2/28th Battalion (Australia)
2/28th troops board a troopship in Cairns, August 1943, prior to the landing around Lae
|Size||~800–900 personnel[Note 1]|
|Part of||24th Brigade, 9th Division|
|Unit Colour Patch
The 2/28th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during the Second World War. Formed in mid-1940 from Western Australian volunteers, the battalion served in North Africa in 1941–42 as part of the 24th Brigade, which was assigned to the 9th Division. The battalion's first major engagement came during the Siege of Tobruk, where the battalion carried out defensive duties as part of the garrison for over six months before being withdrawn by sea. After undertaking occupation duties in Syria and Lebanon, the 2/28th took part in the First Battle of El Alamein in mid-1942 during which it was heavily depleted, and had to be rebuilt prior to its commitment to the Second Battle of El Alamein later in the year. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–44, where it was committed to capturing Lae, and then clearing the Huon Peninsula, and then retaking Borneo in 1945. After the war, the battalion was disbanded in early 1946.
Raised in Perth, Western Australia, in July 1940 from volunteers for overseas service as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), the battalion was allocated to the 24th Brigade, which was initially part of the 8th Division, but later reassigned to the 9th Division. The colours initially chosen for the battalion's Unit Colour Patch (UCP) were the same as those of the 28th Battalion, a unit which had served during the First World War before being raised as a Militia formation in 1921. These colours were white over blue, in a diamond shape, although a border of gray was added to the UCP to distinguish the battalion from its Militia counterpart; this was later changed, though, following the unit's involvement in the fighting at Tobruk, when it adopted a 'T'-shaped UCP.
Shortly after being raised, the battalion's personnel began concentrating at Melville Camp, near Fremantle, on 17 July. With an authorised strength of around 900 personnel, like other Australian infantry battalions of the time, the battalion was formed around a nucleus of four rifle companies – designated 'A' through to 'D' – each consisting of three platoons. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Lloyd, the battalion undertook a period of basic training in Australia to prepare them for combat, before embarking for overseas.
After training in Australia, in January 1941 the battalion was shipped to the Middle East, embarking from Fremantle, to join other elements of the 9th Division that were completing their training. After landing at Port Tewfik, the battalion established a camp at Khassa, north of Gaza, from where it undertook further training in Palestine before deploying to Libya. While the majority of the 9th Division moved into Cyrenaica in March 1941 following the departure of the 6th Division to Greece, the 2/28th, lacking transport, remained in Tobruk, on the border, along with the rest of the 24th Brigade. Following the arrival of German forces in North Africa to reinforce their Italian allies, the British were pushed onto the defensive and they were forced to withdraw from Benghazi to Tobruk, which subsequently fell under siege. There, the 2/28th helped defend the vital port for over six months, alternating between the main defence line and the rear areas, and conducting patrols, before being withdrawn via the sea to Alexandria in late September 1941, and then being moved further back to Palestine for a period of rest.
Throughout early 1942, the 2/28th served in a garrison role in Syria and Lebanon as part of the Allied occupation force that had been established in the French colonies in the aftermath of the short Syria–Lebanon campaign. This was interrupted in mid-1942, as German and Italian forces began advancing towards Egypt, and the 9th Division was hurriedly recalled to help check their progress. As a result, the 2/28th Battalion moved back to the Western Desert, where it took part in the First Battle of El Alamein in July 1942. On 27 July, the battalion was tasked with capturing "Ruin Ridge". After taking the position in a night attack, the 2/28th was then cut off and surrounded by German infantry and armour. Suffering heavy casualties, the majority of the battalion – around 500 men – was forced to surrender. A small group, about 90 men, were not captured, and they were later used as a cadre upon which the battalion was re-formed in Palestine. In September, the 2/28th returned to the front line, and, on 23 October, it was committed to the Second Battle of El Alamein, conducting raids behind German lines before being moved into the main area of operations around a position dubbed the "Saucer" on 31 October. They remained there until being withdrawn in December.
The battalion subsequently concentrated along with the rest of the division in Palestine, around Gaza. In early 1943, the decision was made to bring the 9th Division back to Australia to take part in the fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific, joining the other two 2nd AIF divisions – the 6th and 7th – which had been withdrawn the previous year as the focus of Australian Army operations shifted to the war against Japan. The battalion's casualties during its time in the Middle East amounted to over 60 officers and 1,400 other ranks killed, wounded or captured.
Arriving at Fremantle in February 1943, the battalion was re-organised for jungle operations on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland; as part of this process, the units of the 9th Division were converted to the jungle divisional establishment, which resulted in the authorised strength of its infantry battalions being reduced to around 800 men. It then subsequently took part in the amphibious landings around Lae in September 1943, landing to the east of the objective and leading the Australian advance across the Busu River. During the advance, the battalion carried out a forced crossing of the Busu under heavy Japanese fire, during which 13 men were swept away in the rain flooded waters. After the capture of Lae, which fell more quickly than the Allied planners had expected, the battalion took part in the Huon Peninsula campaign that followed as the Australians followed up the Japanese forces that were withdrawing north. During this time, the 2/28th took part in actions around Finschhafen, Gusika and Wareo before returning to Australia in January 1944.
The battalion undertook training on the Atherton Tablelands for the next year, before taking part in one of the final Australian campaigns of the war when they landed on Labuan Island. After taking part in the initial landings on 10 June, they advanced north coming up against stiff Japanese resistance around an area called the "Pocket", which was eventually cleared on 21 June. The battalion then re-embarked and was landed to the north of Brunei Bay, and advanced towards Beaufort, where they were when the war ended in August. Following this it undertook garrison duties around Jesselton; the battalion's strength dwindled slowly as personnel were returned to Australia for demobilisation or were transferred to other units for subsequent service. The battalion was finally disbanded in January 1946.
During its involvement in the war, a total of 3,153 men served with the 2/28th Battalion of whom 274 were killed and 511 wounded, while 480 were captured. Members of the battalion received the following decorations: two Distinguished Service Orders, six Military Crosses, four Distinguished Conduct Medals, 15 Military Medals and 51 Mentioned in Despatches.
- Tell el Makh Khad, Sanyet el Miteirya, Qattara Track, Busu River, Siki Cove, Gusika, Labuan, Beaufort, Defence of Tobruk, Defence of Alamein Line, El Alamein, South-West Pacific 1943–45, Lae–Nadzab, Finschhafen, Defence of Scarlet Beach, Borneo, and North Africa 1941–42.
- Lieutenant Colonel John Edward Lloyd (1940–42);
- Lieutenant Colonel Lewis McCarter (1942);
- Lieutenant Colonel Jack Loughrey (1942–43);
- Lieutenant Colonel Colin Hugh Boyd Norman (1943–45); and
- Lieutenant Colonel James Gordon Hendry (1945).
- By the start of World War II, the authorised strength of an Australian infantry battalion was 910 men all ranks, however, later in the war it fell to 803.
- Palazzo 2004, p. 94.
- Masel 1995, p. 3.
- "2/28th Battalion". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- Long 1952, pp. 321–323.
- Masel 1995, p. 6.
- Long 1952, p. 52.
- Masel 1995, p. 4.
- Coulthard-Clark 1998, p. 221.
- Masel 1995, p. 145.
- Masel 1995, p. 158.
- Maitland 1999, p. 78.
- Dean 2014, pp. 220–221.
- Keogh 1965, p. 315.
- Masel 1995, p. 238.
- Masel 1995, p. 239.
- Johnston 2002, p. 247.
- Festberg 1972, p. 88.
- Johnston 2002, p. xv
- Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1998). The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles (1st ed.). Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-611-2.
- Dean, Peter (2014). "From the Air, Sea and Land: The Capture of Lae". In Dean, Peter. Australia 1943: The Liberation of New Guinea. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. pp. 210–232. ISBN 978-1-107-03799-1.
- Festberg, Alfred (1972). The Lineage of the Australian Army. Melbourne, Victoria: Allara Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85887-024-6.
- Johnston, Mark (2002). That Magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of the 9th Australian Division 1940–46. Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-654-1.
- Keogh, Eustace (1965). South West Pacific 1941–45. Melbourne, Victoria: Grayflower Publications. OCLC 7185705.
- Long, Gavin (1952). To Benghazi. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1—Army. I (1st ed.). Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 18400892.
- Maitland, Gordon (1999). The Second World War and its Australian Army Battle Honours. East Roseville, New South Wales: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-975-8.
- Masel, Philip (1995) . The Second 28th: The Story of a Famous Battalion of the Ninth Australian Division (2nd ed.). Swanbourne, Western Australia: John Burridge Military Antiques. ISBN 0-646-25618-1.
- Palazzo, Albert (2004). "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. pp. 86–101. ISBN 978-0-646-43590-9.