The first Yarrawonga person to be called up to serve Australia during the Vietnam War, Anton Nieuwenhout OAM, is looking forward to the 100 Years Anniversary Dinner of Yarrawonga-Mulwala RSL Sub-Branch which he said will be “a big night”.
“It’s a milestone for the sub-branch - one of the best sub-branches, that’s for sure. Major General David McLachlan AO (immediate past State President of RSL Victoria) and other senior RSL officials have said that,” he told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“We’d be one of the best sub-branches in the state the way we look after our retired people, war widows and so forth.”
ClubMulwala was also praised by Anton, more popularly known, of course, as Tony. “We’re also lucky to have ClubMulwala who are always behind us,” he said.
“They’ve always been tremendous support. Without them, we’d be struggling. People like Horrie Prescott, Lenny Shead and Des O’Meara were just wonderful club leaders towards us. Without the club, we wouldn’t be able to invite state and national presidents here.”
A Dutch immigrant to Australia in 1952, then eight-year-old Tony moved from Rennie to Yarrawonga in 1954. He was conscripted into the Australian Army on June 30, 1965 and deployed to Vietnam on May 10, 1966 as a machine gunner, conducting search and destroy operations.
Serving with 4 Platoon B Company 5 RAR, 1966-67 in Phuoc Tuy Province, Tony was wounded on February 1967 and was discharged on June 29, 1967.
His tour of duty lasted 304 days and included extremely close, and near fatal encounters.
“Many mates were killed, the first was on our first day out,” Tony recalled. “I was wounded on 19th of February 1967. Two days later many of my platoon were killed or badly wounded.”
A shot hit Tony’s machine gun, ricocheted down the machine gun into his shoulder and neck which made both gun and operator inoperable. “I had to be walked out, another bloke by the name of Rose tripped a booby trap and he got shrapnel in his bottom. So that was another hold up until we could walk well out into safety before I could get choppered into hospital at Vung Tau,” Tony said.
Yarrawonga-Mulwala RSL Sub-Branch was “as quick as a flash” to welcome a returned man to join the local sub-branch.
“I remember the first ANZAC Day,” Tony said. “A loud knock on the front door, dog started barking and Mum yelling someone at the door.
“I opened the door and there was Alan Lynch, telling me to get dressed because ‘we are going to Dawn Service’. I said it’s too early but he persisted by saying ‘I’ll just stay here to you come’ so I got dressed and went along. I’ve never looked back.”
Tony’s only looked forward. He’s held many key positions and undertaken many roles. For five years, 1995 to 1999, he was RSL Secretary. For six years, he was RSL President, 2002 to 2007.
Awarded Life Membership of the local RSL in 1988 by Victorian RSL State President Bruce Ruxton, Life Membership with Gold Badge in 2008 and Meritorious Medal in 2014 by RSL National Presidents.
For his caring and sustained service to veterans and their families, and to the community of Yarrawonga , Tony, 73, received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2006.