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.

Following a democratic election voting for independence, East Timor was subjected to violence and heavy reprisal from the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and pro-Indonesia militia groups. The violence began on 30 August, 1999. The Indonesian government was initially reluctant to accept outside help but relented on 12 September. On 15 September the United Nations (UN) authorised the establishment of a multinational peace enforcement force. It was named the International Force East Timor (Interfet) and was led by Australia. Its role was to restore peace and security, support other UN forces, and facilitate humanitarian assistance, where possible.

2RAR arrived in Dili on 20 September, 1999. At this stage, Interfet’s primary focus was to dominate Dili before securing the country areas. The overall aim of the battalion was to restore safety to Dili and to secure it as an operational base. It would also encourage those in hiding to return to their homes. 2RAR’s aggressive operational culture helped it to confront and intimidate the TNI and militia, and assisted in allowing Interfet to dominate Dili.

The battalion was primarily engaged in searching buildings, finding and disarming militia, and gathering intelligence from locals. The battalion also helped to locate and distribute supplies. While carrying out these tasks soldiers found evidence of atrocities. One of the more gruesome tasks carried out by the battalion was the recovery and burial of bodies, sometimes as isolated incidences and also mass graves from massacres.

On 21 September 2RAR secured the town of Liquiça, west of Dili, before returning to the capital. On 1 October Interfet began to move into the areas alongside the West Timorese border. 2RAR’s rifle companies moved into Balibo, near the north-west corner of East Timor, on 1 October. The rest of the battalion arrived the following day. The battalion worked with 3RAR and a New Zealand battalion in the region. When the northern border areas were secured, the battalions began pushing out to key points in the western area, particularly the towns of Maliana, Bobonaro, and Suai.

On 6 October the battalion, along with the SAS and Gurkha troops, moved into the town of Suai by road and air, capturing 116 militia. Later in the day the militia responded by attacking the battalion. Two members of 2RAR were wounded.

In the western border areas the battalion continued with the same type work it had carried out in Dili. Its main aim was to assert Interfet’s dominance over the militia and provide the locals the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

The battalion officially handed over to 5/7 RAR on 3 January 2000.

Battle Honours

  • nil

Commanding Officers


  • 1 DSC
  • 1 DSM
  • 1 Medal of the Order of Australia in the Military Division
  • 1 Comendation for Gallantry
  • 3 Commendation for Distinguished Service
  • 1 Commander Interfet/ Commander Deployable Joint Defence Force Headquarters Commendations
    • Operational
  • 1 Commander Australia Theatre Commendations
    • Operational

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

Search for related collection items


  • Breen, Bob, Mission accomplished, East Timor : the Australian Defence Force participation in the International Forces East Timor (INTERFET), (St. Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2000)
  • Londey, Peter, Other people's wars: a history of Australian peacekeeping, (2003)