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They are the men who served in the Engineer Field Troops in Vietnam (3 Field Troop and 1, 2 and 3 Troop of 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers).

We believe our total number is somewhere around 700. For the bulk of the war there were three Troops, each of around 40 men, a total of 120 Tunnel Rats in Vietnam per year, for around five years, making 600, plus the first year when 3 Field Troop alone was there, with about 70 men.

Over the years there have been many “wannabes” and pretenders to the title “Tunnel Rat”, but it is only the men who served in those Field Troops who can justifiably carry that title. These are the men who went bush with the Amoured Corp and Infantry, staying out bush for four to six weeks, operating as Infanteers plus carrying out our specialist duties of mine and booby trap detection and clearing, tunnel and bunker searching and demolition, plus bomb disposal.

Apart from those few “lucky enough” to come across extensive enemy tunnel complexes, every member of the Field Troops would have gone underground to search, clear and destroy enemy bunker systems (often with bunkers inter-connected by small tunnels). It was not unusual to blow up over 100 enemy bunkers in a single operation.

The former members of the Engineer Field Troops are proud of their role in Vietnam and protective of the title “Tunnel Rat”, not only for themselves but also for their comrades who were killed or wounded in action. The casualty rate among us was exceptionally high (well over 30% in some years) and it is our duty to “keep the faith” by ensuring the validity of the men who carry the title today.

Click here to see a list of casualties from 1 Field Squadron RAE and 3 Field Troop RAE in Vietnam. Over 95% of these men were in the Field Troops, (and thus Tunnel Rats).

Some have said that this is all a bit elitist, but the Vietnam Tunnel Rats Association is simply an association of men who served in the Field Troops. These men had a unique job and they formed unique bonds through performing that job. Our association enables us to continue to enjoy the fellowship, foster the memories and honour our dead.

The lines defining this group were very clear in Vietnam and only became blurred back in Australia by some individuals and groups trying to label themselves “Tunnel Rats” on a spurious basis.

Our newsletter “Holdfast” has generated an exceptional amount of positive response and has reminded many of us of exactly what we did in Vietnam and how extraordinary that was. This in turn has restored the pride we deserve to have in the job we carried out all those years ago.