Surprise Family Reunion For Vietnam Veteran


When Captain (retd) Robert Leggo was surrounded by dozens of descendants in front of the cenotaph in Coraki, he likened the moment to a scene from The Godfather.

Thirty-three family members of the man affectionately known as Uncle Bob journeyed to the small rural town in NSW, catching the veteran by surprise on Anzac Day.

Within the family, four active and four retired personnel attended, while three others could not be present. Altogether, the family’s dedicated service boasts a combined total of 195 years.

Captain Leggo served at Nui Dat, Vietnam, in 1967 with the 101st Field Battery, 1 Field Regiment, and despite grappling with the effects of wartime service, he revealed glimpses of the spirited young larrikin he was.

His nephew, Air Force Warrant Officer Wayne Newby, said his Uncle Bob was a captivating storyteller and always ready with a joke to brighten the mood.

Warrant Officer Newby has fond memories of gathering around the slide projector as a young lad listening to Uncle Bob’s stories.

“When Uncle Bob was deployed to Vietnam, his unit was harboured up for the night while tracking the enemy. In the area, bullocks were considered sacred, so accidentally shooting one could cause contention,” Warrant Officer Newby said.

“The unit was on edge with the enemy close by. Hearing movement in the grass, trigger fingers were at the ready, and the order was given to fire.

“Once the smoke had cleared, they realised they had mistakenly shot a bullock.

“He and his mates spent the next four hours burying the monstrous animal before sunrise so the locals didn’t see it.”

‘I never expected them all together, and I never thought I was their inspiration for joining the service.’

Warrant Officer Newby said his uncle’s stories were a mix of heartfelt loss and painful memories, yet he focused on the positive and amusing moments.

Captain Leggo was responsible for the iconic ‘hearts and bunnies’ design featured on the disruptive pattern camouflage uniform that replaced jungle greens in the 1980s.

“Every other country in the world was walking around in camouflaged uniforms except us, so I had an idea for change,” Captain Leggo said.

Using model trucks, he tested patterns and collaborated with Dulux to make anti-infrared colours.

Ten days after submitting the design, the uniform change order came in and vehicles and aircraft were quickly painted to match.

“When people found out I had created the instruction, they nicknamed it ‘the epistle according to Saint Bob’,” he said.

He also played a role in replacing the black polished boots with camouflage ones.

Corporal Tahlia Thomas, Captain Leggo’s great-niece, felt a calling to join the Air Force.

Her decision was spurred by the stirring narratives of her family’s military legacy, which includes her father, a retired aircraft technician with 21 years of service, and her mother, an air surveillance operator who served for 17 years.

“I remember sitting on the veranda at my great-grandparent’s home listening to Uncle Bobby and my parents telling tales of their service and what it meant to them,” she said.

In 1965, at age 24, Captain Leggo began his career as a craftsman armament fitter.

He climbed through the ranks to warrant officer class 1, later became a captain, and resigned in 1985.

It wasn’t until after the family lunch this past Anzac Day that the emotional weight began to sink in for the 82-year-old.

“I snuck out, drove my truck home, sat down, turned the telly on and nearly cried,” Captain Leggo said.

“It was so overwhelming – I had nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren travelling from Brisbane and Adelaide to see me.

“I never expected them all together, and I never thought I was their inspiration for joining the service.”

/Public Release. View in full here.