5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR) was raised at the Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney on 1 March 1965. It was comprised of surplus 1RAR soldiers and some of the first conscripts. The battalion arrived in Vietnam throughout April and May 1966. It formed half of the infantry component of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) with 6RAR. 1ATF replaced 1RAR in Vietnam and was stationed at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province.

Once the Nui Dat base area had been cleared and secured, the task force began patrolling the province. The purpose of these patrols was to undermine Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army operations in the area. This was done by seeking out and engaging the enemy in small contacts and limiting its ability to access supplies. These duties dominated 5RAR during its first tour.

In March 1967 5RAR was given the task of establishing and defending a base on the forward rim of an extinct volcano known as the Horseshoe. The purpose of this base was to deny the VC access to supplies from Phuoc Tuy.

5RAR was relieved by 7RAR in late April, departing for Australia the following month, where it returned to Holsworthy Barracks.

The battalion returned to Vietnam in February 1969, relieving 1RAR. Throughout its second tour 5RAR was mainly involved with pacification operations in Phuoc Tuy. 1ATF adopted a pacification program as its first priority in April 1969. This involved seeking out and destroying the enemy in its base areas, preventing enemy access to the civilian population, and helping to create a secure climate for South Vietnamese social, political, and military life. The work was demanding, dangerous, and monotonous and the primary task carried out by the battalion during its second tour.

One of the major operations 5RAR carried out became known as the Battle of Binh Ba (6-7 June). The battalion began a search-and-clear of the village of Binh Ba, following an attack on a Centurion tank. The operation evolved into an extensive search of the village with tanks and infantry. During the intense fighting, tanks were used to blast through the walls of masonry buildings identified as enemy occupied. The infantry then moved through the holes, clearing the building one room at a time. It was the last large-scale clash of the war.

On 10 March 5RAR joined Operation Federal-Overlander (17 February-8 April) in the Bien Hoa province. The battalion was engaged in searches and patrols of the area following the 1969 Tet Offensive. It returned to Nui Dat on 8 April.

The battalion was stationed outside of Phuoc Tuy from 13 to 22 May. It was sent to the Bien Hoa province to meet an anticipated VC threat. The situation did not develop as expected and the battalion returned to operations in Phuoc Tuy.

5RAR was relieved by 7RAR on 16 February 1970 and returned to Australia later that month.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • First tour: 27 killed, no wounded figures available
  • Second tour: 25 killed, 222 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • First tour
    • 1 DSO
    • 3 MC
    • 2 MM
    • 1 MID and bar
    • 18 MID
  • Second tour
    • 1 DSO
    • 3 MC
    • 2 DCM
    • 1 Medal of Gallantry
    • 3 MM
    • 11 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Battle, M R, The year of the tigers;: the second tour of 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment in South Vietnam, 1969-70, (Brookvale, N.S.W.: Printcraft Press for the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, 1970)
  • 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)
  • McNeill, Ian Graham; Australian War Memorial, To Long Tan : the Australian army and the Vietnam war 1950-1966, (St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1993)
  • McNeill, Ian Graham; Ekins, Ashley, On the offensive : the Australian Army in the Vietnam War, January 1967-June 1968, (Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2003)
  • O'Neill, Robert John, Vietnam task;: the 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, 1966/67, (Melbourne: Cassell Australia, 1968)