Attitudes toward Red Cross - Avis Wilkes

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Extract from an interview with Helen Frizzell, 6 May 2010

Reproduced with permission of Avis Wilkes

So, did you often travel alone?


Were there any other incidents that come to mind?

I had one incident, and it was in the October, and they were having elections in Vietnam at that stage, and it was a fairly volatile stage. And I had gone into the town. You see I would go and do shopping for the soldiers for, can't remember. I mean there was a certain amount of stuff you could buy on the base where we were, I, I don't really remember. But I would go in and I would shop for things and, yeah, it was just quite, I used to enjoy going into town and I knew a few of the bar girls and, and some of the, you know we got....And we were recognised as Red Cross and they very much respected the Red Cross.

How? Was that to do with the uniform or the vehicle?

Oh, our vehicle was a white Land Rover with a red cross on the side, and it had ‘Uc Dai Loy' and ‘Tan Tay Lan', which means New Zealand and Australia [Australian and New Zealander]. So, they, the people knew us. And I had gone into the town this particular day for something. And I parked in an area, just on an open bit of street I think, sort of an open space, and went off to do what ever I was doing. And when I came back there were a number of other vehicles around that were all burning. And they'd fire bombed them. And, as I say, it was a very volatile atmosphere because of the elections that were coming up. And I can't remember, the General [Nguyen Cao] Ky and the, whoever was the President and the rest of it then. And, there were a group of locals who were standing round my vehicle guarding it for me. And they basically escorted me into it and off, so that I got away safely. And that was really quite a remarkable thing because there were all these other vehicles that were all alight.

So generally, the locals attitude to you being Red Cross then?

Yes, I think they, they had a very, very strong Red Cross movement in Vietnam. And they knew that we were, supposedly neutral, although we were attached, you know, based with the army. But I think they had – I never, ever experienced any animosity or anything.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

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