• 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.

    On 21 September paratroopers from 3RAR began arriving with members of 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment and 108 Field Battery. 2RAR had arrived the previous day. 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.

    The battalion was primarily engaged in searching buildings, finding and disarming militia, and gathering intelligence from locals. During one building search the battalion located and seized the headquarters of Aitarak, one of the more notorious militia groups. 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 1 October Interfet began moving into the border areas alongside West Timor. On 10 October 3RAR was replaced in Dili by 5/7RAR, and began moving to the border town of Maliana the same day. The battalion worked with 3RAR and a New Zealand battalion in this 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.

    In November the battalion was pulled out of Maliana and sent to Oecusse, where it worked with a platoon from 5/7RAR to gather information and curtail militia and criminal activity in the area. The battalion aimed to create a safe environment, encouraging locals towards reconstruction, rather than further conflict.

    The battalion handed over operations to a Jordanian battalion in early February 2000.

    Battle Honours

    • nil

    Commanding Officers

    Decorations

    • 1 DSC
    • 2 DSM
    • 7 Commander Interfet/ Commander Deployable Joint Defence Force Headquarters Commendations - Operational
    • 4 Commander Australia Theatre Commendations - Operational

    For more information please see Honours and Awards database

    References

    • 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)