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 at the end of the Second World War. On 23 November 1948, the battalions were renamed the First, Second and Third Battalion, The Australian Regiment, respectively. The prefix “Royal” was granted by King George VI on 31 March 1949.

The Australian battalions sent to the Malayan Emergency formed part of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group (CIBG). CIBG was part of the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR). FESR comprised British, Australian, New Zealand, and Malayan troops. Australian officers commanded the Australian battalions in Malaya. However, the operations that 1RAR carried out were part of a larger strategy that required cooperation from the FESR and the Malayan army. Efforts were directed against the Communist terrorists.

1RAR arrived in Singapore on 2 October 1959. It began operations in Malaya on 9 November after spending a month training and acclimatising. The battalion was stationed at Minden Barracks, located in the foothills on the eastern side of the island. Although Minden was the nominal home of the battalion while it was in Malaya, it rarely spent any length of time there. Operations could last for days or weeks at a time, and breaks between operations were brief. During its period of service in Malaya, the battalion operated with three rifle companies, instead of the usual four.

The first operation 1RAR took part in was Operation Bamboo, which began on 9 November. Bamboo was a deep jungle search in Upper Perak on the Thai-Malay border. 1RAR remained in the jungles of the border area for 18 months, working to eliminate small groups of terrorists. It was monotonous and frustrating work. It was not uncommon for rain to wipe out tracks that were being followed, or for the terrorists to cross over the border into Thailand, where they could not be followed.

Operation Magnet began in April 1960. This operation was the first time that FESR units were able to track the terrorists across the Thai border. They then attempted to drive the terrorists into Malaya, where units from the 28th Brigade were waiting in ambush. Unfortunately, the operation did not result in any engagements.

Operation Jackforce began in June. It used the same approach that was employed during Magnet, except this time the 28th Brigade crossed the border while the Malayan units waited in ambush. This resulted in one contact with the terrorists.

On 31 July 1960, the Malayan Prime Minister Tunka Abdul Rahman signed a proclamation declaring that the emergency was over. Although this was the formal end of the Emergency, 1RAR continued on operations in Malaya until the end of its tour of duty in October 1961. It departed for Australia on 29 October, 1961.

Glossary

Casualties

  • 2 killed in action, no wounded figures available

For more information please see the Roll of Honour database.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 MBE

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey, Emergency and Confrontation: Australian military operations in Malaya and Borneo 1959 - 66, (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1996)
  • David Horner (ed.), Duty first, the Royal Australian Regiment in war and peace, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990)
  • Ian Kuring, Redcoats to Cams: a history of Australian Infantry 1788 to 2001, (Loftus: Australian Military History Publications, 2004)
  • Neil C. Smith, Mostly Unsung: Australia and the Commonwealth in the Malayan emergency, 1948 - 1960, (Melbourne: N.C. Smith, 1989)