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Category: Conflicts/Malaya

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Indonesian Confrontation 1964-65

In 1964, Indonesia launched a campaign of confrontation against the newly-created Federation of Malaysia, seeking to de-stabilise and ultimately to destroy it. Most incursions were into Sarawak and Sabah, with a few into mainland (Western) Malaysia.

Dawn 'stand-to', 3 RAR, Sarawak >>

By the end of that year, there were 21 British, Gurkha and Malaysian battalions, with supporting arms, deployed in Borneo.

 The Malaysian Government requested the commitment of Australian troops to Borneo in January 1965, resulting in 3RAR and 102 Field Battery (then with the BCFESR), 1SAS Squadron and a number of field and construction squadrons being deployed to Borneo. Further, 111 Light Anti Aircraft Battery, relieved later by 110 Battery, was deployed to the Butterworth Air Base in Western Malaysia in case of Indonesian air attack.

In the meantime, several brigades of Indonesian regular troops had been moved from Java to Kalimantan, opposite Sarawak and Sabah. Ultimately 22,000 regular Indonesian troops including 12 infantry battalions , 4,000 irregulars and 2,000 Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO) operatives with some 24,000 Chinese sympathisers, were involved. The Indonesian incursions into Sarawak and Sabah were in relatively small groups, often less than platoon-level.

Click to enlarge << This map shows Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak on the Malaysian side of the border and Kelimantan on the Indonesian side.

The Commonwealth security forces were deployed primarily in company bases within mutually supporting gun range, patrols being mounted to secure intelligence, set ambushes and to force the Indonesians to remain behind their own border. 3RAR served on operations from March to July 1965, and 4RAR April to August 1966. 1SAS Squadron served from April to August 1965 and 2SAS Squadron from March to July 1966.

As well as operations on Borneo and the mainland of Malaysia, Australian troops, mainly from the Pacific Islands Regiment, were engaged in intensive patrolling along the only land border between Indonesia and Australian territory in Papua New Guinea. While there was only one shooting incident, the demands of patrolling in such difficult terrain imposed a considerable drain on the available pool of Australian officers and NCOs.

Confrontation formally ended in August 1966. Australian Army casualties were seven KIA, six WIA, with 10 non-operational deaths and 14 non-operational other casualties

 

The CLARET Operations

The incursions into mainland Malaysia in the latter half of 1964 brought Indonesia and Malaysia (with its British and Australian allies) close to war, and in September some British planners talking of conducting sea and air strikes against Indonesian bases. Instead. Walker was authorised to conduct operations up to 5000 yards (4570 metres) across the Indonesian border. The strictest secrecy was observed and the 'Claret' operations, as they were known, were aimed at ambushing Indonesian troops and supply parties as they moved towards the border. By the end of the year Walker had eighteen British battalions (including eight Gurkha and two Royal Marine Commandos) and three Malay battalions in Borneo. Also at the end of the year he was given permission to extend his operations up to 10 000 yards (9140 metres) across the border. 

  • The 'Golden Rules' for Claret operations were as follows:
    • Every operation to be authorised by DOBOPS [Walker]. 
    • Only trained and tested troops to be used. 
    • Depth of penetration to be limited and the attacks must only be made to thwart offensive action by the enemy. 
    • No operation which required close air support-except in an extreme emergency-must be undertaken. 
    • Every operation must be planned with the aid of a sand-table and thoroughly rehearsed for at least two weeks.
    •  Each operation to be planned and executed with maximum security. 
    • Every man taking part must be sworn to secrecy, full cover plans must be made and the operations to be given code-names and never discussed in detail on telephone or radio. 
    • Identity discs must be left behind before departure and no traces-such as cartridge cases, paper, ration packs, etc-must be left in Kalimantan. 
    • On no account must any soldier taking part be captured by the enemy-alive or dead.


These rules were later eased, but the operations always retained a high level of secrecy. When 3 RAR arrived it had to patrol on the Malaysian side of the border for a mandatory period of one month before it could begin Claret operations.

Click to enlarge B Company 3 RAR was located at a place called Bukit Knuckle which was described as a cross between a part of a WW1 trench system and an American wild west fort. They made successful raids across the Indonesian border. These were not reported in the press and the death toll was never mentioned by the Indonesian Government. Secrecy was strict on both sides.
 

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