2/16th Battalion (Australia)
|Active||April 1940 – February 1946|
|Part of||21st Brigade|
|Colors||White over Blue|
The 2/16th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, serving during World War II. Attached to the 21st Brigade of the 7th Division, it was formed in 1940 and saw action against Vichy French forces in Syria and Lebanon and the Japanese in New Guinea.
The 2/16th Battalion was formed in Perth, Western Australia on 20 April 1940. Many of the battalion's early recruits were from the Goldfields of Western Australia and this reportedly gave it a 'tough' character. The battalion had basic training at Northam Army Camp before embarking for Egypt in October 1940. After arrival the 2/16th moved to Palestine where it continued its training.
Middle Eastern campaign
The 2/16th provided defenses to the Egypt-Libya border to defend against a possible German attack, and occupied defensive positions in April and May 1941 before moving to Palestine. In June 1941 the battalion began offensive actions against the Vichy French troops as part of the Syria-Lebanon Campaign, or Operation Exporter. Major actions were the crossing of the Litani River, the attack on Sidon, and the battle of Damour. The 2/16th Battalion suffered 264 casualties in the campaign, the most of any of the involved Australian battalions. The unit remained in the Middle East until January 1942.
New Guinea campaign
The 2/16th arrived in New Guinea in August 1942. Later that month it was involved in the fighting retreat down the Kokoda Track against the Japanese, being rushed into the line to fill a gap after the 53rd Battalion fell back from Isurava.. At the Battle of Mission Ridge it suffered heavy casualties after being encircled by the Japanese and having to fight its way out. Following its relief at Imita Ridge it was linked with the 2/14th Battalion to form a full strength unit, as the battalion suffered so many casualties in the retreat. After actions at Gona, the 2/16th was withdrawn from the campaign in January 1943, with a strength of only 56 men. After a short period in Australia, the battalion returned to New Guinea in August 1943. After playing a minor role in the Battle of Lae, it moved to the Ramu Valley where it participated in patrol operations. Its only major battle during this period was the capture of Shaggy Ridge on 27–28 December.
After returning to Australia in March 1944, the battalion landed at Balikpapan on the 1 July during the Borneo campaign. Its heaviest combat of the Borneo campaign of was on the first day of this operation but the battalion continued aggressive patrolling until the end of the war on 15 August 1945. Following the war's end the 2/16th Battalion occupied the Celebes. The 2/16th Battalion was disbanded in January 1946 in Brisbane.
Throughout its service the battalion suffered 671 casualties, of which 223 were killed or died from wounds, accident or disease. Members of the battalion received the following decorations: 3 DSOs, 1 MBE, 6 MCs and 2 bars, 5 DCM, 20 MM and one bar and 63 MIDs.
- North Africa, Syria 1941, Syrian Frontier, The Litani, Wadi Zeini, Damour, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Kokoda Trail, Isurava, Eora Creek–Templeton's Crossing I, Efogi–Menari, Ioribaiwa, Buna–Gona, Gona, Amboga River, Lae–Nadzab, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Ramu Valley, Shaggy Ridge, Borneo 1945, Balikpapan.
- Uren, Malcolm (1959). A Thousand Men At War. London: Heinemann.