BIRCH Graham Douglas
30663, Captain, Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment.
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) military New Zealand Gazette Number 57 dated 3 October 1966 Prior to his arrival in the Republic of Vietnam in July 1965 Captain Graham Douglas Birch held the appointment of Adjutant 16 Field Regiment, RNZA. In this and his subsequent employment as Unit Emplaning Officer and Observation Post Officer he was responsible for the detailed planning for the formation and movement of 161 Battery RNZA to Vietnam. His aptitude for organisation produced a unique airmobile battery which has proved highly efficient and flexible in all circumstances. His attention to detail and enthusiasm as Unit Emplaning Officer ensured the very successful air movement of the Battery from New Zealand, the first time an operational unit of the New Zealand Army had been so deployed. He carried out his duties as Observation Post Officer from 1 July 1965 to January 1966 with a high degree of professional skill, enthusiasm and complete disregard for his own personal safety or comfort, but always with concern for his fellow soldiers and those he was supporting. In January 1966 he assumed the appointment of Battery Captain at very short notice and again displayed his versatility in this exacting post, which entailed extensive duties involving detailed planning and organisation within the framework of 173rd Airborne Brigade, US Army, both at the unit base and whist the Battery was deployed in the field. In this his ardent zeal contributed very materially to the efficiency of the Battery. His devotion to duty, loyalty and leadership were an inspiration to all who worked with him. His good humour and cheerfulness, particularly in times of stress, contributed greatly to the high morale of the Battery and won for him the high regard and respect of all ranks. The example set by Captain Birch is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery and reflects great credit upon himself, his Regiment and the
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) military
New Zealand Operational Service Medal
Queens Vietnam Medal
New Zealand General Service Medal (warlike)
New Zealand Armed Forces Award and Bar
New Zealand Defence Service Medal
Vietnam Star Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (USA)
Cross of Gallantry with Palm Citation (Vietnam)
Born 20 March 1940 Auckland, New Zealand
Died 16 March 2013 Tauranga, New Zealand
Cremated at Tauranga Cemeteries and Crematorium, Tauranga
Graham was born on the 20th March 1940 and lived for the first thirteen years of his life at Devonport, attending Devonport School. His father was a serving soldier and the family moved to Waiouru in 1953 where Graham attended Ohakune District High School (to become Ruapehu College in 1955), matriculating in 1956.
He entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in January 1957, graduating as a Lieutenant into the RNZA in December 1960. His military career covered a wide range of operational, command, administrative, management, training and diplomatic appointments, up to his retirement in 1996.
Following his Young Officers' Course at the RAA School of Artillery, North Head Sydney, Graham was posted to 161 Bty as Troop Commander A Tp. 1962 saw him as GPO 161 and 1963 an OPO. He was appointed Adjt 16 Fd Regt in 1964, an appointment he relinquished in June 1965 to join 161 Bty as a FO on the Btys initial deployment to Vietnam. The Bty at that stage was attached as the third Bty of the US 3/319 FA Bn of the 173rd Abn Bde, primarily in support of the Australian 1 RAR.
Graham served as an FO up to Operation Crimp in Jan 66, when 1 RAR landed on top of a section of the Cu Chi tunnels, flushing out the HQ of the Vietcong Military Region 4. He then served as BK 161 until he returned to NZ in March 1966 to assume an appointment of IG at the School of Artillery. Graham was appointed MBE for his service in Vietnam. ERE appointments followed – GSO2 HQ ATG and then MA to the CGS. He attended the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham and then the Staff College Camberley Sep 69 to Dec 70, and was posted back to NZ as the GSO2 HQ LSG. Regimental postings followed – BC 161 Bty and then 2IC 16 Fd Regt, and then to HQ Home Comd as a Lt Col AQMG. His only other active RNZA appointment was as Director (DRNZA) 1982-84.
Graham commanded at every rank level from Lieutenant to Brigadier. Non ERE key appointments were as a Lt Col commanding the Waiouru Training Depot, as a Col commanding the 2nd Task Force Region / 2 Bde and then the Army Training Group, Waiouru, and as a Brig commanding Support Command. He served as DCGS (now DCA) 1989 to 1992 and then as the Military Adviser at the NZ High Commission in Canberra from 1992 to 1996.
Following his retirement Graham purchased a 2ha life style block in Omokoroa where he and his wife, Janine, built their own home and now grow walnuts. He was very proud to be appointed Colonel Commandant of our Regiment from 2004 to 2010, a wonderful culmination to his RNZA career.
Graham passed away on 16 March 2013. He is survived by his wife, Janine, their three adult children and eight grandchildren.