Indonesian Confrontation, 1963-1966
The term “Confrontation” was coined by Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Dr Subandrio, in January 1963, and has come to refer to Indonesia’s efforts at that time to destabilise the new federation, with a view to breaking it up. The actual war began when Indonesia launched a series of cross-border raids into Malaysian territory in Borneo, in early 1963.
The antagonism that gave rise to Confrontation was already apparent in December 1962, when a small party of armed insurgents, with Indonesian backing, attempted to seize power in the independent enclave of Brunei, only to be defeated by British troops from Singapore.
Australian units that fought during Confrontation did so as part of a larger British and Commonwealth force under British command. Australia’s commitment fell within the context of its membership in the Far East Strategic Reserve, which had been established during the Malay Emergency in 1955.
At first the Australian government kept its troops from becoming involved in Confrontation. Requests from the British and Malaysian governments in 1963-64 for the deployment of Australian troops in Borneo met with refusal, though the Australian government did agree that its troops could be used for the defence of the Malay peninsula against external attack. In the event, such attacks occurred twice, in September and October 1964, when Indonesia launched para-troop and amphibious raids against Labis and Pontian on the south-western side of the peninsula. The Australian government relented in January 1965 and agreed to the deployment of a battalion in Borneo.
The first Australian troops arrived in Borneo in March 1965. This battalion conducted extensive operations on both sides of the border, engaged in four major contacts with Indonesian units, and twice suffered casualties from land mines. The Australian military presence continued in Sarawak until August 1966 and also operated on the Indonesian side of the border, where they became involved in clashes with Indonesian regulars. Two infantry battalions, two squadrons of the Special Air Service, a troop of the Royal Australian Signals, several artillery batteries, and parties of the Royal Australian Engineers were involved in Borneo. Ships of the Royal Australian Navy served in the surrounding waters and several RAAF squadrons were also involved in Confrontation.
Continuing negotiations between Indonesia and Malaysia ended the conflict, and the two sides signed a peace treaty in Bangkok in August 1966. Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations, which remained secret at the time, Confrontation received very little coverage in the Australian press
Australian War Memorial Australians at war :Malayan Emergency
Dept. Veterans Affairs Anzacportal.dva.gov.au/ malayan-emergency-1948-1960
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