8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR) "The Grey Eight"

About This Unit

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Eighth Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment  - 8RAR 

The Eighth Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment was created as part of the Army's expansion to meet its commitment to the war in Vietnam.  8RAR was raised at Enoggera, Brisbane, on the 14th of July 1966, from a nucleus of men transferred in from 1RAR that had just returned from Vietnam. 

The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel J.0. Langtry, DCM, the Regimental Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class One G.J.C. Lee and one hundred and fifty ex-members of the First Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment, which had just returned from Vietnam, were included amongst the foundation members.

The Battalion strength rose from 123 all ranks in July, to 370 in August, however successive Regular Army and National Service intakes very quickly permitted the unit to reach full strenght, completing its C and D companies.

PREPARATION FOR SERVICE IN MALAYSIA

Early in 1967 the Eighth Battalion was warned for service in the Far East Strategic Reserve. Battalion training for this role was completed by the Battalion's first birthday on the 8th August 1967. In fact, the birthday celebrations themselves were limited to a post exercise party in the Rockhamption training area, Queensland.  Following a brief leave period, a Farewell Parade, reviewed by Brigadier R.L. Hughes, DSO, was held at Enoggera on the Ist September 1967.

TO MALAYSIA

The Battalion moved from Brisbane to Malaysia between 24th August 1967 and 6th November 1967 by sea and air, relieving the Fourth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment at Terendak.

On 16th October 1967, the Battalion officially came under command of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. Brigadier P.L. Tancred, OBE, the Commander, reviewed a parade by the Eighth Battalion at Canberra Lines, Terendak Garrison, on 24th November 1967.

Service in Mayalasia for most soldiers was marked by a series of exercises. These commenced in February 1968 with Warm Up, and continued with Sheer Hell, All Back, and Lath, as well as Adventure Training.

The unit received its Queen's and Regimental Colours on the 25th of September 1968 before a crowd of 1000 guests and visitors. It was the first time that Colours had been presented to a Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment outside Australia.

Exercise Darling Point followed, with Fast Move and Crowning Glory completing the list.

On the 27th of March 1969 the Advance Party left for Australia, and late in April the Battalion handed over its lines to the First Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. On this day, Lieutenant Colonel Langtry handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel K.J. O'Neill.

PREPARATION FOR VIETNAM

While the Battalion was completing its tour in Malaysia, the Australian Component was at work, gathering men and equipment in preparation for the Vietnam tour of duty. The 13th National Service intake joined the Battalion on the 6th of January 1969, and the 14th on the 28th of March 1969. The 15th National Service intake began its Corps Training at Greenbank on the 6th of April 1969.

Training for the unit began in earnest after the Battalion returned from leave. This commenced with specialist courses for the Anti-Tank, Pioneer, Mortars and Signals platoons. The rifle companies concentrated on minor infantry tactics and marksmanship. The Royal Australian Engineers conducted a valuable mine warfare course commencing on the 30th of June.

The companies of the Battalion then commenced cycling through a month's intensive training at Canungra and Wiangaree, finishing with Exercise Schaden Freude. The Command Post Group trained at Enoggera, and joined each company at Wiangaree to control its final exercise.

Infantry/Armour trainig began on the 11th of August at Wide Bay with B Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment, and was foll,owed by helicopter familiarisation. A and B companies participated in Exercise Tune Up at Spring Mountain, while C and D companies started a week later on the the 1st of September. Exercise Fix Fast followed a week later. This was the first full Battalion exercise, and it was held in the Mount Byron State Forest area.

The unit's training finished with exercises at Shoalwater Bay, where the area was designed to represent Phuoc Tuy Province. Exercise Tropic Glow began on the 27th of September, followed by Straight Kris.

The Battalion began pre-embarkation leave on the 15th of October, returning to Enoggera for a final Church Parade at the end of the month. A large crowd saw HMAS Sydney leave Hamilton Wharf at 12:00 on 17th November, with the main body of the Battalion on board. the Advance Party flew out the following day, arriving in South Vietnam to greet the Battalion's arrival at Nui Dat.

VIETNAM SERVICE

8 RAR returned to Enoggera in April 1969 to prepare ahead of being deployed to Vietnam. The battalion arrived in South Vietnam on 17 November 1969 and replaced 9 RAR six days later. Like the other Australian Army units in Vietnam, the battalion formed part of the 1st Australian Task Force, whjich at that stage comprised three Battalions, and was based at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province.

In early 1970 (Feb - Mar) 8 RAR took part in Operation Hammersley, following a large contact by 9 Platoon against a much larger enemy force.  Hammersley was ostensibly a reconnaissance operation in the Long Hải Hills area, but it rapidly escalated.  This operation began on 10 February and on 18 February it captured a large bunker complex after the VC/NVA defenders withdrew following air raids, dislodging 1ATF's old adversary D445. The operation continued until 9 March, with the battalion carrying out patrols and conducting ambushes in order to engage enemy troops. These operations were successful, and 8 RAR was awarded the South Vietnamese Government's Meritorious Unit Commendation, including Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation for its role in the operation.

8 RAR's main task in Vietnam was participating in and supporting pacification operations in Phuoc Tuy. This involved patrolling the province in order to engage VC / NVAunits and prevent them from making contact with the civilian population. From 12 June 1970 these operations were designated Operation Cung Chung and were intensified. 8 RAR's tour of Vietnam ended in October 1970, by which time it had lost 18 men killed in action and suffered 108 wounded. As part of the reduction of the Australian force in Vietnam 8 RAR was not replaced by another battalion when it returned to Enoggera.

LINKING THE BATTALIONS

The withdrawal from Vietnam, in 1972-3 and the reduction of the size of the army impacted the RAR significantly. A strategy was devised that instead of  that instead of disbanding battalions, they should link, with a view to potential re-formation of the original units at some indeterminate point in the future. Location and history determined which battalions should link.

Subsequently the Royal Australian Regiment was reduced from nine to six Battalions from May 1973:  Second and Fourth Battalions at Townsville, the Fifth and Seventh Battalions at Holsworthy, and the Eighth and Ninth Battalions at Enoggera.

 

Compiled by Steve Larkins Jan 2018 from:

1. Horner, David; Bou, Jean, eds. (2008). Duty First: A History of the Royal Australian Regiment (2nd ed.). Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74175-374-5.

2. Extract from Wikipedia 

3. Extracts from the 'Unofficial 8RAR Website (www.taylor.id.au)

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