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The British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve (commonly referred to as the Far East Strategic Reserve or the FESR) was a joint military force of the British, Australian, and New Zealand armed forces. Created in the 1950s and based in Malaya, the FESR was conceived as a forward defence point for Australia and New Zealand, while protecting Commonwealth interests in the Southeast Asian region from both internal and external communist threats. The FESR was made up of an infantry brigade and a carrier group, supported by squadrons of aircraft.


The FESR originated from a June 1953 letter from Harold Alexander, the British Minister of Defence, to Philip McBride and Tom Macdonald, his equivalents in Australia and New Zealand, respectively.[1] The letter suggested the creation of a joint military force based in South-East Asia and tasked with protecting strategically important Commonwealth interests in the region (namely Sarawak, North Borneo, Malaya and Singapore), from the threat of attack by communist forces.[1] The freeing up of military resources following the end of the Korean War was another factor.[2]

Correspondence between the defence ministers of the three nations and their subordinates led to a meeting in Melbourne, Australia during October 1953.[1] From this meeting, it was decided to create the FESR: a multinational force consisting of Army, Navy, and Air Force units from the three nations' armed forces.[3][4] It was not until 1955 that the Reserve was established.[2]


The FESR consisted of a brigade-strength infantry force and a carrier battle group, supported by land- and ship-based fighter and bomber squadrons.[2] The Strategic Reserve's primary role was to protect Malaya and other Commonwealth interests in Southeast Asia from attack by external communist forces, with operations against internal communist organisations listed as the secondary role.[2]


The decision to participate in the FESR was formally announced by Australian prime minister Robert Menzies in April 1955.[5] Australian military units committed to the force included one light infantry battalion, between two and four destroyers or frigates, and two to three squadrons of aircraft (at least one each of bombers and fighters).[2][5][6] An Australian aircraft carrier was to make an annual visit to participate in training exercises.[3][5]

Australian forces remained under Australian command and control (unlike most earlier deployments in conjunction with British forces), but were to be used under the directives of the British Commander in Chief, Far East Station.[3]

Australian units deployed to the FESR included:

Australian Army
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1959-61),[citation needed]
2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (two tours of duty),[5]
3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.[5]
Royal Australian Air Force
No. 1 Squadron RAAF (flying Avro Lincolns and later English Electric Canberra bombers),[5]
No. 2 Squadron RAAF (flying Avro Lincolns and later English Electric Canberra bombers),[5]
No. 3 Squadron RAAF (flying North American F-86 Sabre fighters),[5]
No. 77 Squadron RAAF (flying North American F-86 Sabre fighters),[5]
Royal Australian Navy (based out of Singapore Naval Base)
HMAS Anzac,[6]
HMAS Arunta,[6]
HMAS Melbourne,[6]
HMAS Quadrant,[6]
HMAS Queenborough,[6]
HMAS Quiberon,[6]
HMAS Quickmatch,[6]
HMAS Stuart,[citation needed]
HMAS Sydney,[6]
HMAS Tobruk,[6]
HMAS Vampire,[6]
HMAS Vendetta,[6]
HMAS Voyager,[6]
HMAS Warramunga.[6]

New Zealand

United Kingdom

The British commitment was based around forces already in South-East Asia, including the Eastern Fleet, the Far East Air Force, and British Far East Command.


From late 1955 until 1960, FESR infantry forces operated against the Malayan Races Liberation Army during the Malayan Emergency.[2] The Strategic Reserve was also involved in the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.[citation needed] FESR forces participated in South East Asia Treaty Organisation exercises.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pfennigwerth, Tiger Territory, p. 55
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Dennis et al., The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, p. 202
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Pfennigwerth, Tiger Territory, p. 56
  4. MacDougall, Australians at war, p. 352
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 MacDougall, Australians at war, p. 326
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 Royal Australian Navy, The RAN, the Strategic Reserce and the Malayan Emergency

External links

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