RAAF Vietnam Veterans Association


The Repatriation of
Flying Officer Mike Herbert and Pilot Officer Bob Carver

FLGOFF Mike Herbert (Pilot)PLTOFF Bob Carver (Navigator)2 Squadron RAAF Crest

Repatriation Ceremony: RAAF Base Richmond NSW

Thanks to the initial inspiration and dedication of LTCOL Jim Bourke AM, MG and his team at “Operation Aussies Home”, who had previously located the remains of the four Australian soldiers Missing In Action (MIA) in Vietnam, and finally with the assistance of RAAF and other specialists using both modern equipment and painstaking hand by hand search, the wreckage of Magpie 91, lost in flight after completion of a bombing sortie on the night of 3rd November 1970, was located and the remains of the crew – FLGOFF Mike J Herbert (pilot) and PLTOFF Bob Carver (Navigator) recovered. Testament to the reputation of Australian forces in Vietnam, the search teams were assisted by local villagers as well as Vietnam Government agencies. That Government also expedited the return of the remains, including a formal ceremony at Hanoi where the two caskets, accompanied by an RAAF honour guard and relatives of Mike and Bob were reverently placed aboard the RAAF C130.

Monday 31st August 2009 realised a sight that most RAAF Vietnam Veterans, especially those who had served with No 2 Squadron, never expected to see: The caskets of FLGOFF Mike Herbert and PLTOFF Bob Carver being ceremonially transferred from the C130 that had brought them from Hanoi to the tarmac at RAAF Base Richmond.

Along with the dignitaries, honour guard and former squadron members crowding the tarmac to witness their return and resplendent in its operational paint scheme, was the sole surviving flying Canberra (now operated by the Temora Air Museum).

(Click on any photograph to view a larger version)

(The following series of copyright photographs were provided by Ms Jeanette Hayden whose late husband Trevor was a member of the duty crew that dispatched Magpie 91 on 3rd November 1970)

RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: Bob Carver's casket is carried off the ramp of the C130 behind that of Mike Herbert RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: The procession moves towards the biers RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: Side by side for the last time

RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: The officiating Padres RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: The caskets arrive at the waiting hearses RAAF Richmond: August 31, 2009: The Canberra Bomber starting up for the return flight to Temora

Official Ministerial Press Release

Missing Australian Servicemen Welcomed Home

The last Australian servicemen missing from the Vietnam War were welcomed home today (31 AUG 09) at RAAF Base Richmond.

Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver failed to return from a routine bombing mission on 3 November 1970. They were recovered in thick jungle in an extremely rugged, remote and sparsely populated area of Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, near the Laotian border.

The two airmen were returned aboard a C130H Hercules and welcomed during a ramp ceremony.

RAAF airmen from the Federation Guard formed an honour guard while the bearer party from 2 Sqn carried the remains of their comrades from the Hercules to waiting biers.

Speaking before assembled family, veterans and dignitaries, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Mr Greg Combet said the repatriation was “the end of an era.”

“Australia can close this chapter of its history,” Mr Combet said. “We honour all of those who served in Vietnam and sincerely thank them for their service.”

Dignitaries attending the ceremony also included Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support Dr Mike Kelly and Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin.

During their last mission Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver flew aboard callsign Magpie 91.

A team of defence specialists completed excavating the crash site on Tuesday 21 July 09. The successful repatriation was the result of cooperation between Vietnamese authorities and the Australian government.

(The following are official Department of Defence Photographs: 31 August 2009)