59th Battalion (Australia)

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59th Battalion
Active 1916–1919
Country Australia Australia
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Role Line Infantry
Size ~800–1,000 men[Note 1]
Part of 15th Brigade (in both WWI and WWII)
Colours Brown alongside Red

World War I

World War II

Unit Colour Patch 59th Battalion AIF Unit Colour Patch.PNG

The 59th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Initially raised for service during World War I, the battalion fought on the Western Front in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918, before being disbanded in 1919. In 1921 it was re-raised as a part-time unit of the Militia in Victoria. They remained in existence until 1942 when, due to a manpower shortage in the Australian economy, the decision was made to amalgamate the battalion with the 58th Battalion to form the 58th/59th Battalion. Together they remained linked throughout World War II, serving in New Guinea and Bougainville. In 1952, the 59th Battalion was re-raised and subsequently was absorbed into the Royal Victoria Regiment in 1960.


World War I[edit]

The 59th Battalion was originally raised as a unit of the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Egypt on 21 February 1916 for service in World War I as part of an expansion of the AIF that took place following the end of the Gallipoli campaign. The battalion was formed through the joining of half of the members of the 7th Battalion with fresh recruits raised in Australia from rural Victoria. Together with the 57th, 58th and 60th Battalions, the 59th formed part of the 15th Brigade, attached to the 5th Australian Division.[3]

Lieutenant Colonel John Scanlan, who commanded the 59th Battalion during World War I

Arriving in France on 23 June, the battalion experienced its first taste of fighting on the Western Front in July when it was involved in the Battle of Fromelles, suffering heavy casualties to machine gun fire. The battalion was allocated defensive duties for the next 10 months before participating in the Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917. In reserve during the Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, the battalion next participated in the fighting at Amiens on 8 August, the Battle of Mont St Quentin and Péronne on 31 August and lastly during the Battle of St. Quentin Canal on 29 September. Placed into reserve again for rest and reinforcement, the war ended before the battalion saw further action, and it was disbanded on 24 March 1919.[3]

Inter-war years and later[edit]

The battalion was raised again as the "59th Battalion (The Coburg-Brunswick Regiment)" as part of the Citizens Force in 1921.[4] At this time it was assigned to the 15th Brigade again, which was then under the command of the 3rd Division.[5] Due to the lack of numbers and funding following the Great Depression and the suspension of the compulsory training scheme, the battalion's authorised strength was greatly reduced during the interwar years and it suffered from a lack of recruits and training opportunities during this time.[6][7]

In 1939, the battalion underwent a name change, adopting the territorial title of the "Hume Regiment", when its recruitment territory was re-adjusted with the 59th Battalion.[8] From 1938 to 1940 the 59th Battalion (Hume Regiment) came under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Purnell Hill, MM, ED.[9] In 1940, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Whalley, VD, took over the role of commander, filling the post until 1942. On 27 August 1942, as a result of a governmental decision to reduce the size of the Militia and return some of its personnel to civilian industry, the 59th Battalion amalgamated with the 58th Battalion becoming the 58th/59th Battalion.[10] The 58/59th Battalion would go on to see action in World War II in the South-west Pacific in 1943–45. It was disbanded on 23 February 1946.[4]

Following the end of the war, Australia's part-time military force was re-raised in 1948 under the guise of the Citizens Military Force. The 59th Battalion was not re-formed at this time, however. In 1952,[11] the battalion was raised again as the "59th Battalion (Hume Regiment)" and assigned to the 6th Brigade.[12] On 23 March 1958 the battalion became the first infantry battalion in Australia to be granted the Freedom of Entry to a city when it was afforded the honour by the city of Shepparton, Victoria.[11] After the Pentropic re-organisation of the Australian Army in 1960, the battalion was absorbed into the 2nd Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment, forming a company-sized element of that unit.[13]

Battle honours[edit]

  • World War I: Somme 1916, Somme 1918, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Ancre 1918, Villers-Bretonneux, Amiens, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line, Hindenburg Line (12 September 1918 – 9 October 1918), St Quentin Canal, St Quentin Canal (29 September 1918 – 2 October 1918), France and Flanders 1916–1918, Egypt 1915–1917.[3]
  • World War II: South-West Pacific 1943–45, Bobdubi I, Bobdubi II, Komiatum, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Finisterres, Hongorai River, Hari River, Ogorata River, Mivo Ford, Barum, Mobiai River.[4]


World War I[edit]

World War II[edit]

59th Battalion
  • Ernest Purnell Hill;[9]
  • Rupert Whalley.
58/59th Battalion
  • Rupert Whalley;
  • Arthur Palmer;
  • Patrick Star;
  • George Warfe;
  • Hyde Sweet;
  • William Mayberry.[4]


  1. ^ During World War I, the approved establishment of an Australian infantry battalion was 1,023 men.[1] By the beginning of World War II, after the 59th Battalion had been amalgamated, the normal size of an Australian infantry battalion had fallen to 910 men all ranks. Later still, following the reorganisation of the 3rd Division along the jungle establishment, the size dropped to 803 men all ranks.[2]
  1. ^ Kuring 2004, p. 47.
  2. ^ Palazzo 2003, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b c d "59th Battalion". First World War, 1914–1918 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 24 January 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d "58th/59th Battalion". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Palazzo 2001, p. 102.
  6. ^ Keogh 1965, p. 44.
  7. ^ Palazzo 2002, p. 69.
  8. ^ Kuring 2004, pp. 112–113.
  9. ^ a b "59th Battalion: Appointments". Orders of Battle.com. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Mathews 1961, p. 7.
  11. ^ a b "History – 8/7 Royal Victoria Regiment". Australian Army. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Palazzo 2002, p. 163.
  13. ^ Palazzo 2002, p. 172.


  • Keogh, Eustace (1965). South West Pacific 1941–45. Melbourne: Grayflower Publications. OCLC 7185705. 
  • 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. 
  • Mathews, Russell (1961). Militia Battalion at War: The History of the 58th/59th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Second World War. Melbourne: 58th/59th Battalion Association. OCLC 224101353. 
  • Palazzo, Albert (2001). The Australian Army: A History of its Organisation 1901–2001. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-551506-4. 
  • Palazzo, Albert (2002). Defenders of Australia: The 3rd Australian Division 1916–1991. Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military Historical Publications. ISBN 1-876439-03-3. 
  • Palazzo, Albert (2003). "Organising for Jungle Warfare". In Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey. The Foundations of Victory: The Pacific War 1943–1944. Canberra: Army History Unit. ISBN 978-0-646-43590-9.