IT was a tragic death that rocked the town of Orange to its foundations.
Private Tim Cutcliffe, 21, was killed in Vietnam in Phuoc Tuy Province on August 25, 1967 when an enemy mine exploded.
Next month the young soldier, who is buried in Orange cemetery, will be honoured with a commemorative service with former platoon mates expected to travel from all over Australia to pay their respects.
The personable young man, well known for his cheeky grin and shock of blonde hair across his forehead, left behind a devastated family and a wide circle of mates and friends when he was killed.
As the first “boy” from Orange to be killed in Vietnam, Mr Cutcliffe’s death had a profound impact on the community.
His close friend Tony Leahey, who went in to the Australian Army at the same time as his mate during National Service, was serving in Malaya when he received the news of Private Cutcliffe’s death.
“I still have the telegram,” Mr Leahey said.
“We grew up together as my parents were best friends with his mum and dad Mary and Reg.”
The pair went through basic training together but were later separated with Private Cutcliffe dispatched with his platoon to Vietnam and Private Leahey sent to serve in Malaya.
“He was just an all-round great bloke and he had it all,” Mr Leahey said.
“He could have been anything he wanted to be and everyone who knew Tim wanted to be his mate.
“He just had what you would call today a real charisma.”
As the ultimate tribute, Mr Leahey and several of Private Cutcliffe’s close mates named their eldest sons after their friend who had lost his life at such a young age.
Next month, Private Timothy Joseph Cutcliffe will be remembered in a special graveside ceremony.
Serving as part of 12 Platoon D Company of the Royal Australian Regiment, he was the first soldier from Orange to be killed in the war, after sustaining fatal injuries at Phuoc Tuy Province.
The commemoration service will be held on Sunday, April 22, in the lead-up to Anzac Day.
It has come to fruition primarily through the efforts of ex-army man Tom Young, who is passionate about conducting remembrance ceremonies to honour Vietnam casualties.
He visited Private Cutcliffe’s grave this week along with ex-army colleagues Bob Pink and Aub Terry.
“I only knew Tim for six weeks, as he came into our group as a reinforcement because someone had been killed or injured, and that’s a tough thing to do with a group of blokes who had been together for a while, but he just gelled with the blokes,” Mr Terry said.
An emotional Mr Terry said he remembered returning to Vietnam from leave in Taiwan and being unable to find his friend.
“I went everywhere looking for him but couldn’t find him,” he said.
“Then they told me he had been killed.”