6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)

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About This Unit

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6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment 6RAR

Raised: 6 June 1965.

Location: Enoggera QLD.

Structure: Mechanised Battalion.

Lanyard: Khaki.

Regimental March: Band: Spirit of Youth. Pipes and Drums: The Crusaders.

Mascot: Australian Cattle Dog. LCPL Ridgeleigh Blue IV

Website: http://6rarassociation.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/6thbattalion/

 

Formation

6 RAR was raised in Brisbane under LTCOL CM Townsend at Alamein Barracks, Enoggera on 6 June 1965. The Battalion was brought up to full strength when a large draft of soldiers from the first National Service intake arrived in September 1965.

Vietnam First Tour

6 RAR deployed to South Vietnam in May 1966. The Battalion arrived in time to celebrate its first birthday at Vung Tau before moving forward to join 5 RAR at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province and commence operational service as part of the First Australian Task Force (1 ATF.)

During the period June to August 1966 6 RAR conducted two major operations. Operation ENOGGERA was a search and clearance of the previously unsettled village of Long Phuoc, and Operation HOBART which was a five-day search and destroy mission. The two operations accounted for 36 enemy casualties and the destruction of several camps installations and caches.

Operation HOBART also saw the Battalion clash with the enemy provincial Mobile Battalion D445 which was subsequently met and defeated at Long Tan.

On the night of 16/17 August the Viet Cong attacked the 1 ATF base with mortar and recoilless rifle fire, causing both damage and casualties. B Coy was initially deployed to clear the area to the east of Nui Dat. On the morning of 18 August D Coy relieved B Coy of its task. D Coy was patrolling in the vicinity of Long Tan in mid-afternoon in heavy rain when the company came into contact with the 275 Viet Cong Regiment and the D445 Battalion which were moving to attack Nui Dat. Soon D Coy was under sustained attack on three flanks.

Supported by Task Force artillery, and helped by the torrential rain and a blanket of mist, D Coy held its ground for three hours with grim determination and much heroism, and inflicted enormous casualties on a tenacious and determined enemy.

As dusk fell a relief force, consisting of A Coy and HQ elements mounted in APCs, assaulted from the line of march. This was too much for the enemy which withdrew. D Coy had won an incredible battle against an enemy force which numbered around 2000. The Viet Cong lost many men and needed to replace those who were killed before they appeared in the province again. It is interesting to note that there was never a serious attempt again to attack the base.

As a result of this heroic stand, D Coy 6 RAR was awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation and subsequently the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry. The date of the battle, 18 August, has since become the National Memorial Day for the Vietnam War. 

A week later a major operation was mounted which included two brigades of the American 1st Division, 173rd Airborne Brigade and several South Vietnamese Battalions, swept the province and surrounding areas. However, the enemy was gone. 

Between August 1966 and its departure to Australia in June 1967, 6 RAR took part in seventeen battalion operations and supported several operations conducted by 5 RAR. These operations, which were short, sharp search and destroy operations as well as cordon and searches along with routine patrolling around the task Force area, gradually wrested control of the province away from the Viet Cong.

23 members of the Battalion received gallantry awards for the tour and 37 members gave their lives.

Townsville 1967 – 1969

6 RAR celebrated its second birthday at sea aboard HMAS SYDNEY during the return voyage to Australia. On arrival in Townsville the Battalion occupied Long Tan Lines in Lavarack Barracks.

On 10 May 1968, His Excellency, the Governor General of Australia, The Right Honourable Lord Casey, GCMG, CH, DSO, MC, KStj presented 6 RAR with Queen’s and Regimental Colours. On 18 August 1968, the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to D Coy for the Battle of Long Tan was presented to the OC D Coy by the Prime Minister of Australia, The Right Honourable J.G. Gorton, MP.

Vietnam Second Tour

6 RAR embarked on its second tour of South Vietnam in May 1969, to relieve 4 RAR. On 19 May the Battalion was renamed 6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion. This reflected the inclusion of a New Zealand component of two rifle companies, two sections of mortars and two assault pioneer sections. 

The first battalion operation was one of the most productive of the tour. Operation LAVARACK started on 30 May 1969 with the establishment of a fire-support base to the north of Nui Dat. Each company then commenced reconnaissance in force in separate operational areas. The AO was very large , stretching from Binh Ba village in the south to the Courtenay rubber in the north. The expectation was that 6RAR would encounter small groups of enemy as the operation was regarded as a shake down. However contact with the enemy occurred right from the insertion and continued throughout. The enemy consisted of elements of 274 Regiment, 33 NVA Regiment and the Chau Duc Company which were soundly defeated.

The third anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan was commemorated by a memorial service on the original battle ground during which a large cross was erected. This cross is now on display at the Australian War Memorial, with a replica in its place in Vietnam.

During the tour 15 battalion operations were conducted. Reflecting the increasing control that the Australians exerted over the province, 6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) was called on several times to assist in civil community projects and in the training of local government forces. Positive signs of the disintegration of the enemy’s command and supply system were identified and by the end of the tour the enemy were forced to operate in small groups only, and struggle for their very existence.

As an indication of the success of the tour the enemy suffered 60 dead, 64 confirmed wounded and 51 captured as a result of battalion operations. The Battalion also captured 480 assorted weapons and 13 tonnes of rice. 28 members received gallantry awards for the second tour.   

6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) was relieved by 2 RAR in May 1970 and the Battalion returned to Townsville,  occupying  Samichon Lines.

Singapore

6 RAR was deployed to Singapore in August 1971, and complete with families occupied Selerang Barracks. The Battalion was part of the 28th ANZUC Brigade of the Far East Strategic Reserve. The main activity was conducting exercises in neighbouring Jahore Malay State. The Battalion was not replaced and returned to Enoggera Barracks, Brisbane between December 1973 and January 1974.

Brisbane 1974 – 2000

Upon returning to Brisbane, 6 RAR was almost immediately committed to aiding the Brisbane community during and after the Australia day floods.

6 RAR managed the accommodation for 200 evacuees from Darwin following the devastating cyclone which occurred on Christmas Eve 1974. The Battalion then replaced 5/7 RAR, in Darwin in March 1975, cleaning up the rubble from destroyed buildings until May that year.

In 1974, 6 RAR developed an airborne capability with a number of members, from across the Battalion, earning their parachute wings. In 1980, the Battalion was directed to develop doctrine for the employment of a parachute company. This role was allocated to D Coy.

In 1982, 6 RAR provided significant support to the Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane. One of the most significant tasks was the provision of a BHQ Command Post and A Coy as a Response Force. Additional support provided included driver support, ceremonial activities, shooting range butt parties and general administrative support. 6 RAR also provided the Flag Party for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Games.

At the conclusion of the 1982 Long Tan celebrations, the Battalion Museum was officially opened by Mrs George Chinn. The Museum was named after WO1 George Chinn, DCM, the Battalion’s first RSM.

The significant contribution by 6 RAR in the development of parachute doctrine for training and operations in the Australian Army came to an end in late 1983. The final D Coy jump was conducted at Mt Walker on 8 November. The parachute role was transferred to 3 RAR in December of that year.

On 15 September 1988, the Battalion was presented new Queen’s and Regimental Colours by His Excellency, The Governor of Queensland, Sir Walter Campbell, QC. The old Queen’s and Regimental Colours were laid up at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, on 13 November 1988.

In January 1989, 6 RAR became the first unit in the Australian Army to be issued with the new service rifle, the F88 Austeyr. In March that year, the Battalion deployed to California, USA, on Exercise CALTROP FORCE; an American, British, Canadian and Australian Armies exercise designed to test interoperability. This was the first battalion deployment outside of Australia since Army’s withdrawal from Singapore. 6 RAR was appointed ambassadors for the City of Brisbane to Monterey, California.

In April 1990, 6 RAR became the first unit in the Australian Amy to be issued with the new section Light Support Weapon, the F89 Minimi.

RRES Scheme, Motorisation and A21 Trials

6 RAR was re - roled as a Motorised Battalion in February 1992. In the same year, following the introduction of the Ready Reserve Scheme (RRES), the Battalion was converted to a RRES Motorised Battalion. The unit was structured with three part time rifle companies (A, B and C) and one fulltime RRES rifle  company in D Coy. BHQ, Support and Admin Coy also had RRES elements.

On 9 February 1997, the RRES scheme was concluded by Government and 6 RAR was selected to trial the new initiative of “Army of the 21st Century (A21) Motorised Battalion” organisation, under the Restructuring the Army plan. On 1 July 1997 the unit adopted the A21 structure.

As an integrated A21 Motorised Battalion, the unit was structured with one part time and one fulltime Motorised Rifle Company (A and D respectively). Fire Support Company included Indirect Fire Platoon (artillery), and Direct fire Platoon (LAV 25 and Weapon Locating Section). Recon and Surveillance Company included Recon Platoon, Surveillance Platoon, Combat Engineer Platoon and a Sniper Section. Combat Service Support Company carried out  all of the Admin Coy functions.

A change of Government saw the A21 concept abandoned in late 1998 and the Battalion re-roled to Light Infantry.

East Timor -1. 2000

6 RAR, which included around 200 General Reserve soldiers, replaced 5/7RAR in Balibo, East Timor as AUSBATT II on 25 April 2000. The Battalion quickly embarked on an aggressive patrolling program to improve security and reduce infiltrators and militia activity. During the deployment, 6 RAR had at least fourteen contacts with trained militia. The Battalion was very successful in establishing good relations with the local people. In October 2000, 6 RAR completed its tour of duty and was replaced by 1 RAR.

East Timor- 2. 2003 - 2004

In November 2003,  6 RAR deployed on Operation CITADEL in East Timor to relieve 1 RAR. The Battalion Group, dubbed WESTBATT, was reduced in size to coincide with the final drawdown phase of the UN mission and consisted of a Headquarters, one Australian and one Fijian Rifle Company, Recon and Surveillance Platoon and a Rapid Response Platoon. WESTBATT also include an APC Troop, an S-70 Blackhawk Troop, and an Engineer Troop. 1 Field Regiment provided a Civil-Military Cooperation Team, while 2 Health Support Battalion deployed a fully equipped surgical team. The Battalion deployed in a series of sub-unit rotations Operational emphasis was directed at supporting local security agencies, including the Border Patrol Unit (BPU) and the Timor Leste Police Force (PNTL), as these agencies would become responsible for security in the region upon WESBATT’s departure. In addition, the battalion provided support to Timor Leste’s Defence Force (F-FDTL) in the form of training and advice.

To commemorate the Royal Australian Regiment’s contribution to the peace and security of the world’s newest nation, Assault Pioneer Platoon constructed a memorial. Erected at the foot of AUSBATT’s former home, Fort Balibo, the memorial was dedicated in the presence of the Regiment’s COL COMDT, MAJGEN Jim Connelly, AO CSC, and Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Mari Alkatiri.

After nine months staggered deployment 6 RAR redeployed to Australia by the end of June 2004.

 Iraq -1.

SECDET - 6. In December 2004 , A Coy formed the core component of Security Detachment 6 (SECDET -  6) and deployed on Operation CATALYST to Baghdad, Iraq. The primary task was the protection of the Australian Embassy and supporting diplomatic staff. SECDET 6 was subject to the substantial bombing of their base, known as the Flats and an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on an ASLAV.

SECDET - 7. In May 2005, C Coy formed the core component of SECDET - 7 and deployed to relieve SECDET - 6, returning to Australia in September 2005.

Solomon Islands.

In April 2005, 6 RAR provided an infantry platoon headquarters and rifle section, at short notice, for deployment on Operation ANODE in the Solomon Islands. They were force assigned to Joint Task Force 631 (JTF 631) and tasked to provide security for Rove Prison, Honiara, as well a Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The contingent returned to Australia in August 2005. Having achieved the  mission.

Afghanistan -1.

 SOTG - 1. In October 2005, 6 RAR deployed the first Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) Detachment on operational service in support of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG), on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan. The section strength deployment provided a significant capability brick in support of all SOTG offensive operations against the Taliban.

Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. In February 2006, A Coy was deployed to Melbourne on Operation ACOLYTE as the Response Force in direct support to the 4 RAR Tactical Assault Group – East. A Coy deployed with their IMV and proved the operational utility and flexibility of the motorised infantry capability in support to a domestic event support operation (DESO).

Afghanistan -2.

 SOTG - 2 and 3. In February and June 2006, 6 RAR deployed additional IMV Detachments in support of SOTG Rotation 2 and Rotation 3 on Operation SLIPPER to Afghanistan which returned to Australia in October 2006.

The service of SOTG Rotations 1 to 3 was recognised by the subsequent awarding of the Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) for collective gallantry and was presented by the Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC, (Retired) at a ceremonial parade at 4 RAR on 26 October 2007. The inclusive nature of this gallantry award and the 6 RAR soldiers’ attendance at the formal parade was a most fitting recognition of their operational duty and professionalism.

Iraq - 2.

 OBG-W. 1. In May 2006, 6 RAR deployed a platoon strength IMV Detachment from Spt Coy in support of the 2 RAR led deployment to the Overwatch Battle Group – West Rotation 1 (OBG-W -  I) in southern Iraq. The IMV Det returned to Australia in December 2006.

On 31 July 2006, the Chief of Army granted Blue Dog, official Unit Mascot status and PTE Ridgeleigh Blue III was enlisted into the Australian Regular Army with the Regimental Number MA 444.

Afghanistan - 3.

 RTF -  1. In September 2006, 6 RAR deployed a platoon strength IMV Det from Spt Coy, to the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment (1 CER) led inaugural deployment of the Reconstruction Task Force Rotation 1 (RTF - 1) on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan. The IMV Det supported the Engineer Task Group and Security Task Group provided by 7 RAR. The Det returned to Australia in May 2007.

Timor Leste 2006 -3

In September 2006, following a further breakdown in law and order, BHQ, A Coy, C Coy, Spt Coy and Admin Coy formed the core component of the Timor Leste Battle Group Rotation I (TLBG 1) which deployed on Op ASTUTE to Timor Leste. TLBG 1 was recognised as the ANZAC BG in theatre due to the force assignment of a RNZIR Rifle Company. With effect November 2006, V Coy, 1 RNZIR was deployed with 6 RAR, something which had not occurred on an operational deployment since May 1969 in Vietnam.

The Battalion returned to Australia over March-April 2007 after extensive security and stability operations in Dili and throughout the TAO.

Afghanistan - 4.

 SOTG -  4 and 5. In May and September 2007, 6 RAR again deployed IMV Dets in support of the redeployed SOTG mission on Operation SLIPPER in Afghanistan.

On 6 June 2007, PTE Ridgeleigh Blue III was promoted to the rank of LCPL.

Iraq -3.

SECDET - 12. In September 2007, D Coy formed the core component of. SECDET 12 and deployed on Operation CATALYST to Baghdad, Iraq.

Afghanistan - 5.

 RTF -  3. In September 2007, 6 RAR again deployed a reinforced platoon strength IMV Det in support of the 3 CER led RTF - 3 deployment on Op SLIPPER in Afghanistan.

Iraq - 4

 OBG-W 4. In November 2007, 6 RAR deployed a heavily reinforced A Coy consisting of a reinforced platoon strength IMV Det, Sniper Cell and Logistics Det in support to the 2/14 LHR (QMI) led OBG-W 4 deployment on Operation CATALYST to Iraq.

Afghanistan - 6.

MTF - 1. Nearly 500 members of 6 RAR formed the core of the 6 RAR Battlegroup - Mentoring Task Force 1 (MTF - 1). The Battlegroup  consisted  predominantly of  7 Brigade personnel but over 40 ADF units contributed they concentrated in Brisbane in September 2009. MTF 1 commenced its deployment in mid-January 2010 and relieved the 1 RAR Battlegroup on 14 February. MTF - 1’s mission was to mentor and partner with the 4th Brigade, 205th (HERO) Corps, Afghan National Army (ANA) in Oruzgan Province.

Over the course of the tour, the prevailing and pervasive threat was the IED, while there remained a significant small arms fire threat as well. MTF - 1 patrols and patrol bases were regularly engaged by enemy patrols at long range as a ‘come on’ or enticement to move into their engagement areas. These incidents resulted in nearly 100 contacts with several lasting 2-3 hours. 

By early August, the structure of the MTF changed dramatically as staff were taken from the HQ to form the HQ of Combined Team-Uruzgan; a combined US and Australian HQ to replace the Dutch HQ Task Force-Uruzgan. In addition, Combat Team D  re-roled to a Mentoring Team (MT) to assume the mentoring and partnering task with the 1st Kandak (Battalion) in the Deh Rawood area. These changes resulted in MTF 1 having over 500 members of the Battle Group living in patrol bases forward of Tarin Kot and occupying an additional four patrol bases with their ANA counterparts.

On 24 August, a combined MT D /1st Kandak patrol, from Patrol Base Anar Joy into the Tangi Valley, resulted in a prolonged and deadly engagement in the vicinity of the village of Derapet. For his actions that day CPL Daniel Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary bravery.

MTF - 1 encountered IEDs on nearly 60 occasions, however, over 120 IEDs were detected and rendered safe by EOD; a testament to the superior training of the Australian Sappers.

MTF - 1 completed its tour of duty in December 2010, having been relieved by the 5 RAR led MTF - 2. For its outstanding performance the unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. 17 members received awards for gallantry and distinguished service on operations.

Enoggera 2011 - 2017

Upon its return to Australia, the Battalion’s modernisation and training regime over this period was a reflection of broader Army modernisation direction – principally Plan Beersheba which sought to rebalance Army to three ‘like’ Combat Brigades which would enable more common training for the sustainable generation of the forces required for contingency and scheduled operations. By the end 0f 2014 the Battalion had adopted a Standard Infantry Battalion (SIB) ORBAT. While a number of the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles were retained; the Battalion transitioned to a more traditional ‘light Infantry’ Battalion structure. The Battalion retained only three rifle companies (A,B and D) in order to afford the growth of integral Manoeuvre Support (weapons) sections within each of the Rifle Platoons. In 2015 the Battalion prepared for and undertook responsibilities as the Ready Battle Group (RBG). This was a first for 7 Bde, as the Battalion provided the core  of, and led, a composite combined-arms Battle Group of approximately 1100 personnel from across the Brigade. Held at a short readiness notice, the Battalion was prepared to assume the lead land force element in response to an array of contingencies including Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief through to Security and Stability Operations. The Battalion retained this responsibility until June 2016.

On 18 Aug 16 the Battalion marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, at Gallipoli Barracks, with a Regimental Parade and Drum Head Service. The Reviewing Officer was His Excellency, the Governor General of Australia, General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, AK, CVO, MC.There was an exceptional turn out by the 6 RAR Association and the veterans of Long Tan, including 3 Troop, 1 APC Sqn veterans.

Under Army’s Plan Keogh, 6 RAR was directed to adopt a Mechanised Battalion structure and, in late 2017, took receipt of their first M113 APC from 2/14 LHR (QMI) and other units. The Battalion continues as a Mechanised unit today.

Iraq and Afghanistan 2018-2019 

The Battalion formed the core of and led the Taji TG in 2018 in Iraq (OP OKRA) and provided D Coy to perform Force Protection Element (FPE) tasks in Afghanistan (OP HIGH ROAD). Upon completion of these tours, the Battalion provided personnel contribution to the follow-on Taji TG (led by 2/14 LHR, QMI) and B Company replaced D Company in Afghanistan in 2019. 

 

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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