The 12th/40th Battalion, The Royal Tasmania Regiment (12/40 RTR) was raised on the 1st of December 1987 after the amalgamation of a number of units within Tasmania. The Unit’s lineage can be traced back to 1878 when the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment was formed in Tasmania. Since this time, elements which have provided the grounding for today’s Unit have fought with distinction throughout the world; from the Boer War and through both World Wars.
The current Regiment has evolved since that time, albeit under a variety of titles and organisations. The Battalion currently consists of two training companies; A Company in the north draws its heritage from the 12th and 2/12th Battalions, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) while B Company in the south draws its lineage from the 40th and 2/40th Battalions, AIF. Each is based on a rifle company structure with a platoon for recruits, Reserve Response Force and High Readiness Reserve components respectively depending on each individual member’s level of training and experience. Headquarter's Company, located in the South, consists of the unit headquarters and the combat service support elements of the unit. At present, 12/40 RTR is the largest unit within Tasmania with arguably the greatest span of influence across the state.
The role of the unit has developed significantly in recent years and is primarily focussed at providing a domestic response capability; both locally within Tasmania and around the nation. Specifically, however, the role of 12/40 RTR is to generate the collective capability required to meet Reserve Response Force requirements for domestic security operations, Force Protection elements for offshore deployment and designated support tasks for the conduct of Defence of Australia operations.
At present, the unit currently employs over 250 personnel of both full-time and part-time soldiers. With such a strong core of dedicated soldiers, 12/40 RTR has grown to be a dominant and effective force within Tasmania. The unit currently maintains a heavy focus on supporting the Reserve Response Force and High Readiness Reserve elements within the state. These separate capabilities provide a robust avenue for many members of the unit to contribute to activities and operations throughout Australia.
Throughout each calendar year, the unit will conduct a series of specialised training activities across the state. These activities may consist of foundation warfighting skills, vital asset protection, low – medium level searches, or in some cases adventure training. Where possible, the unit will attempt to integrate as many facets of the civilian emergency support services in the planning and conduct of the training as this not only provides insight into the capability of the State Police or Emergency Services, but it also enhances our interoperability during times of disaster or relief. It should be noted that it is a regular occurrence for members of the unit to participate in training opportunities around Australia. These opportunities may consist of career progression courses or even support to full-time exercises over the entirety of Australia.
It should also be noted that 12/40 RTR does not always operate as an independent entity within the state. On regular occasions, the unit will seize opportunities to operate alongside our neighbouring units. These opportunities may consist of support to Defence Force Recruiting efforts throughout the state, or even conducting a field training activity with members of the 144th Signals Squadron Detachment or the 16th Field Battery in support. It is these collective training opportunities which enhance the corporate knowledge of the unit personnel but they also generate a wider interest and exposure with members of the civilian community.
Since the conclusion of the 1990s, the Australian Defence Force has been engaged in continuous operations, both at home and abroad. Throughout the entirety of this period, personnel from 12/40 RTR have supported each operation, whether on an individual or collective basis. In recent years, a key focus of the unit has been to provide large contributions of unit personnel to support Operation Anode in the Solomon Islands.
Through the regular participation in this operation, the unit’s level of corporate knowledge on contemporary peacekeeper operations is at a standard far above what is normally expected from a normal part-time unit. Consistently, the contingent from 12/40 RTR has served with high levels of distinction in what is seen to be a complex and demanding operational environment. As such, the unit is expected to maintain this high level of skill and distinction on future operations throughout Australian and abroad. In conjunction with Operation Anode, 12/40 RTR has provided regular contributions to Operation Resolute in the North of Australia. This operation allowed a significant number of soldiers to gain experience in locating and denying a range of illegal activity throughout Australia’s northern shore. Once again, this opportunity allowed members of the unit to gain significant insight into another complex and multi-facet operational environment.
The demands of today’s Reservist are many and complex. The age of regional-based activities are gone, having been replaced by organised, functioning formations around the country. Each brigade has very real tasks and a constant demand to support operations both onshore and offshore. 12/40 RTR as part of 9 Brigade with the 2nd Division has consistently contributed to all assigned tasks, always with a high degree of competence and performance. There can be no question that the demands of the Army are often at odds with members’ civilian occupational commitments; however it must be acknowledged that elements of service such as teamwork, self discipline, and comradeship are attributes which will certainly be welcome in any of today’s civilian workplaces.
The motto of the Royal Tasmania Regiment is 'Pro Aris Et Focis', which is Latin for ‘For Alters and Hearts’.