Poignant spiritual homecoming for Manly VIETNAM VETERAN – after 50 years

27-May-2016

For Immediate Release: 


Poignant spiritual homecoming for Manly VIETNAM VETERAN – after 50 years The name of an Australian soldier who gave his life serving the Nation during the Vietnam War is finally to be inscribed on the Manly War Memorial and blessed - 50 years after his death and on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. 

Warrant Officer Ronald Lees’s name will be the 484th to be inscribed on the Manly War Memorial - and the fourth only name of a Vietnam Veteran. 

The dedication and blessing ceremony for Warrant Officer Ronald Lees will undoubtedly be a moving highlight of this year’s Northern Beaches Council’s Vietnam Veterans commemorative service to be held at the Manly War Memorial (corner of The Corso and Belgrave Street, Manly) on Thursday, 18 August 2016. 

Organised in conjunction with the Sydney Northern Beaches Sub-Branch of the NSW National Servicemen’s Association & Affiliates Inc, this year’s Vietnam Veterans commemorative service will also commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, the most famous battle fought by the Australian troops during the Vietnam War.

Between 1962 and 1973, almost 60,000 Australian men and women served in the Vietnam War, including Army, Air Force and Navy personnel, of whom 521 died and more than 3,000 were wounded. 

Warrant Officer Lees was the sixth Australian adviser - and the 25th Australian soldier overall – who died while on active service in Vietnam. 

He first enlisted in the Army for two years in 1947 and was stationed at the School of Artillery at North Head. 

While studying gunnery at North Head, Mr Lees met Genevieve Thorpe and the couple married in Manly in 1948 and lived in nearby Brookvale. 

In May 1952 he re-enlisted in the Army and later served during the Malayan Emergency and then in the Vietnam War, where he gave his life in 1966. 

He was due to return to Australia in mid-1966 – but died after being shot by a sniper in Quang Nam Province. 

Of the 521 Australian service personnel who were killed in Vietnam, the bodies of 25 men did not come home – 24 being buried in the Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia and one in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore. Warrant Officer Lees was one of the 24 men buried at Terendak. 

In May last year, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the repatriation of all 25 men, should their families wish it. 

“Many of our Vietnam Veterans returned to this country, their duty done with skill and courage, only to have their service overlooked amid the great controversies that engulfed the conflicts in Indochina,” said Northern Beaches Council General Manager, Mark Ferguson. 

“However, today, Australians have learned to more fully appreciate the great contribution our Vietnam Veterans made to help preserve our freedom and to advance the cause of democracy in the Asia-Pacific region. For that we owe them a great debt.” 

“This touching service of thanks and commemoration will be the culmination of an especially poignant time of ‘homecoming’ for Warrant Officer Ronald Lees and his family, in spirit as much as in body.” 

The service will start at 11.00am at the Manly War Memorial, corner of The Corso and Belgrave Street, Manly, directly opposite Manly Ferry Wharf. 

The public is welcome to attend and lay a wreath at the service. 

Authorised by
General Manager, Mark Ferguson: 
Deputy General Manager, Henry T Wong: 

Contacts: Deputy General Manager, Henry T Wong: Phone 9976 1501 Communication Officer, Chris Parsons: Phone 9976 1510