The One Rar
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) is a regular motorised infantry battalion of the Australian Army. 1 RAR was first formed as the 65th Australian Infantry Battalion of the 34th Brigade (Australia) on Balikpapan in 1945 and since then has been deployed on active service during the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Vietnam War, Unified Task Force in Somalia, East Timor, Iraq War and Afghanistan. Additionally, the battalion has deployed on peacekeeping and other operations to a number of countries including Japan, Rifle Company Butterworth, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, Tonga and the Philippines . 1 RAR remains one of the Australian Army's most readily deployed units sending individuals and detachments to domestic, regional and other enduring operations. The battalion is currently based in Coral Lines at Lavarack Barracks, Townsville, Queensland, where it forms part of the 3rd Brigade.
The One rar
With the conclusion of the war in the Pacific in 1945, Australia was committed to provide troops for occupation duties in Japan. This commitment led to the formation of the 34th Australian Infantry Brigade. The brigade was made up of three battalions: the 65th, 66th and 67th Australian Infantry Battalions. On 12 October 1945 the 65th Battalion, later the 1st Battalion was formed out of 7th Division at Balikpapan and quickly sailed to Morotai from where they undertook training prior to being sent to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.
In line with the formative plan to raise an Interim Army, the battalions were re-designated as of the Australian Regiment in 1948 and the 65th Battalion became the 1st Battalion, Australian Regiment. On 31 March 1949 the regiment received the prefix "Royal", becoming the Royal Australian Regiment. 1 RAR was initially based at Ingleburn, but later moved to Enoggera and Holsworthy and is now based at Lavarack Barracks, Townsville.
In April 1946 the battalion took part in the surveillance of Japanese elections. The battalion also kept a close watch on a number of repatriation centres in the area. At the end of 1948, the 1st Battalion left Japan, while all Australian troops had left Japan by 1951 with the signing of the San Francisco Treaty.
1RAR was in Australia when the Korean War began in 1950; however, the battalion was not deployed immediately as Australia's initial commitment consisted of 3RAR. By September 1950 seven officers and two hundred and fifty other ranks trained in the battalion and moved to reinforce 3 RAR in Korea. In 1951, in anticipation of deployment to Korea, 1RAR was brought up to strength with volunteers from 2RAR and new enlistments from the 'K' Force recruiting campaign which brought a large number of men with experience from World War II into the battalion. In September 1951 the battalion received orders to move to Korea and after a farewell march through Sydney 1RAR departed for Japan on 18 March 1952 onboard HMT Devonshire. After a period of training in Japan, 1RAR arrived in South Korea on 6 April 1952, joining the 28th Brigade on 1 June. On 19 June 1952 1 RAR moved into the line taking over from the 1st Battalion, Royal Leicesters.
In July 1952 1RAR was detached to the 29th Brigade, relieving other battalions on Hills 159, 210 and 355. It took part in general patrolling along the Jamestown Line, which involved securing defences, repairing minefield fences, and undertaking reconnaissance of enemy positions to gather information on them. Other major operations that 1RAR took part in usually aimed at capturing a prisoner or destroying enemy defences. Operation Blaze was 1RAR's first major action, which involved an attack on Hill 227 in order to capture a prisoner. The attack failed in its objective and the battalion suffered four killed and 33 wounded in action.
In April 1954, 1RAR returned to Korea as part of the UN forces stationed in the country after the armistice, and was involved in training and border patrols. It would remain there until March 1956.
In order to crush a pro-independence uprising led by the Malayan Communist Party, and their armed wing the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve was established, with Australia contributing a rotating battalion group. On 20 September 1959, the battalion embarked on MV Flaminia for Malaya. After arriving at Singapore the battalion trained at Kota Tinggi and moved to base camps at Kuala Kangsar, Sungei Siput, Lasah, Lintang and Grik where they undertook a month of acclimatisation. The battalion began Operation Bamboo on 16 November 1959 in the Thai/Malay border area in Perak, relieving the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment. For the next 18 months 1RAR operated in 210 square miles (540 km2) area of dense jungle searching MNLA guerrillas.
The area was largely inaccessible except by helicopter, boat or on foot. Platoon-sized patrols would be sent for three-week long search operations before returning to the base camps for ten days rest. Even though there were 117 official 'finds' during these operations, no kills were recorded by the battalion at this time MNLA communist guerrillas began to negate the Australian patrols by crossing the border into Thailand where they could not be followed. In April 1960 1RAR took part in Operation Magnet, which involved FESR units crossing the border for the first time in the conflict in an attempt to drive the MNLA back into Malaya where other units were ready to carry out ambushes upon them. Later in June, Operation Jackforce was launched, using similar tactics and during this 1RAR finally was involved in one contact.
In July 1960, the Malayan Emergency was officially declared over, although 1RAR remained on operations until the following year when it was withdrawn and began a period of intensive training as part of the FESR, including a number of brigade level exercises. On 29 October 1961, the battalion left Penang for Sydney on the MV Flaminia, having suffered two men killed in action. The battalion returned to Malaysia in early 1969, after two major exercises, 'Jumping Wallaby' and 'Sheer Hell', the unit withdrew from Malaysia, joining the Selarang garrison in Singapore in December 1969. The unit remained in Singapore until July 1971 when it returned to Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.
Two tours of South Vietnam were completed by 1 RAR during the Vietnam War, the first one being between March 1965 and June 1966 and the second between April 1968 and February 1969. In March 1965 advanced elements of 1 RAR deployed for Vietnam by charter aircraft, whilst the rest of the battalion followed later on HMAS Sydney. The battalion arrived at Bien Hoa Air Base in June and was placed under command of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, becoming the first Australian unit to serve in a US formation. Initially, the Australian contingent was restricted only to providing security to the airbase, however, these limitations were later removed by the Australian government and in September 1965 began conducting offensive operations against the Viet Cong (VC) including search and destroy missions, security operations and conducting fighting patrols around the Bien Hoa area of operations.
Throughout the remainder of 1965 the battalion conducted a number of operations along with the rest of the 173rd Brigade in areas such as Ben Cat, War Zone D and the Iron Triangle. In January 1966 1 RAR took part in Operation Crimp, a search and destroy mission in the Ho Bo Woods, north of Saigon, during which the battalion conducted an air assault and uncovered the Cu Chi tunnel complex which was serving as the underground hideaway for a VC higher command element. A large stockpile of weapons and a large number of documents were found in the tunnel complex which was the deepest and most elaborate system that had been found up to that time.
1RAR continued operations until April 1966, taking part in a number of joint operations with US troops until the arrival of the 1st Australian Task Force. On Anzac Day, as the battalion was preparing to return to Australia, they were visited by Prime Minister Harold Holt. They were finally relieved in June and they returned to Australia that same month.
The battalion's second tour came two years later when it arrived at Nui Dat on 9 April 1968 to relieve 7 RAR. Operating out of Phuoc Tuy Province the battalion was mainly involved in patrols, searches, reconnaissance and security operations before being redeployed in May to an area north of Saigon where throughout April it participated in Operation Toan Thang, which was aimed at cutting off the withdrawal of VC and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces following the Tet Offensive. After conducting two small operations in Long Khanh Province, 1 RAR moved to Fire Support Base Coral. Whilst they were there, the base was attacked twice. The first attack which on the night of 15 May was only a probing attack by a battalion-sized element, whilst the second attack came on the night of 16 May 1966, when the base was attacked by a force later identified as the PAVN 141st Regiment. After fierce fighting with the help of accurate artillery fire from the 102nd Field Battery the attack was beaten off and on 6 June 1966 the fire base was closed and 1 RAR returned to Nui Dat. Later it was estimated that 162 PAVN were killed as a result of Operation Toan Thang. The Battalion was awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry in 2018 on the 50th anniversary of the battle.
1 RAR was officially relieved by 5 RAR on 15 February 1969 and it departed Vietnam the following day. Total 1 RAR casualties for both tours were 50 killed and 411 wounded.[Note 1] Balanced against this, the battalion was credited with having killed 404 PAVN/VC. Members of the battalion also received the following decorations: three Distinguished Service Orders, three Members of the Order of the British Empire, six Military Crosses, three Distinguished Conduct Medals, 10 Military Medals, four British Empire Medals and 21 Mentions in Despatches. 041b061a72