RCB Doc 3. Mike Dennis RCB Submission

Submission in Support of the Award of the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 and 1975 – for Personnel Who Served in Rifle Company Butterworth (RCB) in the Period 1970 to 1989.

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Introduction

My name is 860351 Lieutenant Colonel P. M. Dennis, MBE (Rtd). Contact details are as below. I write this submission based on personal observations and of soldiers who served with me when I was the Second in Command of A Company (A Coy) 3 RAR, at RCB in the period July to November 1977. I am aware of a more detailed technical submission to be made by others, which I support, but I thought some personal experiences and observations would be valuable in support of the submissions generally.

General

A Coy 3 RAR was warned for service in Malaysia as RCB at the beginning of the 1977 training cycle. We were also warned that our deployment would be longer than normal as we were to be the first Australian Army unit to exercise with the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) for many years. It was planned, that we were to be attached to a Royal Malay Regiment Battalion as the fourth company under command of the RFMF Commanding Officer.

Our preparation was extensive as we received intelligence briefings on the Communist Terrorists in Malaysia, conducted the sub unit training course at Land Warfare Centre, Canungra, received combat medical training, full medical and dental checks and were Warned for Whilst On War Service (WOWAS) from a disciplinary point of view.

We were also brought up to full strength with additions from 1 Brigade of a Forward Observation Party, Rear Link Signalers, an Engineer Splinter Team and extra drivers. The full strength of the company was 133 personnel.

From the soldier’s point of view, who on average were aged between 18 and 23 years of age, this was all very real and had very real potential dangers.

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Comments

  1. Craig Ellery says

    Yeah, Honours and Awards seem to employ many people who have little idea concerning even the most basic of awards. I have had numerous problems concerning H&A, especially for the issuing of my ASM for South East Asia – I was told I had never served there, even though I sent copies of my AAB 83 and other military documents and, more recently, concerning the CT/SR Clasp for the ASM. I think there needs to be a think-tank initiated where suitable individuals can come together and exercise common sense, imagination, a sense of history and intellect and come up with an awards system that is modern, innovative, flexible and in tune with the current spirit of Australians.

  2. The statement of LTCOL R LINWOOD is a very good assessment of what RCB entittlements should be. I would like to remind the people who think we are only chasing a medal,are wrong, our main concern is for justice .If you have ever rang the medal section about other enquiries ,they are very vague and seem to make up their minds on the spot.For example.. I was awarded a ASM for the riots in Singapore in 64/65.I did one of my tours to RCB in 76, in the new ASM era.I was told with a little uncertainity that I could only receive one ASM for MALAYSIA….I was awarded for Singapore..!!!!! I firmly believe we should put the whole thing in the OPPOSITION hands.AT LEAST WE KNOW THEY ARE ON THE RIGHT SIDE!!!!

  3. Russell Linwood says

    Colleagues

    I am very happy to supported the submissions as I have throughout, including with document and pictorial evidence from when I was OC RCB Nov 81-Feb 82 (1RAR) .

    Pivotal data in support of the claim that for a specified period of time the RCB was on “active service” is also reflected in our Post Deployment Report (notice even the official language was “Tour of Duty”) which cited ADF sources that we WERE on War Service, not simply a training activity.

    Just as during other higher tempo operational deployments/wars, we trained while there in-country, but we were definitely warned out for, and deployed to, active service.

    One can see evidence to support this assertion in the OC’s Post Deployment Reports, like mine, which is already among the evidence tendered to support our claim. The Int brief the OCs got before we deployed on the recon phase, as other OCs might confirm, was the reading of a SECRET file on “enemy activity, threat assessment etc etc”. On completion, we had to sign a document that we had not only read, but understood, its contents and had taken the latest Intel briefing into account in finalising planning of our activities while in country so that we could maintian a minimum capacity to deploy armed response (the 7/24 RRF at Butterworth, able to deploy in 60 seconds). Stating this fact, even 30 years later, is not abrogating the “Official Secrets Act”. Such is common knowledge.

    I recall the HQ FF Comd Mounting Instruction including the application of ROE and discipline “Whilst on War Service (WOWS)”. All the admin procedures including casualty notification etc was DP1 (the name at the time given to getting to Draft Priority 1 status – which was war service). The C & C arrangements for the RCB were chrystal clear at both the Sydney Army (Field Force command) briefing, and then at the briefing in-country by the OC RAAF. We were “under direct command” of HQ Field Force command from the moment we lifted off AS soil until we got back – hardly a training arrangement. From the moment we landed in Butterworth, the RCB was “in location and under command for operational response and administration ” if my memory serves me right. We had to mantain a full rifle platoon (at war strength) 7/24 plus a command element, with the capacity to concentrate the entire company at short notice if required to defend the RAAF base facility.

    This core/primary operational task was added to with the application of armed force if required (and the practise of) for the evacuation of AS Service personnel and families from RAAF assets on Penang. The third task included self protection using the same ROE around the clock even while on “exercise”, when those ROE required the carrying and use if necessary of live ammo against humans. Never done that on exercise in 41 years in the Army.

    At Pulada, we were expressly orderd NOT to enter certain areas of the field firing range due to a known enemy presence there, simply to reduce the chance of an armed clash. Harldy a training exercise, even in a live firing trainnig area.

    My report referenced the significant chance of patrol clashes daily with the Handau, even inside the wire at Butterworth during our QRF drills and live call outs, and the Handau’s way of operation along the perimeter of the airfield. Both sides carried live ammo.

    Some of our photogrpahs show the men carrying out those ROE – not many people go on “training” carrying 84 mm HEAT, 66 mm LAW, or a complete first line of ball ammunition around in someone else’s country other than on authorised firing ranges, and under the direct control of that nation’s armed authorities. All RCBs did in the tiem in question.

    The fact that most RCBs did not have enemy contact while in-country was because they made a clear show though their professional (armed) behaviour there that it was not the enemy’s worthwhile to take on the RCB. Which is why the bad guys hit the Malaysian police, armed forces and occasional other targets instead.

    It is unfortunate that some people have been able to deny for a long time the RCB soldier’s due. By being successful in largely denying enemy intent, the RCB veterans have to date been denied commensurate recognition by their own government.

    My compliments to the thousands who served there, albeit in a less spectacular operation and without the battle casualites indicative of other active service. We remain hopeful that the sheer weight of evidence eventually convinces a fresh set of eyes and a sense of situational awareness fo what it is actually like to be “on the line” to agree that RCB, for the period specified, was in fact on active service.

    Russell Linwood, ASM
    LTCOL (IAres)
    ex-OC RCB

    • Stephen Adams says

      Sir
      I served with 2/4 RAR 1978 tour RCB, I can concure that there was no misunderstanding with ROE wile serving at RCB and indeed wile on patrol of the airfield I came under fire twice!

  4. Stan Hannaford says

    Derek,
    Keep your shirt on mate,what Mike has said is correct,it’s not a football game of Army verses RAAF,have a good think about it,if the RCB wins this case,all entitlements we gain will automatically flow on to the RAAF as was the case with the Australian Service Medal SE Asia Clasp.
    I served at Butterworth as a section machine gunner 1974-75,yes sure the RCB tour was only 3 months plus,but I can tell you mate it was a constant 3 months,not much fun being called out in the dark on a red alert to do a clearing patrol against suspected CT activity and knowing they had the advantage,thank God for the monnie drains,they came in real hand at times.
    We didn’t go home to Penang and put our feet up at night. I know in the early years there was some animosity from the RAAF (at the other rank’s level) towards the RCB,but I think it was purely out of protection for their wives and daughters.
    I am a foundation member of the RCB Review Group and we have been battling this case for a long time,it’s only recently that some of you blokes have actually come out of the wood work to support us and as you well know the Doggies,ADG’s and SP’s were on the ground along with the RCB after hours,unlike the general hands that knocked off and went home leaving you and us to protect the base.
    So mate let’s pull together and stay tuned,we will beat these bastards.
    Regards.
    Stan Hannaford.
    ex 1204780 WO1.

  5. George Lovett says

    I served with 6RAR as a Nasho during 1972 and into early 73 (even after Whitlam abolished National Service in Dec 72, they still sent Nashos who had elected to complete their time to Butterworth). 6RAR formed the AU component of the 28 ANZUK Brigade based in Singapore 1971 – 73. D.Coy- 6RAR deployed to Butterworth in Jan 73 flying in an old Bristol Freighter cargo plane out of Singapore..
    Prior to deployment our CO gave us a talk on how he was trying to have the Butterworth service recognised as being “special overseas service or something similar”.The threat was strongly emphasised and i can recall thinking “is this for real”, I had gone through recruit training and my youth with the threat of Vietnam however by the time I got to Corp training , Vietnam was over and i was thinking how lucky I was. Here we are going to Butterworth and we had been elevated in our minds to a stage of combat readiness.We had trained hard in tropical warfare in the south of Malaysia operating out of Singapore and were primed and ready to go.Whilst in Singapore we were lectured on the “threat” of Cts still operating throughout Malaysia.That threat became real when we rotated as RCB.
    At Butterworth I can recall doing the perimeter patrols of a night, sentry duty at the front gate etc.The RAAF had guard dogs which patrolled the inner sanctum of the airbase.I can recall one instance where a section was ordered to run the full length of the airstrip in the black of night in full battle gear only to be stood down after laying at the ready.
    For me RCB service elevated my thinking and placed me into a state of readiness.

  6. Derek Mason says

    The assertion that the RCB were the ony armed force at Butterworth is incorrect. RAAF dog handlers were armed and carried out patrols of the Bomb dump and the Operational readiness point both of which if my memory serves me correctly are situated in close proximityof the perimeter fence. While I support the RCB on their endevours for additional recognition this should not be achieved by the denigration of an others service, clearly when you are ignorant of the facts, something I note that complain about passionatly when it comes to your service. I also note that Dog section personnel served at Butterworth for between 2 -2.5 years not 3 months.

    • Trevor Dixon says

      Derek,
      You are correct about dog handlers, Service Police and ADG’s. As with the Hazardous Service issue when they weren’t originally included in the submission but are being considered now.
      It is not about denigrating one service against another it is easier in a legal sense to prove the Rifle Companies case and then add the others. If you stood the RAAF personnel case alone you would get dragged back into the normal peace time service syndrome. In the later Complaint to the Ombudsman you are included but as I said because of the SECRET documents which are linked only to RCB that is the main emphasis of the submission.
      For your info we have support from many other RAAF Police and others on this issue.
      Mike Dennis