South Australians at War
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future



Conflicts : The Indonesian Confrontation

OH644_1_Don StewartThe Indonesian Confrontation was an undeclared war between Indonesia and the new nation of Malaysia (officially recognised in from September 1963) which took place from 1962 to 1966. It arose from Indonesia's belief that Britain was seeking to maintain some power in south-east Asia despite granting independence to its former colony. Most of the military action of the Confrontation took place on the island of Borneo which is made up of Indonesian and Malaysian territories and the independent sultanate of Brunei. In December 1962 Indonesian-backed insurgents attempted to seize power in Brunei, but were defeated by British troops based in Singapore. During 1963, Indonesian militia started crossing into Malaysian territory on sabotage missions. The Confrontation escalated in 1964 when regular Indonesian army units became involved in cross-border incursions.

Australia's involvement in the Indonesian Confrontation arose from its commitment to the Far East Strategic Reserve. The Reserve was established in 1955, during the Malayan Emergency, to monitor the development of any communist aggression towards non-communist countries in south-east Asia. The Australian government was initially reluctant to become involved in the Confrontation, despite several requests from the Malaysian and British governments, not wanting to upset its relationship with Indonesia. An agreement was reached that Australian troops, stationed at Malacca since the establishment of the Far East Strategic Reserve, could be used to repel attacks on the Malaysian Peninsula. Two such attacks occurred in late 1964 and troops from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) were utilised. These attacks convinced the Australian government that the situation was worsening and in February 1965 a commitment was made to send troops to Borneo.

Australian army troops from 3RAR and 4RAR, signallers and engineers plus Royal Australian Navy ships and several Royal Australian Air Force squadrons participated in the Confrontation, some remaining even after a peace treaty between Indonesia and Malaysia was signed in August 1966. Australia committed 3,500 military personnel to the Indonesian Confrontation and 23 died.

While the State Library of South Australia holds reference works related to this conflict, we hold little in the way of records relating to South Australians involved.

If you have any original items relating to South Australians at war such as photographs, film, diaries and letters, the Library's Archival Field Officers would like to hear from you regarding possible donations, or copies being made for the Library's collections.

Share 'Your story' about this conflict: contribute memories in words and photographs.

1,000 Australians involved: Combat forces for Borneo
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Interview with Donald Martin Stewart
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Minesweepers, engineers: Direct military aid in Borneo
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Our soldiers train for the jungle - and learn Malay
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Peace pact "triumph for Asians"
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