About The Indonesian Confrontation
In early 1963, small parties of Indonesian troops began infiltrating Malaysian territory on the island of Borneo to conduct propaganda and sabotage missions. Indonesian President Sukarno believed that the creation of the Malaysian Federation was an extension of British colonial rule in south-east Asia. In 1964 Indonesian regular army units became involved in the conflict.
In May 1964 HMAS Sydney, the destroyers Vampire, Vendetta and Duchess and the frigate Derwent were sent to the area. Sydney had by now been converted to a fast troop transport and carried troops and equipment to Jesselton in North Borneo.
Six Ton class coastal minesweepers were also assigned for duties during Confrontation arriving in Malaysian waters in May 1964 - they comprised of HMA Ships Curlew, Gull, Hawk, Ibis, Snipe & Teal, initially their patrol duties were centred in Borneo.
National Service for a period of 2 years was introduced in Australia to commence in 1965 as a means of building the Army strength to counter a perceived threat from the Indonesian Confrontation and a developing situation in Vietnam. The first “Nasho” to serve in an Active Service area did so with 21 Construction Squadron RAE in Sabah in early 1966.
Late in 1965 HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Yarra were involved in the conflict zone. In September and October of that year, Australian troops stationed on the Malayan peninsula were used in mopping-up operations against external attacks.
In January 1965, Australia agreed to send a battalion to Borneo under overall British command. In the same year the British Government permitted highly secret cross-border operations under the codename Claret. Uncertain about where the Commonwealth forces might strike next, the Indonesians devoted more of their resources to protecting their own positions and less on offensive operations. 3RAR arrived in Borneo in March 1965 and served in Sarawak until the end of July. They conducted extensive operations on both sides of the border involving some major contacts and landmine incidents.
Between April and August 1966 4RAR also served in Sarawak and operated covertly on the Indonesian side of the border. In addition to the infantry battalions, two squadrons of the Special Air Service (SAS), several artillery batteries, parties of the Royal Australian Engineers, and ships of the RAN were involved in Borneo and in surrounding waters. Several RAAF squadrons were also involved in the Confrontation.
The Australian War Memorial’s Roll of Honour lists the names of 22 Australians who lost their lives during the Indonesian Confrontation. Because of the sensitivity of the secret cross-border operations, the Confrontation received very little coverage in the Australian press. Indonesia and Malaysia signed a peace treaty in Bangkok in August 1966, ending the conflict.