NATIONAL MALAYA & BORNEO VETERANS IN AUSTRALIA
THE BEGINNING OF A TRULY UNIQUE ASSOCIATION
This Association owes it's beginning to one man, Richard H Webber and by way of acknowledging his contribution, it is fitting that a very brief account of some of his life is shown here from information provided by Queensland and Tasmanian Branches.
Richard Webber had an illustrious life, he served as an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander in their famous rear guard action at Grik on the Malay Peninsular, where heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. He survived the battle of Slim River, where the charges to blow the Trolak Bridge failed to go off, the Japanese tanks roaring down the main trunk road and breaking the defences. The Argylls suffered heavy casualties, only about a hundred men of the entire Battalion managed to escape. The Argylls were the last to withdraw onto Singapore Island, witnessing demolition charges blowing a seventy yard gap in The Causeway which was not successful in stopping the Japanese advance . Richard was later captured and spent two and a half years as a POW on infamous Burma Railroad. After the war he did further service in Malaya joining the Malay Regiment.. Richard emigrated to Australia in 1963 and in 1964 he was appointed Controller of Civil Defence in Darwin throughout the Indonesian Confrontation and served until 1969. A further mark of respect is the Richard Webber Trophy instigated by the Board of Management after Richard's passing, and in which Australia has a very good record on the winners list. It seems that this is in itself shows the esteem in which our first National Chairman was held.
National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association Australia was originally a branch of the parent association in the United Kingdom (NMBVA) until June 1995 when Australia become its' own incorporated association with the National Headquarters being registered in Queensland. The first Annual General Meeting was held at the RSL Geebung with the following office bearers elected.
INAUGURAL MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
|National Chairman/Secretary||Richard H Webber|
|National Treasurer||John Rooney|
|Assistant Secretary/Committee||Cyril Hunter|
|State Chairman Queensland||David Kent|
|Sub Branch Chairman Sunshine Coast ||Fred Simpson|
|Veterans Liaison||Tom Turnbull|
In early 1999 the founding chairman gave notice to "stand down" due to severe ill health, a short while later the association mourned his death. Richard surely must have been satisfied to see his efforts rewarded with branches and sub-branches in all States and Territories.
History of Campaigns
****** Malayan Emergency 1948 - 1960 *******
Australia's involvement in the Emergency began in 1950 with the arrival of RAAF aircraft and personnel in Singapore. Dakotas from 38 Squadron were deployed on cargo runs, troop movements and paratroop and leaflet drops in Malaya, while six Lincoln bombers of 1 Squadron provided the backbone of aerial operations. As the capacity of army and police units operating against the communists improved, however, the need for air power decreased, and by 1952 Lincolns were increasingly used as part of combined air-ground assaults against the communists. One of the major military successes of the conflict was one such coordinated operation in July 1954, east of Ipoh in Perak state. In Operation Termite, as the exercise was known, five RAAF Lincolns and six from a Royal Air Force squadron made simultaneous attacks on two communist camps, followed by paratroop drops, a ground attack and further bombing runs ten days later. The operation destroyed 181 camps and killed thirteen communists; one communist surrendered.
By October 1955, when the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), arrived in Penang, the outcome of the Emergency was no longer in doubt, although a lengthy "mopping up" stage followed, largely undertaken by Australian troops. After several false starts 2 RAR crossed to the mainland in January 1956 to begin anti-communist operations. Over the next 20 months, as part of 28 Commonwealth Brigade, 2 RAR participated in a variety of operations, mainly in Perak, one of the main areas of communist activity. Their work consisted of extensive patrolling, watching for contacts in the rubber plantations and mounting a perimeter guard on the New Villages, settlements which the government had established to provide infrastructure and services in outlying areas in the hope of denying the guerrillas access to their support base. Contacts were rare, however, and the battalion had a mixed record, killing two communists in an ambush on 25 June 1956 but losing three of its own troops.
2 RAR left Malaya in October 1957 and was replaced by 3 RAR in the same month. After six weeks oftraining in jungle warfare 3 RAR began driving the insurgents into the jungle in Perak and Kedah, separating them from food and other supplies. Early successes for the battalion confirmed the growing ascendancy of the security forces over the communists, and by April 1959 one of the main communist centres, Perak, was declared secure. By late 1959 operations against the communists were in their final phase and many communists had crossed Malaya's northern border into Thailand. 3 RAR left Malaya in October 1959 to be replaced by 1 RAR. Although operating in the border region 1 RAR made no contact with the enemy and were forbidden to move into Thailand, even when the presence and location of communists was known. As the threat continued to dissipate, the Malayan government officially declared the Emergency over on 31 July 1960, though 1 RAR remained in Malaya until October the following year, when 2 RAR returned for a second tour. In August 1962 the battalion was committed to anti-communist operations in Perlis and Kedah, completing its tour in August 1963.
In addition to air and infantry forces, Australia also provided artillery and engineering support, and an air-field construction squadron built the main runway for the air force base at Butterworth. Ships of the Royal Australian Navy also served in Malayan waters, and Australian ships had occasion to fire on suspected communist positions in 1956 and 1957. Australian ground forces in Malaya formed part of Australia's contribution to the Far East Strategic Reserve, which was set up in April 1955 primarily to deter external communist aggression against countries in south-east Asia, especially Malaya and Singapore.
Lasting 13 years, the Malayan Emergency was the longest continuous military commitment in Australia's history. Thirty-nine Australian servicemen were killed in Malaya, although only 15 of these deaths occurred as a result of operations, and 27 were wounded, most of whom were in the army
******** Indonesian Confrontation, 1963-66 ********
Australian units which fought during Confrontation did so as part of a larger British and Commonwealth force under overall British command. Australia's commitment to operations against Indonesia in Borneo and West Malaysia fell within the context of its membership in the Far East Strategic Reserve.
At first the Australian government kept its troops from becoming involved in Confrontation, not least because of fears that the conflict would spread to the long - and difficult to defend - border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Requests from both the British and Malaysian governments in 1963-64 for the deployment of Australian troops in Borneo met with refusal, though the Australian government did agree that its troops could be used for the defence of the Malay peninsula against external attack. In the event, such attacks occurred twice, in September and October 1964, when Indonesia launched paratroop and amphibious raids against Labis and Pontian, on the south-western side of the peninsula. Members of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) were used in clean-up operations against the invading troops. Although these attacks were easily repelled, they did pose a serious risk of escalating the fighting; the Australian government relented in January 1965 and agreed to the deployment of a battalion in Borneo.
The military situation in Borneo thus far had consisted of company bases located along the border between Indonesia and Malaysia to protect centres of population from enemy incursions. By 1965 the British government had given permission for more aggressive action to be taken, and the security forces now mounted cross-border operations with the purpose of obtaining intelligence and forcing the Indonesians to remain on the defensive on their own side of the border. Uncertain where the Commonwealth forces might strike next, the Indonesians increasingly devoted their resources to protecting their own positions and correspondingly less on offensive operations, although these continued on a much reduced scale.
The first Australian battalion, 3 RAR, arrived in Borneo in March 1965 and served in Sarawak until the end of July. During this time the battalion conducted extensive operations on both sides of the border, were engaged in four major contacts with Indonesian units, and twice suffered casualties from land mines. Its replacement, the 28th Brigade, 4 RAR, also served in Sarawak - from April until August 1966. Although it had a less active tour, the 28th Brigade also operated on the Indonesian side of the border and was involved in clashes with Indonesian regulars. Altogether, two squadrons of the Special Air Service, a troop of the Royal Australian Signals, one artillery battery and parties of the Royal Australian Engineers were involved in Borneo, in addition to the two infantry battalions. Ships of the Royal Australian Navy served in the surrounding waters and several RAAF squadrons were also involved in Confrontation.
Continuing negotiations between Indonesia and Malaysia ended the conflict, and the two sides signed a peace treaty in Bangkok in August 1966. Twenty-three Australians were killed during Confrontation, seven of them on operations, and eight were wounded. Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations, which remained secret at the time, Confrontation received very little coverage in the Australian press.
Courtesy of AWM & Mr. B L Nyman LVO, MBE.
The Indonesian Confrontation 45th Anniversary Commemoration Malaya & Borneo Veterans Day 2011
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