Duty First is the complete history of the Royal Australian Regiment, which has been the mainstay of the Australian Regular Army for over sixty years. With the formation of the regular army, including the Royal Australian Regiment, for the first time Australia had a permanent professional army, available in peacetime and in war for any task the government might direct. The Royal Australian Regiment is the key fighting force of the army and has carried the main burden of active service since the Second World War. Its history throws important light on the development of Australia's defence. In late 1945, three battalions were formed to serve with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. Active service began with a 'baptism of fire'-fierce combat in the Korean War. This was followed by counter-guerrilla service in Malaya during the Emergency, action in Borneo during Confrontation, including the top secret 'Claret' operations into Indonesian territory, and active service in Vietnam. The book examines how the regiment adapted after the Vietnam War to the demands of peacetime soldiering, including the pressures of peacekeeping.
Finally, it reveals how the regiment's traditions of flexibility and readiness have stood it in good stead in recent operations in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan. Duty First concludes with a series of short pieces in which former members of the regiment, from general to soldier, present fascinating accounts of their personal experiences in a range of different operational and peacetime circumstances. This is a story of humour and courage, of professionalism, and above all dedication to duty. The Royal Australian Regiment's motto, 'Duty First', continues to reflect its ethos and spirit today, over sixty years since its foundation.
David Horner is a professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies unit at the ANU, is one of Australia's leading defence historians and the author of a number of books published by Allen & Unwin. Jean Bou is an academic at the same unit.