This is the story of Ronald Frederick Holden.
It details how an individual can convince the Department of Defence, 42 years on, that he had qualifying active service in the Republic of South Vietnam, following an alleged tropical cruise to Vung Tau, for a few days, as a guest of the Commander of HMAS Derwent.
His story has only been published after careful deliberation, examination of current records, enquiries with Honours and Awards, Canberra, the Department of Defence and communicating with Ronald Frederick Holden himself on numerous occasions over the past couple of months.
It is complex, a little long, but we hope that our readers can understand the issues involved and the facts uncovered.
From Holden, we have been given the run around, stalling tactics, false information, and an incredible tall story of a 50 calibre machine gun manning, Australian Army 2nd Lieutenant, officially on deck, and officially on duty, in Vung Tau Harbour, South Vietnam, defending the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship HMAS Derwent, from enemy attack, whilst she lay at anchor.
Originally, ANZMI received information from concerned former servicemen, who reside in the Cairns area of North Queensland, Australia. Their concern was that a photograph of Holden had appeared on social media wearing Vietnam medals and the Returned from Active Service Badge, when he had no entitlement to do so. (Photo above.)
At the initial stage of our inquiries, we had been given advice from Mr Alex Garlin, President of the Queensland National Serviceman’s Association, (NSA), that Ronald Frederick Holden, who is on the “Nasho Roll” Queensland, as a Vietnam Veteran, was accredited on their records, with Vietnam War service awards.
The below document is the official National Serviceman’s roll, and is dated the 16 November 2016. It is compiled by administrative members of the National Serviceman’s Association, following information they receive from applicants, who have completed application forms, providing their particulars of military service and medals awarded.
In this case, former Australian Army 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Frederick Holden.
Name Holden , Ronald Frederick
Service Number 1736273
Rank 2nd Lieutenant
Date of Birth 20 06 1947
Place of Birth Cairns Qld
Date of Intake 28/1/1970
NS Training 3 T B
Follow Up Training 6 RAR Singapore Platoon Commander
Basic Training Singleton NSW
Next of Kin at time of Service Mr Holden
Operational Service Vietnam
Medals AASM 45-75 / Vietnam Medal / ADM /ANSM / Vietnamese Campaign Medal
On the application form, Holden has notified the National Serviceman’s Association, that he was a 2nd Lieutenant 6 RAR Singapore Platoon Commander. He also claims "Operational Service Vietnam".
In regards to medal entitlement, Holden then detailed in his application that he has been awarded the -;
AASM 1945 – 1975 Vietnam Medal/ ADM/ ANSM/ Vietnamese Campaign Medal. (Should be Vietnam Campaign Medal)
Note.- Vietnam Medal.
Qualifying service for the Vietnam Medal for the relevant period 29 May 1964 to 27 January 1973 includes:
• 28 days in ships or craft on inland waters or off the coast of Vietnam;
• one day or more on the posted strength of a unit or formation on land;
• one operational sortie over Vietnam or Vietnamese waters by air crew on the posted strength of a unit; or
• official visits either continuous or aggregate of 30 days.
Note - Vietnam Campaign Medal is awarded for 181 days or more service in the Republic of South Vietnam.
Following our initial contact with Alex Garlin, he informed us that he had then made inquiries from Holden’s service records and ascertained that Holden was not really a Vietnam Veteran at all, but must have had his name and medals placed on the roll by his staff in error.
Garlin stated that he then adjusted his records accordingly, and removed all reference of Holden’s Vietnam service and medal entitlements. Garlin has now told us however, that Holden is indeed a Vietnam Veteran and served for a short time in Vietnam. He has now re-adjusted his records again ! It is clear there has been communication between Garlin and Holden, following our initial contact.
Interestingly though, when we initially contacted Holden, regarding the particulars he supplied to the National Serviceman's Association, (NSA) he confirmed all the information, but stated that he may not be entitled to the Vietnam Campaign Medal. (For 181 days service in South Vietnam or S.V waters.). He also claimed that they omitted to place on their records the fact that he attended Scheyville Officer Cadet Unit, information that he had also provided.
Ronald Frederick Holden was born on the 20 June, 1947. He completed an Engineering Degree at Queensland University. In 1970, at age 22, Holden was conscripted into the Australian Army under the provisions of the National Service Act. The normal age for conscription was 20 years. Holden was deferred for 2 years due to his studies. He attended 3 Recruit Training Battalion (3RTB) at Singleton, New South Wales. He extended his two year commitment by six months and was discharged on the 27th July, 1972.
During 1970, Holden attended Scheyville, an Officer Training Unit in New South Wales, where he underwent further training. He graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was then posted to 6 Battalion RAR , at Townsville, North Queensland.
In the above photograph Holden is wearing the following medals.
1. Australian Active Service Medal 1945 – 1975. With clasp Vietnam (AASM.) Not entitled
2. Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal. (VLSM.) Not entitled.
3. Australian Service Medal 1945 – 1975 with clasp South East Asia. Entitled.
4. Australian Defence Medal. (ADM.) Entitled.
5. Anniversary of National Service Medal. (NSM) Entitled.
He is also wearing the Returned from Active Service Badge (RASB) above his medal rack. He is not entitled to wear this badge.
The name of Ronald Frederick Holden does not appear, and has never appeared on the Vietnam Nominal Roll, Australian War Memorial, Canberra. This roll has been available for public knowledge since 1998.
We made inquiries with 6 Battalion RAR Association. We were informed that Holden was a 2nd Lieutenant, Platoon Commander in Singapore, during his time with the Battalion. However, he did not serve in an official capacity in Vietnam with 6 Battalion RAR, or any other Infantry Battalion during his time in the Australian Army.
We have been reliably informed that Holden has indicated to others that he served in Vietnam about May, 1972. He has also varied this story and indicated that he served for only 3 days in Vietnam. Even this statement flies in the face of his claim to the Vietnam Campaign Medal, which is awarded after serving a minimum 181 days or more, in South Vietnam.
In fairness, we contacted Holden and invited him to provide us with details of his Vietnam War service, dates, Unit, Commanding Officer etc. A simple request. He told us that he was on holidays in Vietnam at the current time and he could not provide any answers until he arrives home in late December, 2016.
Following a further request, he stated that whilst based in Singapore with 6 Battalion RAR, he volunteered for service in Vung Tau (Vietnam) for a "particular operation". He states that he then went to Vung Tau in May, 1972, from Singapore.
The problem with this “particular operation” in Vietnam, is that the last Battalion of Australian Infantry left Vietnam on the 7 November, 1971. A handful of Australian Army Advisors and Signallers of the Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam AAAGV, remained in Vietnam until late 1972. A few Infantry personnel also stayed on in Saigon as security for the Australian Embassy
Importantly though, 1 Australian Logistic Support Group Base (1ALSG) at Vung Tau, where Holden claims he went in May, 1972, was vacated and closed in late February - March, 1972. What was left of the Australian Army 1ALSG component had departed. They had boarded HMAS Sydney for home. This was two months before Holden claims he went there on a “particular operation", in May 1972.
FROM DVA WEBSITE. AUSTRALIAN MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN VIETNAM WAR - TIME FRAME.
5 March: The last units of 1ALSG depart Vung Tau. Australia’s commitment to South Vietnam is now limited to about 150 troops of the AATTV and Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam (AAAGV).
Holden’s name also does not appear on the Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam Roll - AAAGV, that remained in Vietnam from 6 March, 1972 until the 18 December, 1972. Also, he was never a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. AATTV
In a follow up email to ANZMI he stated -;
"If DoD (Department of Defence) have stuffed up in awarding me something I am not entitled to, let’s let them explain that to us both. From what you say, I may not be entitled to the Vietnam Campaign Medal and if this is the case they will be able to confirm that. I need the file reference to be able to contact them and I do not have that with me".
Holden was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Australian Army. The Vietnam Roll has been available to the public on line now for almost 20 years. It is accurate. He would know that his name has never appeared on it in all that time. He now says that he MAY NOT be entitled to the Vietnam Campaign Medal (181 days service in Vietnam) and he is now blaming the Department of Defence. He knows that he was never entitled to that award.
Holden must have been concerned about what he had told us, and he then sent another email to ANZMI claiming that -;
"The operation to which I was attached was the withdrawal of an RAE unit by the RAN. I was assigned to HMAS Derwent to provide assistance to the RAN through and under the command of its Captain, Cdr McNaught. My main duty on board was to man one of the 50 cal machine guns whilst we were in the war zone including in Vung Tau harbour and to assist the skipper in any other way that he directed. My service was later certified by Cdr McNaught. I do not have the dates with me but I recall that the operation is on the public record somewhere.
I have not committed my discharge date to memory but it was late July 1972. I have a record of this at home but I do not think that it mentions the above. Many years later someone advocated that I apply for my medal entitlements which I did and I believe that I allowed DoD to determine what my entitlements were, if any. That is how I ended up with what I have".
So here we have a 2nd Lieutenant in the Australian Army - 6 Battalion RAR based in Singapore, seemingly ending up on HMAS Derwent in Vung Tau Harbour, whose main duty was manning a 50 calibre machine gun in May, 1972. Also, the last recorded visit to Vung Tau by HMAS Derwent was 6 - 8 November, 1971. It is also surprisingly apparent that there was no Derwent crew member qualified to man the ships 50 calibre machine gun, so Army 2nd Lieutenant Ron Holden was recruited from the Army in Singapore to travel with the ship to Vung Tau Harbour.
Another problem for Holden in his story is that there was indeed a Lieutenant Donald McNaught, (Vietnam Nominal Roll), Seaman Branch, who served on the Derwent from the 4 November, 1971 to the 8 November, 1971, (4 days) , calculated from the time Derwent left Singapore until it returned to Singapore. However, McNaught was not the Ship's Captain, and he certainly should not have signed anything to certify Holden's alleged operational Vietnam service. Holden's assertion that Lieutenant McNaught was the Commander of Derwent is a lie.
The Ship's Commander from 1971 until early June, 1972 was Commander Rory W. Burnett. He was replaced by Commander Malcolm D. Jackson about the 2nd June, 1972. (Derwent's Report of Proceedings.)
The below information is from Wikipedia.
- After spending the early part of 1971 on training exercises in Australian waters, Derwent sailed to South East Asia in June. In late September, Derwent met Sydney en route to Vietnam for the ship's twenty-second time, delivering a cargo of defence aid and recovering equipment and personnel from multiple units during 6 to 8 October. Derwent returned home late in the year, and visited multiple Australian ports before docking at Williamstown for refit. The refit continued until March 1972, and Derwent remained in Australian waters until August, when a four-month deployment to South East Asia commenced. In addition to port visits and SEATO exercises, Derwent and HMAS Brisbane took part in the first Australian-Indonesian naval exercise in November.
Note. The dates Wikipedia have detailed regarding Derwent's visit to Vung Tau Harbour from the 6 - 8 October 1971 are incorrect. Derwent did not visit Vung Tau in October, 1971. The last recorded visit to Vung Tau Harbour by Derwent was the 4 - 8 November, 1971. On this occasion the ship accompanied the HMAS Sydney. Derwent anchored in Vung Tau Harbour at 6.45am on the 6 November, 1971 and departed 16 hours later at 11pm that night.
Derwent was nowhere near Vietnam in May, 1972. Holden's assertions are lies.
*** If however, we accept the fact that Holden has his dates wrong, and he allegedly visited Vung Tau Harbour on Derwent’s last deployment between 4 - 8 November, 1971, (6 months earlier), the following information, some of which he provided to us, must be taken into consideration.
1. From Holden - He initially informed us by email that when he was on Derwent, it accompanied HMAS Melbourne to Vung Tau Harbour. That is false, the Melbourne never went to Vung Tau Harbour.
2. From Holden - As a 2nd Lieutenant in the Australian Army, he was ordered to man a 50 calibre machine gun on Derwent, whilst the ship was in Vung Tau Harbour.
3.. FACT - He was never a crew member of this ship.
4. From Holden - He claims that another Army Officer was with him, but he cannot be contacted to verify anything, because he is suffering from PTSD over this visit.
5. From Holden - He knows two former Brigadier Generals who can verify his story, but they are in their eighties now. He cannot contact them as they deserve their quiet time.
6. From Holden - His Commanding Officer, who provided written confirmation to him of his Vietnam active service was Commander McNaught.
7. FACT - A Lieutenant McNaught served on the Derwent at the time. Commander Rory Burnett was the Commander, and Captain of the ship.
8. FACT - There are no official records available of Holden’s trip to Vung Tau, including his personal Service Record or Discharge Certificate, which he claims he has lost.
9. FACT - There is a “HMAS Derwent Record of Ships Proceedings for the month of November, 1971”, where Commander Rory Burnett indicates that several unnamed members of the Australian Army were on board his ship for the trip to Vung Tau as a “reciprocal gesture” for the Army, jungle training some of his sailors in Singapore. He states, that a small number of Army personnel were permitted to land briefly to visit Army installations.
FACT -This was not an official "Staff visit or inspection of Australian Forces or equipment in Vietnam" as required by Department of Defence for operational service. Any claim that it was, is false.
10. FACT - Holden was not “allotted for Duty” to a Unit, or as an individual to the operational theatre of South Vietnam. Any claim that he was, is also false.
11. FACT - At the most, he would be classified as a guest of Commander Burnett, due to the “reciprocal gesture”.
12. FACT - He was never posted to Vietnam for a “particular operation” as he has claimed. That is also a lie.
13. FACT - We asked Holden to provide us with evidence that should appear on his discharge certificate, detailing the number of active service days accredited to him on that certificate?
14 From Holden - inter alia, I do not have my discharge certificate. I have moved many times over the last 44 years, and it is the only thing that has gone missing.
15 FACT - Holden’s presence on a tropical voyage, if he did go at all , as a guest of Commander Burnett, was not known by the Department of Defence until 2013, following his application for the AASM 1945-1975, the VLSM, and the RASB.
16. FACT - These trips were commonly known and described by Army personnel during the Vietnam War as "Swannies" or "Junkets".
17. FACT - Therefore, 42 years later, Holden must have arranged some written documentation from "someone", that he was either force assigned or allotted for duty to South Vietnam as an individual, for his application to be accepted, and Vietnam medals awarded.
18. FACT - If this has occurred then one could conclude, that something has taken place, perhaps a conspiracy, by Holden and others, to falsify or embellish his role, e.g. to place him on official duty, in a War Zone, manning a HMAS Derwent 50 calibre machine gun, in order for him to receive those medals and the RASB, from Department of Defence, with all the ensuing Department of Veterans Affairs active service benefits, including service and disability pensions etc, that he will be now eligible to claim for life.
For example, his unnamed Army Officer colleague, who Holden cannot now contact because of his PTSD, caused by this "Swannie."
19. FACT Holden, on request, has failed to provide ANZMI with any supporting documentation from Lieutenant McNaught, or anyone else that confirms his alleged visit to Vung Tau Harbour, Vietnam.
On the 15 December, 2016, Holden sent the following email to ANZMI following his return from his overseas holiday -;
I am home and I have opened my file to be reminded that I have not been awarded the Vietnam Campaign Medal or the Vietnam Medal. I do not have copies of them. I could therefore never have worn them. I have also checked my actual full size and miniature medals and they are correct.
Amazing! In December, 2016, Holden has finally realised that he was never awarded and has no entitlement to the Vietnam Campaign Medal or the Vietnam Medal. (As per the National Serviceman’s application information he provided).
However, he continues to claim operational Vietnam service.
On the 19 December, 2016, he sent the following email and attachment to ANZMI -;
I have never shared this letter before since I regard it as being private and personal to me. I have had to have it scanned since I got back to make this copy. I could not have sent it to you without the scan. Defence awarded these based on their own research but obviously failed to update the Nominal Roll. It is this information and that update that I am seeking from them.
Holden states that "Defence awarded these based on their own research but obviously failed to update the nominal roll" That statement is also not true. The Department of Defence awarded the medals and RASB, based on information that was provided to them by Holden. It was his responsibility to provide the proof, not the Department of Defence.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Repatriation Handbook specifies that -;
“Where the claimant contends that he was allotted for duty in an operational area , and this is not confirmed by his service documents, further information will need to be obtained from the relevant service”
As there was no confirmation of Vietnam service on the records of Holden, or his Discharge Certificate, Department of Defence have obviously awarded him the medals, and the RASB following false documentation submitted by Holden in the year 2013.
Holden by his actions, has contended that he was officially allotted for duty to Vietnam. If you disregard his ridiculous assertion, that his main duty was assignment to a 50 calibre machine gun for the entire time the ship was in harbour in the War Zone, then he had no other allotted duties to perform. He was not there for an official visit or inspection. He was not a HMAS Derwent crew member. He was there following an invitation by Commander Burnett as a good will gesture. Thats all.
ANZMI say documentation submitted by Holden is false and dishonest. He should not have been awarded the AASM 1945- 1975 and the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal (VLSM) by Department of Defence.
In a previous email to ANZMI, Holden categorically denies ever having claimed to have been a Platoon Commander in 6 Battalion RAR in Vietnam.
However, we located the following current document. -;
The below resume is from a Health Care Action Group website named COUCH WELLNESS CENTRE, based in Cairns, North Queensland.
Holden, who is a Director of this organisation, also claims on the Directors section of the website that he served for two years as a Pioneer Platoon Commander in the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in Townsville, Singapore/Malaysia and South Vietnam.
Ron Holden – Director Since 2013
Ron Holden was born in Cairns and attended the University of Queensland and completed a Bachelor of Engineering. After earning a commission at the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville in 1970, Ron Served for two years as a Pioneer Platoon Commander in the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Townsville, Singapore/Malaysia and South Vietnam.
Holden never served as a Platoon Commander 6 Battalion RAR in South Vietnam. That statement is also a lie.
We believe that Holden is entitled to wear the -;
1. Australian Service Medal 1945 – 1975 with clasp South East Asia, for 30 days or more peacetime service in Singapore.
2. The Australian Defence Force Medal,
3. Anniversary of National Service Medal.
He is not entitled to wear the rest, and if he has been officially awarded them, then he should hand them back. They were issued on false information provided by Holden to the Department of Defence.
In our last communication with Holden, he informed us that "one of the other 6RAR Officers who was on the same deployment has been awarded the same medals. He is being treated for PTSD and I will not be consulting with him either."
If you believe Holden, it must have been one traumatic trip. Manning machine guns in Vung Tau Harbour could cause all sorts of mental health problems. Especially when it was an in country Rest and Convalescence (R & C.) town for our genuine fighting troops.
We hope that the entire crew of Derwent, who were there at the same time, are not suffering identical effects as Holden's colleague from that traumatic visit.
Incidentally, Commander Rory Burnett in Derwent's Record of Proceedings, for that day, does not indicate that any traumatic incident occurred at all in the ships short 11 hour visit to Vung Tau Harbour.
We have notified Honours and Awards, Department of Defence, Canberra, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. They have advised us to also notify the Police with the factual evidence that we possess.
It is these Departments that should be commencing their own inquiries into investigating alleged evidence of outlandish false claims of "active service" by individuals or groups, We did it all on the public record.
So should they.
Holden is a shameless imposter, who has had the gall to apply for Vietnam Active Service Medals in 2013, that he knows he did not earn, 42 years beforehand.
As a former Commissioned Officer with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Australian Army, Holden should apologise to all his former colleagues in 6 Battalion RAR, the National Serviceman’s Association, Queensland, and everyone else he has treated with contempt, including his friends at COUCH WELLNESS CENTRE, for wearing unearned Vietnam campaign medals, the RASB, and claiming active service in South Vietnam, when, at the very most, he was a guest of Commander Burnett as a good will "gesture." His PTSD colleague should do the same.
Welcome to the site, former 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Frederick Holden, 6 Battalion RAR.