Ross Coulter: The Unlikely Warrior
I first met Ross at Kelvin Grove teachers college in 1964 and 1965 where he was in the Art group.
Our paths converged again in January 1967 where we were both in the 7th intake of National Service.
After 3 months of basic training in B coy 3TB Singleton we found ourselves heading up the hill for a further 3 months of Infantry training where we were in the same platoon and lived in the same hut.
He still pursued his art and I recall a painting of a digger he did for one of the training officers.
We both were posted to 1RAR and I still can remember the drive he and I did that day down the Putty road to Holsworthy.
On arrival at Big Blue ONE we were offered Signals Platoon so that’s where we ended up and in the same room. Life was different here and we soon blended in with the Regular soldiers, many of whom were already veterans, and the raucous nashos of the sixth intake. Strong friendships were beginning.
Ross always had that framed photo of Cathy on his desk. He was great company although he played that crazy game of Aussie Rules and he didn’t drink, smoke or swear.
He and I were the ‘Banana Benders’ in signals platoon and It wasn’t long before we were offered a month’s holiday at Shoalwater Bay as radio operators. This came with a few days leave at the end and Ross was off… To Biloela where else!
As the battalion built up for service Ross was designated to be in charge of radio communications for D coy and eventually promoted to Corporal. He had to manage 3 Radio networks in D company. I was appointed as the sig for the Mortar Platoon. His callsign was 4 and mine was 8.
I recall going to Mascot Airport on the 17th March 1968 to farewell Ross and the rest of the 1RAR advance party to Vietnam.
As a sig in the battalion one was able to hear what was going on so in Vietnam we always knew where everyone was and what was going on. Radio communications was vital to everyone’s survival and Ross was a very good operator. He only lost communications when it was necessary …..ie to avoid distractions by orders from BHQ. (Batallion Head Quarters)
I can still remember clearly the short conversation we had at about 1630 on 12th May 1968 as D Coy moved out through the Mortar position at FSB Coral. The essence was ; Keep your bloody head down and we will see you back at the boozer in Nui Dat. Little did we know how our lives were to be changed by the following few hours, days and weeks.
His contact report around midnight was almost drowned out by the sound of the battle going on.
Years later he could still describe the scene of the Dust off choppers in the middle of the night. One day he was going to paint it.
The Batallion radio Log shows that at 0400 on the 13th May: A Coy, B Coy, DCoy, Assult pioneers, Anti-Tank platoon, Mortar Platoon, 102 Field Bty RAA and elements of 12 Fld Regiment RAA were all in contact with the enemy.
On the morning of the 13th May eleven of our mates were dead and many more wounded.
Ross with D Coy was involved in numerous protracted actions at Coral including an old fashioned bayonet charge across open ground.
On a number of occasions I could hear Ross on the radio giving instructions to the helicopter light fire teams where to lay their supporting fire of mini guns and rockets.
FSB Coral was abandoned on 6th June 1968 with the loss of 25 Australian lives. This was by far the largest and foremost Australian battle of the Vietnam war and Ross was in the thick of it. So much for that other little firefight in 1966 that we hear so much about.
Ross enjoyed a beer or two or three after Coral.
I can recall having lunch with Ross one day in D Coys lines on Nui dat hill. He showed me the painting of the cartoon character Andy Capp he did for their Boozer and which became a symbol on the company’s T shirts.
How well do we remember Tuesday 12th November 1968. The day Ross, Bill, John and I flew from Nui Dat to Sydney. We were full of nervous excitement having survived a great ordeal, one that had changed our lives forever but had brought us very close together.
Ross and Cathy moved to Emu Park and our great friendship continued. I will always savour the reunions, Anzac days and social gatherings we have had together. We will miss you Ross but will remember the great times and the fun times we had together.
4 this is 8 … ROGER OUT
Alan (Jack) Parr
From Doug McCaffrey
“Countless wars have had countless teams of men that have moved on well beyond the different conflicts they were involved in.
The 1RAR Sig’s of 67/68 were no different, except ………… …. that we were the best team ever.
I have worked in countless teams of a similar nature throughout my life but none have had the impact of comraderee, mateship and solidarity that I experienced in the times we shared in Vietnam then and over the successive years we have shared since.
There are only a few of us that can appreciate the loss of such a friend, us and our families.
Not only to you Kate and your family, but also to my great friends of those years. June and I explored every opportunity to be there with you from the other side of the world on this very sad occasion, it was just not possible.
June and I have our hearts and soul with you all on the 10th at 10am. For me, that is 9pm Wednesday evening 9th November Jamaican time , I’ll have the finest red I can find opened and sipping in memory of the great times we had with great friends.
Love to all, June and Doug McCaffrey
To Kate and the Coulter extended family and friends, On behalf of Bev and I we are sorry we not to be in attendance today however our thought s are with you all.
We will always remember a true friend, good citizen, talented artist and great soldier. The painting he did for us will always be displayed proudly on our wall.
We enjoyed the company of Ross and Kate on many occassions the last one being in Melbourne in May where even though Ross was not well he tried to keep up with us and enjoy the time.
On one other occassion we had a sig pl re-union here at Emu Park and we stayed next door to this RSL Club. Kate told us the other day that Ross had put a plan together for the front area of this Club, it would be most fitting if the front area design could now be finished in his name.
Ross and Bev Hoy
To Kate & Family
Firstly our apologise for not being able to attend Ross’s service here to-day . For me it was an honour to have known such a fantastic “ BLOKE “
This friendship started back in the 60s when Ross & I were thrown in the ring together as conscripts . This was not something we were planning on at the time , but we knew if we worked hard together it would simplify any tasks presented to us. We became very good at our job of radio operators.
Thus a very strong bond quickly developed . This bond will always be there between us & I think that’s how we survived in Vietnam ,
Ross was one in a “ Million “ . I know he is up there now watching us & perhaps doing a bit of painting , brush in one hand & scotch in the other , we will miss you mate .
LJ and Liz
We were deeply saddened to hear of Ross’s passing and extend to you and your family our deepest sympathy.
We have fond memories of Ross and were very happy to have been able to catch up with you when we were in Yeppoon last year.
Ross’s “Poppies” hang on the wall in our study and every time we look up at them we think of you both.
Ross had great talent as an artist and was a warm & wonderful human being who will be missed by all who knew him.
Our thoughts are with you at this very sad time.
Bella & Bob Edelman
I remember my interview with Ross and lunch later that day very clearly. What impressed me was his cheerful, articulate openness in telling his story and his ability to see moments of humour;
he recalled that during his recollections of one battle, he paused and with laughing, crystal blue eyes said he remembered it well because it was his “22nd birthday and it rained all bloody day….”
Why he recalled the bloody rain on that particular day of all days with such humour I don’t know, but he was very generous with his story and to me in telling it. And his story will always remain part of the Coral archive.
Please pass on my condolences to Ross's family. My thoughts are with you today. Leonie Jones
For those of you who have seen D Coy wear our red t-shirts with Andy Capp on it at our Reunions, Ross drew and painted the original drawing that was put on the gate to “Heavyweight”.
Heavywight was between the main gate at Nui Dat and Hoa Long and the C.O. Col Bennett ordered that it be taken down, so it was put in the O.R.’s boozer and then relocated to SAS Hill when the Company moved up there.
Harry. Day ex D coy 1RAR
From: Alan Berry
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 7:12 PM
Subject: RE: [Coral Reunion] tribute to Ross Coulter
Most sincere condolences to Kate.
Fondest memories of Ross was showing Butch how to use the Armalite rifle , resulted in a hole in the roof of our hut @ the 1st of the 83rd. Spent many nights under the stars together, where he would speak of his beloved Kate…Farewell old friend…see you on the other side…
Alan Berry ex support sect Com D Coy 1RAR. .