Thank you to Photographer Valerie Horton and  Jamie Trew from Newspix for providing this image to the family to include in the Serving Country website

Thomas Henry (Buddy) Lea (deceased)
South Sea Islander, Rockhampton, Queensland
6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Australian Army 35 years service
Vietnam, Malaya and Borneo Veteran

Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with 2 clasps
Vietnam Medal
Australian Service Medal 1945-75 – SE Asia
Defence Force Service Medal with clasp
National Medal
Australian Defence Medal
Anniversary of National Service 1951-72 Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Pingat Jasa Malaysia

My name is Thomas Henry Lea, but my friends call me Buddy. I was born in 1939 and am of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent. I was a member of the Australian Defence Force for 35 years, serving during the Vietnam War as a Corporal and Section Commander in Delta Company with 6 RAR – we were involved in the battle of Long Tan.  In the lead-up, the Australian Radio Intelligence and Tracking Unit picked up radio transmissions from the 275th Vietcong Regiment as they moved from their base to within five kilometres of ours and on August 18th, 1966, led by Major Harry Smith 108 men from Company D headed out on patrol, straight into an enemy force of around 2,500 men. The odds were against us, even though we had superior fire support from Australian, New Zealand and United States artillery – we were trapped and running out of ammunition. The RAAF helicopters dropped ammunition, and the battle raged for three and a half hours – I got shot three times while trying to drag an injured mate, Sergeant Paddy Todd, to safety through the mud and rain.  The shots missed my heart and adrenaline masked the pain, so I didn’t really know I had been shot. At the time, the last person in the world that you think about is yourself. I had ten men under my command to think about. If anything was going to happen to anyone, it was going to be me. You put your own life on the line to save your mates.  18 Australians were killed, and I was amongst the 24 wounded. They don’t know the exact number of North Vietnamese soldiers killed, but it’s estimated at about 245.