7th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR)

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About This Unit

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7th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment  7RAR

Raised: 1 September 1965.

Linked: 3 December 1973.

Delinked: 5 December 2006.

Location: Adelaide South Australia.

Structure: Mechanised Battalion.

Band: Pipes and Drums.

Regimental Marches. Slow  March: Cock O’ the North, Quick March: Australiase.: 

Mascot:Pig.

Affiliation:: 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland. :

Formation

7 RAR was raised at Puckapunyal, in Victoria on 1 September 1965, the first members of the Battalion coming mainly from 3 RAR and the second intake of National Servicemen.  After an intensive period of individual company and battalion training, the unit was ready for war by Jun 1966. However, the battalion was required to provide 100 reinforcements for units in Vietnam so a fresh training cycle was required.

During the winter of 1966, companies phased through the Jungle Training Centre (JTC), Canungra, and the battalion took part in 'Barra Winga', Australia's largest peace-time exercise to that time, at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland., February 1967 saw Exercise  'Nilla Qua' completed and final administrative preparations for active service in full swing.

Vietnam - First Tour

In April 1967, 7 RAR embarked for South Vietnam on HMAS Sydney, On arrival they  relieved  5 RAR. By this time the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), consisting of two infantry battalions and supporting units, had been formed. It was based at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province. The battalion joined 6 RAR   but the following month 6 RAR was replaced by 2 RAR and it was with 2 RAR that the battalion served its first year-long tour of duty in South Vietnam.

Over the course of the next 12 months, 7 RAR took part in 26 battalion-level operations, as well as numerous small unit actions. Initially, the Battalion undertook security operations around Nui Dat as well as carrying out search and destroy missions locally.

The first major operation saw the Battalion, along with 2RAR take up a blocking position near Xuyen Moc in support of US and South Vietnamese forces which advanced through the May Tao mountains  in an effort to locate the Viet Cong 275th Regiment and drive it towards the blocking positions. The enemy successfully avoided major contact to the frustration of all concerned. Subsequently 7RAR was allocated the part of the province to the west of Route 15 in order to conduct search and destroy operations.

 In August 1967 the battalion undertook a 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, 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.

Throughout August and September 7 RAR took part in resettlement operations around Xa Bang and relocated 1000 villagers, who were known to be sympathetic to the Viet Cong, to a location close to the Task Force Base. This was Ap Soui Nghe whose villagers unfortunately remained supportive of the Viet Cong.  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 the battalion took part in an Australian, US and South Vietnamese operation named Santa Fe which was launched in the May Tao mountains in an attempt to locate the Viet Cong's 5th Division. While the enemy was not present in force, large numbers of weapons, equipment and food were seized and around 1000 bunkers were destroyed. Following this operation the Battalion returned to conducting search and destroy operations around Nui Dat with only sporadic contact.

However, as the end of the year approached there was a large increase in the movement of major enemy units. Little did the allies know that they were positioning themselves for the notorious 1968 nation - wide Tet - Offensive.  In response to this movement, 2RAR and 7RAR were deployed to an area close to the large US bases to the north, which were expecting to be attacked, particularly by rockets.

On 29 January 7RAR encountered an enemy battalion which was on its way to its target area and C Company, which had been detached, successfully attacked a major defended bunker system in a battle which lasted three days. While the Australians did not prevent the enemy attacks being launched they caused severe disruptions to the enemy plans and contributed to their defeats.

Following the Tet Offensive, 7RAR and 2RAR were deployed again to the Bien Hoa-Long Khanh border on Operation Coburg which was designed to interdict the withdrawing defeated enemy forces.    

7RAR returned to Nui Dat on 14 February and with 2RAR mounted a cordon and search of the village of Hoa Long a known Viet Cong haven. The operation was so successful that the battalions repeated it at another VC sympathetic village, Long Dien. It was also very successful.   

On 9 April 1966 7RAR was replaced by 1RAR which returned to Sydney where it was welcomed home by a march through the streets.   

Presentation of Colours

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.   The battalion then commenced training in preparation for its second tour of duty in South Vietnam.

Vietnam Second Tour

7 RAR arrived in Vietnam in February 1970 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Grey, replacing 5 RAR. They arrived amidst another effort to pacify Phuoc Tuy, although it also remained necessary to bring the major NVA and VC units to battle. These efforts involved 7 RAR in almost continuous operations, in an attempt to keep the Viet Cong off balance and separate them from the civilian population. 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 D445 Battalion.

The battalion's role in Operation 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, 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. 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 supported by tanks and artillery 'B' Company engaged a dug in enemy position. A major battle ensued and continued until after dark when the enemy withdrew. Captured documents revealed that the enemy were elements of D445 and D440 VC battalions.

On 25 April there was another encounter with the enemy near the village of Lang Phuoc Hai. Following a brief but fierce battle the enemy withdrew. There were further regular contacts until the operation concluded on 7 May.        

On 22 April the Australian Prime Minister announced that 8RAR would not be replaced when its tour of duty was completed. This decision was to place an additional strain on the two remaining battalions as their tasks were not reducing. 

Throughout June 1970 and until February 1971, 1 ATF undertook a three-phased pacification operation known as Cung Chung in concert with South Vietnamese forces. This involved extensive patrolling, ambushing and cordon and search right across the province. The operation involved all battalions and supporting units. 7RAR combined a program of half platoon ambushes close to villages with operations in depth. The operation continued for a number of months and put considerable pressure on the provincial VC units which relied on the local villages for food and other support.

In February 1971 a large part of the province has handed back to the South Vietnamese forces. At least in theory this freed the two remaining Australian battalions to pursue D445, the provincial VC battalion,  274th   VC Regiment, and the 33rd NVA Regiment.

On 25 February 1971, 3 RAR relieved 7 RAR, and the Battalion returned to Sydney, arriving there on 10 March 1971.

Post-Vietnam.

Following leave and reorganisation the Battalion started a training cycle culminating in battalion exercises in March and April 1972. A period of support to other units was followed by limited warfare training leading into a 1st Task Force Exercise 'Sky Call' in September 1972. 1973 began with a cut-back in strength in preparation for the establishment of the NCO academy. From 19 April 1973 to 20 November 1973 the Battalion was under the direct command of the 1st Division in order to conduct All Arms NCO Qualifying Courses. The final parade for 7 RAR prior to linking with 5 RAR was held on 24 Nov 73 at Finschhafen Lines, Holsworthy. The reviewing officer was COL E.H. Smith, DSO,  the first Commanding Officer of 7 RAR.

Linking With 5RAR

7 RAR was linked with 5 RAR at Tobruk Lines Holsworthy on 3 Dec19 73. 5/7 RAR remained at Tobruk Lines until the end of 1998 when they relocated to Darwin with all other units of the 1st Brigade occupying Robertson Barracks, Palmerston. 5/7 RAR deployed twice to East Timor (1999/00 and 2003) to Iraq in 2005, and deployed numerous company groups to Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands during the period between 1999 and 2006.

Re-Raising

The Federal Government announced plans in mid- 2006 for an expansion of the Australian Army by adding two additional infantry battalions, as part of the Enhanced Land Force plan. The first objective was a second mechanised infantry battalion to be achieved by de-linking 5/7 RAR. On 5 December 2006, 5/7 RAR was formally de-linked, restoring 7 RAR to the order of battle. The battalion was re-raised from January 2007 with a battalion headquarters, elements of Admin Company and leadership for A Company to commence reception of reinforcements. Although not part of the initial plan but at the initiative of the Brigade Commander (then BRIG Craig Orme), B Company 5/7 RAR (deployed to Afghanistan at the time with RTF-1) was allocated to 7 RAR on de-linking.

The battalion growth was accelerated on the return of B Company and with the regular arrival of reinforcements, including the conduct of Initial Employment Training within the battalion. An intensive training program enabled 7 RAR to achieve operational readiness two years earlier than scheduled, including issue of Army’s first tactical Unit delivery of the M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Vehicles (APC) in 2008. The battalion contributed a mechanised platoon for two rotations of the ANZAC Battle Group deployment to Timor in 2007 and 2008 (Operation Astute). A Company formed the basis of a Security Detachment – Iraq (SECDET XIII) deployment to Baghdad in 2008.

Afghanistan -1

Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force 1 (MRTF-1)

7 RAR was tasked with forming the initial Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF), within Operation Slipper in Afghanistan deploying from October 2008 to June 2009. The 7 RAR Battle Group (BG) was subsequently formed for this purpose with the primary mission of developing the operational capability of elements of the Afghan National Army (ANA) 4th Brigade and primarily the 2nd Kandak (Battalion). The rebuilding efforts of the previous Reconstruction Task Force were continued but with greater emphasis on identifying and enabling for local Afghan projects. The majority of the personnel were from 7 RAR with the BG consisting of the Battalion Headquarters (reinforced), B Company as the core of a Combat Team (CT), a composite company established as an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT), a composite engineer  sub unit based on 1st Field Squadron and a Combat Service Support Team (CSST). The MRTF-1 mission was a significant change to the Australian commitment  to the Coalition effort and ADF conventional forces operations in Afghanistan, due to the conduct of combat operations alongside the ANA during offensive and security operations against the insurgency. The OMLT sought to reflect the experience of the AATTV in a range of mentored ANA platoon to battalion level operations and were supported by the CT and other BG and Coalition assets.

During the course of the 7 RAR BG tour one member of the battalion was killed in action and 25 personnel were wounded in action. Following the deployment to Afghanistan, members of the 7 RAR BG 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.

Relocation to Adelaide

The period 2010 to 2011 saw the battalion relocate to RAAF Base Edinburgh in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. This new facility was named Horseshoe Lines to reflect the battalion’s service in Vietnam and geographical separation from the remainder of 1 Brigade in Darwin. This period also saw the battalion grow out to its full establishment which included the raising of Support Company. The period also included several small deployments on operations including PMV drivers to support SOTG rotations in Afghanistan and platoon sized groups to Timor Leste.

Presentation of New Colours

On 10 Sep 2011 the battalion was presented with new Queen’s and Regimental Colours at the Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide by the Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce, AC. The original Colours were laid-up in St Peters Cathedral in Adelaide on 16 Sep 2011.

Afghanistan 2

Advisor Task Force -1 (ATF-1)

7 RAR deployed to Uruzgan Province from November 2012 to June 2013 supporting the 4th ANA 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 transition of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in the province.

Advisor Task Force -2 (ATF 2)

In mid to late 2013 7 RAR provided the infantry elements to 2 Cav Regt led Advisor Task Group - 2.  ATF-2 continued to provide force protection support to Australian and International Security Assistance Force elements in Uruzgan and supported the process of security transition in the province, which saw governance and security transition to the Afghan people.

7 RAR personnel were primarily responsible for force protection, including quick reaction forces. ATF-2 shifted its mission focus, gradually reducing advisory support as the Afghan National Army transitioned to independence in their Brigade Headquarters, the Combat Service Support Kandak (Battalion) and the Garrison Support Unit. ATF-2 served with the last formed body of Australian Defence Force personnel to serve in Uruzgan province, returning to Australia in February 2014.

 

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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