AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
Brigadier John Field was urgently returned from the Middle East in early 1942 to take charge of the 7th Militia Brigade to prepare them to defend north Queensland against a possible Japanese invasion.
The 7th Militia Brigade comprised the 9th Battalion, the 25th Battalion and 61st Infantry Battalions.
The 9th Battalion manned an Observation Post near the Bunyaville Dispersal area on Sparkes Hill (Map Ref. 166967- Samford Training No. 4). Communications was maintained to Battalion Headquarters by a runner.
At 1200 hrs on 20 April 1942, Major General Milford, Commander 5th Australian Division and Lieut. General Lavarack, Commander 1 Australia Corps visited the 9th Battalion in the Bunyaville Dispersal area.
A concert starting at 1945 hrs was provided by the Patriotic Entertainers in the grounds of the Bunyaville School on Tuesday 21 April 1942.
At 1900 hrs on 21 April 1942, the Commanding Officer attended a conference at 7th Brigade Headquarters. A Warning Order was received for a move to the Nambour area. At 0730 hrs on 22 April 1942, 2 I/C left on a recce of proposed new Battalion area in Nambour district. At 1400 hrs on 23 April 942, The Commanding Officer and the Adjutant met up with the 2 I/C at Nambour after a recce of a site in the vicinity of Maroochydore which had been chosen for the Battalion bivouac area.
At 1100 hrs on 28 April 1942, and advance party comprising Pioneer - Mortars 8, 10, 14, 17 and 19 Platoons departed for the Maroochy area. At 0700 hrs on 29 April 1942 Carrier Platoon left for the Maroochy area. At 1055 hrs on 29 April 1942, an Operation Order was issued for Battalion movement to Maroochydore. At 0045 hrs on 30 April 1942 a message was received from 5th Australian Division that the 9th Battalion would not move to the Maroochy area. At 1830 hrs on 30 April 1942, the advance party returned from the Maroochy area.
At 1400 hrs on 5 May 1942, a Warning Order was received for a move from the Bunyaville Dispersal area to the Townsville area. At 1900 hrs on 7 May 1942 an Advance Party left for Townsville. The 1st party from the 9th Battalion left for Townsville by train at 1030 hrs on 8 May 1942. Further parties left by train for Townsville on 9 May 1942 between 0130 hrs to 2030 hrs.
The Advance Party arrived in Townsville at 0800 hrs on 9 May 1942 and lays out selected Battalion area at Stanley. Final parties left for Townsville between 0545 hrs and 1600 hrs on 10 May 1942. Portions of the main body arrived at Townsville and proceeded to bivouac area between 0600 hrs and 2400 hrs on 11 May 1942. The final party arrived in Townsville area at 1500 hrs on 13 May 1942.
The Battalion was initially dispersed in an area at Antill Plains outside of Townsville. On arrival at Antill Plains they dug slit trenches. At 1330 hrs on 13 May 1942, an Air Raid Alarm was sounded. The all clear was sounded at 1545 hrs. At 1730 hrs on 14 May 1942 another Air Raid Alarm was sounded and the "All Clear" was given at about 1830 hrs. This alarm proved to be false.
On the 13 and 14th May 1942 all Companies of the 9th Battalion climbed the high features adjacent to Antill Plains for observation and orientation purposes.
Brigadier Field then chose Rollingstone just 50kms north of Townsville as the most likely spot for the defence against a Japanese landing. At 0930 hours on 15 May 1942, the 9th Battalion and the rest of the 7th Brigade moved north by motor transport to the Rollingstone Creek area 50 kms north of Townsville. They arrived there at 1330 hours where they established their new camp and dug in their defensive positions along the coast at Rollingstone. Work commenced on constructing two mortar posts. On the 16th and 17th May 1942 all Companies of the 9th Battalion carried out recce patrols of the Rollingstone Dispersal area.
They also prepared a number of fallback defensive lines in case they had to retreat towards Townsville. If this were to eventuate, they would be supported by the 11th Brigade and the 29th Brigade. Infantry training was only held two days per week with the rest of the time being devoted to digging in their defensive positions. While they were in their defensive positions the Japanese made a number of air raids on Townsville.
An entry in the 9th Battalion Routine Orders Part 1 by Lt. Col. H.D. Morgan, Commanding dated 17 May 1942, No. 113, reads as follows:-
Establishment of P.A.C.
It is advised that a P.A.C. (Blue Light Depot) has been established near Shire Hall at corner of Charters Towers Road and Flinders Street West (Causeway Area).
The P.A.C. is open from 0700 hrs to 2350 hrs daily.
The above Routine Orders also noted that "The Township of Rollingstone was out of bounds to all troops, except personnel on duty, and personnel proceeding and returning from fortnightly leave."
Brigadier Field noted the following in his diary:-
"One problem at Rollingstone was the sugar farmers. We had to clear fields of fire in the cane and clear scrub. There were always protests, sugar inspectors, inflated claims for so much timber destroyed - this at the time of the Coral Sea Battle."
"We'd just begun the training programme when we were ordered to Milne Bay."
On the 18 May 1942 a rumour became prevalent within the Battalion area that Port Moresby had fallen to the Japs. The rumour proved to be false.
On 28 May 1942 a Mortar shoot from two of the mortar posts to verify ranges and alignment of targets. The targets were ROCKY BOTTOM (Map Ref 05900678) and CLEARING (Map Reference 05900681).
At 1000 hrs on 28 May 1942 a practice Air Raid Waring was sounded. The "All Clear" was given at 1115 hrs.
At 1400 hrs on 28 May 1942, the Intelligence Officer carried out a recce patrol at Mount Spec for the purpose of observation and finding a route in rear to Mt. Halifax.
By the 30 May 1942 three A/A posts had been completed in the Rollingstone Dispersal area. These posts were manned daily from 0530 hrs to 1900 hrs.
An advanced party of the 7th Militia Brigade (9th Battalion, the 25th Battalion and the 61st Battalion) under the command of Brigadier J. Field, moved to Milne Bay on 11 July 1942.
The 61st Battalion, the Queensland Cameron Highlanders, moved to Milne Bay from Townsville on the Dutch ship Swartenhondt in early August 1942.
The Defence of Townsville
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 13 July 1998
This page last updated 13 January 2017