Minesweeper patrols during Indonesian Confrontation
Name: Alan Smoothy
Unit: HMAS Snipe, RAN
Friction between Indonesia and the newly created Malaysia forced the Australian Government in 1963 to come out in support of Malaysia.
On 25 September, the Prime Minister, [Sir] Robert Menzies, told the House of Representatives that any "armed invasion or subversive activity, supported, directed or inspired from outside Malaysia", would mean Australia adding its military assistance to the efforts of Malaysia and the United Kingdom in the defence of Malaysia's territory, integrity and political independence.
Despite this action, Indonesia continued its campaign of attacks across the border and Australian troops from 3 RAR became involved for the first time against a group of infiltrators which landed from the sea at the mouth of the Kesang River.
Australian naval operations in Malaysia were increased to counter the threat of seaborne infiltration with HMAS Yarra and HMAS Parramatta involved in interception of fast patrol boats and submarines.
The coastal minesweepers Hawke, Snipe, Gulf and Curlew began to patrol off the coast of Borneo, Malaya and Singapore and were joined later by Ibis and Teal.
Alan Smoothy served on Snipe in 1955-56, taking part in patrols, searching of suspect boats, including fishing boats and mine sweeping duties.
"Snipe, along with other minesweepers, picked up several contacts on radar which we suspected were Indonesian," Alan Smoothy recalled. "These boats were small canoe like with large outboard motors and very fast."
"After firing several rocket flares and pursuing these boats for quite a while, we were successful in turning them back."
There was a curfew on boats operating after 6pm.
"During patrols off the coast of Malaya and Borneo we would pick up several contacts on radar," he said. "On picking up contact we went into action stations and proceeded to close the contact."
"We carried a Malayan interpreter who called out for the boats to stop. If they didn't we would open fire with the flag deck mounted Bren Gun, always over their heads.
"This always had the required result. We then brought the boat along side where an armed boarding party would carry out a search."
But things didn't always go according to plan, according to Alan.
"One night we picked up a contact on radar and, after they failed to stop as requested by the interpreter, we opened fire with the Vickers machine gun which was mounted in the bow," he said.
"We discovered that it was in fact an Australian prize crew from another minesweeper who were taking the boat back into harbour.
"The following day the prize crew were returned to Snipe by the Malayan police boat and we, in turn, took them back to HMAS Ibis the following day."
Alan Smoothy kept a photographic record of events on board.
Material for this article was supplied by Mr Alan Smoothy of New South Wales