3rd 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 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, The Australian Regiment, respectively. The prefix “Royal” was granted by King George VI on 31 March 1949.

3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), began its second tour of Malaya in July 1963. The first tour was during the Malayan Emergency in 1957. The battalion joined the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade at Terendak, near Malacca, on mainland Malaysia. The 28th Brigade was part of the larger alliance known as the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR).

The battalion trained for anti-terrorist operations. In February 1964 it was deployed on searches on the Thai-Malayan border. The battalion was also used in clean-up operations following amphibious and paratrooper raids by the Indonesians in September and October.

Initially, the Australian government restricted 3RAR activity. In January 1965 the battalion was given clearance to be sent to Borneo, due to an increase in Indonesian activity. The battalion formally took over from the 1/7th Gurkahs on 22 March 1965 and joined the West Brigade. Battalion headquarters were stationed at Bau. Three of the four rifle companies were deployed forward to cover the border areas, with the fourth company remaining in reserve at Bau.

3RAR carried out operations on both sides of the border. Cross-border operations were code named “Claret”. The true nature of these operations was not publicly disclosed until 1974. 3RAR carried out 32 Claret operations during its four months in Borneo. These operations rarely resulted in enemy contact. Indonesian activity was small-scale and aimed to confront or challenge rather than attack. The periodic heavy mortaring of security bases was more customary than direct enemy contact.

Four major clashes resulted from Claret operations, all platoon ambushes. The first occurred on 27 May and was an ambush of four Indonesian boats on the Sungei Koemba river. Another ambush took place on the banks of the same river on the 12 June. On 15 June an ambush of a group of between fifty and eighty Indonesians took place near the border. The ambush had been rehearsed and planned in detail and the platoon was in place for three days before the Indonesians appeared, demonstrating the battalion’s discipline and patience. The fourth major contact took place on 12 July. On this occasion the Indonesians staged a counter attack and the platoon required artillery fire to break contact and cover the withdrawal.

3RAR’s tour of duty in Borneo ended on 28 July, when it returned to Terendak. It departed for Australia during October.

Glossary

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • 3 died
  • 5 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour database.

Commanding Officers

  • McDonald, Bruce Alexander

Decorations

  • 2 MC
  • 1 MM
  • 2 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

Search for related collection items

References

  • Dennis, Peter, 1945-, Official History, Vietnam Vol.V: Emergency and confrontation : Australian military operations in Malaya & Borneo 1950-66, (St Leonards, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1996)
  • Horner, David Murray, Duty first : the Royal Australian Regiment in war and peace, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990)
  • Kuring, Ian; Australian Army History Unit, Red Coats to Cams : a history of Australian Infantry 1788 to 2001, (Loftus N.S.W.: Australian Military History Publications in association with the Australian Army History Unit, 2004)
  • Smith, Neil C, Nothing short of war with the Australian Army in Borneo 1962-66, (Brighton, Vic.: Mostly Unsung, 1999)