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MAJ Clarke inaugurated SAS Selection tours and Cadre Courses to determine a soldier’s suitability before joining the unit.


The first Selection Tour and Cadre Course.

(See article right)


20 – 24 January 1961:

The Dwellingup Bushfires.

(See article right)


28 February 1961:

Opposition to 1 SAS Company Royal Australian Regiment.

(See article right)


May 1961:

Guerrilla Warfare: A SAS Role.

(See article right)


5 – 31 June 1961:

Exercise ‘SHARK BAY I'

(See article right)


1 August 1961:

Conference for Training Requirements .

(See article right)


October 1961:

An Impressive Report on SAS .

(See article right)


17 November –

13 December 1961:

Exercise 'SHARK BAY II' .

(See article right)


November 1961:

Exercise ‘SWAN SCHOONER’ .

(See article right)

The first Selection Tour and Cadre Course


The first SAS Selection Tour and Cadre Course was conducted by Lieutenant P.M. Jeffery (later Commanding Officer of the SASR, Governor of Western Australia and Governor General of Australia). The Cadre Courses were conducted at the Infantry Centre, Ingleburn, New South Wales, until February 1964. The Course lasted six weeks and introduced soldiers to the unit’s specialist techniques as well as providing a complete revision of weapon handling, navigation and patrolling.




The Dwellingup Bushfires


20 - 24 January 1961: One morning in early January Major Clark arrived at Campbell Barracks to find the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Charles Gairdner, in location and having issued orders to deploy the SAS Company to fight out of control bushfires south of Perth. Clark resented that the Governor had bypassed the normal chain of command, but Sir Charles stated that he could not locate the Commander Western Command to implement the appropriate call-out procedure. Clark however, realised the importance of the task and within half an hour 90 soldiers were in transit to the affected area. Many soldiers were recalled from leave by press, radio and television announcements. The Company was again deployed later in the month to fight the disastrous fires that wiped out the town of Dwellingup. The Company provided extensive communications support throughout the stricken areas and was responsible for saving much property. 132 houses were destroyed in the township and 800 people were left homeless.




Opposition to 1st SAS Company

as part of the

Royal Australian Regiment


28 February 1961: Both Major Eyles and his successor, Major Clark, continued to oppose the new designation of 1st SAS Company Royal Australian Regiment, and on 28 February 1961, the Commander of Western Command wrote to Army Headquarters requesting that the decision be reconsidered. The Deputy Chief of the General Staff, by now Major General Taylor, responded to the objections of the two SAS commanders that the Company would expand to a much larger unit in the event of war by stating, ‘Such an assumption however is not valid’. It will be recalled that this potential expansion had been for that very reason that General Edgar had rejected the idea of including the SAS in the Royal Australian Regiment in 1957. Furthermore, under the new Pentropic Organisation, one SAS Company was allocated to each Division. In time of war it was envisaged that there would be more than one division and therefore more SAS Companies.



Guerrilla Warfare: A SAS Role


May 1961: Major Clarke submitted an article, published in the Australian Army Journal, stating that while reconnaissance remained the main role of the SAS, he suggested that the task of organising guerrilla warfare should be included in the roles of either the SAS or Commandos. For operations in South East Asia he proposed that a ‘Special Army Force’ team should be deployed to organise and train indigenous forces in areas where it was not appropriate for conventional forces to operate.



Exercise ‘SHARK BAY I'


5 – 31 June 1961: 1st SAS Company conducted Exercise ‘SHARK BAY I’ in the Hamelin Pool area of Shark Bay, Western Australia. The purpose was to practice air and amphibious landings, and long-range reconnaisance and raiding. This exercise and the later ‘SHARK BAY II’ were the biggest combined Regular Army and Citizen Military Force exercises conducted in Western Australia to that time.



Conference for Training Requirements


1 August 1961: A conference was held at Army Headquarters in Canberra to discuss the role and training requirements of the SAS Company. It was agreed the primary role of the SAS was reconnaissance, both medium and long range. The SAS was not organised for area defence, or for airborne assault operations. Its secondary role was to undertake small scale harassing operations in the nature of raids and to assist internal security. In contrast, the primary role of the Commandos was to undertake small-scale raids. The conference agreed that one platoon of the SAS should be nominated as a ‘special parachute platoon’, trained in freefall and other advanced techniques. The SAS, however, was not to assume responsibility for the Airborne Platoon at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.



An Impressive Report on SAS


October 1961: The General Staff Officer (Grade) One of the 1st Division visited the SAS Company to evaluate its level of training. He reported that morale was high, keenness and enthusiasm was apparent throughout the unit, the standard of the SAS soldier was high and their individual performances were impressive. The Staff Officer was concerned, however, that while the unit morale was good, it might not be possible to maintain it at that level if they continued the ‘currently heavily loaded training activities programme’. Many members of the Company were married and if soldiers were absent from home too frequently there could well be domestic unrest. The 1st SAS Company had not had the opportunity to exercise with other units of the 1st Division, and they had not had the opportunity to exercise their role of reconnaissance for the Division. The ‘temptation’, wrote the Staff Officer, ‘to employ the 1st SAS Company Royal Australian Regiment on many of these exercises must be resisted’.



Exercise ‘SHARK BAY II'


17 November - 13 December 1961: Exercise ‘SHARK BAY II’ was conducted in the Hamelin Pool and Murchison River Region of Western Australia. The exercise incorporated Regular and Citizen Military Force soldiers from Western Command. The aims of ‘SHARK BAY II’ were:


• To practice the lessons learnt during Exercise ‘SHARK BAY I’;

• To improve the detailed reconnaissance techniques within the Combat Platoons; and

• To practice infiltration and exfiltration behind enemy lines by canoe, parachute (including free fall parachuting), vehicle and foot movement.





November 1961: The 1st SAS Company conducted the first of two exercises with 42 Commando of the British Royal Marines, embarked aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark. The second exercise was conducted in January 1962. In one exercise the Commandos were airlifted by helicopter to a deserted part of the Western Australian coast near Lancelin, while the SAS, operating as an Infantry Company, acted as enemy. The SAS Company had its first opportunity to work with the Sioux and Whirlwind helicopters from the Bulwark. Parachuting was conducted from the Whirlwind helicopters, one of which crashed soon after the last parachutist jumped.






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