31ST AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION
THE KENNEDY REGIMENT, 11TH BRIGADE
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

The 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, the 26th Battalion and 51st Battalion made up the 11th Brigade whose headquarters were at Kissing Point.

During World War 2, the 31st Battalion was camped in the Australian Army Camp in the Townsville Showgrounds from October 1939. 

The 26th, 31st and 51st Militia Battalions moved to Miowera Camp near Funnel Creek, near Bowen on 23 March 1940. They were in camp there until about mid June 1940. The troops then returned to their civilian occupations. The members of the 31st Battalion had travelled to Bowen from Townsville by the steamer S.S. Orungal because the bridge over the Burdekin River was cut by flooding.

The 31st Battalion formed camp again in Townsville Showgrounds for a further 3 months from about mid April 1941 until mid July 1941.

All units were placed on full-time duty from 22 October 1941 and at least part of "A" Company (mainly personnel from Ayr and Home Hill) went into camp in the grounds of the Mundingburra State School. They had tents among the trees in the area adjoining the school building, and they used some of the school rooms for their orderly Room, etc. Their mess located under one of the school rooms. This was where Loftus Dun first tasted tripe and enjoyed it! School classes continued as normal and some of the soldiers participated in the school air raid warning drills when they were held. There was one large air raid shelter located in the school grounds.

At 1400 hours on 25 January 1942 Brigadier North and other Officers of the 11th Infantry Brigade and the Adjutant and Captain Theodore of "A" Company, carried out a recce of an area above Hervey's Range for the purpose of improving a road between Hervey's Range and Dotswood Station, to provide an alternative route between Townsville and Charters Towers.

A conference of Company Commanders at the Townsville Showgrounds at 1845 hrs on 26 January 1942 confirmed the new Dispersal of the Companies as follows:-

"A" Company    for Hervey's Range Area on at 0900 hrs on 27 January 1942
"B" Company    for Dispersal Area on Ross River near the Power Station at 2100 hrs on 27 January 1942
"C" Company    Remain in camp at the Townsville Showgrounds until duties finished and move out on 29 January 1942 at 0900 hrs to Hervey's Range area
"D" Company    Remain in camp at the Townsville Showgrounds as Duty Company
"E" Company    not on posts, go to same Dispersal Area as "B" Coy at 0900 hrs on 27 January 1942
HQ Company    Disperse to Ridge near Cluden (Pitts Ridge)
B.H.Q.              remain in camp with exception of Band, who proceed with H.Q. Coy

On 29 January 1942 some of the duties being carried out by the 31st Battalion were as follows:-

Guard on Petrol Dump near Garbutt Airfield RAAF
30 men Tree felling at Bohle and Black Rivers
30 men Ack Ack Post at 3 Mile Creek, Rowes Bay
35 mean unloading stores at Garbutt
"A" Coy working on road near Dotswood Station on Hervey's Range.
5 men guarding Ammunition Dump at the Rifle Range

To provide for the dispersal and protection of personnel and vehicles, the 31st Battalion vehicle were dispersed at the West End School Area (Carriers only) and at Cluden Racecourse Road, Charters Towers Road Junction area (other vehicles) with the following exceptions:-

Rifle Coy                    5 x 30cwt Lorries
Stretcher Bearers       5 x 15cwt Vans
1 M.M.G. Platoon        4 x 15cwt Vans
1 Mortar Det.              1 x 15cwt Van
1 Sigs                        1 x 15cwt Van

On 3 February 1942 a message was received from Brigade that a Japanese Aircraft Carrier was off the coast and that an Air Raid may be expected. The Training Coy and the VDC at teh Showgrounds moved to the Dispersal Area as a precaution.

At 1200 hrs on 17 February 1942 the M.M.G. Ack Ack posts at Wills Street and Melton Hill were withdrawn on Brigade instructions.

The War Diary of the 31st Battalion has an entry at 1300 hrs on 21 March 1942 stating "First Jap RECCE Plane over city."

On 26 March 1942 the following message was received from 11th Infantry Brigade Headquarters:-

"Reports received indicate possibility of enemy landing NORTH QUEENSLAND by end of month. All units will be at 12 hours notice from this date. No leave to be granted that will take members beyond 6 hours recall. Acknowledge."

The following day Brigade Officers became aware that an enemy Convoy in the Celebes was heading towards Australia which must have prompted the above message the previous day. All fighting units were moved from Sellheim to the coast. Orders were issued for steel helmets to be worn or carried on all occasions. Respirators were issued out on 28 March 1942.

News was announced on 30 March 1942 that Brigadier North was being transferred to the 7th Infantry Brigade in Brisbane. He was replaced by Brigadier Porter as Brigadier of the 11th Infantry Brigade who arrived in Townsville by air at 1800 hrs on 31 March 1942. He only stayed in the role for a very short while, leaving on 14 April 1942.

No 4 Signal Post on Magnetic Island was recalled on 12 April 1942 and was replaced by an American unit with detector apparatus.

The men of the 31st Battalion were woken when a large explosion rocked the battalion area at 0400 hours on 21 April 1942. It was associated with the tragic crash of B-26 Marauder, #40-1473, of the 33rd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group. The crew of 8 were all killed when the aircraft crashed and exploded after takeoff at Garbutt airfield about 500 yards west of Jimmy's Lookout.

At 1030 hrs on 21 April 1942 a message was received from 11th Brigade concerning Enemy Parachutists. On the 22 April 1942, conversation with Brigade confirm report of a parachutist landing 13 miles south of Giru who was seen by a man and his wife both of whom were reliable persons.

On the 23 April 1942, the 31st Battalion War Diary had the following entry:-

"Verbal reports from Bde show that there is Enemy Air Activity over GULF OF CARPENTARIA; also that local detectors picked up 2 unidentified planes on the 20 and 21 Apr. Further investigations into the parachutist incident seems to show that a parachutist did actually land. Another Bde Report shows that a Japanese plane flew very low over a large mob of cattle near BOBAWABA on the BOWEN LINE. This report has yet to be confirmed."

 

The following entry appears for 0200 hrs on 24 April 1942 in the War Diary for the 31st Battalion:-

C.O. and O/C Patrol, Lieut R.D.B. Smith, called to Bde where he received orders for party of 1 Off., 2 Sgts and 15 O/Rs including 1 signaller to embark in a Flying Boat at 0700 hours. Party were to take with them 2 BREN guns, 3 carbines, Ammunition, and 4 days rations. They are to carry out special mission under sealed orders."

"Lieut R.D.B. Smith of "A" Coy is chosen for the job, together with men from that Coy."

 

At 1700 hrs on 25 April 1942 the party on the special mission returned as reported in the War Diary below:-

"Fighting patrol returns from CAPE MELVILLE without any scalps. Investigation showed that there was no trace of the enemy in that locality. Lieut. R.D.B. SMITH furnished written report."

 

Suspected Japanese Supply Dump at Cape Melville
Investigated by 31st Battalion on 24/25 April 1942

 

The following message was received from 11th Brigade Headquarters on 26 April 1942:-

"Information from H.Q. Melbourne possibility AIR RAID by Carrier based air craft in force against east coast of AUSTRALIA by 2 May stop take every precaution, protection of personnel and supplies stop anti aircraft weapons continually manned repat manned stop ack."

 

On the 26 April 1942 the Brigadier ordered that all Signals Offices be dug well underground to allow them to continue operating during enemy Air raids.

On 28 April 1942 troops commenced digging on Battalion positions on the western side of Castle Hill.

At 1045 hrs on 1 May 1942 and Air Raid Warning YELLOW was received from Brigade, followed 15 minutes later by a WHITE warning. Reliable reports indicated that unidentified aircraft were over Townsville. Certain Ack Ack Defences opened fire on the aircraft.

At 1100 hrs on 9 May 1942 the following entry appears in the 31st Battalion War Diary:-

Advice from Bde re possibility of landing by enemy commando troops. C.O. immediately summons Coy. Comdrs to conference, and issues warning order. Allots patrols for various coys, also areas to be guarded. Post and patrols to be manned on receipt of advice.

 

At 1400 hrs on 14 May 1942 work commenced on new areas and underground offices for Signals and "I" section.

On 19 May 1942 Approximately 45 ordinary ranks and 1 Officer under the command of an engineer started to build a road and gun emplacements on the foot hills of Castle Hill for 41 Heavy Battery (41 Hy. Bty.) near the Orphanage.

On 19 May 1942 31st Battalion started to move to the Bohle River area taking over areas previously occupied by 51 Battalion.

At the suggestion of Intelligence, the 31st Battalion "The Kennedy Regiment", moved from the Townsville Showgrounds to Mango Avenue in Townsville. "A" Company moved to a house  where the area was known as "Warsaw". The owner of the house was Polish. They stayed there until the Units moved to Nome.

The 11th Brigade Headquarters Op. Section "moved from Denham St. to the house mentioned by Loftus Dun, in Church St (West End) up against Castle Hill at 1300 hrs on 2 May 1942. The signallers had built a bunker into the Hill, with quite big logs - at least 18" in diameter. I doubt that a direct hit would have done much damage, because the logs on the roof were huge and covered with dirt. While we were in the HQ at Church St, at West End, the signallers operated there all the time". 

Initially Loftus Dun was in "A" Company of the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion until about April 1942. From about mid February 1942 he was temporarily transferred for about 6 weeks to Combined Defence Headquarters which was located oat that time on the top floor of the Commonwealth Building in Sturt Street. He then was transferred to the Headquarters of the 11th Australian Infantry Brigade for the remainder of the war. The 11th Brigade Headquarters were located in a house on the corner of Denham Street and Wills Street at that time.

Could this presence at West End be the connection with the stone buildings at West End and the communications cable?

There is a Centenary memorial for the 31st Battalion at Jezzine Barracks in Townsville.

The Kennedy Regiment Library collection is housed in the Hinchinbrook Shire Library in Ingham. The collection was bequeathed to the the Library by the Battalion historian Bob Burla. His widow  Mrs Elsie Burla has arranged for the transfer of the collection from their  house to the Library. Mrs Burla is completing the history of the Battalion which Mr Burla began - it was eventually published in 2005.

 

REFERENCES

"Crossed Boomerangs - A History of the 31 Battalions"
By Bob Burla

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Loftus Dun for his assistance with this home page.

 

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This page first produced 5 July 1998

This page last updated 14 January 2017