By Tristan Moss
Published by Cambridge University Press
RRP $59.95 in hardcover • ISBN 9781107195967
Published as part of the Australian Army History Series, Guarding the Periphery examines the role of the Australian Army units in Papua New Guinea from 1951, when the Pacific Islands Regiment (PIR) was re-raised, until independence in 1975. The PIR was “first and foremost raised to defend Australia by guarding PNG, which was then the northernmost periphery of Australia’s territory”.
The period also coincided with increased tensions with Indonesia. Fearing that the PNG-Indonesia border could be subject to incursions similar to those encountered in Borneo, the Australian Government, in 1965, increased the strength of the PIR to two battalions.
Historian Tristan Moss, in his introduction, comments that “Scholarly work on the Australian Army in PNG is scarce and is limited to a handful of narrative regimental histories and theses”.
In writing this book, Moss has sought to correct this oversight.
He explores the operational, social and racial aspects of this unique force. In late 1967 the force contained 2,216 Papua New Guineans and 367 Australians and by 1972, the 2,800 PNG troops constituted one in ten regular soldiers in the Australian Army. And while some Australian soldiers found serving in PNG to be less than desirable, many found the experience of working with PNG troops to be richly rewarding.
Tristan Moss has crafted an invaluable history of an oft-forgotten chapter of the Australian Army.