Looking for the ideal gift for a mate or your Dad – how about bundling up copies of Tunnel Rats and A Sappers War?
Tunnel Rats was all about how a small group of Sappers (Army engineers) under co-author Sandy MacGregor’s command, were the first Allied troops to actually go down into the Vietcong tunnels, discovering the underground city at Cu Chi.
A Sappers War expands the story and describes how the engineers lived up to their unofficial motto Facimus et Frangimus ‘We make and we break’ throughout the rest of the Vietnam War by doing everything from blowing up enemy bunkers to building bridges, and clearing mines to digging wells for the local people. At the same time they were also combat soldiers, often patrolling ahead of the forward scouts as they detected and dealt with booby traps, land mines and IEDs. It was here that the Sappers changed their way of working, developed over hundreds of years, to adapt to the specific challenges of Vietnam. Rather than work as one big unit, they were broken down into splinter teams and mini-teams of two and attached to units of armour, tanks and infantry, to deal with booby-traps and landmines, bunkers and, of course, tunnels. It’s a system still used to this day in combat zones like Afghanistan
But they also did the big stuff, building roads, clearing jungle, laying mines and – when the folly of one huge minefield was realised – digging them back up again. No wonder they suffered the highest casualty rate of any Australian forces in the entire war.
We’ve already had a much better response from the blokes who were there, even than Tunnel Rats, which was pretty well received.