- Book reviewer
- Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2009 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Konfrontasi – Reminiscences of a ‘Rocky’, A Naval Reserve Officer’s experiences during Confrontation.
A personal account by Jim Warren, Leut RNZNVR Rtd.
Self-published, IIviPRINT, Newcastle West, NSW 2009. RRP $25, soft cover, lavishly illustrated (Sales via Naval Historical Society).
Reviewed by LCDR Richard Francis RANR
This lively account by SBLT Jim Warren RNZNVR is a snapshot of his eventful experience as the junior officer in his minesweeper HMNZS Hickleton in 1965, during the height of Indonesian Confrontation. With the increased tempo of Indonesian aggression on the borders of the new Federation of Malaysia came the need to expand the numbers of useful small vessels of the RN Far East Fleet’s Inshore Flotilla, by the augmentation of the six ships of the 6th MS by a rotation of several RAN minehunters, ships of the Hong Kong-based 10th MS squadron and the manning of an additional squadron of UK Reserve 11th MS, plus 4 small seaward defence boats (also from reserve fleet). Of these, two CMS, Hickleton and Santon were crewed by the RNZN, with a small base support party in Singapore. At HM Singapore Naval Base all these craft were supported by the base maintenance ship HMS Mull of Kintyre. Kintyre (a WW II Liberty ship) and the converted fast minelayer HMS Manxman, as HQ ship (Captain Inshore Flotilla).
His story demonstrates the fluid political tensions of the time and the well-trained response and resolute measures of the Far East Fleet, which intended to resist any incursion. With his camera at the ready, Jim recounts the varied patrols in the Singapore and Malacca Straits, Sarawak coast and rivers, and the border patrol at Tawau, North Borneo (now Sabah). Interestingly, New Zealand also contributed a cruiser, HMNZS Royalist to the FEF during this period, which Hickleton accompanied on a visit to Bangkok. Although there were other visits to Kuching and Hong Kong, maintenance and an intermediate Docking and Essential Defect (DED) period at SNB, his ship steamed over 30,400 miles on active service. Like many other ships, he never fired a shot in anger, but around the patrol areas others (Teal, Woolaston and Invermoriston) experienced brief intense engagements against the enemy, with some serious damage and a few casualties. The land campaign in Malaya and Borneo may have been the main focus, but the naval blockade was tight and effective, ultimately contributing to the end of Confrontation in August 1966, following the Indonesian preoccupation with the failed Communist coup in September 1965.
Jim subsequently returned to civvy street, got married and later spent many further years employed in SE Asia in now familiar, but more civilized locations. On retirement he has attended old ship reunions, including the dedication of the RAN 16th MS memorial tablet in Canberra in 2006. He now resides in Port Stephens.
Recommended as an engaging, potted social and political upheavals history of SE Asia before the Vietnam era. The unofficial Inshore Flotilla flag, depicting its multi-squadron composition, is framed in the administration area at HMAS Waterhen – probably stolen by the last RAN vessel to leave Singapore Naval Base.