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

About This Unit

8th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment  8RAR

Raised: 14th July 1966.

Linked: 31 October 1973.

Website: https://8rarassociation.org


8RAR was raised at Enoggera Queensland on 14 July 1966.


In 1967 8RAR replaced 4RAR in Malaysia, being deployed with families to Terendak camp in Southern Malaysia for a two year tour of duty. The Battalion was part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade, which itself was part of the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve. (BCFESR) Their main role was training, and they provided a level of security for the region by their presence.

By the time 8RAR arrived in Malaysia, the future of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade and the BCFESR were under review. The British decided that half of the deployed force would be withdrawn by 1971 and the rest by 1973-76. A review by Australia determined that the contribution to the Strategic Reserve would be maintained but the next Australian battalion would relocate to Singapore. 

Having already been warned for service in Vietnam the Battalion trained hard for their upcoming challenge while in Malaysia. The Battalion returned home to Enoggera in April 1969 and prepared to prepare for war..


8RAR replaced 9RAR in South Vietnam in November 1969. By then the Task Force had embarked on a policy of pacification, training local and provincial South Vietnamese military units and reconnaissance in force operations within the province boundaries. Local operations commenced almost immediately as the Battalion settled in.

One such operation, named Operation Hammersley, began on 10 February 1970 as a C Company operation was mounted to secure a quarry at FSB Isa on the western edge of the Long Hai hills. Minor contacts with the enemy began immediately, but on 15 February 9 platoon C Company ambushed a company-strength patrol of the enemy’s D445 local force battalion, inflicting heavy casualties.

Seeking to exploit the ambush CO 8RAR launched a reconnaissance in force operation to locate and destroy the remainder of the enemy force in the Long Hais. B and D companies joined C Company on the operation. On 18 February, 8RAR found D445’s bunker system. C Company supported by tanks and APCs launched several assaults against the bunker system meeting strong resistance, while B and D companies occupied blocking positions. By last light on 18 February, 8RAR was poised to launch another assault the next morning.

At this point the Task Force Commander intervened. Given the advantages enjoyed by the enemy in their heavily defended bunker system, he ordered a B52 strike against the position. 8RAR and its supporting tanks, APCs and engineers were ordered to withdraw three kilometres so that the strike could be safely applied. But the strike was delayed for 48 hours, eventually hitting the bunker system at first light on 21 February. The remnants of D445 had been given two days to escape and of course did  so.It was learned later that Regional Force patrols around nearby villages had seen parties of enemy leaving the area, some carrying wounded men on litters, but had refused to engage them.

After the B52 strike, 8RAR returned to the bunker system, assaulted through it and conducted a bomb damage assessment. Few enemy bodies were found, and those that were had probably been killed in the earlier infantry-armour assaults. Many of the bunkers had withstood the B52 strike.

As the operation continued, 8RAR’s focus turned to ambushing the routes the enemy might use to withdraw from the Long Hais. It was in this phase of the operation, on 28 February, that 8RAR suffered severe casualties. After  slow and methodical patrolling led by engineers with mine detectors, 1 Platoon, A Company, moved into an ambush position on the southern flank of the Long Hais. As the platoon began to prepare its ambush position the engineers found a grenade based booby trap. While preparing to neutralise the booby trap an M16 jumping jack mine was detonated causing numerous casualties. While some of those left unscathed manned the platoon radio and attended to the wounded, others prodded safe lanes to a large flat rock so that Medical Evacuation helicopters could be brought in. As the first helicopter arrived and began to winch down an engineer, another M16 mine detonated causing more casualties. The helicopter was also hit by shrapnel.

The high casualties on 28 February, combined with earlier losses on 15 and 18 February, created political and media uproar. Commander AFV argued that the operation had been justified following the highly successful ambush on 15 February. However, a direction was given that no further operations would be conducted into the Long Hai Hills.

In April 1970 a major operation named Concrete was mounted against D445. It was centred around  Xuyen Moc and involved all three 1ATF battalions with armoured support. It continued until 7 May. While D445 was not destroyed it was severely disrupted in one of its own base areas, suffered casualties and lost supplies and equipment.                                             

In August, 8 Platoon, C Company, conducted a most successful night ambush near the village of Hoa Long, which was known to be sympathetic to the VC, and a source of their supplies. After observing a large enemy patrol pass the ambush position at too great a range to effectively engage, the ambush was re-sited to cover the path taken by the enemy. Shortly after 0300 hrs, the enemy resupply party was seen leaving Hoa Long heavily laden with supplies. They took the same path they had used to enter the village. The ambush was triggered at four metres range with claymores and small arms fire resulting in numerous enemy casualties and the capture of their resupply. It later became known that the enemy in the village had lost much enthusiasm and morale due to the success of the ambush.

Operations continued apace for the remainder of the year and 8RAR returned home to Enoggera in November 1970 having completed a most successful tour of duty. The battalion was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation of the Vietnamese Armed Forces for its performance.

8RAR was linked with 9RAR on 31 October 1973 to form 8/9RAR.       


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



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.