Rifle Company Butterworth

From Hansard  Page: 5864

Monday, 16 June 2014

Rifle Company Butterworth

Dear Dr Jensen

Thank you for your letter of 3 March 2014 to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson regarding a petition seeking a review to enable reclassification of service by Rifle Company Butterworth (RCB) 1970 – 1989. As this matter falls within my portfolio responsibilities, your correspondence has been passed to me for response.

The program for rotating an infantry rifle company to Butterworth was implemented on 15 November 1970 by the Australian, New Zealand and British Battalions located in Singapore. After September 1973, a company group was provided from an Australian-based battalion. It was around January 1980, that the infantry rifle company located at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Butterworth on rotation assumed the title of Australian Army Rifle Company Butterworth, it became known as Rifle Company Butterworth in 1987.

In preparing a response to the petition, a senior research officer reviewed previous Department of Defence reviews, and extended the research previously undertaken and re-examined all submissions from claimants. The research officer conducted a thorough examination of available official documentation held at the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia.

This encompassed ‘Open’, ‘Closed’ and Not Yet Examined’ documents and Defence records. These Defence records included:

RAAF Base Butterworth’s Commanding Officer Reports;

RAAF Unit History Records; and

Commanders’ diaries for those Australian battalions, which provided infantry companies for the rotation.

Information freely available on the internet, in published books and journals, Australian Parliament Hansard, and the recently published New Zealand Government Joint Working Group Report on Service in South-East Asia 1950-2011 was also reviewed.

The Government and Defence documents from the period clearly indicate the roles of the infantry company were to:

provide a ground force presence in Malaysia;

to conduct training;

to assist in the security of RAAF Butterworth if required; and

to provide a quick reaction force if required.

The infantry rifle company was not to be involved in local civil disturbances or to be employed in operations outside the gazetted area of the air base. Rules of Engagement and Orders for Opening Fire for the company, and also for the RAAF personnel who had primary responsibility for internal base security, were defensive in nature and to be applied within the air base only. In the event of a security emergency being declared, the infantry rifle company was to assist with the protection of facilities, personnel and families under the direction of the Officer Commanding RAAF Butterworth.

No documented evidence has identified the infantry rifle company was ever required in an emergency ground defence capacity, other than for exercise purposes. The Air Force History Unit advises there is no record of any ground defence emergency occurring. The brief history of the Royal Australian Regiment battalions (which provided rifle companies on rotation) records no events of significance, or noteworthy activity from a battalion historical perspective of the service of the companies which rotated through Butterworth.

The petition posits the RCB served during the period of a Second Malaysian Emergency. While some authors have referred to the activities of the Communist Party of Malaysia during this period as a ‘Second Emergency’, this title appears to have been applied retrospectively. It is not reflected in any official history records of Malaysia. The Malaysian Government did not declare this period to be an emergency.

While Australian forces remained in Malaysia following the Confrontation ceasefire on 11 August 1966, the Malaysian Government made no further requests for assistance in security operations. Accordingly, Australian forces were not engaged in any operations against hostile forces or dissident elements.

Therefore, it is considered that the level of risk associated with Australian Defence Force service at Butterworth from 1966 (post-Confrontation) does not justify a warlike classification. The RCB service is appropriately classified as peacetime service.

Since 2006, the Department of Defence has responded to 33 submissions to Government seeking reclassification of RCB service from 12 separate claimants, a number of whom served with an infantry company on rotation through Butterworth. The Nature of Service Directorate has responded to only one claim for reclassification of service at Butterworth from an ex-member of the RAAF.

The previous submissions have generally relied on the research conducted by one or two individuals. Defence has examined all claims made in the submissions and sought to validate the evidence provided. However, Defence assesses the information contained in the submissions to be selective and subjective. The submissions demonstrate a flawed understanding of the legislation, of the policies and processes governing overseas deployments and of Defence terminology.

This is understandable as most of the claimants were junior in rank at the time of their respective deployments, many having only recently completed basic training. Defence contends that to ensure training conducted at Butterworth was as realistic as possible, the likelihood of hostile action may well have been overstated to the soldiers and this could explain the misconceptions about the role of the infantry company and the hazards faced.

The peacetime classification of RCB service is supported by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Finance and Deregulation. It is consistent with independent Australian and New Zealand reviews and inquiries, namely:

the Committee of Inquiry into Defence and Defence Related Awards (1993);

the Review of Service Entitlement Anomalies in Respect of South-East Asian Service (the Mohr Report dated 1999);

the Review of Veterans Entitlements (Clarke Report dated 2003);

the Inquiry into Recognition for Members ofRifle Company Butterworth for Service in Malaysia between 1970 and 1989 (by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal dated 2011); and

the Final Report by The Medallic Recognition Joint Working Group (JWG) on Service in South-East Asia 1950-2011 (sponsored by the New Zealand Government and dated 2013).

A background paper is enclosed which provides a comprehensive overview of RCB service for the consideration of the Committee.

Yours sincerely

from the Assistant Minister for Defence, Mr Stuart Robert

Copies of the background paper can be obtained from the Petitions Committee.


March 2014 Update

Mike Dennis wrote “See below, the outstanding document and study on the RCB situation by Ken Marsh ex RAAF.

Ken has done a fantastic job in bringing together history, policy facts, political facts, intelligence summaries and highlights Defences faulty and prejudiced responses. When read in conjunction with the Intelligence summaries highlighted in the second dropbox it becomes even clearer. Well done Ken!”

February 2014 Update

Study by Ken Marsh  Butterworth – not normal peacetime service modified referencing


January 2014 Updates

Please view this newspaper clipping

Probe of Award Errors

This has an impact upon RAR members who received AASM SE Asia and subsequently
served in RCB.  Appeals Tribunal – Decision under review

December Update Immediately Below

Please see the SECRET Threat Assessment to Butterworth Air Force Base 1971. Firstly it states there was a CT threat towards BAB and should be read in context with the previous posting where the threat assessment increases into 1975.
Of note are documents 32-56 THE THREAT TO AIR BASE BUTTERWORTH up to the end of 1972 (note increases in the threat identified in the period 1975-77 identified in earlier documents)
Mike Dennis

You can access the reports via Dropbox at:



November Updates Immediately Below

Please view this covering document provided by Mike Dennis:  NEW RCB EVIDENCE WHICH PROVES DEFENCE UNTRUTHS

You can read the entire nearly 180 pages by accessing this Dropbox – after opening, press download on top right hand then click on the documents to increase their size : https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0g3s5gs0qvao7k0/UTiifmNoLc


Dear RCB Supporters, Please see attached copies of archived files (which Air Force and Defence said they could not find), which clearly shows concerns and threats from CT’s as well as the dissatisfaction by RAAF of the initial RCB command arrangements when supplied by 28 ANZUK Bde.

This led to the implementation of rotated RCB from Australia under command CO RAAF Base. We are going to get the further files from this one up to 1976 which will show a further increase in the threat and hopefully the minute from the CDF in 1975 detailing a concerning increase in the threat at RCB.

This proves the assertion that the Defence submissions to Ministers and DHAAT is pack of prejudiced lies aimed at depriving soldiers of recognition and entitlements.

I must particularly thank supporter John Hunt for finding these documents and his investigations into his circumstances detailed elsewhere on the website. Well done John.

Mike Dennis


October Updates Immediately Below

NEW Letter from John Hunt to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, read it here Malay -Thailand Border patrols 1969 to 1971-v2

A letter to the then Parliamentary Secretary For Defence. Senator the Hon. David Feeney. Written by M. Dennis MBE Lt Col [Retd]   Click this Link To Read The Letter

Also a letter from Senator the Honourable Michael Ronaldson, former Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs  IMG copy  Mike Dennis has provided comment to this letter.

Forty pages of new RCB Info (please click on the photo to increase its size);

A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p1 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p2 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p3 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p4 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p5 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p6 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p7 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p8 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p9 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p10 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p11 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p12 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p13 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p14 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p15 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p16 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p17 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p18 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p19 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p20 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p21 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p22 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p23 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p24 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p25 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p26 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p27 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p28 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p29 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p30 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p31 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p32 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p33 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p34 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p35 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p36 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p37 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p38 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p39 A703, 564-8-28 Pt 3 p40

SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2013 Service at Butterworth Air Base 1970 – 1989 in Context Prepared in Support of the RCB Claim for Recognition of Service Posted by Ken Marsh (Swampy) at 8:34 PM

1. RCB on January 8, 2013 at 11:52 am said: You may want to check this out:


You can read Ken’s article in PDF format here  Ken on Butterworth

22 Responses to Rifle Company Butterworth

  1. Mick Connolly says:

    Humpty. Mate if you ever fell off the wall, I am sure there would be many who would pick you up and put back on the wall :)

  2. Humpty Dumpty says:

    Its a matter of priniple,I can recall we had some Nashos in our section at Butterworth, those blokes would now be 63 years of age and they must have thought about their RCB service and being taken to a level of combat readiness only not to have their service recognised.How do they exlain to their family about their service, Nashos at that level had it hard, conscripted into the army, sent overseas to a foreign land, armed and on patrol with the prosepect of being shot and told by the government who sent them there that it was only normal garison duty.At that stage National service had been reduced to 18 months in and out.Likewise the young regs who were sent there, I am not surprised that there has not been a lot more reaction on this issue, or maybe like many infantry men, did the job and moved on.This humpty dumpty will not be sitting on the wall.

  3. I am a veteran of Borneo and VN…I did 3 tours to RCB.The same degrees of readiness prevailed .The Labor Government at the time placed us all in a degree of danger, but failed to upgrade the service to Active Service. The Liberal Government also did not choose to do it either. We all did a great job there and that reflects why the base was not attacked.

  4. vin cronin says:

    its great to hear these stories please let me know what i can do i was there when 8rar and 9 rar came together i dont want a gong just recognition for our work [ iam sorry cant word this too well ] ps i look on this site nearly every weekend to see if any old names come up so far not yet anyway all the best to you all vin

  5. I served on the RCB ,In 73,74-75-and 76.I was a veteran of Malaya-Borneo and two tours to VN with Infantry. RCB Service was similar to Active Service to the point of readiness . The fact that the base was never attacked was due to the Rifle Company presence and diligence! We were not put there from 1970 on,for no reason.However the Labor Government at the time watered it all down……this current govt did as well and will probably continue on the Labor line,because it suits them to do so.

  6. Mick Connolly says:

    Humpty Dumpty. Mate very refreshing to read your comments. I was very disappointed with one of the former Sgts of 1 RAR (1974 RCB) who refused to sign the petition put forward by the RCB Support Group, his refusal was followed by a group of other ex SVN Vets who followed his lead and would not sign the petition, including one who was a RAAF pilot in Butterworth during that same period. As you stated RCB is not and has never been claimed by the RCB group to be the same as service in Vietnam (and rightly so) however as you have correctly stated the prospect of casualties was there. It would appear that you do not wear blinkers and support former ADF members in their fight for natural justice. Good on you mate. Duty First as always.

  7. Humpty Dumpty says:

    Did RCB with 6RAR , we rotated out of Singapore to Butterworth during 72. Being a Vietnam Vet I reflect on the RCB service as being similar in terms of being taken to a level of combat readiness , there was a likihood of being shot by unknown snipers whilst on perimeter patrol.We had been briefed on the CTs and the threat.Whilst it was not at the same level of intensity as Vietnam and falls away in comparison, it did however elevate our mindset and level of alertness.There was a real potential for casualties to occur. Hang in there guys.

  8. Dave Evans says:

    G’day Mick, yes, well remember the old Chinese cemetery at the northern end of the airbase, doing night standing watches and waiting, in full kit with live ammo. And watching the old RAAF truck coming round the perimiter track to pick us up in the morning. It seems only yesterday but the years have added up very fast, soon be 40 years since the deployment. Maybe the politicians are playing the long game and waiting for us to drop off the perch, that way no decision needs to be made. Dave “Onward”

  9. Kon Glekas says:

    Hi All

    I was at Butterworth with 2/4 RAR Sep to Nov 1975 and remember quite clear hearing that the Cheif of Police had been killed.
    When Robert Cross from 8/9 RAR group lodged their submission for the recognition of service as war like, in the letter that was received it stated that the service was arduous service for DVA purposes.

    Now as time goes by, more and more information is revealed. And we must keep on trying in our quest.

    regards to all

    Kon Glekas

  10. Linton Solomon (sol) says:

    Les I was with Bravo 8/9 RAR on two occasions 74 and 76. Same story mate, fully gunned up on sandbag emplacements around the base at night and on QRF call outs..go figure.

  11. JOHN HUNT says:

    I did five Malay-Thailand Border patrols as a Rifle Company Medic with different groups, mainly from 1RAR in 1970 and 71. The five patrols addded up to 82 days as one of the patrols were for four weeks. We were briefed by Intelligence staff at Butterworth of the dangers and current conflicts in our border patrol area. I have only been awarded the Overseas Service Medal with S.E.Asia clasp. I have no active service entitlements or benifits. As far as the defence deparment is concerned, my documentation only shows service in Singapore 69 to 71. I was a Field Medic in the 1RAR Regimental Aid Post (RAP) and our Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) Capt. Jefferies despatched me as Company Medic on the five Border Patrols.
    Obviously, the RAP records are either lost or hidden for some reason, either way, I get no recognition for my Malay-Thailand Border Patrols.

  12. Les Fagan says:

    Good day to you all,
    I served in Butterworth with A Coy, 6 RAR, 79/80 over the Xmas –New Year period.
    From the outset we were informed that for this service we would be under the War Service Act and that any offences committed would be dealt with more severely because of it. We were informed that the enemy was the Communist Terrorists in the area and that we would carry out the security and quick reaction duties in order to protect Australian and Malay assets at the Airbase Butterworth.
    I was under no illusion that we were going into a hostile area and would be in danger; this was reinforced when we arrived.
    I remember getting of the plane and seeing the armed Malay escorts and thinking that they didn’t like us too much, it took a while to understand that they were there for our protection and safety, until we got to Butterworth Air Base.

    During my time there, the dangers were reinforced several time, when we heard shooting from out side the fence line and sometimes could see the shots being fired at night, not too far away.

    I have over the years told the story of when I was there and acting as the section commander for the QRF, we were called out to one of the key points and when we arrived we had to cross the big water drain, myself and another bloke (I won’t mention his name to save any embarrassment) pushed forward and started to cross the bridge over the drain, the other bloke dropped his magazine of live rounds on the bridge and the base plate and spring flew off, dropping rounds all over the place. While he was attempting to pick up and refurbish the magazine, two unidentified males appeared near the key point, too cut a long story short there was a lot of shouting and carrying on, my section was in the “action” weapons’ state and the two now identified Malay security guards survived unscathed.

    The point of this story is that we had live ammunition, in the action condition and we were in extreme danger, as a result of our briefings and our duty statement, our state of mind was such that we were prepared to shot the two guards.

    These are of course the memories of a very young lad, many years ago.
    I would be more than happy to write to the New Government, but I have no evidence of anything from back then, only memories.

    Take care
    Les Fagan 6 RAR 78-85

  13. Linton Solomon (sol) says:

    I was interested to find this article. Very interesting. It, along with eminent authors of Military history and all the great work of Robert Cross and subsequently many others, adds more weight to the argument that we were pawns in political game. It seems clear that Malaysia was on an active service footing from the late 60s onward. I don’t think the Australian government of the 70s wanted anyone to think that they had soldiers on any form of active service after SVN. I think that many of us can relate anecdotal evidence in relation to carriage of front line ammo and in our case having a Malay Brigade move into our supposed training area on operations as we left it? It would be nice to see a new government take another look at our claims. I was RCB in 73\4 and 75.

  14. Colin "Tiny" Russell says:

    Lets face it The decision makers usually have never carried a pack on their back, dug a hole with an entrenching tool the size of a soup spoon or set foot in the “J”

  15. Michael "Mick" Connolly says:

    G’day Dave

    Mate I was in A Coy 1 RAR (attached from C Coy 1 RAR) on the June to Sept 1975 RCB Tour. I do recall the incident you are referring to. I was on a Standing/Listening Patrol at the old cemetery on the Eastern side of the airstrip. Five of us and one Malaysian soldier, once again during that period the whole platoon was on QRF not just a Section, and yes we had live ammunition plus 50 rounds for the M60 we had with us. What we need is as Peter Cross has requested many times, is for blokes like yourself to write to their local Federal Minister and the Defence Minister (whoever the winner is in this coming election) and tell them about the facts of RCB, that it was not normal Australian peace time garrison duty such as manning the gate at 1 RAR in Townsville. That RCB had an ROE and live ammunition was issued whilst on QRF and the Armscote etc. Eventually like Cambodia/Ubon etc they will have to accept that they can no longer lie to the public about RCB. So mate your memory is correct about the F5 protection etc. Regards Mick Connolly “Duty First”

  16. Bill marklew says:

    There are more twists and turns coming from the pollies than I would have ever believed, and I’m not convinced that whoever wins this election that they are going to sit down and have a serious conversation with us.
    I now understand the frustration that the Korean vets went through for all those years.
    If you haven’t already, dig through all the old tin trunks and get together your old photos, diaries, SOP’s etc, and follow Robert Cross’s suggestion by sending letters to those who will be in power post 7 Sep 13.

  17. Dave Evans says:

    I dont know if this is any help but when I was posted to Butterworth as part of the 1RAR Company Group in 1975 we had to patrol the hard standing where the RMAF placed it’s new F5 aircraft. We were in full patrol order and had live magazines for our rifles and the Bren gun. We were told the extra patrolling was because the CT’s had blown something up a few miles north of the air base.
    When the Malaysian Service Police infiltrated the base to check on our readiness, without informing us that they were doing so, they were spotted and the duty platoon was stood to, we were already at the aircraft and were told to load our live magazines to protect the aircraft.
    We were stood down in the end with no one hurt and congratulations for spotting the Service Police. If anyone else remembers this, they might like to comment.
    Dave Evans 1RAR, 1971-76.

  18. Dave Simmons says:

    For Mick Dennis.

    I notice recently on TV RAAF ADGs received a INF Combat Badge equivalent for the protection of RAAF Assets in the middle east. This was in addition to the active service medal for their members so on OP service there.

    To me having done two tours at RCB with 8/9RAR, 1976 (PL COMD ) and 1982 (COY 2IC), I can see little difference to their role and ours so many years ago in Butterworth i.e. providing protection of RAAF strategic assets in a defined military threat environment.

    Food for thought.

  19. Alan G Sheather says:

    Yes even slept in armouries with loaded weapons

  20. Alan G Sheather says:

    This is interesting considering that I was there in 1968 and was denied entitlements

  21. Colin Russell says:

    Ok those in the “Great Grey Sponge” [probably never carried a pack on their respective backs or had a trip in to the "J"] have made the decision that any Butterworth trips as a grunt was a “swan trip” and as such no recognition will be granted.

    However, whilst perusing a recent e-copy of Army News I noticed a new medal, that being the Australian Operational Service Medal. The article showed some NorForce Reservists being awarded the medal for “foot patrols” – Their medals were for Border Security.

    Maybe those in power would consider issuing a similar medal for Butterworth vets???

  22. Mick Coombs says:

    Some good reading on this review of RCB entitlements. After 23 years of service in the Infantry, I do not recall anytime where “peacetime service” included the carriage of live ammo, for the specific purpose of protection of Australian assets or ready reaction to insergents. I have heard of two occasions where 1 RAR and 5/7 RAR were told to “load” as a threat was iminent. Another important factor in RCB service is that all members were subject to military law, whilst on war service, obviously meaning that offences meant harsher penalties. Therefore troops were disciplined under the war service act, but was not recognised by the Government for their entitlements, some what of a slap in the face to troops ordered overseas.

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