DEPLOYED: Rod Bruce-Smith, Les Ray and Phil Hall all served at Butterworth in 1974.
DEPLOYED: Rod Bruce-Smith, Les Ray and Phil Hall all served at Butterworth in 1974. Contributed

Minster responds to Ipswich veterans' fight for recognition

A GROUP of veterans who lived for months with their guns loaded, fearing an enemy attack, are still fighting for recognition.

About 44 years ago, Rifle Company Butterworth was tasked to protect RAAF assets, including personnel, aircraft and facilities at Air Base Butterworth in Malaysia.

Pine Mountain Private Les Ray served between March 3 and June 4, 1974.

He and a committee of others asked the Federal Government to recognise their deployment as an operational one.

The deployment was classed as a peacetime garrison duty, but Pte Ray said there was an enemy threat, an expectation of casualties, live ammunition carried and rules of engagement.

Pte Ray and other veterans have written to politicians seeking a public inquiry into the service and classification of Rifle Company Butterworth.

This week he and fellow soldiers received a letter in response.

"It all virtually said the same thing... we were there for training," Pte Ray recalled.

"Despite the evidence we've presented they've ignored that."

A spokeswoman for Minister for Veterans' Affairs Darren Chester said the matter had been investigated.

"The classification of service at Butterworth over the period in question has been reviewed on a number of occasions, and each review has confirmed that it is appropriately classified as peacetime service," she said. The veterans' committee seeking recognition for the Butterworth deployment was formed in the late '90s, with most members serving at the base between 1971 and 1989.

"We came back and said that was not training - this was war service," Pte Ray said.

He again called on the government to recognise the "fully operational service" performed.