home | honour roll | people | deployment | operations
stories | sitemap | links

  The Black Scarves
    Victor Company went to Vietnam in May 1967 wearing a black cravat, or scarf, embroidered with a small white kiwi, as part of the "formal" dress uniform.

Strictly speaking it was a non-standard item of uniform but at that time 1st Battalion RNZIR, the parent unit in Malaya, was not well known for wearing only standard authorised uniform. Its Commanding Officer at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Matauru Poananga, was rather flexible in these matters.

In May 1966, the year before Vietnam, when the battalion relieved the 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry at Balai Ringin in Sarawak (Borneo), the Durhams presented 1 RNZIR with four of their stable belts; the green belt with two horizontal red stripes. These were then worn by the 1 RNZIR Commanding Officer, Adjutant, Regimental Sergeant Major, and Orderly Officer. Eventually the DLI stable belts were aquired for the whole battalion, and became a standard, but still unauthorised, item of uniform.

It eventually became authorised uniform for the whole of the Regular Force of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, which paved the way for the rest of the NZ Army to wear stable belts in Corps or Unit colours.

Similarly, 1 RNZIR adopted a dark green dacron uniform late '66 / early '67, and this too eventually became standard issue for the whole of the NZ Army.

In Borneo in 1966, the rifle companies wore coloured bands on their jungle hats as a means of recognising and identifying friendly forces in the jungle. The C Company band was black. As C Company, with D Company, formed the basis of the first Victor Company into Vietnam, black became the V Company colour, and the black cravat or scarf was designed.

The cravat was a common uniform embellishment in regiments in some armies, including the British Army, but not in the NZ Army.

On arrival in Vietnam the black cravat or scarf moved from being a formal dress item only, to an item worn on operations to distinguish Victor Company from the rest (mostly Australians). Our soldiers had the same flexible approach to uniform as their former Commanding Officer in Malaya. Of course this did not please the Australian commanders in Nui Dat, but that didn't influence matters in the least. It rarely did. So it was worn as a hat band or as a sweat rag, as the mood took the individual soldier.

Eventually, after some time in theatre, a recovered Viet Cong document was found to carry a warning to the Viet Cong to "beware of the black scarves".

Psychology is a most important ingredient of warfare, whether aimed at the enemy or the allies, or both.

home | honour roll | people | deployment | operations
stories | sitemap | links