, and I’m one of the cultural advisors for the new Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth.

I’m a member of our local RSL here at Beverley. When I was the President, we secured our hundred-year charter and saved our branch from being closed down. I served in the Army for a total of 26 years all up, National Service, Reserves, and Regular Army.

I have one brother who has passed away and a sister. I also have 7 half-brothers and sisters from my mother’s side. I have six children and 11 grandchildren. My children have never wanted to go into the Army, they tell me they got all their army discipline during their upbringing! I did keep them on the straight and narrow, and they’ve all turned out well. I tell them, to take life as it is, do what they want to do, do it now, and do it well. Live it to the fullest, you don’t come back, there’s no second chances.