7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment

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7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
RAR Hatbadge.png
Badge of the Royal Australian Regiment
Active 1965–73
2007 – present
Country Australia
Branch Australian Army
Type Light Infantry
Part of 1st Brigade
Garrison/HQ RAAF Base Edinburgh, Adelaide
Nickname(s) The Pigs
Porky Seven[1]
Motto Duty First
Colours Maroon
March Quick – Australaise (band); Cock o' the North (pipes and drums)
Slow – My Home[2]
Mascot Pig (unofficial)[1]
Engagements

Vietnam War

War in Afghanistan
Commanders
Current
commander
Lieutenant Colonel D. McCammon, DSM
Colonel-in-Chief HM The Queen (Royal Australian Infantry Corps)
Insignia
Unit Colour Patch INF1007 - UCP - 7RAR.PNG
Tartan Gordon (pipes and drums)

The 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR) is a regular infantry battalion of the Australian Army. It was originally raised in 1965 as part of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War and it eventually served two tours in Vietnam in 1967 and 1971. In 1973, following Australia's withdrawal from the conflict, the battalion was amalgamated with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment to form the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5/7 RAR).

These two units remained linked until 2007, during which time they served together in the mechanised infantry role in East Timor and Iraq. In December 2006 – early January 2007, 5/7 RAR was delinked and 7 RAR was re-raised. In January 2009, 7 RAR achieved operational status, a year ahead of schedule. The battalion deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper in 2008–09 and 2012–13. Following its return in 2013 it was converted into a standard infantry battalion. It currently forms part of the 1st Brigade and is based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in Adelaide.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

In late 1964, the South Vietnamese government requested increased military assistance from Australia to help stop the spread of communism in Vietnam.[3] Following talks with the United States in early 1965, the Australian government decided to increase its commitment to the war in Vietnam, offering to send an infantry battalion to bolster the team of advisors that had been in South Vietnam since 1962.[4] In order to meet this requirement, the decision was made to expand the Royal Australian Regiment, the Australian Army's regular infantry force, to nine battalions by 1965, using experienced regulars and national servicemen.[5]

As a part of this expansion, the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, was raised on 1 September 1965 at Puckapunyal in Victoria, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Eric Smith.[6] The battalion drew the majority of its experienced personnel from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), which had been serving in Malaysia as part of Australia's involvement in the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation. The rest of 7 RAR's personnel were national serviceman from the second intake.[2] Due to the large numbers of national servicemen that the battalion received from the outset, upon formation 7 RAR's average age was estimated at only 22 years. A number of these national servicemen went on to command sections as non commissioned officers or platoons as newly commissioned subalterns.[7] At this time the battalion adopted a pig as its mascot, following an observation by the commanding officer about the state of the soldiers' mess at Puckapunyal.[7]

In June 1966, after the battalion had completed a series of intensive training exercises, 7 RAR was considered operationally deployable. At this time, 100 men were transferred from the battalion to units serving in Vietnam, to provide reinforcements.[6] After this, further training was undertaken at the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra, Queensland and later in the year, 7 RAR took part in "Exercise Barra Winga" around Shoalwater Bay.[7]

Vietnam[edit]

First tour[edit]

7 RAR tracker dogs and their handlers in South Vietnam, 1967

In April 1967, 7 RAR embarked upon HMAS Sydney, bound for South Vietnam. Upon arrival they relieved the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR). By this time, the single Australian battalion that had originally been committed had been replaced by the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), consisting of two infantry battalions and various supporting units, based in Phuoc Tuy Province.[8] Upon arrival the battalion joined the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) at 1 ATF's base at Nui Dat, however, the following month 6 RAR was replaced by the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) and it was with 2 RAR that the battalion served out its first year-long tour of duty in South Vietnam.[7]

Over the course of those 12 months, 7 RAR took part in 26 battalion-level operations, as well as numerous small unit actions.[9][Note 1] Initially 7 RAR undertook security operations around Nui Dat as well as carrying out a few search and destroy taskings at a local level, however, their first major operation saw them take up a blocking position near Xuyen Moc in support of US and South Vietnamese forces who advanced through the May Tao mountains in an effort to locate the Viet Cong 275th Regiment and drive them towards 7 RAR's position. Ultimately, however, this operation failed as the VC unit was not located.[10] In August 1967 the battalion was tasked to undertake an independent search and destroy operation to the north-west of Nui Dat, in the Hat Dich area. This operation, codenamed Operation Ballarat, led to the Battle of Suoi Chau Pha when 'A' Company, under Major Ewart O'Donnell fought an encounter battle with a reinforced Viet Cong company from the 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment. Five Australians were killed during the fighting, while another died of wounds later, and 19 others were wounded. It is believed that the Viet Cong suffered over 200 casualties in the battle, largely from supporting artillery and mortars.[11]

Throughout August and September 7 RAR took part in resettlement operations around Xa Bang. Later in September, the battalion lost a large number of its national servicemen who, having completed their two-year obligation, were rotated back to Australia for discharge. The following month they took part in an Australian, US and South Vietnamese operation called Santa Fe which was launched in the May Tao Secret Zone in an attempt to find the Viet Cong's 5th Division. After this they undertook search and destroy operations around Nui Dat, however contact with the Viet Cong during this time was limited.[12] In December 1967, 1 ATF was expanded to a brigade-group with the arrival of a third infantry battalion, 3 RAR, and a quantity of Centurion tanks.[13] Between 24 January and 1 March 1968, 7 RAR deployed to Bien HoaLong Khanh border along with 2 RAR and subsequently took part in Operation Coburg during the Tet Offensive.[14]

On 9 April 1968, 7 RAR was relieved by 1 RAR and subsequently rotated back to Australia. Upon arrival in Sydney, the battalion was welcomed home by a large crowd and conducted a march through the streets. Throughout their deployment over 1,180 men had served in the battalion's ranks, of whom 16 had been killed and 124 wounded.[9] Members of the battalion received the following decorations: one Distinguished Service Order (DSO), two Members of Order of the British Empire (MBEs), two Military Crosses (MCs), two Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCMs), three Military Medals (MMs) and 14 Mentions in Despatches (MIDs).[14]

Second tour[edit]

Following 7 RAR's return to Australia it was based at Finschhafen Lines, at Holsworthy, New South Wales. It was there, on 6 October 1968, that the battalion finally received its Queen's and Regimental Colours in a ceremony presided over by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler.[2] Following this the battalion undertook further training in preparation for its second tour of duty in South Vietnam, which came in early 1970. They arrived in country in February under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Grey, replacing 5 RAR.[15] They arrived amidst an effort to pacify Phuoc Tuy. This effort involved 7 RAR in almost continuous operations, in an attempt to keep the Viet Cong off balance and separate them from the civilian population.[14] During April and May 1970, 7 RAR took part in the task force level Operation Concrete which took place around Xuyen Moc with the aim of destroying the Viet Cong's D 445th Battalion.[16]

The battalion's role in Concrete was to operate in the Tan Ru region, carrying out a reconnaissance-in-force followed by ambush operations. Only three companies were available for wider operations, however, as 'C' Company was detached to provide training to the ARVN 18th Division, although it undertook local patrols and ambushes. Instead of being inserted by helicopter, the decision was made for the companies to deploy on foot and by Armoured Personnel Carrier.[17] On 20 April, one of 'B' Company's platoons contacted a small Viet Cong force and engaged them in a brief firefight that left one VC dead. Two days later, in concert with artillery and Centurion tanks, 'B' Company was involved in capturing a bunker complex.[17]

A memorial plaque for members of 7 RAR killed in Vietnam 1967–68 and 1970–71. Shown at Regimental Square, Sydney, New South Wales.

Throughout June 1970 and February 1971, 1 ATF undertook a four-phased pacification operation known as Cung Chung in concert with South Vietnamese forces. This involved extensive patrolling, ambush and cordon and search operations.[2] During one such operation on the night of 30 December 1970 Headquarters 'B' Company, 7 RAR and four APCs from 3rd Cavalry Regiment were contacted by a large group of Viet Cong. The communists assaulted the Australians four times before being repelled by heavy fire from the M113s. The following morning a clearing patrol found 21 bodies and a large quantity of weapons and ammunition. Intelligence later assessed that a company from D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion had been destroyed.[18]

On 25 February 1971, 3 RAR relieved 7 RAR, and the battalion returned to Sydney, arriving there on 10 March 1971.[2] This was the battalion's last tour of Vietnam. For its second tour, members of 7 RAR received the following decorations: one DSO, two MBEs, two MCs, two MMs, 5 MIDs and one British Empire Medal.[14] Casualties included 17 killed and 89 wounded, many of them caused by mines lifted by the Viet Cong from the controversial barrier minefield laid previously by the Australians at Dat Do.[19] Over the course of its two deployments, over 2,400 men served with 7 RAR of which 33 were killed and 220 wounded.[1]

Linking with the 5th Battalion[edit]

Upon return to Australia the battalion commenced the process of reforming under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ian Mackay, in preparation for an expected third tour of South Vietnam in mid-1972.[20] However, in December 1971, 1 ATF was withdrawn from Vietnam as part of a phased withdrawal of Australian personnel from the country.[21] This decision, coupled with the subsequent abolition of conscription following the election of the Whitlam government and a shift in Australian defence policy towards an emphasis on the defence of mainland Australia, resulted in the need to reduce the size of the Australian Army. In order to implement this it was decided to amalgamate a number of infantry battalions. 7 RAR was one of these, and on 3 December 1973 the battalion was linked with 5 RAR to form the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment at a ceremony conducted at Tobruk Lines, Holsworthy.[2] The battalion's last commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Greenhalgh, who had assumed command of 7 RAR on 19 March 1973, became the first commanding officer of the new battalion.[22]

Mechanisation[edit]

The M113 armoured personnel carrier was first introduced in 1976, and 5/7 RAR officially adopted the "mechanised" suffix in June 1984 and has been a significant part of the battalion's heritage ever since.[23] The unit deployed on operational service with the vehicles during INTERFET in East Timor in 1999 and maintained a QRF presence with M113s in Timor-Leste from 2006–09. The most recent M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers were introduced on 15 November 2007. The ceremonial handover took place at Robertson Barracks, where one of the vehicles on display was fitted with extra armour, spall curtains and track shrouds.[24]

Re-raised[edit]

A 7RAR soldier on exercise at Shoalwater Bay 2011

In 2006, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, announced that there would be an expansion of the Australian regular infantry by two battalions, as part of the Hardened and Networked Army plan. As part of this, a second mechanised infantry battalion was raised by de-linking 5/7 RAR to become the 5th Battalion and 7th Battalion. On 5 December 2006, the 5th/7th Battalion was formally de-linked, restoring the 7th Battalion to the order of battle.[25] In January 2007, 7 RAR was officially re-raised in Darwin as part of the 1st Brigade. At the time, 'B' Company, 5/7 RAR, which was serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper at the time was reassigned to 7 RAR.

The battalion contributed a mechanised platoon to two rotations of the ANZAC Battle Group deployment to Timor in 2007 and 2008 as part of Operation Astute.[26] In 2008–09, elements of the battalion deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper, forming the basis for the 1st Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF-1).[27] One member of the battalion was killed in action during an engagement near Kakarak on 16 March 2009.[28][29][30]

At the same time, in Australia, the battalion began receiving new intakes of soldiers and undertook an intensive training program which saw the battalion certified as "operationally deployable" in January 2009, well before the planned date of 2010.[31] 7 RAR subsequently relocated to Horseshoe Lines at RAAF Base Edinburgh near Adelaide in South Australia in 2010–11.[32][33]

Afghanistan[edit]

Reconstruction Task Force – 1[edit]

A Reconstruction Taskforce based around the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment with protective elements from the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and 2nd Cavalry Regiment began arriving in Orūzgān Province in southern Afghanistan in early September 2006. Initially, the plan was to insert a large engineer contingent with enough of a security element to provide the necessary security in and around a construction site. Upon realising the need for greater expansion into outlying areas; and due to a greater threat environment, Combat Team Bravo (CTB) was also prepared, equipped and deployed from Australia.

The addition this infantry based combat team provided by the newly re-raised 7 RAR allowed the influence of RTF 1 to expand into key areas significant distances away from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Davis. With a force package consisting of Bushmaster PMVs and Light Armoured Vehicles, 1 RTF was able to secure the job sites incorporated into its expanded role.[34]

The Reconstruction Task Force had a clearly defined role to work on reconstruction and improvement of provincial infrastructure (schools, hospitals, bridges etc.) and community-based projects to assist the Afghan Government in securing a future for its people.[34] The Task Force also provided trade training to the local population and military engineering training to the Afghan National Army.

Mentoring & Reconstruction Task Force – 1[edit]

Prior to October 2008, the Australian Defence Force's commitment to Operation Slipper in Afghanistan was purely focused on the rebuilding efforts of the reconstruction force and the combat role of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG). However, with the deployment of MRTF-1 in 2008–09 it saw a change in mission focus to the infantry's previous role during the RTF. MRTF-1 saw the role of the infantry in Afghanistan expand with the inclusion of a mentoring component provided by the first Operational and Mentor Liaison Team (OMLT). The focus of the OMLT during 7 RAR's deployment for MRTF-1 was similar to that of the Australian Army Training Team (AATT-V) in Vietnam, with a focus on mentoring the ANA 2nd Kandak, and also enhancing the tactical employment of the battalion against the Taliban. The MRTF-1 battle group (BG) was composed of a variety of different elements, however the core of the BG and its hierarchy were members from 7 RAR. The 7 RAR BG consisted of Combat Team Tusk (B Company from 7 RAR), 1st Field Squadron and a Combat Service Support Team (CSST).[35] Combat Team Tusk consisted of 7 RAR infantrymen, Combat Engineers, ASLAVs, Mortars (5 RAR) and Snipers (1 RAR).[36] During the course of its deployment to Afghanistan, members of 7 RAR received the following decorations: one Distinguished Service Cross, three Medals for Gallantry, four Distinguished Service Medals, one Conspicuous Service Medal, three Commendations for Gallantry, one Medal of the Order of Australia, two Commendations for Distinguished Service, and one United States Army Commendation Medal.[37]

Advisor Task Force – 1[edit]

The 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment Task Group (7 RAR Task Group) handed over the role of advising the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 4th Brigade to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Task Group (2 CAV Task Group) during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony in Tarin Kot on 15 June 2013. 7 RAR had been deployed from November 2012 to June 2013 “represent[ing] the ADF as a professional and adaptive force at a crucial stage of the transition to Afghan security responsibility,” Lieutenant Colonel Wells said.[38]

Through the Afghan winter and into the traditional summer fighting season, 7 RAR Task Group advised the 4th Brigade in its conduct of more than 13 independent brigade-level operations, maintaining pressure on the insurgency. Throughout the deployment ATF 1 continued to provide force protection support to Australian and International Security Assistance Force elements in Uruzgan. ATF 1 also supported the process of security transition in the province; seeing governance and security firmly in the hands of the Afghan people.[39]

Transition to Standard Infantry Battalion and Current Composition[edit]

The battalion was de-mechanised in 2013 to become a dismounted infantry battalion under Plan Beersheba.[40] This involved the loss of all M113 AS4 APCs and the Battalion is now reliant on 1 Brigade assets for transport. The battalions’ composition is referred to as the Standard Infantry Battalion ‘SIB’ format and is currently:[41]

  • Battalion Headquarters.
  • Three Rifle Companies (Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie).
  • Support Company.
  • Administration Company.

Customs and Traditions[edit]

7 RAR has developed many unique customs and traditions throughout its history. Some aspects of this identity are presented below.

Pipes and Drums[edit]

In 1969, following the formation of the Australian Army Band Corps, infantry units serving in Vietnam found themselves without stretcher bearers, who tended to come from unit bands. To solve this problem, the Army directed the regular battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment to form new bands; to avoid competing directly with the new band corps, it was decided that these new bands would be either pipes and drums, bugle and drums or fife and drums. The 7th Battalion decided to form a pipe band. This was then passed to the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment on its formation in 1973.[42] The different Marches of each sub-unit are listed below:

  • Battalion quick march – “Australaise”
  • Battalion slow march – “Cock o’ The North”
  • Bn HQ – “Steamboat”
  • A Coy – “The Black Bear”
  • B Coy – “Nut Brown Maiden”
  • C Coy – “The Glendarvel Highlanders”
  • SPT Coy – “Bonnie Dundee”
  • Admin Coy – “the Muckin O’ Geordie’s Brye”

The CO's Table[edit]

During Operation Santa Fe in October and November 1967, 7th Battalion conducted a search and destroy task in the north east of Phouc Tuy Province. During the reorganisation of one part of the battle, a VC bed was discovered by members of the Battalion. Subsequently the CO, LTCOL Eric Smith, decided that the bed would be best put to use as a map table on which to plot his callsigns from his command post. The table currently resides on the ground floor of 7RAR battalion headquarters, in Adelaide.[43][page needed]

Graham Cornes Football Match[edit]

Graham Cornes OAM (born 31 March 1948 in Melbourne, Victoria) is a former Australian rules footballer and coach, as well as a media personality. Graham Cornes is also a Vietnam veteran, having served in Vietnam as a soldier with the 7th Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment in 1968. An annual football match is been played between 7 RAR and 16 ALR for the Graham Cornes trophy, in recognition of his service to the Battalion, AFL, and the nation.[44]

Battle honours[edit]

7 RAR currently holds the following battle honours:

  • Bien-Hoa, Vietnam (1967–68) and Vietnam (1970–71).[14]

Alliances[edit]

Commanding Officers[edit]

The following officers commanded 7 RAR:[45]

  • Lieutenant Colonel E.H. Smith, DSO (1 September 1965 – 24 November 1968)
  • Lieutenant Colonel R.A. Grey, AO, DSO (25 November 1968 – 14 May 1971)
  • Major J.J. Farry (15 May 1971 – 18 July 1971)
  • Lieutenant Colonel I.B. Mackay (19 July 1971 – 18 March 1973)
  • Lieutenant Colonel P.N. Greenhalgh, AM (19 March 1973 – 2 December 1973)
  • Colonel S. Gabriel, DSC (3 December 2006 – December 2009)
  • Lieutenant Colonel M. Garraway, AM (December 2009 – December 2012)
  • Lieutenant Colonel M. Wells, DSC (December 2012 – 8 December 2014)
  • Lieutenant Colonel D. McCammon, DSM (8 December 2014 – Current)

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ There is some discrepancy about this figure amongst the sources. The Annex G to Chapter 6 of the Royal Australian Regiment Standing Orders provides the figure of 30 battalion-level operations.
Citations
  1. ^ a b c "7 RAR". Digger History. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Annex G to Chapter 6: 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment: A Brief History" (PDF). Royal Australian Regiment Standing Orders. Royal Australian Regiment. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Grey 2008, p. 237
  4. ^ Grey 2008, pp. 236–237
  5. ^ Grey 2008, p. 238
  6. ^ a b Horner & Bou 2008, p. 152
  7. ^ a b c d Horner & Bou 2008, p. 153
  8. ^ Grey 2008, pp. 242–243
  9. ^ a b Horner & Bou 2008, p. 199
  10. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 191
  11. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 193
  12. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 194
  13. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 195
  14. ^ a b c d e "7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment". Vietnam, 1962–1972 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  15. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 229
  16. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, pp. 229–230
  17. ^ a b Horner & Bou 2008, p. 230
  18. ^ O'Brien 1995, pp. 233–234
  19. ^ O'Brien 1995, p. 242
  20. ^ O'Brien 1995, p. 253
  21. ^ Grey 2008, p. 244
  22. ^ O'Brien 1995, pp. 255–256
  23. ^ "5th/7th Battalion (Mechanized), The Royal Australian Regiment: A Brief History". 5/7 RAR Association. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  24. ^ "Army's latest fighting vehicle arrives at 1 Brigade" (Press release). Department of Defence. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  25. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 346
  26. ^ "ANZAC Battle Group". Nautilus Institute. 24 August 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  27. ^ Ashby-Cliffe, Jane (4 September 2008). "Afghan Mentors Fired Up" (PDF). Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1197 ed.). p. 5. ISSN 0729-5685. 
  28. ^ "Australian soldier dies in firefight with Taliban in Afghanistan". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 March 2009. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2009. 
  29. ^ Pearlman, Jonathan (18 March 2009). "Just four days with new son: soldier, 21, killed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  30. ^ Coulthard-Clark 2010, p. 299.
  31. ^ "7 RAR Operationally Deployable Ahead of Schedule" (Press release). Department of Defence. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  32. ^ Clarke, D. (2010). "Battalion on the Move". SA Defence Business (Defence Teaming Centre). pp. 10–12. 
  33. ^ Reid, Khama (21 January 2011). "Soldiers move from Darwin into Adelaide's Base Edinburgh". ABC Adelaide. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  34. ^ a b "1st Reconstruction Task Force returns home". Image Gallery: April 2007. Department of Defence. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  35. ^ Australian Army 2012, p. xi
  36. ^ Australian Army 2012, p. 41
  37. ^ "Afghanistan Awards". 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Association. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  38. ^ "Defence completes multi-million dollar Uruzgan road project". Department of Defence. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  39. ^ "New Australian Task Group takes the lead in Afghanistan" (Press release). Department of Defence. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  40. ^ Informa Australia. "Lieutenant Colonel Darryl Bridgeman, Australian Army". slideshare.net. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  41. ^ Bulletin of the Royal Australian Regiment Foundation, Issue 31 Oct 2013
  42. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, p. 244
  43. ^ O'Brien 1995
  44. ^ "Porky Seven - Graham Cornes Football Match". 7rar.asn.au. 
  45. ^ Horner & Bou 2008, pp. 442–443

References[edit]

External links[edit]