2nd 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 and New Zealand troops. Australian officers commanded the Australian battalions in Malaya, although operations were part of a larger strategy, requiring co-operation between FESR units. Efforts were directed against the Communist terrorists.

2RAR arrived in Malaya on 19 October 1955. While in Malaya, the battalion was stationed at Minden Barracks, 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 through the jungle lasted for days or even weeks at a time, and breaks between operations were brief.

When 2RAR arrived in Malaya, its participation in Malayan operations had not been approved by the Australian government. As a result, the battalion did not start operations until 1 January 1956. It began with Operation Deuce, a search and security operation in Kedah. It was typical of activities carried out by the battalion during the Emergency. These intense, lengthy patrols involved tracking the communists through the jungle. Often there was little or no result. The work was tiring, demanding, and monotonous. Deuce ended on 30 April, and responsibility for the area was handed over to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment.

2RAR was redeployed to Perak for Operation Shark North in early May. Shark North aimed at destroying the communist influence in the Kuala Kangsar and Upper Perak districts. On 22 June, a five-man patrol was ambushed by communists about 400 metres north of the Sungei Bemben reservoir. The noise of heavy fire drew other Australian patrols to the area, and after some contact, the communist ambush party dispersed. It was the most intense action Australians were engaged in during the Emergency, costing three dead and three wounded. It became known as the “pipeline ambush”.

In mid February, 1957, the battalion withdrew from Shark North to take part in Operation Rubberlegs. This was a search mission in the narrow jungle salient in the Kuala Kangsar/Kinta districts. On 7 March the battalion returned to Perak and Operation Shark North.

Although most of the battalion had been deployed on Shark North, for much of 1956 one of the battalion’s companies had been rotated through Kroh on the Thai-Malay border, in the far north of Perak. From May through to July in 1957, personnel from the battalion took part in Operation Eagle Swoop. After weeks of patrolling, on the afternoon of 24 June, the Australians discovered a large communist camp. During the subsequent clash with the communists, two Australians were killed and another was wounded. An intensive period of patrolling, ambushing and air strikes followed but apart from a skirmish on 25 June, no other contacts were made with the communists.

In August, 2RAR was withdrawn from operations in Perak and began “major warfare training” before its return to Australia. The battalion departed on 15 October.

Glossary

Casualties

  • 14 killed, no wounded figures available

For more information please see the Roll of Honour database.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 2 MBE
  • 1 MC
  • 3 MM
  • 14 MID

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)