In this sign ✟ he conquered - vale Padre Les Thompson, late of 6RAR incl Battle of Long Tan, SVN 1966
Vale Padre. Thank you for your service.
The boys are all back home now Padre.
Lest We Forget.
Padre Lester "Les" Thompson, 21 December 1928 to 26 July 2016 - pictured with 6RAR in SVN 1966, always with his flock.
'As a young lad I enlisted in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force ... I was a digger in 67 Battalion, located in the Hiroshima and upper hill country searching ammunition tunnels. In those days I never thought of Church but as an Anglican I was most impressed with the RC Padre who seemed to appear whenever we were on the move.'
Padre Thompson told Les McAuley (in 'The Battle of Long Tan', p 8) that he had put his age up from 16 to 19 in order to enlist. He returned to Australia and later became a Christian in 1956 'at the age of 28' and soon after joined the clergy. He was ordained in January 1963, and was given this Communion Set by his mother to mark the occasion. When serving at Grafton Cathedral in 1964, a parishioner made the box in which the kit is stored.
McAuley relates that Thompson was asked to join the Army Chaplain's Department in 1965 and 'was pleased to find on arrival in 6RAR that he knew a few officers and Warrant Offices from his own days as a digger'. Once at Nui Dat, Thompson usually carried the Communion set in an old Second World War knapsack (see main image above AWM image above where Thompson is resting his elbow on the set).
Chaplain Thompson was with 6RAR at the Nui Dat Base on 18 August 1966 during D Company's action at Long Tan and offered to travel with the A Company relief force to tend the wounded Australians on the battlefield. His offer was rejected by Lieutenant Colonel Townsend who was sure the APCs would bring the wounded back to the Task Force Headquarters. Ultimately the wounded were directly evacuated by Helicopter to 35 American Casavac Hospital at Vung Tau. Chaplain Thompson toured the battlefield the next morning and found 'dead bodies everywhere. As you jumped off the chopper, they were there. ... I was glad I was the Chaplain, I was sorry I was there. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else, but I wished I was a thousand miles away.'
He flew on by helicopter the next morning to visit the Australian wounded in hospital, 'then went back to write to the families of all the casualties'.
Here's reader Earl:
Just a call out for Chaplain Lester (Les) Thompson
Headquarters, 1st Australian Task Force
11/06/1966 to 11/12/1966
Royal Australian Army Chaplains Department
Padre Les Thompson passed away late on Tue 26 July in Brisbane, aged 87+.
Funeral tomorrow 29 July. Some reflections from http://2rar-association.net.
If my memory is any good, he was well regarded as a soldier before becoming a minister. I knew him as a Chaplain at Duntroon. Rest in Peace Padre
I remember Padre Les Thompson well. He was C of E and served us in 6RAR for the first six months of our tour (1966-67) during our heady introduction to Vietnam, with Long Tan and other serious battles with the Viet Cong previous to that, and others to come. In an earlier life Les Thompson had served as a digger in 67th Australian Infantry Battalion (later 3RAR) in Japan in 1946-47.
Les was at my company command post during the early stages of the Battle of Long Tan and together with me and my company headquarters staff listened in on several command net radios to the unfolding saga. Later that year during Operation Vaucluse in the Nui Dinh Mountains, on 10 September 1966, Les was with the Battalion in the field during heavy contact with the enemy and helped with administering to a very seriously wounded soldier of my company before he was lifted out in an heroic effort by a US Army Dustoff helicopter.
Les was an excellent Chaplain who understood and related well to the diggers, and indeed all ranks, and was a pleasant and amiable companion to all of us in that awful place that was Nui Dat. I am sorry to hear of his death and my condolences go to his family and friends.
Les was irrepressibly good-humoured and had a wonderful mischievous streak. He was very popular with the diggers and had served with 6 in Singapore as well as earlier in SVN. He and my first 2IC George Mansford were a treat to have around the HQ at any time. Amongst his very best friends in the Chaplains Dept were RC Chaplains Gerry Cudmore (deceased) and Eugene Harley (Hon Padre 2RAR) and it is recorded that they often got up to mischief together.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them
Lest We Forget
O Lord, we pray Thee that the soul of Thy priest,
Thy servant Padre Les, which, while he abode in this world,
Thou didst adorn with sacred gifts, may ever rejoice in a glorious place in heaven.
Requiescat In Pace
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.