RAISING OF 4RAR
When the current 4 RAR was raised on 1 February 1964, it was officially stated that this was a new Infantry Battalion and not a resurrection of the old 4 RAR Depot.
As such, 4 RAR was the first regular Infantry battalion to be raised in Australia.
The decision to raise a new battalion was made in late 1963 due to the deteriorating strategic situation in South East Asia. In Indochina, the Communist insurrection in South Vietnam was making significant gains and further south Indonesia was hostile to the formation of the new state of Malaysia. Malaysia incorporated the former British territories of Malaya, Singapore and in Borneo, Sarawak and British North Borneo. Indonesia also actively supported the Communist-influenced rebellion in Brunei against the Sultan of Brunei. There were also troubles in Papua New Guinea.
The inauguration parade for the new 4 RAR was held at Woodside Barracks, South Australia on 1 February 1964. Lieutenant Colonel David Thomson, MC (Rtd) (now regarded as the father of the Fourth Battalion) was the first Commanding Officer. Warrant Officer Class One L E Brennan, MBE was the first Regimental Sergeant Major. The Regimental Colours were later presented to the unit at a parade held at Adelaide Oval in 1965.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomson had served as a Platoon Commander in New Guinea during the later part of World War II where he had been wounded in action. He served as a Company Commander with 1 RAR in Korea where he was wounded in action for a second time and awarded the Military Cross. David Thomson later served as the Director of Infantry and as the Brigade Commander in Townsville. After retiring from the Army he was elected to the Federal Parliament in 1975. In 1978 he was sworn in as a minister and served on the Executive Council. It is only a minister of the Executive that bears the title The Honourable and is kept for life. Brigadier, The Honourable David Thomson MC (Rtd) continues to take a keen interest in the activities of 4 RAR. You are likely to meet him at some time during your service with the battalion. He is currently the Patron of the 4 RAR Museum Foundation.
The first RSM - WO 1 “Paddy” Brennan - was a veteran of the British Army’s Brigade of Guards. He had joined the Australian Army and served in 1 RAR in Korea where he was awarded an MBE for his service there.
It is not well known, but for a short while, there was a proposal ( strong rumour) that 4 RAR would become the 1st Battalion of a new regiment - The Queen’s Australian Rifles. However, early references to the proposed battalion as “The Queen’s” killed off this idea and when it was officially raised it was as 4 RAR. The original colour allotted to the battalion was “bronze”. This was a nondescript colour and the Commanding Officer directed that the battalion would wear the Infantryman’s scarlet lanyard (BCC 209 – British Colour Code 299) on the left shoulder. The only other unit in the Army at this time that wore a lanyard on the left shoulder was 1 RAR. Subsequently, scarlet was approved as the battalion colour for 4 RAR. Eventually all Infantry battalions wore their lanyard on the left shoulder.
Woodside Barracks was not too salubrious. Barracks blocks were run-down single
storey temporary World War II huts with corrugated iron roofs and walls. They were bitterly cold during the South Australian winter that arrived early in 1964. The unit was training for tropical warfare in the South Australian winter dressed in tropical uniforms and in an area with few trees let alone jungle.
The nearby married quarters patch was called Inverbrackie and this was the title given to the new battalion’s quick march. Inverbrackie, (a name chosen by a committee made up of soldiers and officers), is based on three colonial ballads “Botany Bay”, “Click Goes the Shears” and “The Drovers Dream”. It was arranged by the battalion’s first bandmaster WO2 Larner as a march. At this time, Infantry battalions had a full military band whose members acted as stretcher-bearers and were attached to each company when not engaged in band duties. The melody on which “Botany Bay” is based is also popular with the Irish Republican Army. A few senior British Army eyebrows were raised when 4 RAR first arrived in Terendak Garrison in Malaya and paraded to a well-known IRA ditty. The British unit in Terendak Camp at this time was the Scots Guards, but had one company (9 Company) of Irish Guards with them. They all came to this first parade of the Battalion in Terendak Camp.
The first eighteen months of the battalion’s existence were very hectic involving a lot of hard and innovative training – 4 RAR essentially pioneered the use of airmobile operations using helicopters in the Australian Army. However, morale was high, as the unit knew it was planned to be deployed on operations. The Battalion knew it was to relieve 3 RAR in Malaya in the second half of 1965 and Confrontation with Indonesia was hotting up.
There was also a possibility that 4 RAR might be the first Australian battalion to deploy to Vietnam – in the event the Government’s decision intended to send a battalion to Vietnam, however it was too late for 4 RAR and that honour fell to 1 RAR. One of the reasons for this was that the Battalion had been warned that it might be going to Malaya and many of the soldiers proceeded to get married. The Battalion had nearly three hundred (300) newly married families. Most other Battalions had a much lower number of married couples. There was also a possibility that if confrontation spilled over into Papua New Guinea, 4 RAR would be deployed there as Australia’s initial response.
During the Battalion’s time in South Australia two significant events occurred. On 11 April 1965, the Governor General – Viscount De L’Isle VC – presented Queen’s and Regimental Colours to the Battalion at a ceremonial parade in Adelaide. During the inspection of the Battalion, Viscount De L’Isle was introduced to the Assault Pioneer Sergeant. He queried the Commanding Officer (CO) as to why the Assault Pioneer Sergeant was not wearing a beard. When the CO replied “It is not the custom in our Army, Sir” the Governor General then said, “It is an old tradition in my Regiment, the Grenadiers, and to mark the presentation of your first Colours and as your Commander-in-Chief, I believe it would be appropriate for the Pioneer Sergeant of 4 RAR to wear a beard from now on. I trust you will see to this, Colonel.” Subsequently, the 4 RAR Assault Pioneer Platoon Sergeant became the only soldier in the Australian Army authorised to wear a full beard (no chinstrap when wearing the slouch hat). On ceremonial occasions, he wore a white leather apron and carried an axe over his shoulder.
Also in 1965, the Queen approved an Alliance between the Irish Regiment of Foot Guards, they are usually referred to as the Irish Guards, and 4th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment