IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
TO KOKODA AND BEYOND
THE STORY OF THE 39TH BATTALION
1941 - 1943
By Victor Austin
Together with most of the militiamen from the 3rd and 49th Battalions, the majority of the 39th's militia personnel were transferred to the 36th (Militia) Battalion which welcomed their arrival and, thus reinforced, retained its identity until the end of the war. But not all the 39th Battalion transfers to the 36th were effected in the orthodox army manner. Keith Watson relates how he 'volunteered' for his new unit:
On the way back from leave at the end of May, I got involved in a 'jack-up' on Townsville station and found myself at a Transit Depot or Staging Camp at a place called Oonoomba just south of Townsville. There I learnt that a lot of the 39th blokes (the non-AIF enlistments) were being transferred to the 36th Battalion at a place called Nome - just a camp in the scrub beside a rail loop that ran out to Crocodile Creek Abattoirs about 15 or 20 miles south of Townsville.
Only a couple of days before that I had an unexpected reunion with Bert Whelan who had been wounded in the ankle in the Owen Stanleys and was now 'B Class' and a cook's offsider at Townsville showgrounds. We made a real day of it, but unfortunately run foul of an American Military Policeman on a motor-bike. The 'Yank" MP called in some of own MP's and we finished up behind the wire at Kissing Point Detention Centre.
Back at Oonoomba I was naturally put on a charge ('conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline') and had my pay-book taken from me. That same night, minus pay-book and without transfer papers, I tacked myself onto a draft going out to the 36th Battalion (I must have been one of the very few 39th who volunteered for the 36th!). Anyway, the ruse worked quite well and my pay-book (without charge sheet) eventually turned up at the 36th Battalion orderly room, though in the meantime a couple of Provosts had shown up at home in Gunbower looking for me.
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© Peter Dunn 2015
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This page first produced 11 July 1998
This page last updated 06 February 2015