A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 3rd CAVALRY REGIMENT & FOUNDING UNITS

 

1st ARMOURED PERSONNEL CARRIER SQUADRON

History from a member

 

ROBERT EDMUND HAGERTY

Officer Commanding

1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron

1965-1967

 

IN JULY 1965 Major Robert Edmund Hagerty was appointed to raise and command 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron, Royal Australian Armoured Corps, at Puckapunyal, Victoria. The squadron would provide a new capability to the Army light armoured protection to the infantry and supporting arms by bringing into service a new armoured vehicle, the M113A1.

 

A SMALL initial cadre of officers and non-commissioned officers was trained as instructors to train vehicle crews as they arrived in the squadron. Although the official organization required troop leaders to hold the rank of captain, no captains were posted to the squadron. This placed further administrative and training burdens on Major Hagerty. ARA troopers and corporals were posted to the squadron to fill crew commander and senior non-commissioned officer positions. Some were untrained for these positions and had to undergo qualification training. A significant proportion of the armoured vehicle drivers were national servicemen who did not complete recruit training until the latter part of 1965. Some were not available to the squadron until January 1966.

 

IN ORDER to achieve his training goals in the short time available to him, Major Hagerty introduced innovative training practices, the most significant being a daylight saving timetable which enabled maximum utilisation of the Corps’s training facilities with the minimum disruption to other units based at Puckapunyal. With no Australian precedents available, armoured personnel carrier training was based on United Kingdom mechanised infantry training. Initial training in vehicle formations had to be conducted dismounted due to the lack of vehicles and the absence of radio equipment required the development and use of flag signals between crew commanders. These technical limitations required all ranks to concentrate on tactical formations and drills, and coupled with Major Hagertys previous experience with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, contributed significantly to the squadron’s level of training. The squadron was probably the best trained and most coherent to serve in South Viet Nam.

 

TEN MONTHS after it was raised, in May 1966, the squadron was deployed to South Viet Nam and commenced operations by securing the area designated to be the 1 Australian Task Force base. The squadron was then constantly on operations providing armoured mobility to the infantry battalions or undertaking cavalry roles such as reconnaissance and protection for the Task Force daily resupply convoy. Of note is the major part played by 3 Troop at the engagement in the Long Tan rubber plantation for which one crewman was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and another was Mentioned in Dispatches.

 

THE SQUADRON’S organization was intended for a unit operating with the support of a regimental headquarters. Without that support, Major Hagertys operational and administrative work load was significantly greater than that of following squadron leaders who commanded squadrons with augmented operational and administrative organizations. Notwithstanding that, his constant care for the well being of his soldiers and non-commissioned officers, ensured that they were provided with mess, welfare and recreations facilities as soon practicable.

 

IN JANUARY 1967,a month before Major Hagerty returned to Australia to take up a training posting, 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadrons name was changed to A Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment. It is a measure of the esprit de corps engendered by him in his squadron that the original squadron members still think of and refer to themselves as “1 APC Squadron” men and hold Major Hagerty in the highest esteem for the professionalism, leadership and compassion he demonstrated as their Squadron Leader.

 

 

History from the Australian War Memorial

 

1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron

The 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) Squadron was raised at Puckapunyal, Victoria, on 1 July 1965. By the end of the year the unit was comprised of the squadron headquarters, an administrative troop, two APC troops, and elements of a support company with support troops. Each troop consisted of 13 carriers, all M113A1s, which was enough to lift an infantry company. While in Vietnam, in October 1969, a third troop was formed by reducing the number of carriers in each troop to 11 vehicles and using the men and vehicles from the support troop. The 1st APC Squadron had been raised, in part, to relieve the overworked 1st APC Troop serving in Vietnam.

The members of 1st APC Troop had been in South Vietnam since June 1965, supporting the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), as part of the battalion group. A small unit, initially consisting of only eight carriers, 1st APC Troop mainly came from No. 1 Troop, A Squadron, 4th/19th Prince of Wales�s Light Horse (PWLH), under the command of Lieutenant (later captain) R.K. "Bob" Hill. In September the troop was increased to 13 carriers and two mortar carriers, and in March 1966 the unit's title was changed from 1st Troop, 4th/19th PWLH, to 1st APC Troop.

Based with 1RAR and the 173rd United States Airborne Brigade (Separate) at Bien Hoa, a large American base north of Saigon, the troop worked closely with the infantry and paratroopers. The APCs carried personnel, evacuated wound, and moved equipment, such as field guns. The carriers were also used as light tanks in operations against the enemy. The troop supported the Americans in clearing the Viet Cong (VC) from Nui Dat, Hoa Long, and Long Phuoc.

1st APC Squadron, meanwhile, had been training at Puckapunyal and, at the end of May 1966, moved to Vietnam to relieve 1st APC Troop. The squadron arrived at Nui Dat on 9 June, at which time the vehicles and some personnel from 1st APC Troop became 1st APC Squadron's No. 3 Troop.

The squadron worked with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), to establish Nui Dat as the base for the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) by erecting defences and clearing the area. Later in June one of the squadron's troops supported the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), for Operation Enoggera, a search-and-destroy mission in Long Phuoc village. This was the first of many such missions carried out by the squadron.

As 1ATF did not yet have tanks, the squadron provided armoured support for the infantry and carried out a number of cavalry tasks, in addition to its work as carriers. The squadron inserted, redeployed, and extracted troops, including patrols conducted by the Special Air Service; acted as an armoured ambulance for medical evacuations; served as a ready deployment force; was used as mobile machine-gun and mortar platforms; protected convoys and escorts; conducted reconnaissance; supported cordon-and-search operations; and served as armoured command vehicles. The squadron also patrolled with troops from the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN).

The squadron's best know action was on 18 August 1966, when No. 3 Troop carried A Company, 6RAR, into battle to relieve D Company, sieged in the rubber plantation north-west of Long Tan. D Company had engaged a much larger enemy force that afternoon. At 5.45 pm seven APCs from No. 3 Troop "scrambled" to pick up A Company and carry it from Nui Dat to D Company's position.

The troop travelled cross-country, forded the flooded Suoi Da Bang creek, and moved in an assault formation astride the plantation road towards D Company. It was dark and raining heavily. After fighting its way through groups of enemy, the carriers reached D Company at about 7 pm. Advancing in a sweeping arc, in a north-westerly then easterly direction, the carriers moved past D Company and through where the enemy was forming up for another attack. By 7.10 am the APCs had returned to D Company's position. The VC had been attacking from the north-east but soon broke off after the return of the carriers. The troopers and infantry anticipated an enemy counter attack but enemy figures instead stood up and withdrew along the front into the rubber plantation. The firing stopped, the battle was over. The timely arrival of the carriers had played a decisive part in breaking up the VC attack and the Australian success.

The squadron went on to support 6RAR and 5RAR, patrolling the Long Tan area. One troop carried out a cavalry role in a combined infantry and armour sweep on either side of Route 2, as part of Operation Crows Nest. The squadron carried out similar work for the rest of year, carrying troops and providing mobile fire support when necessary.

In Australia the numbering of Royal Australian Armoured Corps's units was reorganised and in January 1967, 1st APC Squadron, became A Squadron of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Although its personnel were rotated back to Australia, a squadron from the regiment remained in Vietnam until November 1972, and No. 1 Troop remained even longer, until March 1972.

 

Glossary

Puckapunyal

Battle Honours

Commanding Officers

Decorations

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

 

3rd Cavalry Regiment

The 3rd Cavalry Regiment had a squadron serving in South Vietnam for nearly six years. Between 1966 and 1972 the men from the regiment served in every major operation conducted by the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF), including the Tet Offensive, the 1968 battles for Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, and the battle of Binh Ba in 1969. Using Armoured Personal Carriers (APCs), the regiment�s squadron was a highly mobile force that served throughout Phuoc Tuy province.

Australian APCs had been serving in Vietnam since 1965: initially with the 1st Troop, A Squadron, 4th/19th Prince of Wales Light Horse Regiment, subsequently named the 1st APC Troop; and then with 1st APC Squadron. In January 1967 1st APC Squadron became A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. The squadron's strength in South Vietnam at the time was 117: ten officers, 14 warrant officers/sergeants, and 93 other ranks. The squadron's strength increased over time and by August 1971 had grown to 169 men: 15 officers, 22 warrant officers/sergeants, and 132 other ranks.

While A Squadron was located with the Task Force at Nui Dat, the regiment's B Squadron was initially based at Puckapunyal, Victoria, later moving to Holsworthy, New South Wales. The role of the squadron's regiment in Australia was to provide support and relief for the squadron serving in Vietnam. The regiment operated a "man-for-man" replacement system when a member of the squadron completed his tour in Vietnam, he was replaced by a man from the squadron in Australia.

Although it now belonged to a new regiment, the squadron continued to carry out the same type of work it had done previously: inserting, redeploying, and extracting troops, including patrols conducted by the Special Air Service; acting as an armoured ambulance for medical evacuations; serving as a ready deployment force; being used as mobile machine-gun and mortar platforms; protecting convoys and escorts; conducting reconnaissance; supporting cordon-and-search operations; and providing armoured command vehicles.

The squadron was involved in particularly heavy fighting on 16 February 1966, in support of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), during Operation Bribie. At one point during the battle, B Company became pinned down in the middle of an arc of Viet Cong (VC) machine-guns. APCs had been on the edge of the battle but were called forward to assist B Company, having to almost "blindly" crash through thick scrub in an effort to find the infantry. Having located B Company, the wounded were evacuated in the back of the carriers. One APC was hit by two rounds from a 75 mm recoilless rifle, killing the driver and wounding the crew commander and several passengers.

A Squadron became B Squadron on 13 May 1969, coinciding with the arrival of new. B Squadrons tour lasted until 6 January 1971, when it was relieved by A Squadron. In mid-1971 the squadron received six M113A1 Fire Support Vehicles (FSVs), carrier mounted with a Saladin turret and armed with a 76 mm gun. The majority of the FSVs crew were seconded from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and posted on strength to the 3rd Cavalry Regiments. More heavily armed, the FSVs were still only lightly armoured and were not intended to replace Centurion tanks in offensive tasks. It was felt however, they could relive the Centurions from their role in protecting the fire support bases, thereby allowing the tanks a greater role in supporting 1ATF's operations.

In August the Australian government announced it would withdrawal 1ATF from Vietnam. 1ATF was gradually reduced and in October the remaining Australian troops moved to the port city of Vung Tau; a company from the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR), the squadrons No. 1 Troop, and some support troops remained at Nui Dat. Most of the squadron returned to Australia in December, while No. 1 Troop moved to Vung Tau. The detachment returned to Australia in March 1972.

 

Glossary

Puckapunyal

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 20 died
  • 115 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Vietnam War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 MBE
  • 3 MC
  • 1 DCM
  • 2 MM
  • 3 CDS
  • 16 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • AWM95: 2/4/1-35 A Squadron, 3 Cavalry war diary
  • AWM95: 2/5/1-22 B Squadron, 3 Cavalry war diary
  • Anderson, Paul, When the scorpion stings : the history of the 3rd cavalry regiment, South Vietnam 1965-72, (Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2002)
  • Hopkins, Ronald Nicholas Lamond; Australian War Memorial, Australian armour : a history of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, 1927-1972, (Canberra: Australian War Memorial and Australian Government Publishing Service, 1978)
  • McNeill, Ian G., 1933-, Official History, Vietnam Vol.II: To Long Tan : the Australian army and the Vietnam war 1950-1966, (St Leonards, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1993)
  • McNeill, Ian Graham, "Vietnam 1967: Operation Bribie"

 

 

3RD CAVALRY REGIMENT

History from a member

 

Below is only a Brief History of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. The complete history can be found in the the book "When the Scorpion Stings The history of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Viet Nam, 1965-1972".

The 3rd Cavalry Regiment has its historical origin with the Victorian Mounted Rifles (VMR) which was raised in 1885. In May 1965, 1 Troop, A Squadron, 4th/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse (direct lineal descendants of the Victorian Mounted Rifles), embarked for Vietnam for service in South Vietnam.

In March 1966 the troop was redesignated 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Troop. The troop expanded and in May of the same year became 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron. In January 1967 the Squadron was renamed A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. B Squadron was raised at Holsworthy in 1967 and both A and B Squadrons saw active service in South Vietnam.

The Armoured Personnel Carriers in South Vietnam participated in every major Australian Task Force operation including the battle of Long Tan in 1966, the Tet Offensive in 1968, the battle of Binh Ba in 1969 and the battles for Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral.

In November 1971 the Squadron returned to Townsville as B Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, while the Squadron in Holsworthy was absorbed into the 2nd cavalry Regiment.

In 1981 B Squadron 3rd Cavalry Regiment was amalgamated with the 4th Cavalry Regiment to form the 3/4 Cavalry Regiment.

The 3/4 Cavalry Regiment, now reduced to a single Squadron, supported the Operational Deployment Force (ODF) and in December 1992 deployed with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, to Somalia as a part of 'Operation Solace'. On their return the members of the Squadron wore the Australian Active Service Medal.

The Squadron has also done a couple of tours of East Timor with INTERFET, on Operation Lavarack and 2001 AUSTBAT 6

THE BADGE:

The badge is of a Black Scorpion encased by a wreath with the tail swung up as if to strike placed over a inverted boomerang which has the unit motto RESOLUTE and is finished in gunmetal colour to reflect that it had been designed and chosen in a combat area.

The badge was designed by Lieutenant General John Grey, AO (retd) and assisted by Charles Gaunt and Colonel Roger Kershaw (retd) both whom where adjutants in succession during Lieutenant General Greys time in Vietnam. It was chosen as the Symbol of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment as it had already been adopted informally and painted on the side of all M113A1 vehicles with the Squadron.

The reason it was chosen was due to the prolific Black Scorpions crucial time in battle and to this day that reputation is maintained. The Queen approved the Scorpion Badge in 1972 and it took until 1977-78 before the Regiment was badged correctly. Up until that time the 3rd Cavalry Regiment wore the Corps Badge, except for the initial period in 27th May 1965 - 14th September 1965 when the 4th/19th Prince of Wales Light Horse badge was worn.

For you history buffs, this is how it all started. The badge derived from a stencil, which was applied, to the left hand side front of all 4 Troop tracks. This was commenced about Aug 66, for the reasons outlined below:

a.    When 1 APC Sqn was first deployed to SVN on HMAS SYDNEY, only the SHQ and LAD, all of the APCs meant for the new 2 Tp, and Spt Tp of Tp HQ and three sects were deployed. The last consisted of four mortar tracks (two sects) and Spt arms APC sect of four APCs with a Tp HQ of two APCs, total 10 vehicles. The Sqn was to pick up 1 Tp ex Bien Hoa on Op Hardihood at Nui Dat in May 66. This was done and the 1APC Sqn then could field two APC Tps (2 Tp, Guymer, and a renamed 3 Tp, Roberts). Each was to support a nominated Inf bn.

b.    These two APC Tps proved insufficient as TAOR and operations with ARVN and SAS needed to be undertaken whilst the two APC Tps were either deployed (1 Tp with 5RAR, 3 Tp with 6RAR). An additional APC Tp had therefore to be created. This was done by transferring two APCs each from 2 and 3 Tps and from Sqn HQ to the newly created 4 Tp, thereby providing each APC Tp with a three APC sect of each 3 tracks, and a Tp HQ of two tracks. The four mortar tracks, which had patrolled extensively with 4 Tp when not deployed as comfortable baseplate, transferred to Sqn HQ. 

c.    The 4 Tp scorpion logo, originally bestowed on the mortar sect vehicles (being the "sting in the tail" of 4 Tp whilst the enemy was being held by the armour and direct fire weapons to the front), was retained by 4 Tp throughout its tour. It was a normal function for 4 Tp to patrol in Tp strength, with a mounted mortar sect and close protection Inf pl from a resting Inf bn, for long periods. Functions included securing helo LZ, dropping/collecting SAS patrols, ambushing and reacting with own or ARVN infantry Coy�s aboard. 

This information was supplied by Ian Bryant AM BRIG (Ret) who was the Troop leader at that time.

 

REGIMENTAL MARCH

'Old Comrades':    (3 CAV)

'Light Cavalry':      (4 CAV)


LOCATION

Lavarack Barracks, Townsville, QLD.


ROLE

To provide Armoured mobility for the infantry.

 

BATTLE HONOURS & BATTLE GROUNDS

Vietnam (1965-72), (Emblazoned).
Long Tan, (Emblazoned).
Bin Ba.
Hat Dich.
Coral/Balmoral, (Emblazoned).
Bien Hoa.

U.N. AND NON U.N. AREA OF OPERATIONS


Somalia
(UNITAF)-CGS Commendation 21 November 1993.
UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, (UNAMIR)
1994-1995.
East Timor; (INTERFET), Operation Lavarack,
1999-2000.
UN Assistance Mission to Timor-Leste, Operation Astute.
Multi-National Force Iraqi, Operation Catalyst.
International Security Assistance Force
Afghanistan, Operation Slipper.

The Guidon of the 4th Cavalry Regiment has no Battle Honours.

 

KEY APPOINTMENTS

OC of B Squadron, 3/4 Cavalry Regiment is a Major,
Troop Leader is a Captain,
Troop Officer is a Lieutenant.

 

CONFIGURATION

B Squadron did consist of two Line Troops, and one Support/Recon Troop, Each Line Troop consists of 15 M113A1 APC's, but now the squadron is equipped with the Infantry Mobility Vehicle (IMV) Bushmaster. The new configuration is not know to the Webmaster.