‘The Borneo Banyan’ In 1963 when the new nation of Malaysia was proclaimed, Malaysia had absorbed the states of Malaya, Singapore (later to withdraw), Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) in a new Federation. Unfortunately Indonesia opposed the new nation. The Indonesian President (Dr. Sukarno) embarked on a policy of ‘confrontation’ and later threatened to ‘crush’ Malaysia. Australia made it clear that if Malaysia were subjected to armed invasion or subversive activity supported from outside, then Australian military assistance would be added to that of the Malaysian and British. RAN warships in the Strategic
Reserve were available for patrol and escort ops.
In April 1964 both HMAS Yarra and HMAS Parramatta were involved in patrols off Malaya to intercept fast patrol boats and submarines.
President Sukarno was not deterred and mounted numerous incursions of troops into Malaysian Borneo as well as sea landings on the Malayan coast. During 1964 Australian Naval Operations were sharply increased to counter the threat of sea-borne infiltration. The coastal minesweepers Hawk, Curlew, Snipe and Gull, were committed and patrolled off the coasts of
Borneo, Malaya and Singapore. Later in 1964 Teal and Ibis took part in these ops. HMAS Sydney, now converted to her new role as a fast troop transport sailed for Malaysian ports carrying army personnel, ammunition, AA guns and stores. As well destroyers, Duchess, Vampire and Vendetta together with the frigate Derwent joined in ‘confrontation’ patrol duty.
Indonesia persisted with hostile acts which included dropping paratroops into Malaysia and the landing by sea of infiltrators who clashed with Commonwealth forces. ‘Indonesian attacks’, the Prime Minister told parliament, ‘may create a real risk of war… it is tremendously important that Indonesia should not become communist.’ On 10th November 1964 compulsory
National Service was reintroduced for the army and the RAN permanent strength was to be increased from 12,569 to 15,893 over the next three years.
HMAS Teal whilst operating as part of the Singapore Straits patrol on 13th December 1964 was fired upon with automatic weapons by a vessel which then headed for Indonesian waters. Teal returned fire with three Bren guns and two Owen guns and arrested the boat. C.O., Lieutenant Murray was later decorated with the DSC, continued its ‘confrontation’ and the British
organized substantial naval forces to defend Malaysia. RAN destroyers, frigates and minesweepers maintained their patrols.
When Indonesian forces crossed the border into eastern Sebatik Island near Tawau, Sabah, on 28th June 1965, Yarra was called upon to carry out bombardments designed to harass the withdrawal of the infiltrators. Bombardments of the border area were again carried out on the 5th and 10th July.
On the night of the 30th September 1965 a coup attempt, in which Indonesian communists became involved, occurred in Indonesia. Six senior Generals were killed. The coup failed and was followed by widespread violence and bloodshed. It proved a turning point for ‘confrontation’, which declined thereafter and on 13th August 1966 a formal agreement concluded between Indonesia and Malaysia bringing the conflict to an end.
Admiral Lord Mountbatten Inspecting HMAS Ibis, Kuching
Facts & Figures
Australian forces involved
● Elements of the Royal Australian Engineers (RAE)
● 3rd and 4th battalions of The Royal Australian 3Regiment (RAR) with tracker dogs and indigenous guides
● Elements of the Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment – the newly formed elite
● Royal Australian Artillery support elements
● 693 Signal Troop (detached from 121 Signal Squadron, Singapore)
● Royal Australian Navy (RAN): HMAS Curlew, Gull, Hawk, Ibis, Snipe, Teal,
Duchess, Vampire, Vendetta, Derwent, Parramatta, Yarra.
served. Causes of death
● Australian Casualties
● motor vehicle
● accidents (3),
● mines (3),
● crushed by falling tree (2),
● crushed by wild elephant (1),
● drowning (1),
● electrocution (1),
● illness (1).
Copyright © ANZAC Day Commemoration
Committee (Qld) Incorporated 1998
If You would like to know more behind the reasons and politics for the Indonesian
Conflict, here’s a good reference page to brush up on your history.
And another you may find of interest on Wikipedia