Each year the Lane Cove RSL Sub Branch features a presentation about a Lane Cove local who has served in the Australian armed forces. The presentations are always fascinating as they provide an insight into not only their military life but also their life in Lane Cove before and after their time in the armed forces.
This year Lane Cove RSL Sub Branch Ian Ahearn, the younger brother of Sergeant Alan Ahearn,spoke on behalf of the Ahearn Family.
Sergeant Alan Ahearn
Good morning, my name is Ian Ahearn, the younger brother of Sergeant Alan Ahearn, the soldier we are commemorating here today.
Alan William Ahearn was born at the Mater Hospital at St Leonards, Sydney on 30 May 1944. He lived with our parents, Noel and Norma, at 55 Kimberley Avenue Lane Cove.
We both attended Lane Cove Primary School until the family moved to Eastwood.
Alan attended Epping Boys High School until he left to undertake a carpenter apprenticeship prior to enlisting in the Army in 1961.
He joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) after Recruit Training at Kapooka.
He served in Vietnam with 1 RAR from June 1965 to June 1966 as a Signaller.
The battalion arrived at Bien Hoa Air Base in June and was placed under the command of the US Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, becoming the first Australian unit to serve in a US formation.
He returned with 1 RAR from Vietnam and after completing promotion courses joined 8 RAR at Enoggera, Queensland in late 1966, On the 24 August 1967, 8 RAR was sent to Malaysia where the battalion formed part of the 28th Independent Commonwealth Infantry Brigade which also included New Zealand Army and British Army units.
8 RAR returned to Enoggera in April 1969 and began intensive training ahead of being deployed to South Vietnam on 17 November 1969.
The Ulitmate Sacrifice
Between April and June 1970 the Battalion conducted Operation Nugee in the eastern part of Phuoc Tuy Province.
It was during that Operation, as platoon sergeant of 12 platoon D Company 8 RAR, he was leading a half platoon of men following up on a small enemy group. As night fall approached the platoon moved into an ambush position along a track.
Alan moved from his position to advise the rear gun crew what time he and his platoon signaller would do gun and radio picket with them when he tripped a mine.
Alan wore the full blast and was critically injured; members of the machine gun crew were wounded as was his signaller.
The Dust-Off helicopter was called for and despite the difficulties due to light, foliage and terrain the aircraft, flown by a United States pilot with Australian medical staff on board, was able to land and evacuate the injured.
The helicopter had the injured at 1st Australian Field Hospital Vung Tau in around 20 minutes.
However, due to the extent of Alan’s wounds, he was immediately flown to the 24th US Evacuation Hospital Long Binh.
Sadly Alan passed away on 14 May 1970 aged 25 years.
Alan’s body was repatriated to Australia.
His funeral was conducted at St Andrews church in Lane Cove – he is buried at the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium.
Thank you for the opportunity to remember Alan, the other five hundred and twenty (520) who died and more than three thousand (3000) who were wounded during the Vietnam War.
Prepared by Graeme Davis from material provided by Ian Ahearn and Denis Morris
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