The first peacekeepers

After the Second World War, fighting broke out in Indonesia between the former Dutch colonial rulers and Indonesians who wanted independence. In 1947 the United Nations imposed a ceasefire and a United Nations body, the Consular Commission, called for military observers to monitor it.

Australia was quick to send four observers. Two were from the Army, and one each from the RAN and the RAAF. One of them, Squadron Leader Lou Spence, was later to die leading 77 Squadron RAAF in Korea.

The Australians were the first observers to arrive, reaching Batavia (now Jakarta) within a fortnight of the original request being made. The next day, Sunday 14 September 1947, they went into the field to begin observing. They were arguably the world's first United Nations peacekeepers.

 

Major Susan Felsche

Susan Felsche was an Australian Army doctor serving with a United Nations mission hoping to supervise a referendum on the future of the African territory of Western Sahara. Based at a camp of tents at Awsard, surrounded by sand and rocks, she would fly out to visit sick and injured members of the force and to conduct clinics for local people.

On 21 June 1993, a Pilatus Porter aircraft crashed on take-off from Awsard, killing the Swiss pilot, a Swiss nurse, and Susan Felsche. She was the first Australian woman to die while serving overseas since the Second World War.

 

AWM P01744.034 Sergeant (Sgt) Margaret Jodie Clarke, an Australian woman member of the 2nd Signal Squadron, serving with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
P01744.034