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38853 Captain/Lt.Col Edward Heffernan

WO Bob Thompson, Art Armt
Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson

Captain Edward Heffernan (Doctor/Surgeon) always was an adventurous soul he grew up testing himself and wanting to be of use to other people. He was always going to be a Surgeon. He was well educated and went off to University seeking his goal. He seen adventure in the armed forces, so he joined the Army Undergraduate scheme in his 5th year of Med school, 1963. The government paid his fees, books and instruments and a wage for his final 2 years and as an intern doubled his pay.

He then as a repayment, had to give 4 years full time service, in reality he gave the rest of his working life in service to his country. He was fully aware of Vietnam and seen this as a challenge and a chance at first hand to put his surgical talents to good use and get practical knowledge to further his skills. He volunteered for service in Vietnam and was fortunate enough that on the 22May1966 seen Captain Edward Heffernan on his way to join 2nd Field Ambulance at Vung Tau Vietnam.

Doctor Ted when he wasn’t attending to his duties with the soldiers he was helping with civil aid in that he, with an interpreter would visit Vietnamese villages and offer his skilled services. He visited Hoa Long, Baria orphanage  and helped a village as far away on the north western side of the Vung Tau Peninsula called Nam Binh as well as others where there was plenty of village people requiring his expertise. This was done in conjunction with the MCAP (Medical Civic Action Program) set up by the Australian government.

July 66 saw him take over the command of the Forward Detachment at Nui Dat where he was responsible for the health and well being of the 1st Australian Taskforce.


On the 18August1966, Ted  watched the concert that included Little Pattie and Col Joye and as the concert was getting towards the end, the Artillery started firing their 105mm Howitzers in earnest, so everyone knew there was something big going on. The day before Nui Dat had been mortared both in the morning and again that night. It was estimated that about 100 rounds had fallen on the Task Force. One soldier had been killed and a young Captain had his leg blown off and Capt. Ted had to attend to them both.

Doctor Heffernan knew by the rate of fire from the guns there was something big going on so he wandered over to the Fire Control Centre and listened to the urgent radio messages being relayed from the Artillery Forward Fire Control officer who was with Delta Company out at Long Tan, he was directing the fall of shot. He heard Major Harry Smith, the Commanding Officer call for ammunition and he knew they were in big trouble. Next thing the two Helicopters that bought up the `concert party took off in a atrocious monsoon storm heading to Long Tan to drop ammo. Dr Ted knew he could be required when the stoush was over so he went back to his medical station and fired up the boiler that had his medical instruments in it so as to sterilise them.


All the Australian wounded, some 25 were evacuated direct by chopper to Vung Tau hospital. The North Vietnamese Battalion lost 245 dead that were left behind and there was 3 North Vietnam, VC, survivors. These were wounded with shrapnel and bullet wounds, they were handcuffed and bought to Capt. Ted Heffernan's 2 Fd Amb Forward Detachment at Nui Dat by M113 APC's. (Armoured Personnel Carrier) he had to operate and patch them up. He told me that he treated them exactly as he would any soldier that required his medical skills.

VC Wounded
VC Later

When Capt Ted got a spare moment he would, along with an interpreter carry out Medcaps, he would visit a village and give medical checks on all the village people and where possible remedy problems. He did this right through his stint in Vietnam.

December 1966 Capt Heffernan was posted as The RMO of 1 FD Regt where he seen out his tour of duty returning to Australia on the 7 May 1967.  Captain Edward Heffernan then took a posting to Malaya and Singapore being discharged in 1969.

Doctor/Surgeon Edward Heffernan has spent the rest of his life in service to his country Australia and to his fellow man. He served in the Solomon Islands, again attached to the Army based in Moliana, East Timor where he was granted the rank of Lt. Colonel, he served in Banda Aceh after the Tsunami always as a Surgeon and always teaching at the same time. When the big earthquake struck Mussafrabad he was called their. Later he was asked to go to North Pakistan up near the Afghan Border where once again his expertise as a surgeon was required.

He settled back in Geelong Victoria and carried out his surgical work at the Geelong Hospital and other hospitals as required. Recently he retired. He is kept busy not only with his family but with his many Army service duties as a Patron. He is currently the Patron of 2 Fd Ambulance Association as well as the Geelong Vietnam Veteran’s Australian Association.

I certainly can’t do justice to his life story in this article it is only a brief look into his service to his country and to his fellow man/woman.

Roll of Honour

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