Airborne forces of Australia

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Soldiers from Reconnaissance Platoon, 3 RAR during exercise Talisman Sabre 2007 Australian army paratroopers from Reconnaissance Platoon, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment descend upon Kapyong Airfield during exercise Talisman Sabre 2007.jpg
Soldiers from Reconnaissance Platoon, 3 RAR during exercise Talisman Sabre 2007

Airborne forces raised by Australia have included a number of conventional and special forces units. During the Second World War the Australian Army formed the 1st Parachute Battalion; however, it did not see action. In the post-war period Australia's parachute capability was primarily maintained by special forces units. In the 1970s and 1980s a parachute infantry capability was revived, while a Parachute Battalion Group based on the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) was established in 1983. In 1997, a full time commando regiment was raised that was able to conduct large-scale operations which matured during the 2000s. In 2011, 3 RAR relinquished the parachute role with the Army deciding to opt out of a conventional parachute capability in preference to a special forces large-scale parachute capability.

Contents

History

Like the British Army, Australia did not have a parachute operations capability at the outbreak of the Second World War; however, the demonstration of the effectiveness of such forces by the Germans in the early stages of the conflict soon provided the impetus for their development. [1] In November 1942 the Paratroop Training Unit (PTU) was formed, while approval was granted for the establishment of the 1st Parachute Battalion in August 1943. Later, an airborne artillery battery and engineer troop were also raised in support. Members of Z Special Unit were also trained in parachuting for covert operations against the Japanese. The PTU also developed techniques for the aerial delivery of stores. [1] Despite this, the first Australian Army unit to conduct an operational parachute jump was the 2/4th Field Regiment, after a section of artillerymen with no parachute training jumped with their guns in support of US paratroopers during the Landing at Nadzab on 5 September 1943. [2] Z Special Unit teams were parachuted into the interior of Borneo during 1945 as part of the preparations for the Australian-led Borneo Campaign. [3] The 1st Parachute Battalion reached full strength by January 1944, but, although it was warned for action a number of times, including the possible rescue of prisoners of war held at Sandakan in 1945, it did not see any fighting. After the war it participated in the reoccupation of Singapore, [4] before being disbanded in early 1946. [1]

2/4th Field Regiment gunners shortly before they participated in the parachute landing at Nadzab 2-4-FA regt in C-47.jpg
2/4th Field Regiment gunners shortly before they participated in the parachute landing at Nadzab

Initially, no requirement to maintain airborne forces in the immediate post-war period was foreseen. [1] However, in October 1951 Airborne Platoon was formed as part of the Royal Australian Regiment, although it had no operational role and was primarily used to develop parachute and special forces techniques. [5] Meanwhile, the Parachute Training Wing was formed at RAAF Williamtown under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force, and was responsible for all parachute training for Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, with the first course commencing in September 1951. [1] Regardless, during this period Australia's parachute capability was primarily maintained by special forces units, consisting of two reserve Commando Companies formed in 1955 (later placed into a regiment in 1981) and the 1st Special Air Service Company formed in 1957 (expanded to form the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in 1964). [2] [6] Although during the Vietnam War the primary method of insertion used by the SASR was by helicopter, 3 Squadron made an operational parachute jump 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north west of Xuyen Moc on 15–16 December 1969. [7]

Later, the Australian Army looked to revive a parachute infantry capability, with D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) forming a trial airborne company in 1974. [8] Meanwhile, the Army also took over responsibility for parachute training at this time, with Airborne Platoon being absorbed into the Parachute Training School (PTS). [1] [5] Yet the capability was not maintained and it was not until 1980 that airborne company was re-raised by 6 RAR. Moves then began to develop a parachute capable battalion, with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) selected for this role in 1983. [1] [2] Based at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, 3 RAR subsequently formed the basis of the Parachute Battalion Group, which also included an engineer troop, signals detachment, artillery battery, and medical support, including a parachute surgical team. [9] In 1997, a full-time commando unit was formed based on the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (later renamed to 2nd Commando Regiment). [10] [11] [12] In September 1999, 3 RAR deployed to East Timor as part of INTERFET, although not in the parachute role. The battalion helped secure Dili during the early stages of the operation, before conducting patrols along the West Timor border and later secured the Oecussi Enclave. The bulk of the battalion returned to Australia in December 1999. [13] In April 2002, 3 RAR returned to East Timor as part of UNTAET and UNMISET. [14] 4 RAR (Cdo) provided the parachute capability whilst 3 RAR completed a six month tour. [15]

Soldiers from the 1st Commando Company parachute with their inflatable boats from an RAAF C-130H into Shoalwater Bay 1st Commando Company.jpg
Soldiers from the 1st Commando Company parachute with their inflatable boats from an RAAF C-130H into Shoalwater Bay

As part of the "Hardening and Networking the Army" initiative in 2006 it was announced that 3 RAR would be reorganised as a light infantry battalion. [1] Meanwhile, the battalion or its sub-units subsequently served multiple operational tours in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan. [16] [17] 3 RAR subsequently relinquished the parachute role to provide the Army with greater flexibility to develop an amphibious infantry battalion. [18] [19] [20] On 26 August 2011, the Chief of Army transferred responsibility for maintaining the Army's parachute capability from Forces Command to Special Operations Command. [21] [19] There was opposition to the Army losing a conventional parachute capability. [22] [23]

A large-scale parachute capability is now provided by the 2nd Commando Regiment. In November 2019, the PTS was renamed the Australian Defence Force Parachuting School. [24] Other units from Special Operations Command, including the SASR and the reserve 1st Commando Regiment, also maintain a range of parachute capabilities and Combat Controllers from the Air Force's B Flight, No. 4 Squadron. These forces are supported by the Parachuting School located at Nowra since 1986, parachute riggers from the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps and an air dispatch squadron provided by the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. [1] The Parachuting School has an Army Parachute Display Team known as "The Red Berets". [25]

Badges and attire

There are five different parachute badges worn by qualified personnel in the Army, three of which are regiment specific (3 RAR, commando regiments, and SASR), in addition to the standard Army parachute badge, and one for parachute jump instructors. [26] [27] A maroon or dull cherry beret is also worn by airborne personnel (3 RAR prior to being re-rolled as light infantry, as well as parachute riggers and air dispatch personnel that are parachute-qualified). [28] During the Second World War members of the 1st Parachute Battalion also wore the dull cherry beret, which they adopted from airborne units of the British Army. [29] A range of cloth parachute badges were also worn by trained parachutists, including those of the 1st Parachute Battalion and its supporting arms (artillery and engineers), as well as the Services Reconnaissance Department (Z Special Unit) and the 1st Australian Parachute Training Depot (Army Wing). [30]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dennis et al 2008, p. 410.
  2. 1 2 3 Lord & Tennant 2000, p. 10.
  3. Gin 2002.
  4. Long 1963, p. 554.
  5. 1 2 Kuring 2004, p. 224.
  6. Kuring 2004, pp. 259–260.
  7. Horner 2002, pp. 343–344.
  8. Kuring 2004, p. 384.
  9. Lord & Tennant 2000, p. 25.
  10. Horner 2001, p. 199.
  11. Blaxland 2014, p. 175.
  12. Brooke, Michael (9 July 2009). "A special moment in unit history" (PDF). Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1216 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN   0729-5685 . Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  13. Lord & Tennant 2000, pp. 25–26.
  14. "A brief history of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment". 3rd Battalion RAR South Australia Association. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  15. Wiles 2002.
  16. Horner & Bou 2008, pp. 325–332.
  17. "Reconstruction Task Force soldiers farewelled from Sydney". Image Gallery 2008. Department of Defence. 20 March 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  18. Schinkel 2011, p. 19.
  19. 1 2 Stevens 2016, p. 9.
  20. Scanlan 2012, pp. 50.
  21. ArmyNewspaper 2011, p. 3.
  22. Cornelia 2010, pp. 34-44.
  23. Scanlan 2012, pp. 37–54.
  24. "Australian Defence Force Parachuting School". Australian Army. 20 November 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  25. Lord & Tennant 2000, p. 21.
  26. Terrett & Taubert 2015, p. 87.
  27. Jobson 2009, p. 186.
  28. Terrett & Taubert 2015, p. 99.
  29. O'Connor 2005, p. 65.
  30. Terrett & Taubert 2015, p. 86.

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