Australian operations in Borneo

Australian infantry, gunners, and members of the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) saw action in Borneo during the Malaysian-Indonesian Confrontation.

The 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) carried out a two-year-long tour of duty in Malaysia from July 1963 as part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade. The battalion's first experience of the Malaysian-Indonesian Confrontation occurred in October 1964 when some of its members cooperated with New Zealand infantry in rounding up a force of 50 Indonesian troops that had landed in southern Malaya.

In March 1965 3 RAR arrived in Borneo and relieved a Ghurkha unit at Bau in western Sarawak. The battalion remained in the area for four months, during which time it carried out patrolling and ambush operations on both sides of the border with Indonesia. Although the heaviest fighting of the battalion's time in Borneo occurred in ambushes of Indonesian troops, the three Australian soldiers killed during this period were victims of mines laid by the Indonesians.

The 4th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR) replaced 3 RAR in the 28th Commonwealth Brigade and served in Sarawak between April and August 1966. Operating from fortified bases around Bau, the battalion carried out patrols on both sides of the border, some of which led to clashes with Indonesian soldiers. In addition to military operations, the battalion conducted a 'hearts and minds' campaign designed to deter the locals from giving assistance to the Indonesians.

The Australian 102nd Field Battery served in Borneo between May and August 1965. Equipped with L5 pack howitzers, the battery supported 3 RAR, Ghurkha units, and British Guards and Parachute Regiments. Although the battery's main task was to provide defensive fire for Commonwealth infantry outposts, it also assisted with support fire for secret 'claret' operations in Indonesian territory.

Australian SAS soldiers were deployed overseas for the first time during the Indonesian Confrontation. The 1st Squadron of the Australian SAS Regiment served in Borneo from February to August 1965. Three months of this period were spent on 'claret' operations against the Indonesians. The squadron also conducted more conventional reconnaissance patrols and 'hearts and minds' operations. The 2nd Australian SAS Squadron operated in Borneo between February and July 1966, performing a range of tasks including 'claret' operations. Three members of the Australian SAS were killed in action in Borneo.

The Royal Australian Air Force had a limited involvement in Confrontation. No. 5 Squadron RAAF provided Iroquois helicopters for operations in the area around the Thai border while six C130 flights per month carried troops and supplies between Malaya and Borneo. The latter were provided by No. 36 Squadron which was based at Richmond in New South Wales but whose crews flew to a wide range of locales in their transport role. During the period of Confrontation 36 Squadron aircraft were also involved in supporting the Australian effort in Vietnam.

Last updated: 10 March 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Australian operations in Borneo, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 17 September 2021,
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