Merauke Force

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Merauke Force
Vengeance (AWM 0G0537).jpg
A No. 12 Squadron RAAF Vengeance based at Merauke
Active 1942–45
Country Australia and Netherlands East Indies
Size Brigade
Garrison/HQ Merauke

Merauke Force was an Australian-led military force of World War II which was responsible for defending Merauke in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) from Japanese attack amidst the Pacific War. The force was established in late 1942 and was disbanded at the end of the war. The Japanese attack did not eventuate and the force never saw combat.


Merauke Force was established on 31 December 1942 to defend the strategic airstrip at Merauke on the south coast of New Guinea. At the time of its establishment the force comprised C Company of the Australian 62nd Infantry Battalion, the 1st NEI Fusilier Company and various Royal Australian Air Force units.[1] C Company, 62nd Infantry Battalion arrived at Merauke to reinforce the NEI company and RAAF on 7 January 1943. The remainder of the 62nd Battalion arrived on 1 February and an artillery battery arrived on 19 March.[2]

The Australian force at Merauke was gradually expanded to a full brigade during the first half of 1943. The headquarters of the 11th Brigade arrived on 28 April and was redesignated Headquarters Merauke Force. B Company, 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion arrived at Merauke on 2 July and the 31st/51st Infantry Battalion on 6 July. A Company, 26th Infantry Battalion was added to the force between 29 May and 2 August when it was flown into the inland town of Tanahmerah.[3] The 52nd Composite Anti-Aircraft Regiment was formed in September from previously independent anti-aircraft batteries.[4] The 62nd Infantry Battalion returned to Australia in February 1944 and was replaced by the 20th Motor Regiment.[5]

In April 1944 the Australian Army began to plan an offensive along New Guinea's south coast using elements of Merauke Force. In keeping with this more active role Merauke Force Headquarters was renamed Headquarters 11th Brigade. The 2/9th Field Artillery Regiment arrived at Merauke in March 1944 but the machine gun company returned to Australia in May 1944 as the threat of attack against Merauke declined.[6]

The planned offensive along New Guinea's south coast did not eventuate and it was decided to reduce the force at Merauke in mid-1944. The 11th Brigade Headquarters returned to Australia on 6 August. The 31st/51st Infantry Battalion, A Company, 26th Infantry Battalion and 2/9th Field Artillery Regiment followed in later in August and September. This left the 20th Motor Regiment as the main unit at Merauke and the regiment's headquarters commanded the forces in the region under the designation Headquarters Merauke Area.[7] The 20th Motor Regiment returned to Australia in February 1945 and command of the area passed to the 52nd Composite Anti-Aircraft Regiment. This regiment also returned to Australia on 4 July 1945 when the command of the Merauke region was handed over to the Dutch authorities.[8]


  1. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 66.
  2. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 72.
  3. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 82.
  4. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 83.
  5. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 92.
  6. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 93.
  7. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 100.
  8. ^ McKenzie Smith (1995), p. 101.