Military History

This Week In History | Week 9

By The Cove February 23, 2020

24 February - 01 March


24 February 1991 | Coalition forces invaded Iraq (Op Desert Storm)

Australia was a member of the international coalition which contributed military forces to the 1991 Gulf War (also known as Operation Desert Storm). More than 1,800 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were deployed to the Persian Gulf from August 1990 to September 1991, while contingents from the Royal Australian Navy circulated through the region in support of the sanctions against Iraq until November 2001. In August 1990, two frigates - HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Darwin - and the replenishment ship HMAS Success left for the Persian Gulf. HMAS Success had no air defences, so elements of the Army's 16th Air Defence Regiment were embarked to provide close air defence. On 3 December 1990, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Sydney relieved HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Darwin. On 26 January 1991, HMAS Westralia replaced HMAS Success.

A Navy Clearance diving team was also deployed for explosive ordnance disposal and demolition tasks. Australian ships were in danger of sea mines and possible air attacks. In a number of recorded incidents, HMAS Brisbane encountered free floating mines, on one occasion narrowly avoiding a collision. Both HMA Ships Brisbane and Sydney encountered significant air threat warnings from Iran and Iraq throughout the initial period of the commencement of the Desert Storm Campaign. The detection of land based Silkworm anti-ship missiles from Iran throughout the campaign also added to the challenges for both crews as well as the multi-national Naval Forces.

Although Australia's contribution was primarily maritime, a small contingent of Australian service personnel were seconded to British and United States ground troops. The Royal Australian Air Force deployed a unit of photo interpreters, who were based in Saudi Arabia. Four medical teams were also deployed. At the end of Op Desert Storm, 75 ADF personnel were deployed to Northern Iraq to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid to the Kurds living in the UN-declared exclusion zone.


25 February 1968 | Centurion tanks of 1 Armd Regt arrived in South Vietnam

In October 1967, the Australian government announced it would increase the size of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province from two to three infantry battalions, while additional supporting arms, including a tank squadron, would also be added to the force. In February 1968, C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment was sent to Vietnam, with a total strength of 20 Centurion tanks which would work closely with the M113s of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. However, two of the four tank troops were initially held back until the Centurions had proved themselves capable of operating in the conditions. The tank squadron reached full strength on 5 September 1968. 


26 February 1943 - End of the fighting at Wau, New Guinea

The Japanese recognised that Allied possession of Wau posed a significant threat to important Japanese bases at Lae and nearby Salamaua and sought to take the town. Imperial Japanese forces sailed from Rabaul and crossed the Solomon Sea. Despite Allied air attacks, they successfully reached Lae where they disembarked. Japanese troops then advanced overland on Wau, resulting in a race developing between the Japanese moving overland, hampered by the terrain, and the Australians, moving by air but hampered by the weather. By the time the Japanese reached the Wau area after a trek over the mountains, the Australian defenders had been greatly reinforced by air. In the battle that followed, despite achieving tactical surprise by approaching from an unexpected direction, the Japanese attackers were unable to capture Wau.


28 February 1991 | Gulf War cessation of hostilities against Iraq

On 28 February 1991 the coalition forces, under command of General 'Stormin Norman' Schwarzkopf, called a ceasefire in Operation Desert Storm having liberated Kuwait and defeated the Iraqi Army in the field. Ground combat operations had lasted just 100 hours.


01 March 1965 | 5 RAR Raised

On the 1st of March 1965, the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment was raised at Holsworthy Barracks in NSW as part of the Army's expansion from four to nine battalions. To raise 'The Tiger Battalion', the 1st Battalion - which had been organised on the Pentropic establishment (in theory some 1,300 men) - was split to provide a cadre of regulars to the new 5th Battalion, whilst conscripts were used to bring the unit up to strength (for more details on the Pentropic experiment see Organising an Army: The Australian Experience 1957-1965 by John Blaxland).




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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