24th Battalion (Australia)
Troops from the 24th Battalion cross the Hongorai River alongside Matilda tanks from the 2/4th Armoured Regiment in May 1945
|Size||~800–1,000 men[Note 1]|
|Part of||6th Brigade
|Colours||White over Red|
|Unit Colour Patch|
The 24th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Originally raised in 1915 for service during World War I as part of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, it was attached to the 6th Brigade, 2nd Division and served during the Gallipoli campaign and in the trenches of the Western Front in France and Belgium. Following the end of the war the battalion was disbanded in 1919, however, in 1921 it was re-raised as a unit of the part-time Citizens Forces in Melbourne, Victoria. In 1927, when the CMF adopted territorial titles, the battalion adopted the designation of 24th Battalion (Kooyong Regiment). In 1939, the 24th Battalion was merged with the 39th Battalion, however, they were split up in 1941 and in 1943, after being allocated to the 15th Brigade, the 24th Battalion was deployed to New Guinea before later taking part in the Bougainville campaign. Following the end of the war, the battalion was disbanded in 1946.
World War I
The 24th Battalion was raised in May 1915 at Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria, as a unit of the all-volunteer Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Along with the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Battalion, the 24th formed part of the 6th Brigade, which was assigned to the 2nd Division. It had originally been planned that the battalion would be raised from personnel drawn from outside of Victoria and it was designated as an "outer states" battalion meaning that it would draw its recruits from the less populous states of Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia; however, due to the large number of recruits that had arrived at Broadmeadows at the time it was decided to raise the battalion there, from Victorian volunteers. As a result of the hasty decision to raise the battalion very little training was carried out before the battalion sailed from Melbourne just a week after being formed.
Organised into four rifle companies, designated 'A' through to 'D', with a machine gun section in support, the battalion had an authorised strength of 1,023 men of all ranks. After arriving in Egypt, the 24th completed its training during July and August before being sent to Gallipoli in early September as reinforcements for the forces that had landed there in April. Arriving on the peninsula on 4 September, the 24th served in the Lone Pine sector, taking over responsibility for the front line the on 12 September. The position was very close to the Turkish trenches and was hotly contested. The position was so tenuous, that the troops holding it had to be rotated regularly, and as a result the 24th spent the remainder of the campaign rotating with the 23rd Battalion to hold the position against determined Turkish mining operations. The battalion remained at Gallipoli for three months until the evacuation of Allied troops took place in December 1915. During the period that the 24th was deployed to Gallipoli, a 52-man detachment was sent to Salonika to act as packhorse handlers for the British contingent.
Following this they returned to Egypt where they took part in the defence of the Suez Canal. In early 1916, the AIF was reorganised and expanded, to prepare it for further operations. In March 1916, the AIF's infantry divisions began transferring to France and Belgium to serve in the trenches of the Western Front. Their first major action in France came at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm in July and August 1916, after which over the next two-and-a-half years the 24th Battalion took part in many of the major battles undertaken by the Australians in Europe. In 1917, after the Germans shortened their lines and withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, in May the 24th took part in the Second Battle of Bullecourt where the battalion suffered over 80 per cent casualties, before later in the year attacking around Broodseinde. In 1918, despite being severely depleted, it played a defensive role during the German Spring Offensive before supporting the attack at Hamel in July. In August, it joined the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, attacking around Amiens, and then joining the advance that followed. In early October 1918, the battalion attacked the Beaurevoir and then Montbrehain. It was during this final attack, on 5 October, that one of the battalion's subalterns, George Ingram, performed the deeds that resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross. At the conclusion of the battle, the 24th was withdrawn from the line for rest and reorganisation and did not take part in further combat before the war came to an end on 11 November 1918. Its strength dwindled as the demobilisation process began and personnel were repatriated back to Australia, and the 24th Battalion was disbanded in May 1919. During its service during World War I the battalion lost 909 men killed and 2,494 men wounded. A total of 19 battle honours were bestowed upon the 24th Battalion in 1927 for its involvement in the war.
Inter war years
In 1921, the decision was made to perpetuate the numerical designations and battle honours of the AIF by re-raising the AIF units as part of the Citizens Forces. To a large extent most of these units were raised in the areas from where their personnel had been drawn during the war, thus maintaining their regional links in the process. The 24th Battalion was raised in Victoria with its headquarters in Surrey Hills, with detachments spread out around the area including depots at Camberwell, Box Hill, Upper Hawthorn, Ringwood and Belgrave. Upon formation, the newly raised battalion drew personnel from the 24th Infantry Regiment and part of the 29th Light Horse Regiment. In 1927, territorial designations were adopted by the Citizens Forces and the battalion became known as the 24th Battalion (Kooyong Regiment); the battalion's motto – "I Hold Fast" – was also approved at this time. In June 1939, the battalion was merged with the 39th Battalion to become the 24th/39th Battalion and was assigned to the 10th Brigade, 3rd Division.
World War II
At the outset of the World War II, due to the provisions of the Defence Act (1903) which prohibited sending the Militia to fight outside of Australian territory,[Note 2][Note 3] the decision was made to raise an all volunteer force to serve overseas—initial operations were conceived to be likely in the Middle East, France and later possibly the United Kingdom—while it was decided that the Militia would be used to defend the Australian mainland and to improve Australia's overall level of readiness through the reinstitution of compulsory military service and extended periods of continuous periods of training.
During this time the 24th/39th Battalion undertook a number of periods of continuous training, firstly in December 1940 when they exercised at Trawool and then throughout 1941 near Seymour in central Victoria. In February 1941, the 24th/39th Battalion was split to reform its component units. Later, in May 1942 following Japan's entry into the war, the 24th Battalion was moved to Queensland and then later in September, following the disbandment of the 10th Brigade, the 24th was transferred to the 15th Brigade. In 1943, the battalion was deployed to New Guinea along with the rest of the 3rd Division, arriving in Port Moresby over the course of three months between February and April and being sent to take part in the fighting around Lae and Salamua before later, in 1944, being detached to the 7th Division during the Finisterre Range campaign. In August 1944, the 24th Battalion was withdrawn back to Australia for rest and reorganisation on the Atherton Tablelands before deploying with the rest of the 15th Brigade to Bougainville in April 1945. On Bougainville the battalion took part in the drive to Buin in the southern sector, leading the advance to the Hongorai River along the Buin Road and reaching the Mivo River before being relieved by units of the 29th Brigade in July.
The war ended shortly afterwards, but the 24th Battalion remained on Bougainville until December 1945 when they were brought back to Australia. Following demobilisation, the battalion was disbanded on 19 January 1946. During its active service it lost 85 men killed and 184 wounded. Members of the battalion received the following decorations: two MBEs, two DSOs, eight MC and one bar, six DCMs, 16 MMs, one BEM, two GMs, 10 EMs, two EDs, and 33 MIDs. The battalion was awarded 11 battle honours for its direct involvement in the war in 1961; at the same time it was also entrusted with those awarded to the 2/24th Battalion.
The following officers served as commanding officer of the 24th Battalion:
- World War I
- Colonel William Walker Russell Watson;
- Colonel William Edward James.
- World War II
- Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Jeffery Anderson;
- Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hugh Falconer;
- Lieutenant Colonel George Frederick Smith;
- Lieutenant Colonel Allan Spowers;
- Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Gordon Walker.
- World War I: Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915–16, Somme 1916–18, Pozieres, Bapaume 1917, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Hamel, Amiens, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line, Beaurevoir, France and Flanders 1916–18.
- World War II: South-West Pacific 1943–45, Lae–Nadzab, Finisterres, Egan's Ridge–Hongorai Ford, Ogorata River, Bobdubi I, Bobdubi II, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Hongorai River, Hari River, Mivo Ford.
- During World War I the size of an infantry battalion was 1,023 men all ranks. During World War II, following the reorganisation of the 3rd Division along the jungle establishment, the size dropped to 803 men all ranks.
- This stipulation also applied to the 2,800 strong Permanent Military Force also.
- Of the 32 Militia battalions that saw active service during the war, all but three were given AIF status. Essentially this meant that as more than 65 per cent of their wartime establishment had volunteered for service overseas, the battalion could be sent anywhere, including outside of Australian territory. The 24th Battalion was one of the 29 battalions to receive this status.
- Kuring 2004, p. 47.
- Palazzo 2003, p. 6.
- "24th Battalion". First World War, 1914–1918 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
- Kuring 2004, p. 47.
- Roberts 2013, p. 8.
- Cameron 2011, p. 174.
- Cameron 2011, p. 150.
- Grey 2008, pp. 99–100.
- The London Gazette: . 6 January 1919. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
- Festberg 1972, p. 84.
- Grey 2008, p. 125.
- "24th Battalion (Kooyong Regiment)". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
- Johnston 2007, p. 5.
- Johnston 2007, p. 9.
- Grey 2008, pp. 145–147.
- Long 1963, p. 178.
- Cameron, David (2011). Gallipoli: The Final Battles and Evacuation of Anzac. Newport, New South Wales: Big Sky Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9808140-9-5.
- Festberg, Alfred (1972). The Lineage of the Australian Army. Melbourne, Victoria: Allara Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85887-024-6.
- Grey, Jeffrey (2008). A Military History of Australia (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-69791-0.
- Johnston, Mark (2007). The Australian Army in World War II. Botley, Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-123-6.
- Kuring, Ian (2004). Redcoats to Cams: A History of Australian Infantry 1788–2001. Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 1-876439-99-8.
- Long, Gavin (1963). The Final Campaigns. Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 1—Army. Volume VII (1st ed.). Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 1297619.
- Palazzo, Albert (2003). "Organising for Jungle Warfare". In Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey. The Foundations of Victory: The Pacific War 1943–1944. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Army History Unit. ISBN 978-0-646-43590-9.
- Roberts, Chris (2013). The Landing at Anzac 1915. Australian Army Campaigns Series # 12. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Army History Unit. ISBN 978-1-92213-220-8.