At long last the Minister decided to appoint an independent inquiry into medallic recognition of RCB service with the DHAAT. Information about the inquiry, and how to make a submission, can be found on the Tribunal’s website: https://defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au.
The RCBRG will be making a detailed submission.
We recommend you make your own personal submission remembering that we need to prove our RCB service (1970-1989) met the criteria for warlike service applicable at that time. To help you do that read on. The Tribunal is directed to inquire into issues pertaining to medallic recognition for service with Rifle Company Butterworth. Those issues relate to providing evidence that RCB met the criteria at the time for ‘warlike’ service:
The criteria to be met for the period of RCB service is contained in Cabinet Directive 1048 of 1965 and simply requires that ADF personnel were exposed to the possible risk of harm from the ongoing actions of hostile forces or dissident elements. This in a nutshell is the “incurred danger” test which was the test applied to assessing warlike service from World War 1 and for all subsequent conflicts, as stated by Justice Mohr in his 2000 Report – Chapter 2 . This is a vital principle to be recognised in any consideration of warlike service.
“On the assumption that we are dealing with rational people in a disciplined armed service (i.e. both the person perceiving danger and those in authority at the time), then if a serviceman is told there is an enemy and that he will be in danger, then that member will not only perceive danger, but to him or her it will be an objective danger on rational and reasonable grounds. If called upon, the member will face that objective danger. The member’s experience of the objective danger at the time will not be removed by ‘hindsight’ showing that no actual enemy operations eventuated”.
Defence have consistently tried to pull the wool over government’s eyes by applying the current 2018 definition of warlike service, even though we are able to, and have, shown how we meet those criteria as well. It does however allow Defence to confuse the issue with word play rather than getting to the core of the issue – incurred danger.
Current Definition: A warlike operation is an Australian Government authorised military operation where ADF personnel are exposed to the risk of harm from hostile forces that have been assessed by Defence as having the capability and an identified intent to directly target ADF personnel. ADF personnel are authorised to use force to pursue specific military objectives and there is an expectation of ADF casualties as a result.
Criteria: Justice Clarke in his 2002 Report to Government Chapter 14 said: “In determining the nature of service for an approved operation, the Department of Defence uses three primary factors: the mission, the rules of engagement and the threat to ADF personnel.”
- The Mission. “Warlike operations are those military activities where the application of force is required to pursue specific military objectives, such as a declared war, conventional combat operations against an armed adversary and peace enforcement operations in support of diplomatic efforts to restore peace between belligerents……“The RCB deployment of a combat infantry rifle company (reinforced) was a conventional defence combat operation to protect the RAAF assets in a Shared Defence Plan with the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) within the air base. Specifically, RCB’s primary role, was a QRF to defend against an enemy attack. Its size was to be a deterrent to the enemy’s action.Defence is a conventional phase of war where a military force is deployed for a specific defensive/protective/security mission to a specific defended area. Elements of that defence force deploy into ‘front-line’ positions while others are designated as a reserve force for a counter penetration role (to stop the enemy’s penetration through the front-line defences into the defended area) and counter attack role (to repel, kill and/or capture the enemy). At ABB the RCB QRF was that equivalent. The QRF was NOT a front-line deployment for sentry duties.
- “The Rules of Engagement. In warlike operations, the application of lethal force is authorised, within defined parameters, to achieve the mission.At ABB the Shared Defence Plan had the MAF providing the ‘front-line’ perimeter defence with sentries and both the MAF and the RAAF providing patrols inside their own dedicated areas within the Base.The QRF was the reserve force to be deployed to action in its designated role (counter penetration and counter attack) as ordered by the Ground Defence Operations Centre as necessary to stop penetration into the Base area and to counter attack to repel, kill and/or capture the enemy. At that point the QRF’s ROE/OFOF became lethal.
- The Threat to ADF Personnel. “In warlike operations there is an expectation of casualties.The mere act of putting personnel into ‘harm’s way’ creates the expectation of casualties, that is clear even in more recent definitions of ‘warlike’.The threat from communist insurgents’ actions were as reported in various intelligence reports from various sources such as:Secret: The Australian JIO Secret Report No 13/75 dated 1 October 1975 – The Security of Air Base Butterworth, andSecret: Butterworth Security Report to the Minister from AVM N.P. McNamara Deputy Chief of Air Staff dated 14 October 1975.There are numerous references to the insurgents regarding who, how many, where, their capacity, tactics, indirect weapons, confirmed attacks and other activities that constituted a warlike threat to ABB. Attacks did occur on other MAF Air Force bases in Sungai Besi on 31 Mar 74 and at Kuala Lumpur in 1975.
Pre-deployment, the RCB troops were fully briefed on their combat role, the enemy threat and the expectation of combat casualties. All troops were required to be DP1 status (ready for combat in war) before deployment: the same requirement as for Vietnam service.
RCB’s deterrence was successful with no insurgent attacks. However, during the RCB deployment there were a number of real ‘Amber’ (defence situation imminent) alerts activating the Ground Defence Operations Centre to deploy the RCB’s QRF
Submission to the DHAAT Inquiry – Guidance
In your personal submission we recommend you:
- detail your tour of duty at Air Base Butterworth. For example: your appointment and primary task (rifleman, gunner, commander etc) in your Platoon/Company/Unit and period (dates) served. Your normal weapon was an (insert) while the rest of the company carried their normal small arms weapons required for operational service. The company’s heavy weapons were also readily available along with ammunition on base.
- state your company’s deployment role as a Quick Reaction Force
- detail your pre-deployment preparation
- state why you believe your RCB service met the warlike service criteria as outlined above.
- state what we want –
- Qualifying service for VEA entitlements, and have the BAB declared under the Defence Act an active service area.
- Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) with clasp Malaysia.
- Returned from Active Service Badge (RASB), and
- General Service Medal 1962, with clasp Malaysia for those who served in RCB until 14th February 1975.
Submissions close on 1 July 2022
Men, our success depends on your submissions to the Inquiry.
RCB Service 1979
Chairman RCB Review Group
Date: 13 April 2022