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Name change for SAS Company.
Parachute Jumps at RAAF Pearce.
As tensions in South East Asia heightened, it became evident that SAS training should switch from vehicle mounted reconnaissance to specialised infantry patrolling in tropical conditions. The emphasis on operations in South East Asia was confirmed by a Government announcement that the Army would adopt a ‘Pentropic’ organisation.
The ‘Pentropic’ organisation and how it affected 1st SAS Company in 1960.
12 September 1960:
Major L.G. Clark MC assumed command of the 1st SAS Company Royal Australian Infantry.
SAS Selection Procedures Reviewed’.
11 November –
12 December 1960:
14 November 1960:
The 1st SAS Company Royal Australian Infantry was officially redesignated as the 1st SAS Company Royal Australian Regiment. The Company continued to wear the ‘Maroon Beret’, but hat badges and uniform embellishments were changed to those of the Royal Australian Regiment for Infantry personnel. Other Corp personnel posted to the SAS Company retained their Corp badges and embellishments.
MAJ Clark, whilst on duties in the United States of America in 1958, attended a United States Army Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg North Carolina and the United States Army Ranger and Airborne Courses at Fort Benning Georgia. He took this opportunity to consider many ideas and initiatives that could be applied to the Australian SAS. One concept that attracted his attention was the reconnaissance-commando (recondo) patrol of opportunity. Recondo was ‘dedicated to the domination of certain areas of the battlefield by small aggressive, roving patrols of opportunity which have not been assigned a definite reconnaissance or combat mission’. Soon after assuming command of the SAS Company, Major Clark reorganised training and established a training platoon to conduct specialist courses in roping, diving, small-scale amphibious raids, small craft handling and physical efficiency.
First Recondo Course of
19 days .
Name change for SAS Company
January 1960: The Director of Infantry recommended that the SAS Company be shown as a unit of the Royal Australian Regiment. He argued that the Infantry, the major component of the SAS Company, relied wholly for its personnel, on the battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment and all ranks (of Infantry personnel) are normally transferred to these battalions when moving out of the unit for promotion or any other reason.
Major Eyles strongly opposed the suggestion for fear the SAS Company would lose its identity. On 14 November 1960, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff – Major General Murdock, approved the designation of the unit as ‘1st SAS Company Royal Australian Regiment’. At the same time, the Company became part of the Combat Support Group of the 1st Pentropic Division.
Parachute Jumps at RAAF Pearce
Early 1960: Annual parachute jumps at RAAF Pearce (generally onto the RAAF Bombing Range about 10km north-west of the RAAF Base). This jump was followed by a 10-day exercise covering about 150km, with the intention of being extracted by sea at Safety Bay, south of Perth. At late notice the extraction was cancelled when the SAS were advised of an accident at the mouth of Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, where a number of members of the Melbourne based 2nd Commando Company were drowned during a small craft handling exercise.
February 1960: A ‘monsoon season’ patrol by 1 Platoon 1st SAS Company incorporating vehicles and 12 foot (4 metre) inflatable boats in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. Unfortunately, records detailing the aim and tasks of this patrol are very limited. An extract from a public relations article written by Lieutenant Graeme Belleville provides a couple of anecdotes of interest.
‘At one stage, two SAS men walked 16km into Mount Elizabeth Station, in the West Kimberley, when their vehicle could not get through the impassable country due to heavy rain and flooding. Then, with a mule or donkey carrying their load of rations and wireless gear, proceeded to walk 150km to a helicopter pad near Mount Hann. Their task was to receive a parachute drop of aviation fuel from a RAAF Dakota aircraft flying over the landing zone. Army surveyors later used the landing zone during their mapping tasks in the Kimberley Ranges.'
‘In another incident in Montague Sound along the North-West Kimberley coastline, two members had to abandon their boat when a crocodile climbed aboard. After abandoning the boat the two men, using the anchor rope, proceeded to tow the boat ashore. Luckily, when reaching the shore, the crocodile scurried off the stern of the boat.'
It was during this exercise that Sergeant H.J.A. Haley, later to be appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the SASR and subsequently a commissioned officer, was awarded the British Empire Medal ‘for outstanding performance of his duties under trying conditions during heavy flooding’ and his efforts during Exercise ‘ANDERSON’.
The ‘Pentropic’ Organisation
The Australian Army adopted the Pentropic Organisation in 1960 and within its design, there was to be one SAS Company per Pentropic Division, with the primary role of long range and medium reconnaissance and battlefield surveillance. The SAS was neither organised, nor equipped to hold ground for protracted periods, nor to undertake standard infantry offensive operations. To adjust to the new SAS Company role, minor adjustments were made to its internal organisation. In outlining the capabilities of the SAS Company, Army Headquarters stated that when the situation demands, the SAS can operate on a jeep mounted basis, but will usually operate on foot in jungle terrain, even if the initial move to the start point of a patrol is made by sea or air. The subsequent operations, if on foot, will be slow, the duration of patrols where local inhabitants are unfriendly, will depend on the amount that can be man-packed and the practicability of resupply.
The missions that might possibly be allotted to the SAS at that time were:
• Medium reconnaissance in advance of the forward troops;
• Maintain watch on / and flank protection;
• Long range reconnaissance behind enemy lines;
• Small-scale harassing operations behind enemy lines;
• Internal security tasks; and Traffic control when not required for other tasks
SAS Selection Procedures Reviewed
October 1960: The SAS Selection Procedures were reviewed at a conference at Army Headquarters. The Conference determined that conditions of eligibility remained little changed from those adopted in 1957, but the following characteristics should be sought during the selection process:
• The role of the unit requires a particular type of soldier, possessing outstanding personal qualities. These personal qualities count more than technical efficiency in the soldier’s own arm or service. Technical efficiency can be taught while the personal qualities required for long range, protracted operations in enemy territory are part of the man’s character.
• These qualities are: initiative, self-discipline, independence of mind, ability to work without supervision, stamina, patience and a sense of humour.
The aim was to find individuals with a sense of self-discipline rather than the man who is solely a good member of a team. The self-disciplined individual will always fit well into a team when teamwork is required, but a man selected simply for teamwork, is by no means always suitable for work outside the team.
11 November - 12 December 1960: This task required number 4 Section 1st SAS Company to conduct a vehicle mounted reconnaissance from Kalgoorlie to Laverton in Western Australia with emphasis on the Madley, Warri and Cobb areas, and report on: the availability of water; going in relation to heavier vehicles; condition of the airstrip in the vicinity of Charles Knob; testing of radio crystals issued by Western Command Field Survey Section; and vehicle repair facilities available enroute. This operation was in preparation for mapping operations to be conducted by Western Command Field Survey Section in 1961.
First Recondo Course of 19 Days
November 1960: Major Clark introduced the first Recondo Course of 19 days designed to teach and assess patrol and raiding techniques. Students, both officers and soldiers, were given the title of ‘Ranger’, and were assessed as patrol commanders. They were required to pass this course to stay in the unit. Failure meant repeating the course, which was conducted under the most gruelling conditions and required the utmost endurance and self-discipline. The course, considered the most important one in the unit, was in three phases, with the final phase based at Collie in the south of Western Australia, where raids and exercises were conducted over a wide area and involved parachute insertions, amphibious raids and river crossings. For convenience, patrols were divided into five-man patrols, despite the fact that at that time the standard SAS patrol organisation was nine men. The best soldier on each Course was awarded a chrome-plated Commando Dagger.
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