RAAF SECURITY GUARD UNIT
LATER NO. 1 AIRFIELD DEFENCE SQUADRON
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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RAAF Security Guard Badge

 

RAAF SECURITY GUARDS

By Ian D. Jenkins, Canberra, January 2000

The Security Guards Unit was first established on 1 October 1942 in the vicinity of Livingstone fighter airstrip, located on the Stuart Highway, some 34 miles south of Darwin.   It was during this period that airfields in the Darwin area were receiving regular attention from Japanese bombers, and the threat of invasion was very much a reality. The unit later moved to Nightcliff (now a suburb), a short distance north of Darwin, on 12 June 1943, and was renamed No.1 Airfield Defence Squadron on 7 April 1945. On 23 September 1945, the unit was again moved to Winnellie, where it was disbanded on 19 November 1945.   Another unit, No.2 Airfield Defence Squadron was also formed at Morotai on 10 April 1945, and remained there until disbanded on 29 October 1945. A detachment of this unit was established at Tarakan on 1 May 1945, and was also disbanded on 29 October 1945.

The guards were specially selected, and after their initial 4-week recruit course, were required to complete a 4-week Guards Course prior to being posted to their service unit. They were given further intensive training along infantry lines in the bush near Darwin in the Northern Territory, firstly at Livingstone Airfield and later at Nightcliff.  Their primary role was the ground protection of airfields by paratroops and glider-borne troops, including infantry or sniper attack, and also to provide ceremonial guards when required.  Training was carried out using infantry weapons such as Owen Guns and .303 Le Enfield rifles with ball ammunition and fixed bayonets. They were also referred to by other such titles as "RAAF Infantry Regiment"  and "Group Captain Caldwell's RAAF Infanteers". Opportunity existed for them to later become Airfield Defence Instructors after successfully completing a special 8-week course.

A special screen-printed badge for Security Guards was instituted possibly in early 1943 as a means of identification, and one which they wore with pride, sewn on the right side of the pugaree of their fur-felt hat.  It comprised a 2-1/2 x 2 inch piece of white cloth, on which was printed a central blue roundel with a red eagle superimposed across it similar to that of the VAOC. Superimposed over that again was a black crossed rifle and sword. Research by the author appears to indicate that the badge was produced locally and was worn within the unit, and did not have an official RAAF identification number.  It is also a very rare badge, with only two surviving examples being known to the author, one at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria, and the other at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The original WW2 guards were the forerunners of the RAAF’s Airfield Defence Guards. An attempt was made to reform No.2 Airfield Defence Squadron on 5 July 1951, but was disbanded on 12 September 1952, without becoming operative.  However, on 17 March 1983 the unit was reformed, taking it's title from the original WW2 unit, with Amberley, Queensland later becoming the home of the RAAF ground defence in 1989. The design adopted for the official unit badge was similar to that originally worn on the pugaree of crossed rifle and sword, but with the Wedge-Tailed Eagle superimposed across the centre.

 

Below is an excerpt from an article titled “Outpost on a Volcano – Story of R.A.A.F Exploit”, published in the Western Mail, dated Thursday, 11 October 1945, on page 4.

 

An R.A.A.F party was sent to occupy the island of Seroea in early 1945.

With the exception of the specialists (medical, meteorological and wireless) the occupation troops were drawn from the R.A.A.F's No 1 Airfield Defence Squadron (earlier known as Security Guards Unit) at Darwin. The men were given intensive training before they embarked on Catalina flying boats to be transported to their outpost. They were not told where they were going but were given a sound insight into the type of work they would be called on to carry out. When everything had been fully explained they were given the opportunity of withdrawing, but all stayed. They were trained in first aid, tropical hygiene and given lessons in elementary Malay. Finally, immediately be- fore the departure they were "teamed-up" into small parties by Lt Lynch.

On arrival at the island the party split up and established four machine-gun nests, each linked to the other by telephone, but entirely self-contained. A small meteorological station was in existence and medical and wireless facilities were quickly provided. For five months these members of the R.A.A.F. ground staff held their lonely outpost. They were given assistance by the natives and maintained a 24-hour coastal watch. Finally they were relieved by the Dutch authorities.

In charge of the medical services on the island was Sgt E. N. George, He maintained the health of the R.A.A.F. party and conducted sick parades for the natives. By his efforts several native lives were saved. He trained a number of selected male and female nurses who were then able to carry on a limited medical service for their own people. The meteorological service provided the mainland with information gained from upper air observations by balloon. This service was controlled by Sgt G. F. L . Payne. Sgt J. Donnelly, a guard, had charge of the eastern portion of the island. He proved an excellent administrator of the several native villages which came under his control.

Although cut off from the rest of the world, except for occasional visits by R.A.A.F and Dutch Catalinas, and despite the constant danger of a Japanese attack, life for the R.A.A.F. men on Seroea was comparatively pleasant. Seroea is a beautiful island, and despite its heavy rainfall there is much pleasant weather to be enjoyed. Tile scenery is magnificent, the natives friendly and loyal. The conduct of the men in relation to the natives was exemplary and earned respect and affection for Australia.

Members of the R.A,A.F who were on Seroea were: F/L V. Lisle, F/L J.K. Newman, Sgts G. F. L. Payne, E. N. George J. Donnelly, Cpls W. Mitchell, J. Flannagan, W. Johnston, L. F. Lyons, N. F. Dawson and H. A. Wilkie. L.A.C.'s J. Johns, P. Koiokanakis, R. Allen, D. McKenzie, H. Reay, G, Ritchie, I. Rixon, J. Symes, W. Tunney and L. W Mitchell.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ian Jenkins for his assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Graham Clayton for his assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 27 April 2007

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