2/5th Battalion (Australia)

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2/5th Battalion
2 5th Bn AIF in Syria November 1941.jpg
2/5th Battalion being addressed by Major General E.F Herring in Syria, November 1941
Active 18 October 1939–? February 1946
Country  Australia
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size

35 officers, 875 men (standard establishment)

34 officers, 769 (jungle establishment)
Part of 17th Brigade, 6th Division
Colours Black over Red
Engagements

World War II

Battle honours North Africa, Bardia 1941, Capture of Tobruk, Syria 1941, Merjayun, Damour, Greece 1941, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Wau, Bobdubi II, Mubo II, Mount Tambu, Komiatum, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Perimbil, Balif, Yamil–Ulupu, Kaboibus–Kiarivu
Disbanded February 1946
Insignia
Unit Colour Patch 2nd 5th Battalion AIF UCP.PNG

The 2/5th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army that served during World War II. It was raised at Puckapunyal, Victoria on 18 October 1939 as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, attached to the 17th Brigade of the 6th Division. The 2/5th were one only two Australian infantry battalions to fight against all of the major Axis powers during the war, seeing action against the Germans and Italians in Egypt, Libya and Greece and the Vichy French in Syria before returning to Australia in 1942 to fight the Japanese.[1] The battalion took part in two campaigns in New Guinea, firstly in 1942–43 and then again in 1944–45 when they took part in the Aitape–Wewak campaign.

Following the end of the war the battalion embarked to return to Australia on 1 December 1945 and disbanded at Puckapunyal in early February 1946. Today its battle honours are maintained by the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

Following the outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939, the Australian government announced the decision to raise the Second Australian Imperial Force for service overseas.[2] As part of the force, the 2/5th Battalion was raised in Melbourne, Victoria on 18 October 1939 and began to receive its first intake of men on 2 November 1939 when it moved to Puckapunyal.[3] Many of the battalion's initial recruits came from the Victorian Scottish Regiment, a Militia unit associated with the 5th Battalion which had been raised as part of the First Australian Imperial Force during World War I.[4]

Along with the 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions it formed the 17th Brigade, attached to the 6th Division. Between November 1939 and April 1940 the battalion undertook basic training before departing for the Middle East on 14 April 1940.[3]

North Africa, Greece and Syria 1941–42[edit]

They arrived in Egypt on 18 May 1940 and undertook a further period of training there and in Palestine before taking part in the fighting against the Italians in Libya in January–February 1941, during which time they were involved in attacks on Bardia and Tobruk.[3]

A few months later in April the 6th Division was sent to Greece in order to defend against a possible German invasion of that nation. The invasion subsequently took part as anticipated, although in the end the Australians were unable to stem the tide of the German onslaught. The 2/5th Battalion began the campaign at Kalambaka on 14 April, however, in a series of withdrawals made necessary by the lighting advance of German forces, they were pushed back all the way to the port of Kalamata from where it was evacuated just a couple of weeks later on 27 April 1941.[3] The battalion lost about 50 men as prisoners of war as a result of this campaign when a number of drivers were captured having been unable to make it out in time. A similar fate befell another group from the 2/5th Battalion that were sent to Crete as part of the 17th Brigade Composite Battalion.[3]

In June–July 1941, the 2/5th were deployed to Syria for the campaign against the Vichy French, during which time they took part in the Battle of Damour.[3] Once the fighting had ended, the battalion remained in the Middle East, serving as an occupation force in Syria and Lebanon until January 1942 when they were ordered to return to Australia due to the entry of Japan into the war.[3]

New Guinea 1942–43[edit]

Members of the 2/5th Battalion man defensive positions in New Guinea, August 1943

The battle departed from the Middle East on 10 March 1942, however, on the voyage back to Australia the 17th Brigade along with the 16th were disembarked in Ceylon.[3] For nearly four months they were stationed on the island in order to defend it against a possible Japanese attack before they finally received orders to return to Australia in July. On 4 August 1942 they arrived back in Melbourne having been away for over two years.[3]

There was little time for rest and re-organisation, however, as the situation in Pacific had deteriorated dramatically, and the Australian forces holding out against the Japanese in New Guinea were hard-pressed and desperately in need of reinforcement. Thus in early October 1942, not more than two months after arriving back in Australia, the 2/5th deployed to Milne Bay.[3] They did not take part in any fighting, however, until a few months later when in January 1943 they took part in the defence of Wau, before taking part in the advance on Salamaua, where they were involved in heavy fighting in July and August around Goodview and Mount Tambu.[3] The following month the battalion was withdrawn from the line and on 23 September 1943 they arrived back in Australia, landing at Cairns, Queensland.[3]

Aitape–Wewak campaign 1944–45[edit]

The 2/5th Battalion spent the next year training in north Queensland along with the rest of the 6th Division, during which time they were reorganised and converted to the jungle establishment. On 29 November 1944 they arrived at Aitape in New Guinea, where the 6th Division took over from the American garrison and in December began offensive operations against the Japanese forces that were operating in the surrounding areas.[5] For the next seven months until the war ended the 2/5th undertook a number of patrols through the Torricelli and Prince Alexander mountain ranges.[3] It was an arduous and costly campaign and throughout its course the 2/5th suffered 146 casualties, including 8 officers killed or wounded.[6]

Disbandment and legacy[edit]

Following the end of the war the 2/5th remained in New Guinea until 1 December 1945 when they embarked on the voyage back to Australia. They were disbanded in early February 1946 while at Puckapunyal in Victoria.[3] In 1948, the Citizens Military Force was re-constituted and the 5th Battalion, Victorian Scottish Regiment was re-raised.[4] At the time many of its members were drawn from the 2/5th Battalion and because of its territorial and personnel links it was decided that the Victorian Scottish Regiment would take custody of the 2/5th Battalion's World War II battle honours. Following the reorganisation of the Australian Army since the 1960s which saw the disbandment of the regionally-based single battalion regiments and the raising of new multi-battlaion state-based regiments[7] these battle honours are now perpetuated by the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment, an Australian Army Reserve battalion based around Melbourne, Australia.[8]

Battle honours[edit]

  • World War II: North Africa, Bardia 1941, Capture of Tobruk, Syria 1941, Merjayun, Damour, Greece 1941, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Wau, Bobdubi II, Mubo II, Mount Tambu, Komiatum, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Perimbil, Balif, Yamil–Ulupu, Kaboibus–Kiarivu.[3]

Commanding officers[edit]

  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Page Cook;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Wrigley;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Roy King;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Frederick George Wood;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Daniel Sarsfield Starr;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Alfred William Buttrose;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Mayo Conroy.[3]

Casualties[edit]

  • 216 killed, 390 wounded.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The only other Australian infantry battalion to do this was the 2/3rd Battalion.
  2. ^ Grey 2008, p. 146.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "2/5th Battalion". Seond World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Harris, Ted. "History of the Victorian Scottish Regiment". Digger History. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  5. ^ Long 1963, pp. 271–281.
  6. ^ Long 1963, p. 385.
  7. ^ Grey 2008, p. 228.
  8. ^ Harris, Ted. "Royal Victoria Regiment: A Full History". Digger History. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 

References[edit]

  • Grey, Jeffrey (2008). A Military History of Australia (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-69791-0. 
  • Johnston, Mark (2008). The Proud 6th: An Illustrated History of the 6th Australian Division 1939–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-51411-8. 
  • Long, Gavin (1963). The Final Campaigns. Australia in the War of 1939–1945 Official History Series. Series 1 – Army. Volume VII. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  • Trigellis–Smith, Syd (1988). All the King's Enemies: A History of the 2/5th Australian Infantry Battalion. Ringwood East, Victoria: 2/5 Battalion Association. ISBN 9780731610204.