DAVIS, NEIL BRIAN (1934–85)
Hobart-born Neil Brian Davis covered front-line combat in the Second Indochina War (known as the Vietnam War in the West) for 11 years as a roving correspondent for Visnews, a British international news film company. Unlike other Western cameramen, he consistently filmed the fighting efforts of the Vietnamese and Cambodian soldiers. His film was shown in more than 100 countries.
An apprenticeship to the Tasmanian Government Film Unit in Hobart in 1949 taught him his trade, including 35mm newsreel coverage for Fox Movietone and Cinesound. In 1961 he became a cameraman with the ABC.
Davis’s appointment to Visnews in 1964 established his credentials as a war correspondent, first in the Indonesian Confrontation with Malaysia in Borneo, and in Vietnam where he honed his survival skills in combat with the South Vietnamese army in their deadly struggle with the communist Viet Cong. From 1970 he based himself in Phnom Penh when Cambodia became involved in the war, where survival in combat with the brave but inexperienced Cambodian troops against the ruthless Khmer Rouge soldiers tested him to the utmost. He was wounded more than 20 times, most seriously in Cambodia in April 1974 when a mortar blast nearly severed his right leg. His most celebrated scoop was obtaining the only film of a communist tank breaking down the gates of the Independence Palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975—the symbolic end of the war.
Admitting to being addicted to combat, Davis always knew he was not invincible, but he would not have expected to die in a usually unexciting Thai coup in 1985, when shrapnel from a rebel tank fatally ripped into his body while his camera continued to roll, capturing scenes of his own death. It was his last and ultimate scoop.
REF: T. Bowden, One Crowded Hour (1987).