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2/5th Battalion
2 5th Bn AIF in Syria November 1941.jpg
2/5th Battalion being addressed by Major General E.F Herring in Syria, November 1941
Active 18 October 1939–? February 1946
Disbanded February 1946
Country  Australia
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size

35 officers, 875 men (standard establishment)

34 officers, 769 (jungle establishment)
Part of 17th Brigade, 6th Division
Colors Black over Red
Engagements

World War II

Battle honours North Africa, Bardia 1941, Capture of Tobruk, Syria 1941, Merjayun, Damour, Greece 1941, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Wau, Bobdubi II, Mubo II, Mount Tambu, Komiatum, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Perimbil, Balif, Yamil–Ulupu, Kaboibus–Kiarivu
Insignia
Unit Color Patch 2nd 5th Battalion AIF UCP.PNG

The 2/5th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army that served during World War II. It was raised at Puckapunyal, Victoria on 18 October 1939 as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, attached to the 17th Brigade of the 6th Division. The 2/5th were one only two Australian infantry battalions to fight against all of the major Axis powers during the war, seeing action against the Germans and Italians in Egypt, Libya and Greece and the Vichy French in Syria before returning to Australia in 1942 to fight the Japanese.[1] The battalion took part in two campaigns in New Guinea, firstly in 1942–43 and then again in 1944–45 when they took part in the Aitape–Wewak campaign.

Following the end of the war the battalion embarked to return to Australia on 1 December 1945 and disbanded at Puckapunyal in early February 1946. Today its battle honours are maintained by the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment.

History[edit | edit source]

Formation[edit | edit source]

Following the outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939, the Australian government announced the decision to raise the Second Australian Imperial Force for service overseas.[2] As part of the force, the 2/5th Battalion was raised in Melbourne, Victoria on 18 October 1939 and began to receive its first intake of men on 2 November 1939 when it moved to Puckapunyal.[3] Many of the battalion's initial recruits came from the Victorian Scottish Regiment, a Militia unit associated with the 5th Battalion which had been raised as part of the First Australian Imperial Force during World War I.[4]

Along with the 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions it formed the 17th Brigade, attached to the 6th Division. Between November 1939 and April 1940 the battalion undertook basic training before departing for the Middle East on 14 April 1940.[3]

North Africa 1941[edit | edit source]

They arrived in Egypt on 18 May 1940 and undertook a further period of training there and in Palestine before taking part in the fighting against the Italians in Libya in January–February 1941, during which time they were involved in attacks on Bardia and Tobruk.[3]

Greece 1941[edit | edit source]

A few months later in April the 6th Division was sent to Greece in order to defend against a possible German invasion of that nation. The invasion subsequently took part as anticipated, although in the end the Australians were unable to stem the tide of the German onslaught. The 2/5th Battalion began the campaign at Kalabaka on 14 April, however, in a series of withdrawals made necessary by the lighting advance of German forces, they were pushed back all the way to the port of Kalamata from where it was evacuated just a couple of weeks later on 27 April 1941.[3] The battalion lost about 50 men as prisoners of war as a result of this campaign when a number of drivers were captured having been unable to make it out in time. A similar fate befell another group from the 2/5th Battalion that were sent to Crete as part of the 17th Brigade Composite Battalion.[3]

Syria 1941–42[edit | edit source]

In June–July 1941 the 2/5th were deployed to Syria for the campaign against the Vichy French, during which time they took part in the Battle of Damour.[3] Once the fighting had ended, the battalion remained in the Middle East, serving as an occupation force in Syria and Lebanon until January 1942 when they were ordered to return to Australia due to the entry of Japan into the war.[3]

New Guinea 1942–43[edit | edit source]

Members of the 2/5th Battalion man defensive positions in New Guinea, August 1943

The battle departed from the Middle East on 10 March 1942, however, on the voyage back to Australia the 17th Brigade along with the 16th were disembarked in Ceylon.[3] For nearly four months they were stationed on the island in order to defend it against a possible Japanese attack before they finally received orders to return to Australia in July. On 4 August 1942 they arrived back in Melbourne having been away for over two years.[3]

There was little time for rest and re-organisation, however, as the situation in Pacific had deteriorated dramatically, and the Australian forces holding out against the Japanese in New Guinea were hard-pressed and desperately in need of reinforcement. Thus in early October 1942, not more than two months after arriving back in Australia, the 2/5th deployed to Milne Bay.[3] They did not take part in any fighting, however, until a few months later when in January 1943 they took part in the defence of Wau, before taking part in the advance on Salamaua, where they were involved in heavy fighting in July and August around Goodview and Mount Tambu.[3] The following month the battalion was withdrawn from the line and on 23 September 1943 they arrived back in Australia, landing at Cairns, Queensland.[3]

Aitape–Wewak campaign 1944–45[edit | edit source]

The 2/5th Battalion spent the next year training in north Queensland along with the rest of the 6th Division, during which time they were reorganised and converted to the jungle establishment. On 29 November 1944 they arrived at Aitape in New Guinea, where the 6th Division took over from the American garrison and in December began offensive operations against the Japanese forces that were operating in the surrounding areas.[5] For the next seven months until the war ended the 2/5th undertook a number of patrols through the Torricelli and Prince Alexander mountain ranges.[3] It was an arduous and costly campaign and throughout its course the 2/5th suffered 146 casualties, including 8 officers killed or wounded.[6]

Disbandment[edit | edit source]

Following the end of the war the 2/5th remained in New Guinea until 1 December 1945 when they embarked on the voyage back to Australia. They were disbanded in early February 1946 while at Puckapunyal in Victoria.[3]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

In 1948 the Citizens Military Force was re-constituted and the 5th Battalion, Victorian Scottish Regiment was re-raised.[4] At the time many of its members were drawn from the 2/5th Battalion and because of its territorial and personnel links it was decided that the Victorian Scottish Regiment would take custody of the 2/5th Battalion's World War II battle honours. Following the reorganisation of the Australian Army since the 1960s which saw the disbandment of the regionally-based single battalion regiments and the raising of new multi-battlaion state-based regiments[7] these battle honours are now perpetuated by the 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment, an Australian Army Reserve battalion based around Melbourne, Australia.[8]

Battle honours[edit | edit source]

  • World War II: North Africa, Bardia 1941, Capture of Tobruk, Syria 1941, Merjayun, Damour, Greece 1941, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Wau, Bobdubi II, Mubo II, Mount Tambu, Komiatum, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Perimbil, Balif, Yamil–Ulupu, Kaboibus–Kiarivu.[3]

Commanding officers[edit | edit source]

  • LTCOL Thomas Page Cook;
  • LTCOL Hugh Wrigley;
  • LTCOL Roy King;
  • LTCOL Frederick George Wood;
  • LTCOL Patrick Daniel Sarsfield Starr;
  • LTCOL Alfred William Buttrose;
  • LTCOL Thomas Mayo Conroy.[3]

Casualties[edit | edit source]

  • 216 killed, 390 wounded.[3]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The only other Australian infantry battalion to do this was the 2/3rd Battalion.
  2. Grey 2008, p. 146.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 "Unit Information – 2/5th Battalion, AIF, World War II". Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 2009-08-01. http://www.webcitation.org/5iiKr3FNY. Retrieved 2009-04-23.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "AWM" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harris, Ted. "History of the Victorian Scottish Regiment". Digger History. Archived from the original on 2009-08-05. http://www.webcitation.org/5io7KsOxF. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  5. Long 1963, pp. 271–281.
  6. Long 1963, p. 385.
  7. Grey 2008, p. 228.
  8. Harris, Ted. "Royal Victoria Regiment: A Full History". Digger History. Archived from the original on 2009-08-05. http://www.webcitation.org/5io7LGmBa. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 

References[edit | edit source]

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