1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

In 1945 Australia sent three units to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). Originally known as the 65th, 66th and 67th Infantry Battalions, they were raised from Australian divisions stationed in New Guinea and Borneo at the end of the Second World War. On 23 November 1948, the battalions were renamed the First, Second and Third Battalions, The Australian Regiment, respectively. The prefix “Royal” was granted by King George VI on 31 March 1949.

1RAR was in Australia when the Korean War began in 1950, having returned from Japan at the end of 1948. The battalion was bought to strength with volunteers from 2RAR and new enlistments resulting from the “K Force” recruitment campaign. The battalion trained in Australia at Ingleburn, New South Wales, before departing for Korea on the troopship Devonshire on 3 March 1952. It arrived in South Korea on 6 April, joining the 28th Brigade on 1 June.

1RAR was not involved in any of the major battles of the Korean War, but did participate in many lesser known, but just as dangerous, patrolling operations. In July of 1952 it was detached to the 29th Brigade, relieving other battalions on Hills 159, 210 and 355. It took part in general patrolling along the Jamestown line, which involved securing defences, repairing minefield fences, and undertaking reconnaissance of enemy positions to gather information on them.

Other major operations that 1RAR took part in usually aimed at capturing a prisoner or destroying enemy defences. Operation Blaze (2 July) was 1RAR’s first major action. It involved a raid on Hill 227 to capture a prisoner. Although it failed in its objective, the operation did give the brigade important experience against a strong enemy.

On the night of 13-14 September a fighting patrol from 1RAR encountered the enemy, and it captured its first prisoner. In early December 1RAR took over defences on Hill 355. The position had been poorly maintained and it took 1RAR ten days and 50 casualties to secure the area and regain control of the approaches. The battalion also supported the Royal Fusiliers in Operation Beat Up (25-26 November) by launching a diversionary attack on Hill 227.

The last action 1RAR engaged in during the war was Operation Fauna (11-12 December). The purpose of the operation was to capture a prisoner and destroy enemy defences. It did not achieve its main objective, but did succeed in destroying the enemy position code-named Flora. Nearly a third of the force became casualties, with 22 wounded and three missing. Operation Fauna shows the risks associated with prisoner-capturing operations, as they were rarely successful and often resulted in heavy casualties.

On 21 March 1953, 1RAR was relieved by 2RAR at Camp Casey, near Tongduchon, and returned to Australia later that month. The battalion returned to Korea in April of 1954, and was involved in training and border patrols. In March 1956, 1RAR ceased its operations in Korea and returned to Australia.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 42 killed
  • No information on 1RAR wounded available

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Korean War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

References

  • Ben Evans, Out in the cold: Australia's involvement in the Korean War, (Canberra: Australian War Memorial and Dept of Veterans' Affairs, 2000)
  • Jeffrey Grey, The Commonwealth armies and the Korean War: and alliance study, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988)
  • David Horner, Duty first: the Royal Australian Regiment in war and peace, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990)
  • Robert O'Neill, Australian in the Korean War 1950-53, Vol. 2 Combat operations, (Adelaide: Australian War Memorial and the Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985)