HISTORY OF
THE EIGHTH BATTALION
THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT

VIII

Emblem of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade

Unofficial emblem of the Battalion - the Eight-Ball


FORMATION

The Eighth Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment was raised at Enoggera, Brisbane, on the 14th of July 1966. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel J.0. Langtry, DCM, the Regimental Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class One G.J.C. Lee and one hundred and fifty ex-members of the First Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment, which had just returned from Vietnam, were included amongst the foundation members. At 8.00 a.m. on the eighth day of the eighth month 1966, the General Officer Commanding Northern Command, Major General T.F. Cape, CBE, DSO, reviewed the official Inauguration Parade.

The Battalion strength rose from 123 all ranks in July, to 370 in August, however successive Regular Army and National Service intakes very quickly permitted the unit to reach full strenght, completing its C and D companies.

UNDER COMMAND 6 TASK FORCE

On the 2nd December 1966, a parade at Enoggera was reviewed by the Commander 6 Task Force, Brigadier R.L. Flughes, DSO, to mark the occasion of the Eighth Battalion coming under command of 6 Task Force. The Battalion remained under command 6 Task Force until September 1967.

PREPARATION FOR SERVICE IN MALAYSIA

Early in 1967 the Eighth Battalion was warned for service in the Far East Strategic Reserve. Battalion training for this role was completed by the Battalion's first birthday on the 8th August 1967. In fact, the birthday celebrations themselves were limited to a post exercise party in the Rockhamption training area, Queensland.

FAREWELL PARADE

Following a brief leave period, a Farewell Parade, reviewed by Brigadier R.L. Hughes, DSO, was held at Enoggera on the Ist September 1967.

MOVEMENT TO MALAYSIA

The Battalion moved from Brisbane to Malaysia between 24th August 1967 and 6th November 1967 by sea and air, relieving the Fourth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment at Terendak.

UNDER COMMAND 28 BRIGADE

On 16th October 1967, the Battalion officially came under command of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. Brigadier P.L. Tancred, OBE, the Commander, reviewed a parade by the Eighth Battalion at Canberra Lines, Terendak Garrison, on 24th November 1967.

Service in Mayalasia for most soldiers was marked by a series of exercises. These commenced in February 1968 with Warm Up, and continued with Sheer Hell, All Back, and Lath, as well as Adventure Training.

The unit received its Queen's and Regimental Colours on the 25th of September 1968 before a crowd of 1000 guests and visitors. It was the first time that Colours had been presented to a Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment outside Australia.

Exercise Darling Point followed, with Fast Move and Crowning Glory completing the list.

On the 27th of March 1969 the Advance Party left for Australia, and late in April the Battalion handed over its lines to the First Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. On this day, Lieutenant Colonel Langtry handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel K.J. O'Neill.

PREPARATION FOR VIETNAM

While the Battalion was completing its tour in Malaysia, the Australian Component was at work, gathering men and equipment in preparation for the Vietnam tour of duty. The 13th National Service intake joined the Battalion on the 6th of January 1969, and the 14th on the 28th of March 1969. The 15th National Service intake began its Corps Training at Greenbank on the 6th of April 1969.

Training for the unit began in earnest after the Battalion returned from leave. This commenced with specialist courses for the Anti-Tank, Pioneer, Mortars and Signals platoons. The rifle companies concentrated on minor infantry tactics and marksmanship. The Royal Australian Engineers conducted a valuable mine warfare course commencing on the 30th of June.

The companies of the Battalion then commenced cycling through a month's intensive training at Canungra and Wiangaree, finishing with Exercise Schaden Freude. The Command Post Group trained at Enoggera, and joined each company at Wiangaree to control its final exercise.

Infantry/Armour trainig began on the 11th of August at Wide Bay with B Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment, and was foll,owed by helicopter familiarisation. A and B companies participated in Exercise Tune Up at Spring Mountain, while C and D companies started a week later on the the 1st of September. Exercise Fix Fast followed a week later. This was the first full Battalion exercise, and it was held in the Mount Byron State Forest area.

The unit's training finished with exercises at Shoalwater Bay, where the area was designed to represent Phuoc Tuy Province. Exercise Troppic Glow began on the 27th of September, followed by Straight Kris.

The Battalion began pre-embarkation leave on the 15th of October, returning to Enoggera for a final Church Parade at the end of the month. A large crowd saw HMAS Sydney leave Hamilton Wharf at 12:00 on 17th November, with the main body of the Battalion on board. the Advance Party flew out the following day, arriving in South Vietnam to greet the Battalion's arrival at Nui Dat.

VIETNAM DIARY OF THE EIGHTH BATTALION

LINKING THE BATTALIONS

The withdrawal from Vietnam, and the reduction of the size of the army to 38,000 made changes inevitable. The opinion of the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Australian Regiment, Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Daly, and the Regimental Colonel, Colonel A.V. Preece was that the cuts might well be temporary, and that instead of disbanding battalions, they should link, with a view to separating in due course. Current locations largely determined which battalions should link.

On the 25th of May, 1973, Colonel Preece mandated the linking of the Second and Fourth Battalions at Townsville, the Fifth and Seventh Battalions at Holsworthy, and the Eighth and Ninth Battalions at Enoggera.

The linking of the units was a sensitive issue, given the pride that all members had, and have, in their Battalions. Lieutenant Colonel Essex-Clark, Commanding Officer of the Ninth Battalion advised that unit that the Eighth/Ninth Battalion would adopt as its mascot the ram Private John Macarthur.  Lieutenant Colonel Adrian Clunies-Ross spoke with the senior non-commissioned officers of the Ninth Battalion to assure them that the linking would not simply be a case of their coming to his battalion.  Both he and Essex-Clark arranged that the new Battalion would have officers and soldiers from both Battalions evenly distributed throughout its ranks.

It was the end of an era. On the 31st of October Lieutenant Colonel Essex-Clark read the lesson at a church service to commemorate the Ninth Battalion's dead and then wept as the colours and a reluctant mascot passed through the battalion gate for the last time. They joined the Eighth Battalion on its parade ground, where chaplains conducted a simple inauguration ceremony. Lieutenant Colonel Clunies-Ross then addressed the men as the Eighth/Ninth Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.  The Eighth Battalion was no more.