5 Squadron RAAF

5 Squadron was first formed in England in 1917, as a training squadron for the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). After the First World War the squadron was reformed as a fleet cooperation squadron, working with the RAN and flying amphibious aircraft. In January 1941 5 Squadron became an army cooperation squadron, serving on Bougainville at the end of the war. On 4 May 1964 the squadron was reformed at RAAF Base Fairbairn, near Canberra, with four new Bell UH-1B Iroquois “Huey”, helicopters. A month later, in June, the squadron moved to RAAF Base Butterworth, Malaysia.

Although the Malayan Emergency was over, Indonesia hostility towards Malaysia continued. As the tension escalated, the British and Malaysian governments repeatedly requested that Australian troops be deployed to Borneo. These requests were refused but Australia did agree for its troops to help defend of the Malayan peninsula. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), was deployed to Malaysia in July 1963, as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve. In April 1964 the Australian government announced it would also send a field engineering squadron for duty in east Malaysia, while a light anti-aircraft battery and 5 Squadron’s four Iroquois helicopters, later increased to six helicopters, would be based at Butterworth. The RAAF would also routinely fly troops and supplies between Malaya and Borneo. Two RAN coastal minesweepers would help patrol the waters around Borneo. 5 Squadron was to operate along the Thai border region.

During late June and early July 5 Squadron pilots began flying familiarisation exercises in the jungle areas of north-east and south-east Ipoh, where they were assisted by members of 10 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF). On 7 July several airmen were flown to Vung Tau, South Vietnam, to study American methods of helicopter maintenance. A detachment from the squadron also took part in a joint exercise with 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade and the RAF.

On 8 September a small party of Australian soldiers were reported missing close to the Thai border and the squadron helped in the search-and-rescue operation. The missing soldiers and a ground rescue team were located on 10 September and they were winched out of the jungle three days later.

During October the squadron flew 420 sorties, mostly supporting 3RAR, transporting 250 troops to and from landing zones. Several sorties were also carried out in cooperation with Senio Praak troops, and the Special Branch Malayan Police Force. On 18 November a helicopter from the squadron was detached to RAF Seletar to support the Singapore Regiment against Indonesian infiltrators in the East Johore area.

Throughout January 1965 the squadron transported both Malaysian and Australian personnel, and also carried out reconnaissance sorties, communication flights, and medical evacuations. Similarly, in April and May the squadron flew a number of missions in support of the 1st Malaysian Rangers, the Senio Praak troops, and Malayan special police branch.

From July 1964 to 5 April 1966, 5 Squadron moved 21,638 passengers and 760,653 pounds of freight, and carried out 727 medial evacuations.

Confrontation came to an end in August 1966, by which time the main focus of Australia’s military commitment was in Vietnam. It was thought that 5 Squadron would be sent to Vietnam to support the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) but 9 Squadron was deployed instead.

On 12 April, 5 Squadron, still at Butterworth, became 5 Squadron Detachment “C”, while 9 Squadron, at Fairbairn, was renumbered 5 Squadron. Having existed for less than a day, 9 Squadron was reformed on 13 April, with eight Iroquois from 5 Squadron. This allowed 9 Squadron it to be sent to Vietnam, while 5 Squadron was based at Fairbairn. The two squadrons were closely associated for the rest of the war, both in training and service in Vietnam.

5 Squadron Detachment “C” remained at Butterworth and continued transporting personnel and equipment, and undertaking sorties in support of Malaysian forces, until it disbanded on 23 May 1966.

5 Squadron remained at Fairbairn until it disbanded on 9 December 1989.

Glossary

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • nil killed

For more information please see the Roll of Honour database.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • nil

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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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)
  • Royal Australian Air Force Historical Records Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force : a concise history: volume 2 Fighter units, (Canberra : AGPS Press, 1995)