Konfrontasi - The Indonesian Confrontation

(I make no apologies for having posted this on Rum Ration already but members of the other services were equally involved and may wish to contribute too. If any war within living memory has been forgotten, it appears to be this one. Perhaps the country will make up for it next year on the anniversary of its conclusion.)
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Nothing is being made of it and little was made of it at the time but this year marks the 50th anniversary of several significant actions during the Indonesian Confrontation, a violent conflict that lasted from 1963 to 1966. In particular, the Royal Navy's 'Cold War warriors' manning the ships of the Inshore Flotilla were in the thick of it both day and night.

20-year-old Midshipman Michael Richard O'Driscoll of HMS Invermoriston was killed in action on 29 March 1965 when a mortar flare exploded prematurely. He manned a machine gun and was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches for showing ...outstanding coolness and devotion to duty while in action”. He is buried in Kranji Military Cemetery a few miles north of Singapore.

19-year-old Midshipman Michael Brian Finch of HMS Woolaston was reported missing presumed killed on 25 June 1965 when a sampan exploded in the Singapore Straits. He was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches, along with other personnel of the Inshore Flotilla, "... in recognition of distinguished services on Far East Fleet Patrols and in the Borneo Territories during the period 24th December 1964 to 23rd June1965."

Lest we forget, here are some illustrative articles from the Navy News of 50 years ago. One of the articles is particularly notable because it mentions that the Far East Fleet at this time numbered "...some 80 ships."

Navy News Aug 1965 Award for night rescue.jpg
Navy News Jan 1965 Sweepers Taken out of mothballs.jpg
Navy News May 1965 Konfrontasi.jpg
Navy News Oct 1965 Skill and Determination win Gallantry awards.jpg
Navy News Sep 1965 Booby trapped sampan killed Midshipman.jpg
 
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Great thread.

The days when we could own and crew 80 ships just in the Far East.....

And not that long ago. I was at high school at the time, some of the older boys joined the local regiments and came back and gave talks to the school. It seemed so fascinating and so far away. Talks of
Dyaks who were formed headhunters and lived in longhouses, and of jungle patrols.

I guess it was those talks that eventually led me to living and working in Asia, ironically including Indonesia.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
Great thread.

The days when we could own and crew 80 ships just in the Far East.....

And not that long ago. I was at high school at the time, some of the older boys joined the local regiments and came back and gave talks to the school. It seemed so fascinating and so far away. Talks of
Dyaks who were formed headhunters and lived in longhouses, and of jungle patrols.

I guess it was those talks that eventually led me to living and working in Asia, ironically including Indonesia.
For anyone with a remote interest in the jungle war in Borneo, I would highly recommend Christopher Bullock's "Journeys Hazardous" http://www.thegurkhamuseum.co.uk/The_Shop/Books/Journeys_Hazardous_/1/10 or J.P. Cross' "Face Like A Chicken's Backside". Both from a Gurkha perspective, but give as good an account of ulu bashing as you'll ever read.
 
Before my time but there were a few individuals still in my battalion who had served in the Indonesian conflict when I served during the seventies.

This photo was taken in Guyana during the middle seventies so despite appearances, it's nothing to do with Indonesia but the chap standing third from the right was an Indonesian veteran.



There were several more of them elsewhere in the battalion.
 
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Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
One of the SAS histories of the time recounts several troopers going onboard one of the RN minesweepers and asking what all the little holes were (remember that they were made of wood). 'Bullet-holes,' was the rather nonchalant response from the matelot at hand... to some consternation.
 
Ah yes I remember it well. We got some ex-RN Oelikon 20 mm canon, for air field defence.All of 'em older than me, went on firing practice from an RAF launch. Fired hundreds of rounds at a met. balloon tied to a bit of wood. At endex balloon was burst , by a deck hand with a boat hook. Never fired in anger.

CFB.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
Oddly enough, we have just very recently had a reunion of those that served in our battalion during this conflict. It was also the "celebration" - if that is the apposite word - of the last action of the Rifle Brigade ( December 31st at 15 seconds to midnight) and the first of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Greenjackets ( 12 seconds into 1st of January 1966). There are not a lot of us left.
We relieved 3 Para in 1st Division (except for Planan Mapu, that was abandoned on the orders of a much higher command).
 

engr172

War Hero
Book Reviewer
My dad was out there. His battalion are having a reunion in Edinburgh next year, as there are so few of them left.
 
S

Spider39

Guest
One of the SAS histories of the time recounts several troopers going onboard one of the RN minesweepers and asking what all the little holes were (remember that they were made of wood). 'Bullet-holes,' was the rather nonchalant response from the matelot at hand... to some consternation.
That was in Lofty Large's excellent book One Man's SAS .
 

Yokel

LE
I remember overhearing an ex RN Cook talking about the sampan incident to a group of serving chefs at a hotel in a West African port in 2004.
 
I worked at a large coal mine in East Kalimantan some years ago, and one of my operations managers had been a young Indonesian Air Force pilot during Konfrontasi. We made up for previous hostilities with a great deal of Bintang.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
About a third of the way through our tour we recieved a message from the Indo unit that was opposite us; the C/o of that unit had been at Sandhurst with our C.O and was sending his regards. Odd life, really.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP
Seaweed wuz there.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
RIP
One reason we actually had the mothballed CMS out there was Suez - Nasser announced that he had mined the Gulf of Suez*, the canal was blocked, and we had NO minesweepers east of the Med.

* He hadn't, but mine warfare can be VERY cheap. The threat was credible.
 
Out of interest, where were the 80 Far East Fleet ships based?

Singapore? Penang? I think there was a RN presence in Australia at the time but I don't know if ships were based there. We're any in Brunei?
 

SingaporeSid

Swinger
The Confrontation is still remembered in Singapore, hence the diplomatic spat last year between Indonesia and Singapore when the former named a navy ship after two marines who planted a bomb in MacDonald House on Orchard Road back in '65. The Indonesian Air Force found themselves 'uninvited' to the Singapore air show.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/02/13/macdonald-house-attack-still-strikes-home-spore.html

The experience of aggression from a large Muslim neighbour to the South, at the same time as splitting from one to the North, helped lead Singapore to Israel for help in developing their own armed forces but such were the diplomatic sensitive that the initial Israeli military advisers posed as Mexicans, to the extent of arriving at the airport wearing sombreros.

As for the Confrontation, Operation Claret missions surely have to go down as models of economy of force. A really interesting time in SE Asia, I'm a big fan of both the book and film 'The Year of Living Dangerously' which gives a sense of time, place and tension.
 

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