Regiment History

Formation of the Regiment.

In 1960 the Australian Army underwent major organisational changes with the adoption of the new "Pentropic" divisional structure. The name derived from its pentagonal or ‘five sided' structure built around five basic battle groups, each consisting of an infantry battalion and supporting units. This replaced the traditional infantry brigade concept with the battle groups controlled directly by divisional headquarters. Under this proposed restructure the establishment size of an infantry battalion increased to about 1300 all ranks consisting of five rifle companies instead of four. The restructuring of the Army, particularly the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) infantry battalions to form the new battle groups, brought about significant changes. As it was proposed to reduce the number of CMF infantry battalions on the Order of Battle it was decided to introduce a new state regimental system under which the existing CMF infantry battalions within each state would amalgamate to form one state regiment.

These changes came into effect on 1st July 1960 and in Western Australia the following existing CMF infantry battalions were amalgamated to form The Royal Western Australia Regiment: 11th/44th Infantry Battalion (The City of Perth Regiment), 16th Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia) and 28th Infantry Battalion (The Swan Regiment)

Upon creation in 1960, each of the State regiments had one or more battalions as required, the battalions being numbered consecutively from 1 within each regiment. As only one battle group was to be created in Western Australia then the above battalions therefore merged to initially form only a single battalion regiment, designated as 1st Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment (1RWAR).

This was viewed by some as being a radical reform in which the traditional battalion identities and their historic links and ties with their local communities would disappear. However, the concept introduced with the formation of these new State infantry regiments was that each of these regiments would preserve all battle honours and traditions handed on from the former infantry battalions that they were created from, and they could expand or contract to any number of battalions within the regiment as required and still maintain all of these traditions at the regiment level. All battalions within the regiment would share the one set of battle honours.

Although the original traditional battalion numbers disappeared, some links were maintained with the previous units through a scheme of allocating historic/territorial titles to the various rifle companies created as part of the new 1RWAR as follows:                                A Company (The City of Perth Company)

                     B Company (The Cameron Company)

                     C Company (The Swan Company)

                     D Company (The West Australian Rifles Company)

                     E Company (The North Coast Company)

Each of these was formed from various elements of the former infantry battalions, attempting to establish some historic or geographic link with the units from which they came. By the mid 1960's, with the exception of ‘B' Company (The Cameron Company), most of these secondary titles began to be dropped in use. The former Pipes and Drums of 16th Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia) became the Pipes and Drums of 1st Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment.

In late 1960, it was decided raise an additional company, G Company, as a recruit training company, it was located at the Wright Street depot in East Perth. It commenced training the units recruits in January 1961 and continued in that role until 5 Trg Group took over responsibility for all recruit training in WA.

Headquarters of 1RWAR Battle Group was located at ‘Dilhorn' in Bulwer Street, East Perth, formerly the location of HQ of 13th Infantry Brigade and later to become the initial home of the Army Museum of WA.

1960 - 1980

At a ceremonial parade held during annual camp at Northam in September 1960, being the first camp of the newly formed regiment, the Commanding Officers of the former battalions officially handed over to 1RWAR all sets of colours carried by the predecessor battalions.

At a ceremony held on the Esplanade, Perth, on the 2nd October 1960, The Royal Western Australia Regiment had the Freedom of Entry of the City of Perth conferred upon it.

The above former colours were held by 1RWAR and carried (in rotation) on ceremonial parades until the presentation of their own set of colours by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, at a parade held at the WACA ground in Perth on the 25th November 1962. The old colours were paraded for the last time at this ceremony and were marched off to the tune of ‘Old Lang Syne'.

 At a special ceremony held on 29th November 1964 these former colours were laid up in two felt-lined air-tight cases located in the undercroft of the State War Memorial in King's Park. Part of the cost for this was provided by the RSL and unit associations. These colours were later transferred to the Army Museum of WA

The Pentropic divisional structure that was introduced in 1960 only continued until 1965 when it was decided to revert back to the original "tropical' formation structure which had fewer personnel within a battalion and more battalions within a division. This therefore required more infantry battalions to be raised within the CMF within each state. This resulted in the splitting of 1st Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment into two battalions - 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion (1RWAR and 2RWAR) effective from 1st July 1965.

Coinciding with this change Army authorities decided that the various battalions within the State Regiments should be renumbered to bring back some of the pre-1960 battalion numbers which would help forge a closer link with these predecessor units. Many of the eastern states regiments saw these changes come into being as from July 1965, but it was not until the 1st January 1966 that changes were introduced into RWAR, whereby 1RWAR was renumbered as 16RWAR and 2RWAR became 11RWAR, becoming the senior battalion within the regiment.

As part of the changes implemented in 1965, at the field force operational level the two battalions of the regiment and supporting units were grouped as part of 2 Task Force which replaced the previous battle group structure. HQ 2 Task Force continued at ‘Dilhorn' in East Perth.

11RWAR had Battalion Headquarters, Admin Company, Support Company and A Company moved into the depot in Nicholson Road, Subiaco, while the country depots of Kalgoorlie and Geraldton were also allocated to the battalion. 16RWAR retained ‘B' Company (The Cameron Company) as well as the Pipes and Drums, thus maintaining the Scottish elements within the regiment. The Battalion Headquarters and Admin Company were established in Lord Street, East Perth, with the Cameron Company and Support Company at the Canning Highway depot located near the Causeway in Victoria Park. The country depots at Albany, Katanning, Collie and Bunbury all remained under control of 16RWAR.

Also in 1965 National Service Training was re-introduced. Call up was by a ballot system. Under certain conditions, those called up could nominate to meet their commitment by doing 6 years part-time service in the CMF rather than the 2 years full time in the Regular Army. However, some of those who elected to do this latter option were precluded from joining or serving effectively in a normal CMF unit due to their place of residence (outback or remote regional areas) or the nature of their employment.

To meet this requirement, AHQ approved in August 1966 the forming of an additional 6 CMF infantry battalions throughout Australia. These would all come within the existing State Regiment structure and battalion numbers chosen to fit within the current numbering scheme, consisting of numbers from previous battalions that had existed within the respective states. 28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment was therefore raised in October 1966 as a new battalion to meet this special remote area commitment. Unofficially referred to as "The Bushmen's Rifles", 28RWAR had their training arranged in two periods of full time camps each of around 16 days duration each year, held in either Northam Camp or Bindoon Training Area.

The administrative effort for the unit to conduct two camps each year with a very small cadre provided an opportunity for officers and soldiers from the other RWAR units to attend additional camps with 28 RWAR as instructors.

A set of Queen's and Regimental Colours was presented to 11th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment by the Governor of Western Australia, Major General Sir Douglas Kendrew, at a parade held at Perry Lakes Stadium on 5th November 1967. (The Governor had become the Honorary Colonel of the regiment in 1965)

1969 saw the Pipes and Drums of 16th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment transferred out of the regiment to become known as Western Command CMF Pipes and Drums as part of more centralised band training. They continued to wear the traditional Cameron of Erracht tartan inherited from their long association with the original 16th Infantry Battalion. They have undergone various subsequent changes in designation, transferring from Infantry Corps and becoming absorbed into the Australian Army Band Corps with the current designation of the Army Reserve Pipes and Drums, Perth.

On 26th March 1972 a set of Queen's and Regimental Colours was presented to 28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment by the Governor General, The Right Honourable Sir Paul Hasluck at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne.

National Service ended in 1972 which had a significant effect on the strength of the CMF. The Citizen Military Forces became known as the Army Reserve in 1974 and further changes at the command and operational field force level were implemented throughout the Australian Army.

A number of the existing battalions within several of the state Regiments were reduced to Independent Rifle Companies (IRC). This was the case with 11RWAR and 28RWAR which became 11 IRC and 28 IRC of RWAR respectively around 1977. By 1978, 11 IRC had been relocated to Irwin Barracks, Karrakatta and 28 IRC was co- located with 16RWAR at Canning Highway, Victoria Park. The country depots at Geraldton and Kalgoorlie remained as part of 16RWAR whereas Albany, Bunbury, Collie and Katanning depots came under 11 IRC, RWAR.

On 14th September 1979 the regiment exercised its right of Freedom of Entry to the City of Perth as part of the State's 150th Anniversary celebrations. 16RWAR and 11th and 28th Independent Rifle Companies, RWAR, all participated in this event. This right has been exercised by the regiment on a number of subsequent occasions including 1982, 1986, 1993 and 2006.

1980 - 2010

On 11th October 1980, 11th Independent Rifle Company, The Royal Western Australia Regiment was granted the Freedom of Entry to the City of Bunbury and in 1985, 28th Independent Rifle Company was granted the Freedom of Entry to the City of Albany.

As a result of the expansion of roles of Army Reserve infantry units recommended by the 1986 Dibb Report, on 24th October 1987, 11th and 28th Independent Rifle Companies were amalgamated to form 11th/28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment. This battalion took custody of the colours of both 11RWAR and 28RWAR and both 11/28RWAR and 16RWAR became located at Karrakatta.

In February 1988 both 11/28RWAR and 16RWAR, together with other Army Reserve supporting units in WA, all came under the reformed 13th Brigade as part of these new initiatives.

In September 1988 16th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment was granted the Freedom of Entry to the City of Geraldton and in 1993 had the Freedom of Entry to the City of Kalgoorlie conferred upon it.

During the 1990s a Ready Reserve scheme was introduced which involved ready-reservists undertaking one year's full-time service followed by 50 days of reserve service over each of the following four years. The scheme, discontinued in 1996, was very popular, especially with tertiary students, and attracted far more applicants than the positions available. During the late 1990s further moves were undertaken to create closer integration between regular and part-time reservists with 13th Brigade earmarked to include a company of full- time personnel and additional reservists. "A" Company, 16RWAR was formed from ARA personnel under this scheme which came in for a brief period between 1998 and 1999.

A historic occasion was the presentation of new colours to 16th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment by the Governor of WA, Lt-General John Sanderson, at a parade held at Leeuwin Barracks on 27th October 2002. The original colours that were marched off were those presented to the former 1RWAR in 1962 and which had continued in use by 16RWAR. These former colours were handed over to the Army Museum of WA for safekeeping in November 2002, joining the other sets of historic colours held there.