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26th Battalion
AWM E03091 26th Battalion AIF in Picardie August 1918.jpg
Troops from the 26th Battalion near Picardie, Somme, August 1918
Active 1915–1919
1921–1946
Country  Australia
Branch Australian Army
Type Infantry
Size ~800–1,000 personnel all ranks[1][2]
Part of World War I: 7th Brigade, 2nd Division
World War II: 11th Brigade
Motto(s) Nunquam non Paratus
Colours Purple over Blue
Engagements

World War I

World War II

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Harry Murray
Bernard Callinan
Insignia
Unit Colour Patch 26th Battalion AIF Unit Colour Patch.PNG

The 26th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Originally raised in April 1915 for service in World War I as part of the Australian Imperial Force, it was attached to the 7th Brigade. The battalion fought at Gallipoli before being sent to France where it served in the trenches of the Western Front. At the end of the war it was disbanded in May 1919. After the war, the 26th Battalion was re-raised as a part-time unit of the Citizens Forces, known as the 26th Battalion (Logan and Albert Regiment). In 1934, the 26th was merged with the 15th to become the 15th/26th Battalion, although it was subsequently delinked in 1939 when the new 26th Australian Infantry Battalion was raised in Queensland. The battalion was attached to the 11th Brigade and used in various garrison roles in the early part of World War II before a detachment was sent to the Dutch East Indies as part of Merauke Force in 1943. Later in the war, the entire 26th Battalion, along with the rest of the 11th Brigade, was committed to the Bougainville campaign where they saw action against the Japanese. After the war, the 26th Battalion was used to guard Japanese prisoners on Rabaul, remaining there until March 1946, before returning to Australia and subsequently being disbanded on 26 August 1946.

History[]

World War I[]

The 26th Battalion was originally raised in April 1915 as part of the all volunteer Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Drawing recruits from Tasmania and Queensland, the battalion concentrated at Enoggera, Queensland, where it formed part of the 7th Brigade, which was attached to 2nd Division. The battalion's first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel George Ferguson[3] With an authorised strength of 1,023 men,[1] after a short period of basic training, the battalion embarked for overseas in July. Further training was undertaken in Egypt, after which the battalion was sent to Gallipoli when the 2nd Division was sent to the peninsula to reinforce the troops that had been fighting there since April.[4] The 26th Battalion landed on 12 September. By that time, the campaign had become a costly stalemate and shortly after their arrival, as winter came and conditions worsened,[5] the decision was made to evacuate the peninsula. As a result, the battalion did not take part in any major actions, and fulfilled only a defensive role, defending positions such as "Courtney's Post", "Steel's Post" and "Russell's Top", before it was withdrawn from the peninsula on 12 December.[3]

After the evacuation, the 26th Battalion returned to Egypt where the AIF was reorganised and expanded before being sent to Europe.[6] The 26th arrived in France in March 1916, taking its place in the trenches along the Western Front and in June, alongside the 28th Battalion, they took part in the first raid undertaken by Australians in France. The first major battle came around Pozieres between July and August, after which the battalion was sent along with the entire 2nd Division to a more quiet sector in Belgium.[3] After this, they were moved south to the Somme Valley and the 26th participated in two attacks to the east of Flers, although both of these attacks ultimately proved fruitless, grinding to a halt in the muddy conditions.[3] In November 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Travers took command of the battalion.[7]

Percy Cherry, one of the 26th Battalion's two Victoria Cross recipients

Early in 1917 the 26th Battalion was involved in a number of major battles as the German Army was forced back towards the Hindenburg Line, seeing action at Warlencourt and Lagnicourt in March.[3] During the fighting around Lagnicourt, Captain Percy Cherry led his company into the village, capturing several positions before helping to hold off several German counterattacks; he was later awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.[8] Later, in May they took part in the second attempt to breach the Hindenburg Line defences around Bullecourt, before they were moved to Belgium again, where they joined the battles at Menin Road and Brooseinde Ridge in September and October.[3]

In early 1918, after the fighting on the Eastern Front ended following the collapse of Tsarist Russia, the Germans transferred a large number of divisions to the Western Front and subsequently launched a major offensive, that became known as the Spring Offensive.[9] In April 1918, after the Allies had been pushed steadily back, the 26th Battalion was committed to the fighting as the German offensive was eventually repelled. After this, the battalion launched a number of "peaceful penetration" operations to take small amounts of the German front line during the lull that followed prior to the final Allied offensive of the war. It was during one of these operations, on 17 July 1918, that Lieutenant Albert Borella earned the battalion's second Victoria Cross of the war. The battalion was also credited with capturing the first German tank on a similar operation a few days earlier.[3] A few months later, in August, they were involved in the Allied Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately brought an end to the war. During this time they took part in the attack on Mont St Quetin in September and then the capture of Lormisset on 3 October 1918, part of the "Beaurevoir Line", which was the third and final line of the Hindenburg Line defences.[3] This was the 26th Battalion's last contribution to the war and they were subsequently disbanded on 31 May 1919.[10] The battalion's last commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel William Davis.[11]

During the course of the 26th Battalion's involvement in the war it lost 877 men killed and 2,745 men wounded.[3] Members of the battalion received the following decorations: two Victoria Crosses (VCs), one Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), four Distinguished Service Orders (DSOs) including one Bar, 25 Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCMs), 26 Military Crosses (MCs) including three Bars, 96 Military Medals (MMs) including four Bars, four Meritorious Service Medals (MSMs), and 37 Mention in Dispatches (MIDs).[3]

Inter war years[]

In 1921, following the completion of the demobilisation process, the AIF was disbanded and the Citizens Forces, Australia's part-time military force, which was responsible for the defence of Australia, was reorganised to perpetuate the battle honours and traditions of the AIF by renumbering the units of the Citizens Force to adopt the numerical designations of their related AIF units.[12] Upon formation, the units of the AIF had been raised from men drawn from the recruitment territory of already established Citizens Force units and as a consequence many AIF units retained links to Citizens Force units from where they drew the majority of the initial intake of personnel. As a result of the reorganisation, the 26th Battalion was re-raised as a part-time unit of the Citizens Force. In 1927, territorial titles were adopted by the units of the Citizens Force, and the battalion adopted the title of the "Logan and Albert Regiment". It also adopted the motto, Nunquam non Paratus.[13][14]

Initially, the Citizens Forces was maintained using a mixture of voluntary and compulsory service. In 1929, following the election of the Scullin Labor government, the compulsory training scheme was abolished and replaced with an all volunteer force known as the "Militia".[15][16] The decision to suspend compulsory training, coupled with the economic downturn of the Great Depression meant that the manpower of many Militia units dropped considerably and the decision was made to amalgamate a number of units.[17] The 26th Battalion was not initially affected, but in 1934 it was merged with the 15th Battalion to form the 15th/26th Battalion.[14] These two battalions remained linked until just prior to World War II, when on 16 June 1939, they were split and a new 26th Battalion was raised in Queensland, near Hughenden, within the 1st Military District. Upon re-forming, the battalion was placed under the command of one of the Australian Army's most decorated soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray, a World War I Victoria Cross recipient.[14] The battalion's second-in-command was another Victoria Cross recipient, Major Edgar Towner.[18][19]

World War II[]

Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the 26th Battalion undertook a series of training camps around northern Queensland as it began to re-establish its numbers. Between September and November, it was based around Kissing Point, Queensland, before moving to Townsville in February 1940, and then south of Bowen the following month.[18][19] At this time, it was placed under the command of the 11th Brigade, along with the 31st and 51st Battalions, both of which were Queensland militia battalions.[14] In mid-1940, the battalion's strength fluctuated as compulsory service was reintroduced and drafts of national servicemen marched in for short periods of training, while volunteers were released to join the Second Australian Imperial Force and other services.[18][19] Many of the initial recruits came from Italian-Australian families from north Queensland,[14] but as the battalion grew, reinforcements from other Australian states arrived during 1942 and early 1943.[18][20]

Troops from the 26th Battalion landing around Tsimba, February 1945

Throughout 1941 and 1942, the battalion undertook defensive duties in various locations around Queensland, including Charters Towers, Bohle River, and Alligator Falls. On 17 August 1942, Murray relinquished command and was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel John Abbott.[18][19] In October, the 26th moved to Kuranda, near Barron Falls, and as reinforcements arrived, began training to prepare for deployment overseas.[20] In May 1943, the battalion moved to Cairns where they embarked on the transport Katoomba and sailed to Horn Island. 'A' Company was detached at this time to Merauke Force, becoming the first Militia unit to serve outside of Australian territory.[14] Several other platoons were dispatched to other islands around the Torres Strait. Between August 1943 and November, defensive duties were undertaken on the mainland around the Cape York Peninsula, before the battalion returned to Horn Island.[21][20]

In July 1944, the 26th Battalion was withdrawn back to Australia onboard the transport Taroona, and after leave reconstituted at Strathpine, Queensland, and began training for further operations.[22][20] Gazetted as an AIF unit, which meant it could be deployed outside Australian territory, during December 1944 the battalion deployed to Bougainville as Australian forces relieved American forces around Torokina.[14] The Australians subsequently launched three drives on the island in the northern, southern and central areas.[23] Initially, the 26th Battalion was committed to the fighting in the central sector of the island conducting patrolling operations around Numa Numa before being withdrawn back to Torokina at the end of January. In February 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Callinan assumed command, taking over from Abbott.[22][24] The 26th was then deployed to the Soraken Plantation area before clearing north towards the Ratsua and Ruri Bay until June when they were relieved and sent back to Torokina for rest. Hostilities ceased in August, and the following month the 26th Battalion was sent to Rabaul for garrison duty. In December, Lieutenant Colonel Allan Cameron took command of the battalion.[25][26] In March 1946, the 26th Battalion returned to Australia. After this, the battalion experienced a high turn-over of personnel, with over 2,500 men passing through the battalion at this time, as men were discharged or transferred to other units. Command of the battalion also changed a couple of times, with Lieutenant Colonel Peter Webster taking over on 22 March, before he handed over to Lieutenant Colonel Eric Barnes.[25] The battalion was finally disbanded on 28 August 1946,[14] but 'A' Company remained in existence as a holding company until 25 September 1946 when the last member marched out.[25][26] During the course of the battalion's involvement in the war, it lost 40 men killed in action or died on active service and 110 wounded.[14] Members of the battalion received the following decorations: one DSO, two MBEs, one George Medal, one British Empire Medal, five MCs, eight MMs, and 14 MIDs.[14]

Commanding Officers[]

The following officers commanded the 26th Battalion:

World War I
  • Lieutenant Colonel George Andrew Ferguson;
  • Lieutenant Colonel Reginald John Albert Travers;
  • Lieutenant Colonel William MacIntyre Davis.[3]
World War II

Battle honours[]

References[]

Citations
  1. 1.0 1.1 Kuring 2004, p. 47.
  2. Palazzo 2004, pp. 91 & 94.
  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 "26th Battalion". First World War, 1914–1918 units. Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11213.asp. Retrieved 5 March 2009. 
  4. Cameron 2011, p. 17.
  5. Cameron 2011, pp. 214–218.
  6. Grey 2008, p. 100.
  7. "Lieutenant Colonel Reginald John Albert Travers, DSO and bar". Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_22015.asp. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  8. Clark, Rex (1979). "Cherry, Percy Herbert (1895–1917)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070641b.htm. Retrieved 5 September 2008. 
  9. Baldwin 1962, pp. 127 & 141.
  10. "AWM4: 23/43/1-23/43/46 – 26th Battalion, AIF, War Diary (WWI), entry for 31 May 1919". Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/diaries/ww1/folder.asp?folder=967. Retrieved 5 March 2009. 
  11. "Lieutenant Colonel William MacIntyre Davis, MC". Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_1076257.asp. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  12. Grey 2008, p. 125.
  13. Festberg 1972, p. 86.
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 "26th Battalion". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11919.asp. Retrieved 5 March 2009. 
  15. Grey 2008, p. 138.
  16. Palazzo 2001, p. 110.
  17. Keogh 1965, p. 44.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Turrell 1992, p. 119.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 "26th Battalion: Summary of Events (1939–42)". 26th Battalion Association. http://26bn.org/summary-of-events-1939-44.html. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 "26th Battalion: Summary of Events (1942–44)". 26th Battalion Association. http://26bn.org/summary-of-events-1942-44.html. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  21. Turrell 1992, pp. 119–120.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Turrell 1992, p. 120.
  23. Johnston 2007, pp. 30–31.
  24. "26th Battalion: Summary of Events (1944–45)". 26th Battalion Association. http://26bn.org/summary-of-events-1944-45.html. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Turrell 1992, p. 121.
  26. 26.0 26.1 "26th Battalion: Summary of Events (1945–46)". 26th Battalion Association. http://26bn.org/summary-of-events-1945-46.html. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
Bibliography

External links[]

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