The 161 Battery Panther
A Panther Argent, spotted of various colours, fire issuant from the mouth and ears proper, gorged with a plain collar and chained Or. Field: Sky Blue.
In July, 1965 the Regular Force Artillery Battery of 16th Field Regiment, 161 Battery was deployed on active service to South Vietnam where initially the Battery served under the operational command of 173rd Airborne Brigade, US Army, based at Bien Hoa. Later 161 Battery was relocated to Nui Dat as part of the 1st Australian Task Force. The Battery returned to New Zealand after almost six years of war in May 1971. The New Zealand military involvement in the Vietnam conflict was a most unpopular political decision, and here in New Zealand anti-war protests occurred almost daily throughout the major cities and larger centres of population.
In the small Waikato town of Raglan the citizens rallied to the call of one of the town's leading lights, Mr Douglas Arter who was heavily involved with all of the many and varied local organisations. The townsfolk adopted 161 Battery as their own and sent food parcels, letters, comfort packs, books, (New Zealand beer), and a host of other small touches which make life just a little more comfortable for the New Zealand fighting man. At one point during the war, 161 Battery managed to smuggle Doug Arter aboard an aircraft, and a (now) very famous photograph exists showing Doug and Lt. Hugh Weatherhead, RNZA "brewing up" in a Fire Support Base in South Vietnam.
Upon 161 Battery's return to New Zealand it was felt by all ranks that something of the town of Raglan should be adopted by the Battery as a symbol of friendship. The Battery Commander approached the Raglan County Council requesting permission to emblazon the Raglan Coat of Arms upon the Gun Shields of the units howitzers. This was considered a very appropriate distinction by the County Council, however it was thought that perhaps Lord Raglan would possibly need to give his consent?
161 Battery then communicated with Lord Raglan who was very much in favour of the idea and personally approached the College of Arms on the behalf of 161 Battery RNZA. Permission to emblazon the full achievement of Lord Raglan's Arms was denied by Richmond Herald of Arms who explained to Lord Raglan that "it is contrary to the law of arms for you (Lord Raglan) to alienate your arms". Richmond Herald of Arms suggested that Lord Raglan grant 161 Battery the use of one of his supporters and this was readily agreed to by Lord Raglan.
The supporters of the Raglan Arms are (dexter) a Panther, and (sinister) a Wyvern. As there are numerous Dragons borne by British regiments as emblems, the Battery chose the Panther as its official unit insignia. It was also felt that the Panther was such a unique emblem that it would never be forgotten, nor the reason for its adoption. It was officially adopted and emblazoned on the gun shields on the 20th August 1972.
The Panther is normally displayed on a Sky Blue field. Within a Field Artillery Regiment there are normally three (or four) Gun Batteries. Each Battery has a brightly coloured "skirt" attached to its' individual Artillery survey director. The director skirt for 161 Battery is Sky Blue.