ANZUK: What was it?

ANZUK Flag. Wikipedia Commons

ANZUK Force is something that has a familiar ring about it, but unless you served in Singapore in the 1970s or 1980s, knowledge of it is likely to be limited.  Forty-five years after its closure, Colin Campbell a former Australian Army Officer who served in the Headquarters of the ANZUK Support Group in 1971-72 has published ANZUK What was it?, providing a long-overdue addition to the New Zealand /Australian/U.K. Military history narrative with the first comprehensive history of the ANZUK Force of 1971-74.

Since 1945 Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom had cooperated in providing military Forces in Japan, South Korea, Malaya, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, playing an essential role in helping to stabilise the region during a time of political tension and national policy upheaval. ANZUK Force would be the culmination of this post-war cooperation that for the final time in South East Asia, would see the Forces of these nations unified under a single tri-Service command.

Information on the ANZUK Force is sparse, for example, the New Zealand’s contribution to the ANZUK Force compressed to a single paragraph in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History which acknowledges membership of ANZUK Force, however, provides few other details.

One of the few military histories dedicated to the era is H.B Eaton’s history of 28 Commonwealth Brigade, Something Extra. Eaton’s works provide a detailed history of 28 Commonwealth Brigade from 1951 to 1974, providing a chapter on the 1971-74 ANZUK, which due to the nature of Eaton’s book is focused on the 28 ANZUK Brigade which was the land component of ANZUK Force.

In telling the story of ANZUK Force, Campbell sets the scene on the ANZUK Force by providing background on the circumstances that led to the formation of the ANZUK Force. With a comprehensive but concise of the history and politics of the region, Campbell then unwraps the  Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve,  the establishment of the Five Power Defence Arrangement between Australian, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom and the short-lived Australian and New Zealand Force that preceded the ANZUK Force.  With three nations, each with different and at times conflicting motivations, Campbell details the planning, compromises and the final organisation and command arrangements of the ANZAC Force.

In Part Three, Campbell examines the four components of the ANZUK Force;

  • the Maritime element,
  • the Land element,
  • the Air element, and
  • the ANZUK Support Group.

Here Campbell breaks down each component and provides a useful overview of each component, their command and control arrangements and most importantly, their composition, roles and tasks and exercises they conducted. In describing the composition of each component, Campbell provides a roster of naval vessels Air Force Squadrons and elements assigned to the Martine and Air Components and explains the makeup of the land component, 28 ANZUK Brigade, with is Tri-nation Brigade Headquarters, Artillery and Engineer Regiments and National Infantry Battalions.

ANZUK Stores Sub Depot, April 1973. Robert McKie Collection

Not forgetting the Administrative and Logistic Elements, Campbell also dedicates space to the composition of the ANZUK Support Group and the wide ranges of services it managed and provided including, Stores and Supplies, Workshop, Transport, Provost, Police Force, Post Office, Hospitals and schools for dependent children.

ANZUK Force, Installation Auxiliary Police Badge. Robert McKie Collection

With a posting to ANZUK Force, an accompanied posting with families included as part of the experience, Campbell also dedicates space on highlighting the lifestyle and sports opportunities that life in the ANZUK Force provided.

ANZUK What was it? Could have been a bland assessment of the ANZUK Force, but Campbell has skilfully included many interesting and at times amusing anecdotes from the men and women who served in ANZUK Force providing a personal context to the narrative. Campbell has also ensured that the text is robustly supported by maps, tables, illustrations, Annexes and eight pages listing the sources of his extensive research.

As the first work dedicated the ANZUK Force, Campbell has resurrected the memory if this short live but significant force and although here are gaps, they are few and do not detract from the overall narrative.  ANZUK What was it? is a useful addition to the Military History narrative of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and a must-read for those with interest in this area.

Copies of ANZUK What was it? can be purchased directly from the Author through his website at https://anzukbook.com

ANZUK Force patch. Robert McKie Collection.

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28 ANZUK Brigade patch. Robert McKie Collection

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