3rd 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 and Borneo 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.

3RAR was in Japan when it was committed to the US-led United Nations Command forces on 26 July. Volunteers brought the battalion up to its full strength of 960 troops on 11 September, and training was carried out in Japan.

On 28 September 1950, 3RAR landed at Pusan, South Korea. The battalion was part of the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. Troops from 3RAR were rotated and replaced on an individual basis, and 3RAR remained in Korea for the duration of the conflict.

3RAR was first deployed on 5 October in a counter-attack and advance by the UN Command. 3RAR fought numerous small engagements throughout October, almost on a daily basis. Its first major action was at Yongju (21-22 October) and it advanced through Pakchon (23-26 October) before meeting with heavy opposition at Chongju (29 October). 3RAR’s northern advance ended here.

The Chinese launched their First Phase Offensive on 1 November, causing a withdrawal of all UN forces. 3RAR withdrew through the Pakchon area. It blocked an enemy attack on 4-5 November at the Chongchon River. From November to January 1951, 3RAR retreated south. For a brief period it was established north of Uijongbu (12-31 December), before withdrawing through Seoul and regrouping at Chipyong-ni (2-4 January 1951). As part of the withdrawal, 3RAR conducted patrols and destroyed bridges, slowing the Chinese advance.

In January 1951 3RAR moved north with the 27th Brigade in a counter-offensive. It engaged the enemy at Chuam-ni (14-17 February), and also secured Hills 614 (24-27 February); 410 (7 March); 703 (12 March); “Sardine” (14 April); and “Salmon” (15 April). This brought 3RAR to the Kapyong Valley, north east of Seoul.

On 22 April 3RAR was stationed north of the village of Kapyong on Hill 504. The Australian position was attacked on the morning of 24 April, and the Chinese continued to attack in waves. 3RAR held firm, and on the afternoon of 25 April the exhausted Chinese abandoned their attack. The unit was awarded a Presidential Citation for its role in the battle.

On 26 April 3RAR was transferred to the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade. Throughout June and July, the Brigade joined with the 25th Canadian and the 29th British Brigades to form the 1st Commonwealth Division.

From April to early August 3RAR conducted patrols that pushed the Chinese northwards. Throughout June it was working to take control of the north bank of the Imjin River. The work was slow and dangerous, with most casualties resulting from mines.

3RAR patrolled the Imjin salient in August and September in preparation for Operation Commando, which began on 3 October. 3RAR’s primary task during this operation was to occupy Hill 317, which it did on 7 October. This action was later known as the Battle of Maryang-San. 3RAR also supported the Fusiliers in the taking of Hill 217, also known as the “Hinge”.

From October 1951 until the ceasefire at 11 pm on 27 July 1953, 3RAR’s main activity was patrolling the no man’s land between the two opposing trench lines that ran along the 38th Parallel. 3RAR conducted trench raids, patrols and reconnaissance. Some minor skirmishes resulted in small gains or losses of territory, but overall the front line altered very little in this time.

Living conditions were difficult. In winter it was not uncommon for top temperatures to be below zero, and troops had to take precautions against frost-bite and trench foot. At the other extreme, summer was humid, with heavy rain that often flooded the trenches. Added to this were possible attacks from the enemy coupled with shell and mortar fire.

Following the armistice, 3RAR was involved in training and border patrols. The battalion returned to Australia in November 1954.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 231 killed
  • No information on 3RAR wounded available

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 GC
  • 4 DSO
  • 5 OBE
  • 5 MBE
  • 18 MC, 1 bar
  • 5 DCM, 1 bar
  • 1 GM
  • 31 MM, 1 bar
  • 2 BEM
  • 1 MID twice
  • 93 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Ben Evans, Out in the cold: Australia's involvement in the Korean War, (Canberra: Australian War Memorial and Dept. of Veterans' Affairs, 2000)
  • Jeffrey Grey, The Commonwealth armies and the Korean War: an alliance study, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988)
  • David Horner (ed.), Duty first: the Royal Australian Regimetn in war and peace, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990)
  • Robert O'Neill, Australia in the Korean War 1950-53, Vol. 2 Combat operations, (Adelaide: Australian War Memorial and the Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985)