2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
|2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment|
|Active||16 October 1945 – 15 August 1973
1 February 1995 – present
|Part of||3rd Brigade|
|Nickname(s)||Men in Black|
|Motto||Second to none|
Back in Black (Pipes and Drums)
|Colonel-in-Chief||HM The Queen (Australian Infantry Corps)|
|Unit Colour Patch|
|Tartan||Australian (Pipers kilts and plaids)[dead link]|
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) is a regular light infantry battalion of the Australian Army. 2 RAR was first formed as the Australian 66th Battalion in 1945 and since then it has seen active service during the Korean War, Malayan Emergency and Vietnam War. In addition, the battalion has participated in peacekeeping operations in Japan, Rwanda, East Timor and the Solomon Islands and has contributed rifle companies to the security force protecting the Australian embassy in Baghdad following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In May 2006, 2 RAR's headquarters, support company and a rifle company deployed to Iraq as part of the third rotation of the Al Muthanna Task Group. In June 2011, the battalion deployed to Urozgan Province, Afghanistan as Mentoring Task Force Three (MTF3). The battalion is currently based at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville where it forms part of the 3rd Brigade. It has been selected to become the Army's specialist amphibious infantry battalion.
2 RAR was formed originally as the 66th Battalion at the end of World War II on 16 October 1945 as a regular infantry force raised from volunteers from the 9th Division for service with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The battalion was stationed primarily at Hiro as part of 34th Brigade from February 1946 to December 1948, when they returned to Australia. A month earlier, on 23 November 1948 it was renamed the 2nd Battalion, Australian Regiment, with the Royal regimental prefix being granted on 31 March 1949.
Upon 2 RAR’s return to Australia they became part of the 1st Independent Brigade Group at Puckapunyal, Victoria, where they would remain until March 1953 as a training unit for recruits for the two battalions fighting in Korea.
2 RAR’s involvement in the Korean War was limited by the fact that it was not committed until late in the fighting. Instead, as mentioned above, the unit was used as a training unit that provided reinforcements for the other two RAR battalions that had been sent to Korea. The unit embarked for Korea on 5 March 1953 on board the MV New Australia, arriving on 17 March 1953. A few days later detachments from all three RAR battalions paraded at Camp Casey near Tongduchon, South Korea, the first time that the Royal Australian Regiment had paraded as a whole.
In April, 2 RAR relieved 1 RAR and became part of the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade, attached to the 1st Commonwealth Division. At this stage of the war, a static phase had developed. Relieving a French battalion, 2 RAR took up a position along the Jamestown Line and began patrolling in the ‘no-man’s land’ area around the Imjin and Samichon Rivers.
On 9 July 1953 the battalion relieved the 1st Battalion, The King's Regiment around a feature known as 'The Hook' on the left flank of the 1st Commonwealth Division. As peace talks were currently under way, offensive operations were not undertaken by the Australians in this time, although 2 RAR continued to conduct patrolling operations, as well as the myriad of other tasks associated with defence such as maintaining minefields, digging trenches, capturing prisoners and collecting intelligence.
A few weeks later, on the night of 24 July 1953, the Chinese attacked the UN positions on The Hook in an effort to gain more ground prior to the signing of the armistice agreement. Over the course of two nights, waves of Chinese soldiers attacked the Australian and American positions in frontal assaults aimed at overwhelming the defenders through sheer weight of numbers. In between attacks, artillery and mortar attacks were launched during the day to soften up the defences. In an effort to hold the line reinforcements from 'D' Company, 3 RAR and the 1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry were brought up and placed under 2 RAR command before the attacks were finally beaten off on the morning of 26 July. The number of Chinese dead was estimated between 2,000 and 3,000, while 2 RAR’s casualties for the two nights were five killed and another twenty-four wounded.
There were no further attacks and the armistice came into effect the following day. Despite the end of hostilities, 2 RAR remained in Korea as part of the UN forces stationed in the country until 6 April 1954, when it returned to Australia, once again on the MV New Australia. Total losses for 2 RAR while it had been in Korea had been 22 killed.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, 2 RAR undertook two tours of Malaya during the Malayan Emergency, the first between October 1955 and October 1957 and the second between October 1961 and August 1963. The battalion arrived in Malaya for its first tour on 19 October 1955 and was once again attached to the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group as part of the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR) along with British and New Zealand troops. Throughout the two-year tour the battalion was based at Minden Barracks on Penang Island, although it spent large periods of time in the jungle conducting operations and exercises that frequently lasted weeks at a time.
Due to a delay in obtaining Australian government approval to conduct operations against the Communist terrorists, 2 RAR did not commence operations until 1 January 1956 when the battalion was involved in Operation Deuce, which was a search and security operation in Kedah that was to last until the end of April when 2 RAR was relieved by the 1st Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment. For the next twenty months the battalion would continue to conduct similar operations – known as Operations Shark North and Rubberlegs – mainly in Perak, which was considered to be one of the main area’s of Communist activity. These operations were primarily long distance patrols in and around jungle areas searching for the Communists and providing perimeter security for the ‘New Villages’.
During this time contacts were very limited, and the most intense action came on 22 June 1956 when a five-man patrol from 2 RAR was ambushed by a group of Communists near the Sungei Bemben reservoir. Three Australians were killed in this incident and three others were wounded and as other Australian patrols converged on the area a firefight ensued in which two of the attackers were killed before the others broke contact and dispersed.
Throughout 1956 operations continued and 2 RAR’s companies took turns rotating through Kroh in the north of Perak on the Thai-Malay border. Between May and June 1957, 2 RAR took part in Operation Eagle Swoop, during which, on the afternoon of 24 June, they discovered a large Communist camp and in the subsequent clash two Australians were killed and one was wounded. Further operations were undertaken, including further patrols and ambushes, until finally in August 1957 2 RAR was withdrawn from anti-Communist terrorist operations and returned to its primary deterrence role as part of the FESR. This did not last long, however, as the battalion returned to Australia shortly afterwards in October 1957, to a large welcome home parade in Sydney.
The battalion’s second tour of Malaya came four years later when it joined the 28th Brigade again, this time at Camp Terendak near Malacca in October 1961. While they had been in Australia, they had been converted to a Pentropic battalion, however, prior to their deployment they had been converted back to the tropical establishment. In August 1962 they were committed to anti-Communist operations in Perlis and Kedah once more, searching for the remnants of the Communist terrorists along the Thai-Malay border. This lasted only a couple of months before it was decided to withdraw the Battalion from this role for six months' training as part of the FESR. Regardless, several 2 RAR companies were used on further operations against the Communists in May 1963, before the battalion returned to Australia in August, without having suffered any losses. 2 RAR’s total losses for the Malayan Emergency were 14 killed.
Two tours of Vietnam were completed by 2 RAR during the Vietnam War, the first one between May 1967 and June 1968 and the second between May 1970 and May 1971. An advanced party from 2 RAR arrived in Vietnam for their first tour in April 1967, although the main force did not deploy until the following month, embarking upon HMAS Sydney which had been converted to a troop carrier. Stationed at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province as part of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), they took over from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
As many of the battalion’s members had already served eighteen months overseas in Malaysia and Borneo and as such would only be able to serve a six-month tour, 2 RAR was brought up to strength by accepting a draft of national servicemen from Australia. They were joined by a company from the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, which was placed under 2 RAR’s command and later in the deployment, when a second company of New Zealanders was used to replace those 2 RAR members that were being rotated home having completed two years overseas service, the battalion would be given the formal title of 2 RAR/NZ (ANZAC). This was the first official integration of Australian and New Zealand infantry at unit or battalion level.
During 2 RAR’s thirteen-month tour they undertook a total of 23 operations in Phuoc Tuy and Bien Hoa provinces, and undertook constant schedule of patrols and ambushes in its area of operations in order to keep the Viet Cong (VC) off balance. Many of these operations were conducted as an independent unit, while others were conducted with the support of other 1 ATF units. The most significant of these operations was Operation Coburg, which was mounted between 24 January and 1 March 1968 in the border area between Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh provinces. This operation was the first operation conducted by 1 ATF outside of Phuoc Tuy and was aimed at denying the VC the ability to attack the large American bases at Long Binh and Bien Hoa. While this operation was underway, the Tet Offensive was launched, the result of which was that as well as contacting local force VC units, 2 RAR also came up against the main force units as well. 91 VC or North Vietnamese were killed in this operation.
2 RAR’s involvement in Coburg ended on 14 February, although the New Zealand company, by this time W Company, 1 RNZIR, remained with 3 RAR until the end of the operation in March. A second New Zealand company was taken on strength at this time and operations in Phuoc Tuy continued until 25 April 1968 when the Battalion was deployed to the Bien Hoa–Long Khanh border to undertake Operation Toan Tang. This was to be 2 RAR’s last major operation of its first tour and in June 1968 they were relieved by 4 RAR and returned to Australia, arriving there on 13 June.
2 RAR’s second tour came almost two years later, when it returned to Vietnam in May 1970, relieving 6 RAR at Nui Dat. Consisting of three rifle companies and a support company, 2 RAR was once again joined by two companies from the RNZIR and on 15 May the Anzac title was adopted again. The second tour was focused mainly upon 'pacification', which sought to provide security of the struggling South Vietnamese state by seeking out and destroying the VC in their bases areas and isolating them from the ordinary civilian population. This was essentially very monotonous work for the infantrymen. The VC had been greatly weakened by the failure of the Tet Offensive, and as a result over the twelve months that 2 RAR was deployed contact was significantly less than had been experienced during the first tour, sustaining half the number of casualties. Nevertheless, the presence of two strong provincial VC regiments in the area meant that security in Phuoc Tuy remained problematic until the end and in May 1971, 4 RAR/NZ took over from 2 RAR and the battalion returned to Australia.
Between August 1994 and August 1995 two contingents of Australian soldiers were deployed to Rwanada as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). The deployment was focused upon providing humanitarian assistance and medical care for sick and injured civilians and as such a combat role was not envisaged, however, a rifle company was sent also in order to protect the medical team and command elements. The first contingent drew security personnel from 'A' Company, 2/4 RAR and was deployed between August 1994 and February 1995. Following this, a second contingent was sent, this time drawn from 'B' Company, 2 RAR, having been delinked only days before. During this deployment, the company was responsible for providing security at Kigali airport and for providing escorts to the medical team.
In April 1995, there was a serious outbreak of violence in one of the refugee camps that 2 RAR personnel were based at. Outnumbered and unable to undertake offensive operations due to the restrictions placed upon their operations by the UN Mandate governing the deployment, the Australians were unable to intervene. It has since been estimated that up to 4,000 refugees were killed by members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army in this incident, although this number may well have been higher if not for the efforts of the Australian medics and infantrymen who braved hostile fire on numerous occasions without the ability to return fire as they attempted to assist the wounded and dying.
The second contingent remained in Rwanda until August 1995 when it was withdrawn from the war torn country and the Australian commitment ended.
East Timor 1999–2000
In September 1999, Australia deployed a brigade-sized combat element to East Timor as part of the UN sanctioned International Force – East Timor (INTERFET) that was deployed in order to restore law and order and end the widespread violence and destruction that had broken out following a referendum in August that had shown overwhelming support for independence from Indonesia. As a part of this deployment, the Australian force was charged with restoring peace and security and facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance. 2 RAR was one of the first units deployed once the airfield at Dili had been secured by elements of the Special Air Service Regiment. Arriving in Dili on 20 September 1999 having been flown in from Townsville, they immediately started the process of restoring order to the capital so that it could be used as an operational base from which further operations could be launched in the surrounding countryside.
As the rest of 2 RAR began to dig in around Komoro Airport to secure the air link with Australia and launched a number of patrols throughout the western part of the Dili, 'C' Company was detached to secure the beachhead at the docks. With two M-113 APCs from 3/4 Cav to provide fire support, 'C' Company began moving towards the docks, but found the way blocked as they encountered a number of platoon-strength roadblocks that had been set up by the Indonesian military (TNI). Overcoming these obstacles by swarming over them in massed company formations, 'C' Company eventually reached the dock where they encountered large numbers of refugees as well as groups of Indonesian military and militia. A tense stand-off followed as the Australians set about the task of securing the port in preparation for the arrival of the follow-on seaborne forces that were to land the following day.
The following day, as reinforcements arrived at the dock by sea, 2 RAR was relieved by 3 RAR, who took over the task of guarding the docks, freeing up 2 RAR to continue further operations around Dili. Initial operations focused upon carrying out building searches, setting up roadblocks and vehicle checkpoints, gathering intelligence from locals and finding and disarming the local militias that had largely been responsible for the violence.
On 27 September, 'D' Company, 2 RAR, conducted an airmobile operation into Liquica, west of Dili, before the battalion returned to the capital to continue the task of making the city safe. By the beginning of October Dili had been fairly well secured and so INTERFET began to move out into areas along the western border with Indonesian West Timor. 2 RAR’s rifle companies were deployed to Balibo by helicopter on 1 October, while the rest of the battalion arrived the next day. Working closely with other units in the area from New Zealand and Britain, the northern border area was secured before pushing further inland to Maliana, Bobonaro and Suai, which were considered important towns in the western area of the country.
The key town of Suai was cleared on 6 October when 2 RAR operating alongside elements from the SASR and the Gurkhas, was airlifted into the town. In doing so, 116 pro-Indonesian militiamen were captured, later sparking further violence when other militia units began attacking the Australians, resulting in two 2 RAR soldiers being wounded.
Up until this time despite several cases of tense stand-offs earlier in the operation, for the most part the TNI had largely kept its distance from the Australian force as they carried out their evacuation back to Indonesia, however, on 10 October a clash occurred near the border at Mota'ain. As an Australian patrol from 'C' Company advanced towards the border Indonesian military, police, and militia forces opened fire upon the lead platoon and the Australians returned fire, resulting in a number of Indonesian casualties. For his leadership under fire, Corporal Paul Teong, commander of the lead section in the forward platoon during the contact, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
Amidst growing concern of further obstruction by the TNI, 2 RAR continued to conduct operations in the western border areas as slowly but surely security was restored to East Timor. On 3 January 2000, 2 RAR was relieved by 5/7 RAR. The following month INTEFET began transferring responsibility to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
In October 2001, 2 RAR returned to East Timor as part of UNTAET, taking over from 4 RAR and serving a relatively uneventful tour, handing over to 3 RAR in April 2002.
In July 2003, amidst an outbreak of lawlessness, violence and civil unrest in the Solomon Islands, 2 RAR was deployed as part of a Combined Joint Task Force following a request for assistance from the Solomon Islands government. Under the auspices of the United Nations Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), a two hundred strong reinforced company group based on 2 RAR was deployed to help support civilian police re-establish law and order as part of Operation Anode.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 2 RAR has provided companies to the security force protecting the Australian embassy in Baghdad – SECDET. The first deployment came in May with 2003 when 5 Platoon, 'B' Company deployed on SECDET 1, before deploying again on the next rotation. In May 2006, 2 RAR's headquarters, support company and a rifle company deployed to Iraq as part of the third rotation of the Al Muthanna Task Group.
In May 2006, Timor Leste (as East Timor has since become) asked for Australian assistance once more. As social, political and ethnic differences threatened to divide the country amidst a resurgence of violence, an new UN mission, United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor (UNMIT) was established. As a part of Australia’s continued commitment to the fledgling nation, a battle group, known as Battle Group Samichon, based upon 2 RAR deployed to Timor Leste between September 2007 to April 2008.
From September 2007 to May 2008, elements of the battalion deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Slipper as part of RTF-3. The Security Task Group (STG) was made up of infantrymen from C Coy 2 RAR, mortarmen and snipers from SPT Coy 2 RAR, IMV crews from 6 RAR and B Sqn, 3/4 CAV REGT, Cavalrymen from 2/14 LHR(QMI) and gunners from 4 FD REGT. Elements from these units combined with elements of 3 CER to form a combat team. The role of the STG was to provide the firepower and mobility necessary to facilitate the engineers’ protected reconstruction. Intimately supported by Combat Engineers, Construction Engineers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians to make up Combat Team (CT) Spear, the STG was the fundamental enabler for the protected reconstruction effort.
The Combat Team conducted five major operations during its deployment, effectively expanding the ISAF and ANSF’s permanent influence in the Chora Valley and into the Baluchi Pass. The Combat Team sustained casualties early in the deployment with Tpr David ‘Poppy’ Pearce being killed by an IED in the Dorufshan and SGT Michael Lyddiard being seriously wounded whilst defusing an IED in the Chora Valley. The Combat Team was able to take the fight to the enemy during several engagements, most notably in the Sorkh Morghab region where all elements of the Combat Team engaged the enemy over several days allowing the construction of a patrol base and the Afghan Army to move into an area previously considered a Taliban stronghold.
In June 2011, the Battalion deployed to Urozgan Province, Afghanistan as Mentoring Task Force Three (MTF3).
Planned restructure under Plan Beersheba
2 RAR currently consists of:
- Battalion Headquarters
- 3 Rifle Companies – 'A', 'B', 'C'
- Support Company
- Administration Company
The following table provides details of 2 RAR's Commanding Officers:
|66 Aust Inf Bn:||16 October 1945 – June 47||LTCOL G.E. Colvin DSO, ED|
|2 AR:||23 November 1948 – 10 January 1949||LTCOL S.C. Graham MC|
|2 RAR (from 10 March 1949):||11 January 1949 – 12 December 1950||LTCOL C.A.E. Fraser MBE|
|8 January 1951 – 12 June 1952||LTCOL R.L. Hughes|
|13 June 1952 – 30 September 1952||LTCOL M.A. Austin DSO|
|1 October 1952 – 12 September 1954||LTCOL G.F. Larkin OBE|
|22 October 1954 – 4 November 1957||LTCOL J.G. Ochiltree OBE|
|5 November 1957 – 14 November 1958||LTCOL W.G. Henderson OBE|
|15 January 1959 – 17 April 1960||LTCOL A.S. Mann DSO|
|18 April 1960 – 31 May 1961||COL K.R.G. Coleman MC|
|1 June 1961 – 19 August 1963||LTCOL A.B. Stretton MBE|
|30 August 1963 – 13 December 1964||COL O.D. Jackson OBE|
|14 December 1964 – 31 May 1965||COL K.A. Peddle|
|1 June 1965 – 26 January 1967||LTCOL A.W.F. Rofe|
|27 January 1967 – 5 September 1968||LTCOL N.R. Charlesworth DSO|
|6 September 1968 – 10 January 1972||LTCOL J.M. Church DSO|
|Linked with 4 RAR||11 January 1972 – 14 August 1973||LTCOL J.A. Sheldrick|
|Delinked from 2/4 RAR||1 February 1995 – 3 December 1996||LTCOL R.G. Wilson|
|3 December 1996 – 8 December 1998||LTCOL D.L Morrison|
|8 December 1998 – 1 December 2000||LTCOL M.Slater DSC, CSC|
|1 December 2000 – 13 January 2003||LTCOL A.J Campbell AM|
|14 January 2003 – 3 December 2004||LTCOL J.J Frewen AM|
|4 December 2004 – ? December 2006||LTCOL M.A Mahy|
|December 2006 – December 2008||LTCOL B. James|
|December 2008 – December 2010||LTCOL D. Smith|
|December 2010 – December 2013||LTCOL C. Smith DSC, CSC|
|December 2013 – Current||LTCOL M. Bassingthwaighte DSM|
- Royal Australian Regiment
- Military history of Australia during the Korean War
- Military history of Australia during the Vietnam War
- The Australian Army. Modernisation from Beersheba and Beyond (PDF). Commonwealth of Australia. p. 5. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korea". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
- "History of 2 RAR" (PDF). Royal Australian Regiment Standing Orders. Royal Australian Regiment Association. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Coulthard-Clark 1998, p. 269.
- "2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Malayan Emergency". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
- Dennis et al 1995, p. 385.
- "2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
- Grey 2008, p. 244.
- These figures do not include New Zealanders attached to 2 RAR/NZ. Over the two tours there were 10 New Zealanders killed, and 57 wounded.
- "History of the Royal Australian Regiment". Royal Australian Regiment Association. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Morgan 2006, p. 6.
- "2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, East Timor 1999–2000". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
- Morgan 2006, p. 12.
- Morgan 2006, p. 13.
- Morgan 2006, p. 14
- Morgan 2006, pp. 13–14.
- Morgan 2006, p. 20.
- Morgan 2006, pp. 23–24.
- Grey 2008, p. 277.
- Horner & Bou 2008, pp. 318–319.
- Horner & Bou 2008, p. 326.
- Horner & Bou 2008, p. 332.
- Horner & Bou 2008, p. 335.
- "United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste". United Nations. Archived from the original on 7 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
- "TLBBG 3—Battle Group Samichon". Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-10-03.[dead link]
- Department of Defence 2008, Reconstruction Task Force 3, Sunset Digital, Brisbane
- "Defence announces major Army restructure". ABC Online. 12 December 2011.
- "Specialist force trained for East Timor-style operations". Herald Sun. 12 December 2012.
- Horner & Bou 2008, pp. 439–440.
- Coulthard-Clark, Chris. (1998). Where Australians Fought: The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles. Allen & Unwin: Sydney. ISBN 1-86448-611-2.
- Dennis, Peter, Grey, Jeffrey, Morris, Ewan & Prior, Robin. (eds.) (1995). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553227-9.
- Grey, Jeffrey. (2008). A Military History of Australia. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 978-0-521-69791-0.
- Horner, David & Bou, Jean. (2008). Duty First. A History of the Royal Australian Regiment. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-374-5.
- Morgan, Benjamin. (2006). A Brief History of Australian Army Operations in East Timor, 1999–2005[dead link] (Archived 2009-10-23). Academic research paper. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
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