RCB Doc 5. DHAAT Public Release


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1. The Defence Force Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal) is

established under the Defence Act 1903. Its functions are set out in s 110UA of the Act. The

Minister may direct the Tribunal to hold an inquiry into a specified matter concerning

honours or awards and the Tribunal must hold an inquiry and report, with recommendations,

to the Minister.

2. On 11 March 2010, the former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support,

the Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, referred the matter of recognition for members of Rifle

Company Butterworth (RCB) for service in Malaysia between 1970 and 1989 to the Tribunal.

The terms of reference for this inquiry are set out in full at the commencement of this report.

3. This reference was undertaken by the following members of the Tribunal:

Mr John Jones (Chair)

Dr Jane Harte

4. The principal applicant was the RCB Review Group on behalf of individuals who

served with the RCB in the period 1970 to 1989.

5. In its written submission and at its appearance before the Tribunal, the RCB Review

Group sought the following entitlements:

a. Qualifying service for veterans’ entitlements;

b. Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ to the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM);

c. Returned from Active Service Badge (RASB); and

d. Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ to the General Service Medal 1962 for those who served

in RCB until 14 February 1975.

6. The Tribunal also received 29 other written submissions, including one from an

ex-service organisation and one from the Department of Defence. Of the individual

submitters, 15 were in favour of upgrading the Australian Service Medal (ASM) with Clasp

‘SE ASIA’ to AASM with Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ or ‘SE ASIA’ and three against. Three

ex-Royal Australian Air Force members sought inclusion of members who served at the

Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth in any consideration of the RCB. One

submitter requested consideration of post 1989 service and five simply provided a statement

to the Tribunal without specifying what they sought.

7. The Tribunal heard oral evidence from five individuals, as well as a group

representing the RCB Review Group and two representatives of the Department of Defence.

The claimants contended that they are, or should be made, eligible for the AASM and the

associated benefits because the service they rendered was ‘warlike service’.

8. The RCB came into being in 1970 after the Australian Government decided to station

a company of infantry at Butterworth Air Base on a rotational basis, following the withdrawal

of British forces from the region and the relocation of the Australian and New Zealand

infantry battalions from Terendak in Malaysia to Singapore. Butterworth Air Base is located

on the Malayan Peninsula. Confrontation with Indonesia had ended in 1966 and there was no

stated conflict between Malaysia and any other nation at that time. There was some internal

unrest in Malaysia led by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), whose leader was Chin

Peng. The level of this unrest varied over the years and between locations within Malaysia.

Chin Peng signed a peace treaty with the Malaysian Government in 1989.

9. The RCB companies were initially provided from Singapore for about one month

each. In 1973 rotation from Australia began with each company spending about three months

at Butterworth. No enemy attack ever took place at Butterworth Air Base.

10. In considering all the material before it, including relevant official records, the terms

of relevant awards and entitlements and the material and oral evidence provided by the

submitters the substantive findings of the Tribunal are:

a The service rendered by members of the RCB in the period 1970 to 1989 is

properly recognised by the award of the Australian Service Medal (ASM)

1945-75 with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’ or the ASM with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’;

b The Tribunal has no jurisdiction in matters of veterans entitlements and has no

power to declare service as ‘qualifying service’ for the purposes of the VEA;

c The Tribunal has no power to bestow eligibility for the RASB which is awarded

automatically with the AASM 1945-75 and with the current AASM;

d The end date for eligibility for the General Service Medal 1962 with Clasp

‘MALAY PENNISULA’ is 12 June 1965. No Clasp ‘MALAYSIA’ exists for

this award. The Tribunal finds no justification to recommend the extension of

the end date or the creation of a new clasp; and

e There is no justification for extending the eligibility period for the Australian

Service Medal with Clasp ‘SE ASIA’ beyond the current end date of

31 December 1989, which was requested in one submission.


11. The Tribunal makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: No change be made to the medallic entitlements which currently attach

to service with Rifle Company Butterworth in the period 1970 to 1989; and

Recommendation 2: No change be made to the medallic entitlements which currently attach

to service with any other unit of the Australian Defence Force at Butterworth in the period

1970 to 1989 or since 1989.

[Download the full document by clicking here]


  1. Mike Dennis says

    The cornerstone of DHAAT flawed Inquiry Report on RCB was that RCB was positioned at Butterworth Air Base for Training Purposes.

    Go to http://www.aph.gov.au/housecommitee/pwc/butterworth/subs/subs1.PDF and see the following Defence Report:

    Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth Malaysia.
    ADF Facilities Rationalisation.
    Statement of Evidence To The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
    May 2007

    Under the Heading ADF Presence at RMAF Butterworth para 3:
    ” An Australian Army Rifle Company has been stationed at RMAF Butterworth on a rotational basis since the early 1970’s. While it’s initial focus was protection of the base, its emphasis has shifted to training and bilateral exercises in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.”

    The truth was told here to the Parliamentary Standing Committee but in this case the DHAAT with its high priced members and staff did not do the required investigations to come up with RCB’s true role.

    Thanks to Swampy Marsh for the information.

    Mike Dennis

  2. Craig Ellery says

    If the role of the RCB was mostly of a training nature, I’d like to see the instances where this supposed bilateral training actually took place. I know we did a short exercise with the RMR (Royal Malaysian Regiment) but that was secondary to the security role performed by A Coy 1RAR. We are expected to provide long and detailed evidence that our role was of a warlike nature so I would expect DHAAT to provide similar evidence of this supposed training role and not just speculation.

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