Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published July 28th 2016
Telling the Story of our People in the Vietnam War
Most people think of Phillip Island as fairy penguins and koalas, but it is also home to the National Vietnam Veterans Museum. The largest dedicated museum of its kind in Australia it will appeal to adults and children alike. They have planes and helicopters here, tanks and guns, some astonishingly good models and dioramas and a cafe.
There is so Much to See (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Adjacent the carpark a Navy Tracking plane is displayed and behind that a hulking Caribou, newly arrived in July of 2016 and yet to be reassembled.
Inside, a large army tent houses a sound and light show. On a stage set with photos and props a holographic man presents the story of Australia's involvement in Vietnam. Don't miss this, it is hands down the best holographic museum presentation I have ever seen.
A Recently Arrived Caribou Awaiting Reassembly (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Follow the left hallway for displays including weaponry, medals, models of tanks and ships and dioramas depicting war bases and activities. The detail in the dioramas will astonish you and we can only wonder at the hours of work involved. We are told that in each diorama there is some tiny politically incorrect detail. In one a painting of a splattered cat sits in the tread tracks of a tank. In another amongst the many tiny figures on a ship, two sailors are holding hands. Will you be able to spot them, you will need a keen eye.
One of the Detailed Dioramas Depicting Life at War (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In the main hall an open parachute hangs from the roof. A Centurion Tank fills a corner, a Howitzer points skyward. Huey, Cobra and Sioux Helicopters are displayed with open doors. Take a look inside. Here are the choppers so often seen in the movies and on TV, here where you can stand beside them and get a real sense of their size. Glass cases house a wide array of model aircraft.
A Huey Helicopter (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Check a cutaway model of Viet Cong tunnels. See photos of men entering these tiny spaces and models of the booby traps they could encounter there. The museum displays are not just war artefacts, they are the stories of life at war in Vietnam.
In a display case, a ballot box and ballot balls attest to the controversial years of conscription when a Lotto like draw called our boys to compulsory national service. They were known as Nashos.
A Wessex Helicopter (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In an area walled off from the main hall, in front of the workshop get a look at a Canberra Bomber, (wings off) and a rather large Wessex helicopter. There is also a Bofors gun, a Mutt jeep and a model of HMAS Sydney.
The Main Hall with the Sound and Light Show Tent in the Foreground (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
A mezzanine floor above the main hall houses a significant collection of paintings depicting the Vietnam War. In one section are a selection of newspaper cartoons from the era. Cameras, projectors and radio equipment are displayed here. There is even a shaver from the times.
Personal Stories Line the Walls (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In the shop, where you will also find the Nui Dat Café, there is a surprising number of books about the Vietnam War. If you want more information this is the place to find it. Souvenirs are also on sale, of course they are. I couldn't resist a letter opener with a bullet casing handle.
Displays change from time to time and volunteers are on hand to chat. Many are themselves Vietnam Veterans. They have interesting stories to tell, spend some time with them.
The Museum at Newhaven next to the Phillip Island Airport (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The National Vietnam Veterans Museum is at 25 Veterans Drive, Newhaven, (on Phillip Island). It is open 10am to 5pm daily except Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. They can be contacted via their website or by telephone on (03) 5956 6400. Tickets can be purchased at the counter or via the website. Costs (July 2016) are Adults $15, Children to 15 years $10, Children under 5 Free, Family $40, and Seniors $12.