SOMALIA

Somalia is found in the horn of Africa and is bounded by the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, Kenya (south), Ethiopia (west) and Djibouti (north). Control of the country in recent times has been by the Arabs, the Persians, the Italians and the British. In 1960 independence was granted by Britain and Italy through the United Nations and the Republic of Somalia was established.

The President was assassinated in a military coup in 1969 and the army seized control. War with Ethiopia, civil unrest and a military dictatorship destroyed all civil and administrative functions within the country. By 1990-1991 the country was in the hands of local warlords / bandit groups who dominated by terror. Murder, robbery, rape and the rule of the gun were the weapons used.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 775 proposed the intervention of armed forces to ensure the distribution of humanitarian aid to the population. On the 14th October 1992 the Australian Government committed a Movement Control Unit (MCU) to Mogadishu. The United States (US) committed a task force of 1800 to the Mogadishu area on the 29th November 1992. The United Nations passed another resolution (794) authorizing a multi-national force lead by the US to intervene in the war torn country and establish order. This was operation “RESTORE HOPE”.

The Australian media was running with the story of 1 RAR being sent overseas and this was beginning to worry some families. The soldiers however were jubilant, as all the years of training would now pay off. The government announced the deployment on the 15th December.

1 RAR was officially warned for duty in Somalia on the 17th December 1992. The timing created some disruption with the end of the school year, some soldier’s families preparing to go on holidays and others on reposting. This was the beginning of the Christmas stand-down period for the defence services, which meant the supply system would be reduced and the Navy would also be on leave.  This proved to be a major challenge, which was over come by long hours and hard work by some very dedicated people.

The HMAS Tobruk was undergoing repairs in Sydney and this had to be accelerated and her crew recalled. She sailed for Townsville on the 26th December with HMAS Jervis Bay sailing from Sydney for Townsville on the 19th December.

The battalion under command of Lt Col David Hurley, deployed to Somalia by air and the HMAS TOBRUK and JERVIS BAY with A Coy (the on line company) leaving on the 24th December. Operation Solace was part of a UN force to regain order in Somalia after a protracted period of tribal fighting which had left the country in a shambles. The Battalion group consisted of 653 from 1RAR including 56 soldiers from 2/4RAR, elements from 107Battery 4 Field Regiment, B Squadron 3 / 4 Cavalry Regiment, 17 Field Troop 3 Combat Engineer Regiment, 103 Signals Squadron, Public Relations, Battalion Support Group and Divisional Intelligence.

The advance party (CO, HQ staff) flew from Townsville on the 8th January 1993 with remainder due in country from the 15th onward. The HMAS Jervis Bay arrived on the 14th January and began unloading immediately. The first flight arrived from Australia on the 15th.

The battalion group of 900 established itself at the Baidoa Airfield in January 1993 and worked with the US 10th Mountain Division until March. The mission was to provide a safe environment for the distribution of humanitarian relief to the suffering population (Humanitarian Relief Sector, Baidoa, HRS). To achieve this 1RAR must have a secure base, make Baidoa safe, create a strong presence in the surrounding countryside and ensure the safety of the food convoys.

Aggressive patrolling and convoy protection during the next months ensured the safe passage of over 400 convoys of essential supplies to the starving population. Contact with the enemy (bandits – war lord forces) was usually fast with the response from the Australians being decisive and deadly.

During this time the battalion had contacts with Somali gunman (war lord teams) resulting in 7 enemies killed, 4 wounded and 70 taken prisoner and handed over to the Security Forces. This action also secured 935 weapons and ensured the safe delivery of over 8000 tons of aid supplies.

The experience of being exposed to the waste of human life, the murder of innocents, the lack of water and sewerage facilities and the total decay of human values was a shock to some. It was however an experience most will never forget and are wiser for it.

One member of the battalion L/Cpl Shannon McAliney died after being accidentally shot while on patrol.
1 RAR handed over responsibility to the French contingent of the UN Forces and returned to Townsville on the 22nd May 1993.

 
Source: Duty First (David Horner) 2008
1RAR Publication 1993
 AWM
 A Little Bit of Hope – Bob Breen 1998
 
LEST WE FORGET
Lance Corporal Shannon McAliney
D Company 1 RAR
Died on Active Service, Baidoa, Somalia
2nd April 1993
 
HONOURS and AWARDS OPERATION SOLACE
Distinguished Service Cross
 
Colonel W.J.A. Mellor AM ADC
Leiutenant Colonel D.J.Hurley
Distinguished Service Medal
Corporal T.A.Aitken
Commendation for Distinguished Service
Major D.G. McKaskill
Major M.J. Moon
Major R.H. Stanhope
Captain S.J. Dodds
Corporal P.J. Martin
Private C.J. Day
Chief of the Defence Force Commendation
Major J.G. Caligari
Lieutenant C.J. McDonald
Sergeant P.H. Von Kurtz
Sergeant P. Watson
Chief of the General Staff Commendation
Lieutenant Colonel G.T. Woolnough
Major M.J. Kelly
Lieutenant W R Bowyer
Warrant Officer Class One W F Bowser
Warrant Officer Class One J D Collins
Warrant Officer Two M E Robinson
Sergeant D B Callaghan
Sergeant G W Wilkes
1 RAR Group
Corporal Bill Perkins was leading his section an alley near the Khaat Market. Private Jason Flatley, the forward scout, discovered a man in the doorway of a warehouse. Flatley told him to move on. A moment later he heard the sound of weapons being cocked.
Flatley had a split second to decide whether to fire in the direction of the sounds, or hold his fire and investigate. Something about the man he spoke to and the coincidental sound of weapons cocking told Flatley that he was about to be shot at. He opened fire.
Flatley’s burst of fire was followed immediately by bursts of fire from at least two Somali gunmen. Private Chris Day, the patrol’s signaller, was shot in the shoulder:
… as I dived for cover, I was contacted by a second gunman who was in a small alcove between two buildings . . . one of the rounds hit me and the rest of the burst went over my head. I couldn’t see him but he was quite close because his muzzle flash went in my face. So I fired several rounds at him and he did not return fire so I thought I had got him. I yelled out to my 21C, Gary Lively, that I’d been hit but I was OK.
In the same burst of fire that hit Day, a bullet hit Flatley’s pistol-grip just above his hand-while another passed through his trouser leg-just behind his calf muscle-and a third bullet hit the night vision goggles that were hanging from his neck.
He and Day were stunned temporarily but were still alive. Before their unseen assailants could fire again and finish Flatley and Day off in another hail of bullets, Perkins and the other members of the patrol returned fire in the direction of the muzzle flashes. A long burst of fire from the machine gunner, Private Jason Blakeman, returned the initiative to the Australians.
Source: A Little Bit of Hope – Bob Breen 1998

The following group of photographs (supplied by Mark Edwards) are not captioned but show the soldiers on patrol, show the people they had to deal with and shows the harshness of the country in which they worked.

The country is littered with the refuse of war including weapons, mines and wrecked vehicles.

The people are tribal, their attitude hostile and in all this the soldiers were working to maintain order and instill trust.  Frustration, anger, fatigue and humour were some of the emotions felt by this force.