|1. FOREWORD.||2. THE NEED.||3. THE CONFLICTS.|
|4. THE NUMBERS GAME.||5. FACTS AND FIGURES.||6. THEY ALSO SERVED.|
|7. The 1914 -1918 Honour Roll||8. The 1939 - 1945 Honour Roll||9. Main References.|
Within weeks, the countries of Europe had dragged their world-wide allies, including Australia, into a conflict that would eventually claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
At the commencement of hostilities the 15 and the16 Batteries were again renamed - this time as the 40th and 41st. Batteries A.F.A. respectively, and when the Australian Imperial Force was formed they provided many members for 9 Battery A.F.A. which was raised in Tasmania as part of 3 Field Brigade, A.F.A.
The 3 Field Brigade was, in turn, part
of the First Division that trained in Egypt, took part in the Gallipoli
Peninsula landings in1915, and helped shape Australia’s history.
<Picture> An Australian Gun Enplacement (Gallipoli 1915).
the effective and secret evacuation of 80,000 men, 5,000 horses
and 200 guns from Anzac Cove in December, the last battery
to report ‘all clear’ was 9 Battery, which, by that time, consisted
of one remaining gun, under the direction of Sgt. W. G. McKenzie.
Under the secret evacuation orders, the gun crew had to leave this last gun for destruction by the sappers, because it could not be withdrawn without alerting the Turkish defenders.
In 1916, the 40th and 41st. Batteries were placed under the command of the 14 Field Brigade A.F.A. and continued to supply men for the 3 Brigade A.F.A.( which had been sent to France as a Corps artillery unit), although they had little opportunity for training.
Another unit formed to serve in France and made up mainly by Tasmanians was the 17 Battery, A.F.A. which was part the 6 (Army) Field Brigade, that brigade also contained the 16 and 18 Batteries A.F.A. as well as the 106 Howitzer Battery A.F.A. (again with a large Tasmanian contingent) which had originally been part of the 22 Howitzer Brigade A.F.A., but had been transferred to the 6th during a re-organisation in May 1916..
After the war, in 1919, the 17 and 9 Batteries were designated back to the militia batteries of 14 Field Brigade.
A total of 15,485 Tasmanians enlisted as soldiers during 1914-18 (about 4% of the nation’s population), and our servicemen’s deaths during the conflict amounted to 2,432 from the estimated 13,000 (approximate 5%) of those who embarked and, of these, at least 117 were artillerymen.
By 1921, the A.I.F., which had been
the only completely volunteer army on the Western Front in 1918, ceased
to exist and the divisional organisation of the A.I.F. was applied to peacetime
units to retain the traditions established in war.
Compulsory training was re-introduced and along came a few more name changes.
The existing 14 Field Brigade was renamed 6 Field Brigade A.F.A. with the Launceston 16th. Battery being equipped with four Quick-firing 18 Pound field guns, while the unit in Hobart, after being re-named 106 (Howitzer) Battery, A.F.A., was armed with four Q.F 4.5 inch howitzers.
In 1927, Tasmanian artillerymen of the 106 Battery were highly successful in winning the prestigious Mount Schank Trophy for being the most efficient artillery battery in Australia, and whilst the onset of the Great Depression, and the abolition of the compulsory military training scheme, in 1929, created some financial problems for the 6 Field Brigade A.F.A., they managed to keep their ranks full and continued training during those bleak years.
During 1936, one of the things that was granted by King Edward VIII, before his abdication, was the title of ‘Royal’ to units of the Australian Artillery and Engineers. Edward, who had been nicknamed ‘The Digger Prince’ when he had seen military service during the war, valued the ‘blood and guts’ contribution that Australian troops had poured into the effort to ensure eventual victory and this was one way he could reward and acknowledge it.
All the old militia titles were replaced, and the 6 Field Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery (Militia) was the latest addition to the string of name changes for the Tasmanian artillerymen.
World War II (1939 -45).
September 3rd. 1939 again saw Australia at war with Germany and another shuffle of name changes occurred in the Tasmanian artillery units, which at that time were being motorised at a special ‘Transition’ camp at Brighton.
Previous artillery training camps had always been held at Mona Vale with horse-drawn equipment.
Iron tyred guns and limbers were first of all carted and towed by a motley assortment of ‘volunteered’ vehicles, but, as time rolled on, the flood of purpose-built equipment arrived and our Tasmanian Artillerymen became extremely well trained over all types of terrain.
The 16 Battery R.A.A. became 17 Battery R.A.A. and the name 16 Battery was allocated to a new unit that was raised in Tasmania during May 1940, so for a while there were two 16 Batteries at Brighton.
The Two 16th. Batteries.
Up until very recently there has been much confusion from many who did not understand the difference between the 16th. Batteries in the two Tasmanian regiments.
The following extracts were supplied by former B.S.M. Charles G. McKenzie (whose father, Sgt. W. G. McKenzie, had been involved with the last Gallipoli gun):-
‘In 1940, the 6th. Field Brigade had 16, 17 and 106 Batteries.
At that time a ‘new’ 16th. Battery was raised for the 2/8 Field Regiment, 2nd A.I.F., later to join with 15th. Battery in Victoria so, at that time, there were TWO 16th. Batteries on Orbat - 16th. Battery, 2/8 Field Regiment and 16th. Battery, 6 Field Brigade.
16th. Battery, 2/8 Fld. Rgt. was in the then Artillery lines in Brighton Camp, and in that period (5 months) 6 Field Brigade became a field regiment. (Which meant that there were TWO 16th. Batteries in Brighton Camp at the one time.)’
‘I was officially discharged from the 6th. Field Brigade on the 12th. May, 1940 and officially joined 16th. Battery 2/8 Field Regiment 2nd. A.I.F. the next day, on the 13th. May 1940, and remained at Brighton for about 5 months.
The 6th Field Brigade (now Regiment), which was camped on the Brighton Racecourse, gave us a rousing send-off when we left camp and headed to the Brighton Station.’
The new battery was made up from about
half the members of the ‘old’ 16th. Battery, plus its ‘waiting’
list of new recruits, and came under the command of Major A. A.
Salter, as part of the Second A.I.F. and the 6 Field
Brigade R.A.A. strength was then rebuilt by the addition
of 68 Battery, that was later equipped with Q.F. 25 Pounder field
The term ‘brigade’ also went by the board and was replaced by the designation ‘regiment’- so the 6th. Field Regiment R.A.A. was born.
It’s main role was to protect the Australian continent from possible invasion from German or Italian sources, however, from 1941 onwards, with the formation of the Axis powers which now also included Japan, the Regiment was placed on full alert until the determined Japanese push was stalled in the jungles of New Guinea and at the confrontation in the Coral Sea.
The 6th. Field Regiment was disbanded in August 1944.
On 20th. October 1939, just seven weeks
after war had been declared, a force of 2nd. A.I.F. volunteers marched
into Brighton Camp to begin their training and they were joined, on 7th.
November when the units were being officially formed, by the militia volunteers.
Tasmania was to form the 10 Battery H.Q. and one troop of the 2/5 Field Regiment, which was to be strengthened by a contingent of Queensland officers and other ranks.
This composite Regiment eventually formed the 1st. Australian Anti-Tank Regiment on 17th. March 1940, and, with a number of Launceston Artillery officers and other personnel, it served in England, South Africa, Greece, Crete, Syria, as well as other South-West Pacific areas such as Dutch New Guinea, with great distinction.
Towards the end of the war, this regiment’s troops were even used as ‘infantry, to help finish off a desperate, but still fanatical, foe - but they were still always ‘gunners’.
However, in 1940 -41, the biggest problem facing the allies was the serious situation in North Africa and Europe where things were in temporary reverse for the Allies.
Early 1940 saw the raising of a Victorian
No. 15 Battery which, with the ‘new’ Tasmanian No.16 Battery, was to form
the basis of the 2/8 Australian Army Field Regiment, R.A.A.
The following movement dates of the 2/8 Australian Field Regiment are from notes and diary records supplied by former B.S.M. Charles McKenzie - who was there!
13th. May 1940 2/8 Fd. Regt. raised in Tasmania. -(16th. Battery and partial R.H.Q)
6th. Nov. 1940 Left Tasmania - to Puckapunyal.
16th. Nov. 1940
Left Port Melbourne - H.M.T. ‘Strathmore’. Other ships joined the
‘Strathmore’ to form the convoy for the Middle East -they included
the ‘Orion’ from Sydney, the ‘Stratheden’ from Adelaide and
the ‘Batory’ from New Zealand.
17th. Nov. 1940 Left Port Phillip.
21st. Nov. 1940 Arrived Fremantle.
27th. Nov. 1940 Left Fremantle.
16th. Dec. 1940 Arrived Port Suez. (One day leave to Colombo for all troops.)
17th. Dec. 1940 Disembarked El Kantara and moved to Camp Kilo 89.
18th. Jan. 1941 Moved to Quastina in Palestine.14th. Apr.1941. Changed to 2 batteries, each 2 x 6 gun troops.
22nd. Apr. 1941 Left Quastina to Alexandria. Overnight at Mustapha Barracks.
24th. Apr. 1941 Railed to Ikingi Maryuit, Egypt.(2/7 and 2/8 transferred to 9 Div. but not under command.)
23rd. May 1941 Railed to Mersa Matruh.
was a heavily fortified and battered town on the Meditterranean, which
although not attacked by ground forces like Tobruk, it was subject to constant
around the clock air attacks, and was known as the ‘Most bombed place in
the Middle East’
It was defended by a variety of perimeter guns with ‘D’ Troop, with it’s 6 x 25 Pounders in the town centre.
<Picture> Mersa Matruh (1941).
The under-equipped 16 Battery R.A.A. had consisted of three troops of four guns, which included Q.F. 18 Pounder guns and Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzers which it had picked up when it arrived in the Middle East as part of R.A.A. No.1 Australian Corps, but it was eventually re-equipped with 25 Pounder guns, which had also been procured from various sources, at Mersa Matruh where the troops carried out live firing training in the desert, and had their first taste of enemy activity.
During this time the 2/7 and the 2/8 came under the command of 2nd. South African Division (Maj.Gen. Brink) and the 15th.Battery was sent to the Halfaya-Sollum area while the 16th. Battery left for the Sidi Barrini-Sollum area.
Prior to departure the Regiment reverted back to its old 3 x 4 gun troop arrangement which had proven to be more ‘workable’ in the conditions they were encountering.
After their stint at Halfaya the15th.Battery returned to Mersa Matruh while the16th. Battery was attached to elements of the Scots Guard Brigade, which formed ‘Jock’ columns along the coastal area.
<Picture> Mersa Matruh After constant bombardments (1941).
These reasonably small co-ordinated units
named Fait, Hope and Char. were designed to give maximum strike power with
mobility - and to give the enemy a real hard time!
For a while, ‘Char’ column became home for the 16th. Battery personnel.
After the Scots Guards Brigade was relieved by elements of the 7th. Amoured Division (the Desert Rats), the 15th. Battery again came forward from Mersa Matruh and went to the 7th. Amoured Div. while the 16th. Battery then came under the command of the 102 Anti-Tank Regiment (Northumberland Hussars), 5th. Indian Division.
11th. Oct. 1941 Left Halfaya-Sollum to return to Palestine.
19th. Oct. 1941 Arrived Hill 69 Camp, Palestine.
22nd. Oct. 1941 Moved to Quastina.
The 2/8 Field Regiment was also re-organised again into three eight-gun batteries, when one troop from each of the 15 and 16 Batteries was regrouped to form a composite 58th. Battery when they arrived back in Palestine.
The regiment was then placed under the
control of 9 Division, which had just come out of Tobruk and was
to relieve 7 Division in Lebanon and Syria, and on 15th. January
1942 the gunners moved to ‘sunny’ Lebanon and camped at Jdaide
The weather was atrocious - bitterly cold, snowy and icy - the only redeeming feature was that, ‘for the first time ever’, an issue of rum was provided for the troops on their arrival.
Training became extremely intensive, with dozens of field and live-firing exercises including anti-tank shooting, as well as excursions to the north and south of Tripoli, into the Homs desert, Forcloss and Palmyra and as far north as the Turkish border.
Life wasn’t all fun and games, however!
The Division built a fortress near Tripoli which was known as Jebel Tourbal - it meant that with all the ‘fun’ they were having, they also had a little exercise to keep them fit.
At that time Tripoli, which had been under the influence of the Italians for centuries, had presented the allies with a real problem as the insidious ‘Fifth’ column of agents, spies and saboteurs had to be weeded out.
With so much history all around them, many of the Aussies took the chance to visit the old sites and enjoyed a trip to the ancient Crusader castle of Krak de Chevaliers, which was only 120 miles east of Triploi, but in June the 24th. Brigade stepped up training again.
Three weeks of combined exercises which were recorded as the ‘hottest, driest, and thirstiest exercises ever’, were carried out near Homs just before the troops left for Egypt.
July 1942 Left Jdaide for Egypt. Four nights,
three days later they were in temporary gun positions near Lake Maryuit
and Amiriya, just west of Alexandria. A few days there until the Regiment
moved to rear positions at the eastern end of Ruweiset Ridge. 9 Division
under command of 30 Corps, 8th. Army. El Alamein.
<Picture> Western Desert
Australian Gunners fired 1,250 rounds in
an hour and a half at rapidly changing ranges against the advancing enemy.
10th. July 1942 9 Div. attacks Tel el Eisa Ridge successfully. From that day until mid-September daily and nightly battles were fought. July was especially busy. A small lull in September gave the Div. time to do the necessary heavy preparations for the October offensive.
23rd. Oct. 1942 8th. Army attacks on full front. Australians heavily engaged all through to 5th. November. 8th. Army moves westwards with the Germans in full flight. Aussies now disengaged.
As Winston Churchill stated : ‘Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat!’
At this time, back in Australia, political
moves were being initiated to bring back more Australian troops needed
for the growing Japanese threat to our country.
A first contingent from the Middle East had been called for and had left Suez on Feb 4th. 1942, but now the Australian government really had to apply pressure on Churchill to release the balance of our men.
5th. Dec. 1942 Moved back to Palestine and camped at El Birij, south of Gaza, the general leave granted to all ranks was enjoyed to the fullest by many of the battle-weary men who took the opportunity to visit Cairo, the city that nearly was claimed by Rommel’s Afrika Corps.
22nd. Dec. 1942 Full Divisional parade on Gaza Aerodrome to honour our Fallen Comrades. General Alexander reviews the parade and accepts the salute from the Divisional march pass.
24-25th. Dec.1943 2/8 moves to Tel el Kibir, Egypt where all regimental vehicles, heavy stores and guns are left. Troops are trucked to Port Tewefik by British units.
1st. Feb. 1943
Sailed from Tewfik on ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’. The convoy which consisted
of the following vessels, the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’, ‘Queen Mary’, ‘Acquitania’,
‘Isle de France’ and the ‘Queen of Bermuda’ with a British Navy
escort, had loaded and left port seperately but met off Massawa Eritea
and sailed to Addu Atoll in the Maldives for re-fuelling.
Unescorted from there on, the convoy steamed south-east into the huge seas of the ‘Roaring Forties’ before heading north-east to Fremantle, to drop off the West Australians, and then on to Melbourne.
A rail trip to Seymour, for overnight encampment, and then the Tasmanians were back in Melbourne to board the T.S. ‘Nairana’ for Devonport.
Another few short rail trips to Launceston and Hobart and they were Home at last - for 14 days leave - before heading back to Trawool and later to Kairi on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland for the necessary retraining for tropical conditions, and to be ready for rapid deployment if needed.
For two years the regiment, with other divisional artillery, rotted in tropical north Queensland waiting until the Allies began their final push to reclaim the Pacific.
The Pacific War.
The Japanese had swept down through the Chinese mainland, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, the Philippines and had previously subdued all forces put before them, including the British, Australians, Dutch and Americans, but they met stubborn resistance by Australian infantry militia units and other artillery units in New Guinea from June 25th., 1942 onwards when the Australians pulled them up and finally destroyed an invasion force at Milne Bay on Sept. 6th.,1942.
This was regarded as the first defeat dealt out to the Japanese - and it proved that they could be beaten!
Another superior enemy force that had landed
at Gona on July 21st. and who had advanced and captured Kokoda,
in the New Guinea highlands, on the 29th., was held back by the
Australians who made a slow fighting withdrawal until Sept. 17th.,
then, after re-grouping at Imita Ridge, they advanced back over Ioribaiwa
Ridge on the 28th. and re-engaged the enemy.
The Australians returned to recapture Kokoda on November 2nd.,1942.
From December 1942 until May 1945, the Allied tide began sweeping the main Japanese forces back, but there were still pockets of fierce fanatical resistance left, like sores, that needed to be cleared out before the major offensive on the Philippines and the Japanese-held islands in the Pacific Ocean could begin in earnest.
On May 1st. 1945 the 1st. Australian Corps, of which 9 Division was a part, was engaged to take place in amphibious landings on Borneo, and the 2/8 Australian Field Regiment, including 16 Battery, was involved at Labaun, Brunei (on June 10th.) Miri and Seria and were still fighting against an enemy who continued to resist until a fortnight after the war had officially ended with the Japanese surrender on August 15th. 1945.
As peace became a reality, the winding down of the 2/8 Australian Field Regiment began and time-expired men began to gradually return to Australia on a roster basis, but there was no time to rest as rising tensions between the allies, particularly on the Korean Peninsula, was also taken as an excuse by our beloved bureaucrats to play the numbers game again with a vengeance.
On February 15th. 1946, barely six months after hostilities had finally ceased against the Japanese, recruiting for an Interim Australian Army officially commenced amongst our veterans, including artillerymen due for discharge, to confront the threat from those politically opposed former allies, and to form the nucleus for post-war forces.
The first three interim battalions had, in fact, commenced their formation a little earlier, on Moratai Island in late1945, and were tentatively numbered 66, 67 and 68 Battalions. They would later become the 1st., 2nd. and 3rd. Battalions A.R.A. when the ‘official’ policy was consolidated by the powers-that-be.
The post-war Australian Regular Army, as previously mentioned, was officially formed on Nov. 30th. 1947, to give us an army in readiness, and then the formation of the C.M.F., from our existing militia units on July 1st. 1948 became imperative, as the Korean People’s Democratic Republic, led by Kim Il Sung and backed by Russia and China, started to challenge the international and ideological borders between North and South Korea, and our Australian military and political leaders saw the probability of the frequent border incidents escalating into something far more serious.
At 4.00 a.m. (Korean time) on Sunday, 25th.
June 1950, a North Korean Army crossed the 38th. parallel and surged
into South Korea.
On 26th. July 1950, the announcement was made by the Acting Prime Minister, (Sir) Arthur Fadden, that Australian troops would be sent to Korea, under the auspices of the United Nations, and would be made up from volunteers drawn from the Permanent Army, the British Commonwealth Occupation Force and World War II veterans, and would form part of a British Commonwealth Division which would include Australian and New Zealand infantry and artillery units.
|1. FOREWORD.||2. THE NEED.||3. THE CONFLICTS.|
|4. THE NUMBERS GAME.||5. FACTS AND FIGURES.||6. THEY ALSO SERVED.|
|7. The 1914 -1918 Honour Roll||8. The 1939 - 1945 Honour Roll||9. Main References.|