3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) "Old Faithful"

About This Unit

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Following the end of the Second World War, Australia consolidated its forces in the SW Pacific on the island of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea and began despatching troops back to Australia for demobilisation.

However it formed three new infantry battalions from volunteers on Morotai, who were to be deployed to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF (/explore/conflicts/13)). The new Battalions were designated the 65th, 66th and 67th Battalions respectively  The three new Battalions, plus supporting troops, were sent to Japan as part of the BCOF (see campaign entry), based near Kure, a former Japanese Naval base.

These three Battalions were to form the nucleus of the post War regular Army, and in late 1948, the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) was created.  The three Battalions were re-designated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment, abbreviated as 1RAR, 2RAR and 3RAR respectively.

As the situation in Japan progressed and stabilised, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were repatriated back to Australia by the end of 1949, leaving 3RAR in Japan.  The Battalion had settled into the routine of garrison duties, but all that was about to change, when the "Cold War" went "hot" in Korea in 1950.  (See the Korean War entries (/explore/conflicts/4)).

Reinforced with combat veterans of WW 2 who re-enlisted as "Kanga Force", 3 RAR went on to serve throughout the Korean conflict distinguishing itself at battles such as "The Apple Orchard", "Broken Bridge", and most particularly at "Kapyong", for which it was awarded a US Presidential citation, and at "Maryang San" very late in the war.

3RAR earned the sobriquet "Old Faithful" during the Korean War.  It was arguably the best trained, most professional and experienced ground force element ever put in the field by Australia.  This is not said lightly but rather in the context of the fact that it possessed a higher proprotion of combat experienced personnel and that it acquitted itself admirably in all four phases of conventional warfare (advance, attack withdrawal and defence) often against an enemy well equipped with tanks and artillery, and in many cases against daunting odds.

3RAR went on the serve during the 1950s and 60s pretty much wherever there was trouble in which Australia committed ground forces.  It served in the Malay peninsula during the Emergency (see entry (/explore/conflicts/7)), in Borneo during Konfrontasi  (/explore/conflicts/8)between Malaysia and Indonesia and then when Australia's commitment in Vietnam began, "Old Faithful" was once again in the field serving two tours of duty; the first in 1968 and then again in 1970/1.  The Battalion was heavily engaged in the former at Fire Support Bases Balmoral and Coral (See campaign entry under conflict "Vietnam (/explore/conflicts/5)"),  where it repelled a major enemy attack which threatened to overrun the base.

It is the 'most moved' Battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment, having served outside Australia for nearly 20 years of its existence and having had three bases on mainland Australia in the past 40 years.  From the mid 1960s until 1981, 3 RAR was based at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills. In 1981 it was re-located to Sydney to the Holsworthy base and was assigned the role of the Airborne (parachute) Battalion, adopting the distinctive "cherry beret" and 'para wings'.  It remained in Sydney as part of the 1st Brigade until in 2012, under a re-organisation, it relinquished the 'para' role (and the beret) and relocated to Townsville at Lavarack Barracks as part of the 3rd Brigade, a light infantry battalion once again. 

Along the way the Battalion or elements of it served in the Solomon Islands (/explore/conflicts/12), East Timor, Iraq (/explore/conflicts/10)and Afghanistan (/explore/conflicts/18)between 2001 and 2013.

3RAR retains its identity and heritage as "Old Faithful" - which after nearly 70 years of distinguished service, it undoubtedly is.  

Its large family of veterans is bound by the pride of their service in a unit that has done the nation proud and served with distinction wherever the bugle called.

Steve Larkins 2014

 

Steve Larkins was a Second Lieutenant Platoon Commander with A Coy and Spt Coy 3RAR 1977-79

 

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Stories

Award of the US Presidential Citation - Kapyong Korea 22-25 April 1951



BATTLE HONOURS – By direction of the President, under the provisions of Executive Order 9396 (Sec I, WD Bul. 22, 1943) Superseding Executive Order 9075 (Sec III, WD Bul. 16, 1942) and pursuant to authority in AR 260-15, the following units are cited as public evidence of deserved honour and distinction.

3RD BATTALION, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT

2ND BATTALION, PRINCESS PATRICIA'S CANADIAN LIGHT INFANTRY COMPANY A

72ND HEAVY TANK BATTALION (UNITED STATES)

are cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of combat duties in action against the armed enemy near Kapyong, Korea, on the 24 and 25 April 1951. The enemy had broken through the main line of resistance and penetrated to the area north of Kapyong. The units listed above were deployed to stem the assault. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, moved to the right flank of the sector and took up defensive positions north of the Pukham River. The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, defended in the vicinity of Hill 677 on the left flank. Company A, 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion, supported all units to the full extent of its capacity and, in addition, kept the main roads open and assisted in evacuating the wounded. Troops from a retreating division passed through the sector which enabled enemy troops to infiltrate with the withdrawing forces. The enemy attacked savagely under the clangor of bugles and trumpets. The forward elements were completely surrounded going through the first day and into the second. Again and again the enemy threw waves of troops at the gallant defenders, and many times succeeded in penetrating the outer defences, but each time the courageous, indomitable, and determined soldiers repulsed the fanatical attacks. Ammunition ran low and there was no time for food. Critical supplies were dropped by air to the encircled troops, and they stood their ground in resolute defiance of the enemy. With serene and indefatigable persistence, the gallant soldiers held their defensive positions and took heavy tolls of the enemy. In some instances when the enemy penetrated the defences, the commanders directed friendly artillery fire on their own positions in repelling the thrusts. Toward the close of 25 April, the enemy break-through had been stopped. The seriousness of the break-through on the central front had been changed from defeat to victory by the gallant stand of these heroic and courageous soldiers. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry; and Company A, 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion, displayed such gallantry, determination, and espirit de corps in accomplishing their missions under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set them apart and above other units participating in the campaign, and by their achievements they brought distinguished credit on themselves, their homelands, and all freedom-loving nations



BY COMMAND OF LIEUTENANT GENERAL VAN FLEET:

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Korea

Korea, 1950–53

3 RAR arrived in South Korea in late September 1950. The Battalion became part of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade and took part in the United Nations offensive into North Korea. In October 1950, the Battalion distinguished itself at Chongju during the UN northward advance to the Yalu River preceded by actions at the Apple Orchard and Broken Bridge were well executed, the latter against a large enemy force equipped with tanks. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Green, it attacked and captured a large North Korean defensive line in a combined arms operation with tanks and artillery. Green was later killed by artillery fire while the Battalion was resting in a forward area.

3RAR Korea veteran Max Eberle reminds us that there was more to Korea than just Kapyong and Maryang San.

"I recently attended a luncheon at Paddington Woollahra R.S.L. There were many friends there and all had a good time.

However, I must disagree with the remarks of the guest speaker when he mentioned that Kapyong was the first major battle in which the Australians were involved in Korea.

I feel I should mention the Apple Orchard when our youngest troops, those young fellows in C Company who, in their first encounter, went "up the Guts" with fixed bayonets. It was fortunate there were so few casualties, very fortunate. When the bullets are flying they are all big battles.

Then there is the Battle of Broken Bridge, 16 wounded and 8 Killed in action. How many have to die to qualify for a big battle? How about Chongju with 35 wounded and 9 Killed and again Pakchon on November 5 when there were 32 wounded and 14 killed.

After a couple of other minor skirmishes there was Hill 410 with 31 wounded and 12 killed. Another skirmish?

The early battles were attacks against North Koreans dug in on the top of hills and our boys had the task of climbing those hills in open ground. Most of the early battles were won in about half a day or a little more and for such a short time I would consider the casualty lists quite horrendous.

However they were only' skirmishes' in the minds of some who were not there, those that can only see the situations they were in as being of any great importance. Unfortunately the men who lost their lives in those early "skirmishes" are just as dead as those who were killed at Kapyong.. "Lest we forget".

This is not to denigrate those who served in the Kapyong battle, they fought a tremendous action and were well worthy of the Honour bestowed upon them by various governments. The young diggers who had their baptism of fire at the Apple Orchard, when they went in with a bayonet charge without the support of artillery or mortars, also deserve high praise, not eo be forgotten entirely.

There is a tendency today to speak of the Korean War as if it commenced on April 23 1951 and there are those who scoff and say it started at Maryang-san or The Hinge. Anything that went before is not worth mentioning.

I am sorry to say, you will always get an argument from myself, Charlie Green, and the 255 casualties which preceded Kapyong. I guess it all depends on when one heard the "Call of the Bugle"."

Max J. Eberle



As the United Nations forces were pushed south by the Chinese who had entered the war, 3RAR's defining moment came at the Battle of Kapyong on 22/25 April 1951, when, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Ferguson it and adjacent units stemmed the Chinese advance which threatened to break through into the Central Front of the UN forces. In a difficult defensive action supported by the 16th New Zealand Field Regiment, 3RAR , the 2nd Battalion Princes Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and A Company of the US 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion succeeded in defeating an entire Chinese Division, and were awarded US Presidential citations for their efforts.

In July 1951, relinquished command and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hassett. Over the period 3–8 October 1951, 3 RAR fought the Battle of Maryang San, which is widely regarded as one of the Australian Army's greatest accomplishments of the Korean War, and a copybook example of a deliberate Battalion attack over successive enemy defensive positions.

3 RAR remained in Korea until the war ended in 1953 and was later joined by 1 and 2 RAR on rotation. 3RAR sustained total casualties of 231 men killed. Upon return to Australia in 1954, 3 RAR was based in at Ingleburn and Holsworthy Barracks, in New South Wales, before once again embarking for overseas service in Malaya.

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