2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR)

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About This Unit

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2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment "Second to None"

Raised: 23 November 1948.

Current Location:  Lavarack Barracks Townsville QLD.

Structure: Amphibious Battalion.

Band: Pipes and Drums.

Regimental March:  Band: Ringo. Pipes and Drums: Back in Black.

Lanyard: Black.

Slogan: Second to None.

Website: 2rar-association.net.au/      

Facebook: https:/Facebook.com/2RAR –Association-Inc  

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.

Concurrently, it formed three new infantry battalions from volunteers on Morotai designated the 65th, 66th and 67th Battalions respectively  The three new Battalions , plus supporting troops, were sent to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF).

These three Battalions were to form the nucleus of the post War regular Army, and in 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.

As the situation in Japan progressed and stabilised, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were repatriated back to Australia by the end of 1949, leaving 3 RAR in Japan.

Korea

2RAR deployed to Korea in March 1953, briefly joining the other two Australian Battalions. A highlight was a parade involving all three original Battalions. On 23 November 2015, the three Battalions again paraded together in Townsville for the first time since Korea to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Regiment.  

By this period in the Korean War, operations had reduced largely to patrol actions as both sides awaited a ceasefire. But it was during this period and only hours before the ceasefire that the major action known as the Hook, was fought by 2RAR. The Hook was a key allied held position on the left flank of the Commonwealth line which dominated the Samichon valley. The Chinese had attempted to capture it on several occasions. When the Australians took over the area, 2RAR was tasked to defend it.

The position occupied by 2RAR had been battered by the Chinese assaults in May and June so there was an urgent need to repair the damage to be ready for an expected attack. During this period there were numerous patrol clashes as the Chinese tested the defences.

On the night of 24-25 Jul y and 25-26 July, the Chinese launched two major assaults on 'The Hook' feature as well as one on the US Marine position on the left flank. They were supported by heavy artillery and mortar barrages. While the enemy penetrated the wire, the assaults were beaten off with heavy Chinese casualties. The artillery played a major role in the victory, firing 13,500 rounds in support of the defenders. 'The Hook' was a most hard-fought battle which was very noteworthy indeed and a great credit to 2RAR.

The ceasefire came into effect on 27 July 1953 and the two sides withdrew to create the Demilitarised Zone. 2RAR remained in theatre until April 1954.                                         

Malaya - First Tour.

2RAR was the first Australian battalion deployed to Malaya in October 1955 following a decision by the Australian Government to commit all three armed services to the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (BCFESR) in the face of expanding communism in South East Asia as well as the insurgency in Malaya. The partners were the UK and New Zealand. The South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), a collective defence treaty which had been created in 1954 was the basis for the formation of the force. 2RAR became part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade which had been disbanded following the Korean War but was re-raised to become part of the new organisation.

Families were able to accompany the troops for the two-year deployment. The majority travelled by sea and on arrival were accommodated on Penang Island, where the rear echelon of the Battalion was located at Minden Barracks.

Operations were centred around the north west of the Malay Peninsula in the tin and rubber plantations of Perak. The Battalion established company sized bases from which platoon patrols established their own bases and mount section patrols. Deployments lasted between two and four weeks. Patrolling and ambushing in the dense jungle and tropical heat were very demanding on the troops. Contacts were rare and usually fleeting.

The major contact took place in June 1956 when a platoon from A Company was patrolling by sections along a pipeline which led from a lagoon to a rubber plantation. One of the sections was ambushed by a large party of terrorists, suffering two soldiers KIA.  A second section which was patrolling nearby rushed to the scene and suffered two soldiers WIA. The platoon commander then arrived with two soldiers from the patrol base and assaulted the enemyposition killing one terrorist. The remainder withdrew, which was normal practice.   

Operations continued for the remainder of the Battalion’s tour of duty with periodic small contacts. But in September 1956 the tempo changed to concentrating on the villages using check points and other population control measures to deny the terrorists support from the local populace.  

2RAR completed its challenging two-year tour of duty in October 1957. Just  

Before departure the Battalion Band participated in the celebrations of the Independence of the Federation of Malaya. 2RAR was replaced by 3RAR.  

Malaya Second Tour

2RAR, which had been restructured to the Pentropic establishment following its return from Malaya, was required to return to the Tropical Warfare establishment before returning to Malaya in October 1961, to take its place again in the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (BCFESR). The Battalion was also to occupy a new base at Terendak, near Malacca. The role was to be part of an infantry brigade which was essentially a ready force and deterrent to communist expansion in South East Asia. However, on two occasions the battalion was sent back to the Malay Thai border to deal with terrorist activity, so their tour of duty was split between training and counter-insurgency operations. The terrorists were as elusive as ever. Whenever pressed they would simply cross the Thai border where they could not be followed.

On 20 August 1963, the Battalion handed over to 3RAR and returned to Australia. They were required to restructure back to the Pentropic establishment.

Vietnam First Tour.

2RAR deployed to Vietnam in May 1967 having again restructured to the Tropical Warfare establishment. A company from the First New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1RNZIR) joined the Battalion providing the 5th Rifle Company. The Battalion then became known as 2RAR(ANZAC).  Initial 2RAR operations focused on ensuring the security of the Task Force base. But the first major operation was in June in the May Tao mountains, a notorious enemy base area. 2RAR was allocated a blocking role while American and South Vietnamese battalions attempted to drive the enemy to them. This tactic was unsuccessful.

In August and September 2RAR was involved in a major operation to relocate around 1000 villagers from a Viet Cong controlled area to a purpose built village close to Nui Dat in order to separate them from the enemy. Unfortunately, the program did not succeed, and the new village became a refuge for the Viet Cong. 2RAR then continued to conduct search and destroy operations and cordon and search operations within the province, in accordance with the policy of the time.

On 16 September 1967, The Battalion was joined by a second New Zealand Rifle Company from 1RNZIR which was designated Whiskey (W) Company. On 1 March, 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) was officially formed.

In January 1968 there was a great deal of enemy movement towards Saigon and on 24 January the two Australian Battalions and the Task Force Headquarters were deployed with the task of protecting the large US bases around Bien Hoa and Long Binh. It quickly became obvious due to the large number of contacts that the enemy forces were assembling. But little did the Allies know that this movement was a precursor to the infamous nation-wide Tet (New Year) Offensive.

On 31 January, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units attacked the American bases in considerable strength but they were repelled, suffering heavy casualties. While the Australian units did not prevent the attacks, they certainly disrupted them. Their efforts were praised by the American Commander General Westmoreland.  

Meanwhile 2RAR returned to Nui Dat on 14 February and resumed conducting cordon and search operations. Of particular interest was Hoa Long which was known to be an enemy stronghold. On 15 February, 2RAR supported by 7RAR conducted a search operation which was very successful. The Australians then followed up with a search of the nearby village of Long Dien, which was also successful.

On February 1968, the Task Force Commander decided to mount a major operation to rid Phuoc Tuy province of the D445 Battalion which had a base area in the Long Hai Hills, located in the middle of the province. 2RAR was deployed along with 3RAR as part of a cordon to prevent the enemy escaping while a massive air and artillery engagement was launched on the hill mass. The operation continued until mid-April with disappointing results, particularly as an agreement with the South Vietnamese military to maintain control over the area which the Australians had cleared was not followed through.

By May 1968, the enemy forces had again concentrated and began to launch attacks against cities, provincial capitals and allied bases. The Australian Task Force was deployed to the same area as they had occupied in January, near Bien Hoa and Long Binh and conducted search and destroy operations. 2RAR, which had completed its tour of duty, returned to Nui Dat and then home to Australia, arriving on 13 June having participated in 17 operations.   

Vietnam Second Tour.    

2RAR returned to Vietnam in May 1970, becoming 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC). This coincided with the reduction of the Task Force from three to two battalions.

Operations of the Task Force at this time were concentrated on disrupting the activities of D445 and D440, the two resident Phuoc Tuy VC battalions. They were very successful with both VC units departing the province.

The next series of operations consisted of denying resupply to the enemy with the main tactic being to ambush approaches to the main villages. There was a particularly successful ambush by 2RAR/NZ(ANZAC) on 15 December when a patrol engaged a VC group near the De Courtney rubber plantation north of Nui Dat.

In February 1971, the defence of large parts of the province was handed over to South Vietnamese forces. This left the Task Force free to pursue the VC battalions including D445 Battalion, 274 VC Regiment and the 33rd NVA Regiment. 2RAR/NZ(ANZAC) was allocated the western half of the province, and in addition, provided a training group to assist the South Vietnamese Regional Force units.  

In May 1971 intelligence reports indicated that the D445 Battalion had re-entered the province. They proved to be correct and 2RAR/NZ(ANZAC) and 3RAR pursued D445 There were a number of fierce fire fights until the enemy withdrew.

2RAR/NZ(ANZAC) completed its tour of duty on May 1971, being replaced by 4RAR.  

Linking

On 15 August 1973 2RAR and 4RAR were linked to form 2/4RAR.  This arrangement remianed in place until early 1995

On 1 February 1995 2/4RAR was delinked to re-form 2RAR and 4RAR.  2RAR remained in Townsville while 4RAR was relocated to Holsworthy. It should be noted that the delinking occurred during the deployment of B Company 2/4RAR to Rwanda. It became A Company 2RAR and elements were involved in the massacre at Kibeho described above. 

Rwanda

In August 1994, 2/4 RAR provided a rifle company as part of an Australian contribution to a UN mission in Rwanda, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Using the murder of the President as a catalyst, Hutu extremists embarked on a genocide of the minority Tutsi population which ignited a civil war between the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army and the various factions of the Rwandan Government Forces.  The RPA won the war and UNAMIR II was hastily deployed. A Coy, 2/4 RAR deployed with the first contingent on a six-month rotation as protection for the Australian Medical Support Force elements deployed around Rwanda.  On the de-linking of 2/4 RAR mid-deployment, the company became A Coy, 2 RAR.  B Company 2RAR deployed with the second contingent. Six soldiers from 5/7 RAR deployed with the second contingent to provide crews for the APC section.

Early in B Company’s tour a platoon of soldiers and medical detachments had witnessed a massacre at a displaced persons camp at Kibeho. On 17 April 1995 the prefect of a nearby town, Butare, declared that all displayed persons camps in his prefecture were to close immediately in order to separate perpetrators of the previous genocide from genuine refugees. This caught UNAMIR by surprise and a small contingent of 32 Australian medical staff and its B Company Security Platoon quickly deployed to Kibeho the next day.

They discovered about 150,000 refugees in a very small area surrounded by Rwandan Government troops standing shoulder to shoulder. After several days of mounting tension, the situation deteriorated. On the morning of 22 April, the Australians discovered around 100 killed and wounded refugees. Some had been attacked by the Rwandan troops and others by Interahamwe militia hiding within the detainee population, using the innocent refuges as a shield from the Rwandan troops.

At around 1000 hours on 22 April, the Rwandan troops began firing into the crowd, causing a stampede. The Australian Medics treated as many casualties as they could under the protection of the B Company troops, who also assisted with the casualties. The Rwandan troops began to bury the dead overnight and the Australians counted 4200 dead.

There is little doubt that had the Australians intervened there would have been a blood bath. Major General Peter Arnison, the Land Commander, acknowledged their outstanding and disciplined performance in unheard of circumstances. The Australian Medical Support Force was withdrawn at the end of the second contingent’s six-month tour as planned.

 

 

Timor     

As the result of a deteriorating security situation in East Timor in 1999 due to activity by Indonesian militias, following a vote for independence, the UN authorised the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to be named The International Force in East Timor (INTERFET). 2RAR led the operation and reinforced by APCs from B Sqn 3/4 Cavalry Regiment, secured the Dili airport for the fly-in of 3RAR, cleared routes to the port and the port itself on 20 September. The two battalions quickly commenced patrolling throughout the city, setting up vehicle checkpoints and detaining members of the militias. With the capital secure they handed over the responsibility for Dili to other members of the force  and deployed to the Indonesian border,  conducting security patrolling until returning to Australia on 2 January 2000.

2RAR returned to East Timor for six months in October 2001, again in 2006 and finally for nine months in 2009.  

The Solomon Islands

Following a request for Australian assistance from the Prime Minister of the Solomons in July 2003, due to extreme lawlessness, four rifle companies, one         

Each from New Zealand and Fiji and a composite company from 2RAR which included platoons from Tonga and Papua New Guinea were deployed. 2RAR commanded the force.

The operation was a police led intervention, but the only reason this was effective was the large military presence which accompanied the police.

A gun amnesty was introduced and resulted in a large quantity of weapons being handed in. Open days were introduced and were very successful in winning the support of the local people. The main elements of 2RAR departed in December 2003, leaving one company. The other companies of 2RAR rotated until April 2004, to be replaced by a platoon of 5/7RAR.  Ultimatey the Operation was taken over by the Army Reserve as deployments elsewhere stretched the Regular Army's capacity to support all of Australia's commitments.

Iraq

Following the capture of Bagdad, the security situation deteriorated to the extent that enhanced security arrangements were required. The Australian Security Detachment (SECDET) was created in May 2003. It consisted of a platoon from 2RAR, ASLAVs from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, members from 1st MP Battalion and 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment.

Vehicle checkpoints were set up, and foot and vehicle patrols checked on local civilians for illegal weapons and IEDs. SECDET also had some responsibilities for protection of the Australian Embassy and for convoy protection.

The tour of duty of the SECDETs was six months. During the first deployment it became obvious that the strength needed to increase. In mid - 2004 it was increased to a full rifle company and 12 ASLAVs. 2RAR provided the first two infantry components.

In mid-2005 Australia agreed to deploy additional troops to southern Iraq under command of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to protect a Japanese-Iraqi Reconstruction Support Group. It was known as the Al Muthanna Task Group (AMTG) and was part of a British Battle Group located just outside of As Samawah.

2RAR provided the infantry component for the third rotation and a cavalry squadron was added. The Japanese Group was withdrawn in 2006 and the province of Al Muthanna was handed back to the Iraqis. The AMTG was relocated to Camp Terendak in Tallil in neighbouring Dhi Qar province with overwatch responsibilities covering the western provinces of southern Iraq and an Iraqi basic training centre at Tallil.

The province of Dhi Qar was also handed back to the Iraqis in September 2006 and the Australian force was renamed Overwatch Battlegroup West OBG (W). It assumed the overwatch responsibility for the four southern provinces and was available to assist the Iraqi security forces in the event of an emergency. The training role for the Iraqis at their basic training centre at Tallil continued as did supporting and mentoring local Iraqi leaders.  

In July 2006 the strength of the Battle Group was increased by adding additional personnel and four Bushmasters. It was now more than 500 strong and was equipped with 40 ASLAVs and 19 Bushmasters. It patrolled throughout  the provinces including the cities, the provincial towns and major thoroughfares. On 26 September it was engaged in a fierce firefight which was well planned by the enemy, but which was handled most effectively.

Just before Christmas 2006, 2RAR returned to Australia and the  infantry component of OBG(W2) was provided by 5/7RAR. 

Afghanistan.

In October 2007 C Company 2RAR plus mortar men, a sniper section and elements of 6RAR, 3/4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd/14th Light Horse and 4th Field Regiment joined Reconstruction Task Force (RTF-3.)  as the Security Task Group (STG). Their main role was to protect 3 Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER) by providing firepower and mobility so that the reconstruction work could proceed unhindered.

The STG formed a Combat Team named Spider which conducted five major operations, expanding the level of control over the area of operations, particularly the Chora Valley and the Baluchi Pass. The most notable of the operations took place in the Morghap region where the Combat Team defeated a local Taliban force, allowing the construction of a patrol base. 

The RTF was very successful in gaining the support of the local people in the areas of operations by ensuring their security and assisting them in every possible way.

In May 2008 the STG returned to Australia having completed a very successful tour of duty.

In June 2011 2RAR became the basis of Mentoring Task Force-3. The role was to mentor the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army in Uruzgan Province. This meant operating with the Afghan troops at all levels, patrolling with them and living with them in forward bases. They also coordinated fire support as required and worked hard to impart the confidence and skills required to defeat the Taliban. This led to a number of successful operations.

The Task Force completed its tour of duty in January 2012 and handed over to MTF-4 which was based around 8/9RAR.      

Amphibious Battalion

In 2012, 2RAR commenced a trial to investigate the requirement to create an amphibious battalion in order to provide the ADF with a landing capability. This has now been successfully concluded and the Battalion was restructured in 2017. It is now 2RAR (Amphib).

 

Composite feature authored by Major General Brian Howard, AO, MC (retd)

 

References:

Horner, David; Bou, Jean (2008). Duty First. A History of the Royal Australian Regiment. Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-374-5.

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