Victoria Police veterans honoured for their service as Nashos

A message from the Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA)

On 18 February, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton APM together with Head of Corps of the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police Colonel Ruth Weir CSC unveiled an Honour Board recording the names of 134 former Victoria Police officers called up for National Service. Of those, 52 served in Vietnam, Borneo or Malaya, while 82 served wholly within Australia.

The dedication of the Honour Board and the parallel ceremony was a formal acknowledgment by the Chief Commissioner of those National Service Police veterans who served their country during the Vietnam War era. This was an acknowledgement not previously recognised.

The event took place at the Victoria Police Academy chapel in Glen Waverley, Melbourne, and attracted about 500 people, of whom about 55 were former Nashos, along with 20 widows. Also present was Australian War Memorial Director Matt Anderson PSM, Victorian Police Minister Anthony Carbines, Shadow Minister Brad Battin, and members of both the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia – Victoria Branch and the Retired Police Association of Victoria, which jointly funded the Honour Board.

A spectacular fly-over of three Vietnam-era warplanes – two Trojans and a DC3 – were carried out by pilots from the Old Aeroplane Company, based at Tyabb Airport in Victoria.

All 134 who were called up returned to Victoria Police duties after their two-year National Service obligation. Of these, 52 served in Vietnam in various units including Military Police, Infantry, Signals, Artillery, Service, Medical and other Corps.

‘It was a fantastic event,’ Colonel Weir said. ‘It was very well coordinated. It was heartfelt and well attended by veterans and their families. Speaking to the veterans afterwards, it was clear that they felt a great deal of pride in their service both as National Servicemen and as police officers.’

She explained that the roles of military policemen in Vietnam included maintaining discipline, general patrolling, investigations, prisoner of war handling, and whatever was required of them.

‘I think we can all agree it was an overdue event,’ Chief Commissioner Patton said. ‘It was the largest number of police ever called up for military service and for the longest detachments. Thankfully all our members returned home safely but what is even more extraordinary is that they all resumed their policing career afterwards. This is testament to their character and sense of duty and I am very proud that they went on to make such significant contributions to policing and the wider community.’

The Honour Board was the brainchild of the CAA’s Gordon Beach, Superintendent (Ret), who had been researching the list since 2011. A CAA Project Team comprising Gordon Beach, Ivan Ray Inspector (Ret) VicPol and Dr Ray Shuey AM, APM Assistant Commissioner (Ret) meticulously planned the event with Victoria Police Inspector Ivan Petrunic and Major Robert Bruce (ADF) and their respective teams to bring about this successful recognition.  

‘During the conscription years, members of Victoria Police were not exempt from National Service,’ said Gordon. ‘Until now, these police officers had not been acknowledged or recognised for their service. No records had been kept of those who served. As Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”.’

Gordon returned to policing after his military service, which included a rotation to Vietnam. He retired with the rank of Superintendent. The CAA team is now recording a series of interviews with fellow Victorian police who completed National Service, with the support of a Saluting Their Service grant from DVA. The collection of interviews will be housed at the Australian War Memorial. 

Group of about eighty people in a chapel