quintus mascot of the fifth battalion royal australian regiment

quintus tiger mascot of the 5th battalion

In 1965, the Australian Government decided to commit an infantry battalion to operate with the USA and other forces in South Vietnam.

The First Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) was selected for this task. At that time 1RAR, which was stationed at Holsworthy, west of Sydney NSW, was organised as a Pentropic Battalion with a strength of 1200 men and it was necessary to re-organise that battalion to a strength of approximately 800 men, so that it would be compatible with an American infantry battalion.

The government decided to raise the Fifth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR) by transferring 400 men from 1RAR. Some weeks before raising 5RAR on the 1st March 1965, an administrative organisation for 5RAR was established in Gallipoli Barracks adjacent to 1RAR lines. This organisation included experienced selected officers and NCOs' who were to form the nucleus of the new battalion. Major John Warr was appointed to administer command of the group and some other members including Major John Miller, Captains Ron Shambrook, Peter Isaacs and Ron Boxall, Lieutenants Greg Negus, John McAloney, Daryl Lovell and Bob Supple, WO2 Hughie Hughson and WO2 Bob Armitage, Staff Sergeants Merv Friedolf and Lofty Cunningham, Sergeants Brian London, John Hush and Tassie Wass. While everyone was disappointed that they were not going to Vietnam with 1RAR, the morale within 5RAR was very high and it was generally accepted, that in all probability, that 5RAR would eventually serve in Vietnam.

One afternoon, in the intervening period before March ' 65, a message was received from Army Headquarters which gave authority to raise 5RAR. Among other matters, its message stated that the lanyard for the new battalion would be gold and the colours for the battalion would be black and gold. Whether one follows Australian Rules football or Rugby League, black and gold meant only one thing - "Tigers". The black and gold Balmain "Tigers" play Rugby League in Sydney, while the black and gold Richmond "Tigers" play Australian Rules based in Melbourne.

At that time ESSO, as an advertising gimmick, had carried the phrase; "Put a Tiger in Your Tank" and was freely giving away black and gold striped tiger tails which could be attached to your car's petrol cap. That afternoon there was a burst of exhaust fumes as every member allotted to 5RAR who owned a car sped to the nearest ESSO Garage to fill up and get a tiger tail. From that time onwards, tiger tails where attached to cars, kitbags and to anything, limited only by the free supply of tiger tails. The first commanding officer of 5RAR, Lt Col Peter Oxley recognised spontaneously what was happening within the new battalion and in April '65, he addressed the members of the battalion. He stated that he had been offered a goat as a mascot, but he thought that the type of mascot should be one which emphasised the desirable qualities of an infantry battalion such as aggressiveness and courage, which were present in a number of animals including tigers. It was quite clear that, while 5RAR had inherited the history and traditions of the Royal Australian Regiment, the members of 5RAR wanted their new battalion to be a very special battalion and to be different from the older battalions of the Regiment. They recognised that to be likened to a tiger was a very appropriate and worthy aim in training and operations. It should be noted that the tiger is exclusively Asiatic, which is the area that the Australian Army has most interest. The tiger can hunt individually or as a team and will defend young cubs with courage and energy.

In September 1965, Lt Col John Warr was appointed as commanding officer and almost immediately he was pressured by senior officers to get rid of the tiger symbol. On the departure of Colonel Oxley a small silver tiger, to be known as the 'Oxley Tiger', was presented to the battalion by Bill Brennan who later provided similar tigers to be named after each commanding officer. Bill Brennan also provided a tiger skin for the bass drum and a tigers head for the Officers Mess. All the officers were supplied with canes topped with a small tigers head and tiger heads were painted on all the unit vehicles.

The major and final exercise undertaken by the battalion before it departed for service in Vietnam was named 'Ben Tiger' and the helicopter pad inside the 5RAR area in the Task Force base in Vietnam was known as Tiger 5. All these activities helped to have 5RAR known as 'The Tiger Battalion'.

7RAR, whose mascot was a pig, relieved 5RAR in Vietnam in April 1967 and a presentation was made to 7RAR of a pig painted with tiger stripes. When the battalion was preparing to return to Australia in 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Warr gave the officer in charge of the advance party, Major John Miller, a list of tasks to be completed before the arrival of the battalion in Sydney and these tasks included the provision of a tiger to march with the battalion. Major Miller was able toQuintas at Garden Island awaiting for the sodiers of 5RAR disembark arrange for Taronga Park Zoo to provide a tiger cub to be known as Quintus. A Lance Corporal from the advance party worked at the zoo for a couple of weeks and became the cub's handler. Quintus was at the wharf to welcome the battalion home, but he was too small to participate in the welcome home parade and his paws were too tender to walk on the metal roads. Quintus was enrolled in the Army with the Regimental Number TF005.Some months later, 5RAR arranged with Taronga Park Zoo to contribute financially to the upkeep of Quintus.

Queen's and Regimental Colours were presented to 5RAR at Holsworthy on the 29th October 1967 by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler VC. who in his address referred to the battalion as "THE TIGER BATTALION". The original Quintus died in 1969 and was replaced by Quintus Secondus. In 1974 Quintus had a litter of cubs called Bravo, Charlie and Delta after three of the rifle companies (at the time Alpha Company was a training company). Later when other cubs were born, they were named after COs wives, e. g. Jocelyn ( Newman), Wendy (Greenhalgh) and Lorelie (Hooper). 5RAR was linked with 7 RAR in December 1973 and Quintus was retained as mascot of the 5/7RAR (Mechanised).

Contributed by:

Roger Wainwright
John Miller
John Warr

(5RAR was reformed on the 3rd December 2006)