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14 February –
25 March 1963:
Exercise ‘LONG HOP’.
15 March 1963:
Major A. Garland assumes command of the 1st SAS Company.
British SAS Commanding Officer Visits Australian SAS.
Exercise ‘WARREN’. This exercise was conducted in the Pemberton State Forest in the south-west of Western Australia as a shakedown exercise in preparation for Exercise ’SKY HIGH’.
Parachute Training Flight at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales conducted the first Free Fall Parachute Course for SAS soldiers and a team led by the 1st SAS Company Adjutant – Captain R. Beesley, became the first in Australia to free fall at night with equipment.
8 - 29 November 1963:
Exercise ‘SKY HIGH’.
Major Garland arranged for members of the SAS to go to the School of Army Health at Healesville Victoria for training in the duties of Medical Assistant, and subsequently for these soldiers to obtain on-the job training attachment to the casualy departments of hospitals in Perth and Fremantle, in Western Australia.
December 1963 :
Lieutenant Colonel Norrie Proposes a Reorganisation of SAS.
Exercise ‘LONG HOP’
14 February – 25 March 1963: This exercise, conducted in Papua New Guinea, was the first complete move of the 1st SAS Company outside of Australia and the first exercise by Australian troops with the 1st Battalion, the Pacific Islands Regiment (1 PIR). The SAS Company was tested in long-range reconnaissance tasks under realistic jungle conditions.
Exercise LONG HOP was originally scheduled to be conducted during the period April – May 1963, but the Chief of the General Staff (Lieutenant General Pollard) thought it ‘would be politically inadvisable’ to move the SAS Company to Papua New Guinea during this period ‘as it might be connected with the handing over of the Administration of Western New Guinea (now Irian Jaya) from United Nations control to Indonesia. There was further opposition to the exercise from the Minister for Defence (Athol Townley) who feared offending the Indonesians. The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Scherger) argued that if Australia was reluctant to exercise on its own territory before the Indonesians took over in West New Guinea, it would be even more reluctant to do so afterwards. Australia could not tolerate exercises in its own territory being determined by a foreign country. The Minister for External Affairs (Garfield Barwick) supported Scherger’s view and Townley ‘reluctantly’ agreed to the exercise proceeding.
Exercise LONG HOP consisted of a period of acclimatisation training from 14 to 22 February. The actual exercise from 22 February till 1 March 1963 was to replay the advance of the Japanese over the Kokoda Trail in 1942, with two companies of the Pacific Islands Regiment acting as the Japanese. Initially the platoons of the SAS Company were deployed independently into the Popondetta area with the task of locating, harassing and delaying the advance of the ‘enemy’.
Once the exercise began the Pacific Islands Regiment proved an able adversary. Their knowledge of the jungle and the intelligence they received from villagers, many of whom had relatives in the Pacific Islands Regiment, resulted in the capture of a number of SAS soldiers. The SAS Company was not to be outdone however and had its own ‘collaborators’ in some of the plantation owners who transported troops concealed in their vehicles. When the 1PIR ‘enemy’ reached the Kumusi River at Wairopi, the SAS operated as an independent company, attempting to delay the ‘enemy’ as they advanced along the Kokoda Trail over the Owen Stanley Ranges. The exercise finished at Macdonald’s Plantation, about 30km from Port Moresby.
The final phase of Exercise LONG HOP – 2 to 25 March, saw the SAS Company conducting specialist training in the Port Moresby area, including free fall parachuting. This exercise in Papua New Guinea and subsequent exercises overseas proved of inestimable value in preparing the SAS for future operational deployment. In particular the soldiers learned much about jungle fieldcraft from the Pacific Islands Regiment soldiers. Furthermore, as the final report noted ‘the problems imposed by an unsympathetic population was a new training experience in the maintenance of security’.
Major A. Garland, who was next to command the SAS Company, observed the exercise. Major Garland, saw that Exercise LONG HOP had revealed an SAS weakness in communications. As a result, the 1st SAS Company Signals Officer – Lieutenant Daryl Slade, began training his radio operators to use sky wave High Frequency transmissions, rather than the ground wave and Very High Frequency transmissions used previously. Eventually this training was extended to all ranks of the SAS Company. Additional training of all ranks in receiving and sending Morse Code, and the use of One Time Letter Pad Codes was also to pay off in future operational deployments.
Major A. GARLAND
15 March 1963: Major A. Garland assumed command of the SAS Company from Captain G. Cohen.
During 1962 Major Garland attended courses with the US Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and with US Army Rangers at Fort Benning Georgia. He was also attached to the187th Airborne Battle Group of the 101st Airborne Division and to the US Fleet Marine Force Reconnaissance Unit. It had been planned that he would complete his training with attachments to the British SAS and the Royal Marines, but in August 1962, soon after Major Clarke was posted from the SAS Company to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, Major Garland was ordered to cut short his training programme and return to take command of the 1st SAS Company in early 1963.
British SAS Commanding Officer Visits Australian SAS
July 1963: The Commanding Officer of the British 22 SAS Regiment – Lieutenant Colonel J. Woodhouse visited 1st SAS Coy at Swanbourne Western Australia.
He provided Major Garland with more definitive information on the role of the British SAS in Borneo and indicated that he was keen for the Australian SAS to be involved in these operations. The information provided further vindication for the decision taken in 1961, 'to focus the 1st SAS Company on medium and long range reconnaissance as its primary role'.
In the latter part of 1963 Lieutenant Colonel Woodhouse continued to lobby through his contacts for the Australian SAS to work with his squadrons in Borneo. In December 1963 the British Prime Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) formalised the request in a letter to Australian Prime minister Robert Menzies. Menzies replied that, “there was no clear military justification for any Australian military contributions for the time being”.
Exercise ‘SKY HIGH’
8 - 29 November 1963: The 1st Division conducted Exercise SKY HIGH in the Colo – Putty region of New South Wales and once again, the SAS Company was misused in another major exercise. This misuse highlighted the lack of understanding senior commanders had of how to properly and effectively utilise the SAS in their correct role. Instead, they were seen as an independent parachute company, and were deployed into the exercise by means of a ‘simulated parachute drop’ off the back of trucks with the task of securing an airfield. On completion of that task, the SAS Company was used as a ‘controlled enemy’ as well as undertaking some reconnaissance tasks in support of friendly forces. Major Garland later commented, ‘it was a long hard fight to try and convince people that that was not what the SAS was all about”.
LTCOL Norrie Proposes
a SAS Reorganisation
December 1963: Major Garland received a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Norrie of the Directorate of Infantry, proposing a reorganisation of the SAS to enable it to relieve a British SAS Squadron ‘in South East Asia’. It was obvious that Lieutenant Colonel Norrie did not have a clear appreciation of the role of the SAS in Borneo. Norrie’s letter included
‘The proposed role is basically infantry in nature and full use would not be made unless the occasion arose of the highly specialised SAS skills. However the SAS would gain valuable operations in a theatre where they could practice their secondary roles of internal security and harassing raids as well as train members of another force in skills peculiar to SAS’.
Norrie suggested that the force to be sent to South East Asia should consist of 96 SAS soldiers organised as a squadron of two troops. He added that the Director of Military Operations wanted to ‘capitalise on publicity’ and intended using the terms ‘squadron’ and ‘troop’ rather than ‘company’ and ‘platoon’. The company remaining in Australia would consist of two full platoons and would continue its main role of reconnaissance with the battle group. Major Garland discussed these proposals with the Commander Western Command – Brigadier Hunt, who directed him to begin preliminary planning to prepare a Mounting Instruction. Major Garland replied to Norrie that there were a number of practical issues that need to be resolved. These included: would his new Squadron be deployed as an independent unit or would it be organic to a British unit; how much of his own stores would he have to take; and would the Squadron travel out of Australia by civil or military aircraft, as this would determine the amount of stores that could be taken.
Clearly much planning was necessary, and in particular, the likely role of the SAS had to be resolved. The idea of the Australian SAS operating in an infantry role in South East Asia was certainly contrary to the views of Lieutenant Colonel Woodhouse of 22 SAS Regiment.
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