Darwin war history
Written by Norman Cramp, Director of the Darwin Military Museum.
A true Territory man
Reginald (‘Reg’ to almost everyone who knew him) Hillier was born in Coonaburabran, NSW, on 12th September 1939. He was educated through the NSW Public School system and had spent most of his life on properties and station in rural occupations. He moved to the Northern Territory and was working as a station hand in the Adelaide River area prior to enlisting in the Australian Army in 1961 for a six-year term. His family says he loved the Territory, so much so that he was nicknamed ‘Territory’ and had a tattoo of the NT on his arm.
A true soldier
Following basic training at Puckapunyal, Victoria, he was posted to the Australian infantry and four years after enlisting found himself deployed to Vietnam as a Section Commander in B Company 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR). By all accounts ‘Reg’ Hillier was suited to Army life and was well-respected by his superiors, peers and subordinates alike. He was also a brave soldier and prepared to take the risks necessary to get the job done or to protect himself, his mates and to “defend the patch”.
There are numerous stories of his bravery while serving in Vietnam, such as the seven times he entered tunnels that were suspected of housing Viet Cong forces. Another story discussed the occasion on which Reg followed the tracks of two Viet Cong soldiers through dense jungle in the district of Ben Cat. Despite the enemy’s attempts to hide in the jungle and wait for Reg to give up, he stuck to the task and to their tracks, finally discovering a large Viet Cong base in which important intelligence was located.
A loss to the Territory
Corporal Hillier was leading his Section on 29th November 1965 in the Vo Dat district of the Binh Tuy province when they came across an enemy force and made contact with them. In the ensuing fire fight, Hillier was killed in action. He was 26 years of age at the time of his death. He was the only Territorian to die in the Vietnam War.
Bringing Reg home
A movement to ‘Bring Them Home’ was established in Darwin by a Vietnam veteran and President of the Vietnam Veterans Association NT, Mr. Bob Shewring. Shewring rallied many veterans, non-veterans and media personnel to the cause and the movement was underway. After more than a year of lobbying and securing over 40,000 signatures, Shewring flew to Canberra on Sunday 24th May 2015 to meet with the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Tony Abbott, to discuss the matter of the repatriating the remains of the twenty- five Australian soldiers who had been killed during the Vietnam War and remained buried in foreign soil.
On Monday 25th May 2015, the news broke that the prime minister had agreed to repatriate the last twenty-five of our Vietnam War dead given the families of the soldiers wished for their remains to be returned to Australia. Of the twenty-five, twenty-two families agreed, including Reg Hillier’s. Reg returned home to the NT in June 2016 following which as memorial service was held at Christ Church Cathedral, Darwin on Saturday 11th June and re-interment at the Adelaide River War Cemetery on Sunday 12.
Rest easy now Corporal
And so Reg Hillier was back in the land of his birth and in the Territory that he loved so much, his long journey home completed at last. Reg Hillier’s memory lives on the NT as a result of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, NT, having named one of its ‘homes’ in his honour. ‘Reg Hillier House’ in Darwin remains a welcome house for all returned service personnel.
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