|Western Australia sent six specially recruited
contingents to the Boer War, a total of approximately 1500 personnel.
The units were named the 1-6 Western Australia Mounted Infantry.
were recruited from volunteer units and from the general populace.
Enlistment was for about one year.
A Lieutenant Bell was awarded the
Victoria Cross, the first in WA and the only WA soldier to be awarded a
VC during the Boer War.
On 1 January 1901 Federation occurred as the
former colonies of Australia united to form a nation governed from
Canberra. This event also formalised the birth of the Australian Defence
Forces (ADF), and control of military forces passed to Canberra. In
reality this did not occur until 1903.
History of 11th Battalion
In 1903 the Perth Rifle Volunteers were renamed
the 11th Australian Infantry Regiment. At this stage the only permanent
soldiers in Australia were Engineers, Coastal Defence Gunners and a
handful of Staff Officers.
On the outbreak of WWI, Australia had a militia
of about 100 000 people. The Defence Act 1903 stipulated that the
Australian Militia Forces were only to be employed in the Defence of
Australia. Hence the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) was raised for
service overseas. This is commonly referred to as the 1st AIF. The term
of enlistment was for "the duration of hostilities plus 6
The 11th Australian Infantry Battalion AIF was
raised at Black Boy Hill Camp on 17 August 1914 and recruited from the
militia units. The now famous picture of the 11th Bn AIF at the pyramids
in Egypt in 1915 is shown throughout military history displays and books
the world over. The picture was taken just before the landing at Anzac
Cove. Not many of the soldiers in this picture survived the 8 month
The 11th Bn on the Pyramids
in Egypt prior to the landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.
After the Campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula,
the 11th Battalion AIF went on to serve with distinction in France and
Belgium from 1916-18. They returned to Australia at the end of the war
and disbanded on the 5 February 1919. The Battalion was awarded a Kings
Colour for it's service during the war which was held in custody by the
Militia 2/11th Battalion.
Between the wars the 11th Battalion briefly
amalgamated with 16 Bn for three years and then returned to it's former
title until WWII. Once again a parallel 11th Battalion was raised for
service overseas. The Militia Bn, along with 16th and 28th Bn saw active
service in the bombing of Darwin and on the island of New Britain.
The 2/11 Bn AIF was raised for overseas service in
1939. The unit saw action in the Western Sahara, Tobruk, Greece and
Crete. The Battalion was involved in heavy fighting on Crete, including
the Battle for Retimo Airfield. The Battalion was tasked to protect the
airfield against an airborne invasion by German forces. They fought
until they were out of ammunition. The Battalion was captured by German
forces (586 captured ~ 42 escaped). The Battalion was reformed later in
1941 in Syria based on the 42 escaped members. The unit returned to
Western Australia for training and deployed to New Guinea in 1943. They
served in this theatre with distinction until the end of the war. By
April 1946 both 11th Battalion and the 2/11th Battalion raised for war
service were disbanded. Retimo lines (the current home of 11th/28th Bn
RWAR) was named after the action fought on Crete by the 2/11th Battalion
The 2/11 Bn. AIF, Battle for Retimo
Between April 1946 and January 1966 the
historical link was broken as the Australian Army went through several
major organisational changes. On reforming, the proud history of the
11th Battalion, dating back to before Federation and the early days of
the Swan Colony, were reclaimed. The unit was presented with the Queens
and Regimental Colours on the 5 November 1967 at Perry Lakes Stadium. On
these Colours the Battle Honours of the former 11th Battalions are
remembered. In 1977 the unit was redesignated the 11th Independent Rifle
Company. The unit shared Retimo Lines with the 28th Independent Rifle
Company until, on 24 October 1987, the two companies were amalgamated to
form the 11th/28th Battalion, the Royal Western Australia Regiment.
History of 28th Battalion
The 28 Australian Infantry Battalion was raised
in April 1915 at Black Boy Hill Camp for service overseas. The unit
served in Gallipoli, and in both France and Belgium. The current Other
Ranks Mess is named after a member of the 28th Battalion, Lieutenant A.E
Gaby, who won a Victoria Cross at Villers-Bretonneux, in France on 8
August 1918. The unit served until the end of WWI and was disbanded on
20 May 1919.
The Militia unit, the 2/28 Bn was not raised
until 1918. In 1920 the unit became the custodian of the Kings Colours
awarded to the 28 Bn AIF for service during WWI.
In 1942 the unit was redesignated 28 Australian
Infantry Battalion and served in 13th Brigade alongside the 11th Bn. The
Brigade saw active service in New Britain.
before, during WWII a parallel unit was raised for overseas service, the
2/28th Battalion. The Battalion served with distinction throughout the
war, in theatres including the Western Sahara, Tobruk, El Alamein,
Lebanon and New Guinea. The unit had the distinction of firing the first
shots in the siege of Tobruk. By salvaging several abandoned Italian
guns and firing them wildly and inaccurately at the advancing Germans,
the 28th Bn position appeared far more heavily defended than it actually
was. This caused the Germans to delay their assault, buying a precious
24 hours to strengthen the defences. There is evidence to suggest that
throughout the rest of the siege, Rommel continued to over estimate the
number of guns at Tobruk. As with the other units who served at Tobruk,
the 2/28th Bn changed it's colour Patch to the shape of a T.
2/28 Bn AIF fire captured Italian
guns in defence of Tobruk
In a 10 day period During the battle of Ruin
Ridge in North Africa, the Battalion was committed to battle and lost 30
Officers and 700 Other Ranks. The unit was withdrawn to Lebanon to
reform and retrain before entering into battle again in North Africa.
The unit was disbanded in early 1946.
After WWII the Militia Battalion
continued to hold the history and traditions of the AIF Battalions. The
history of the Battalion after this point mirrors closely, that of the
11th Battalion. Between April 1946 and January 1966 the Australian Army
went through several major organisational changes. January 1966 the
Battalion took up it's historical title of the 28th Battalion, RWAR. On
the Colours the Battle Honours of the former 28th Battalions are
remembered. In 1977 the unit was redesignated the 28th Independent Rifle
Company. The unit shared Retimo lines with the 11th Independent Rifle
Company until on 24 October 1987, the two companies were amalgamated to
form the 11/28 Battalion, Royal Western Australia Regiment.
Legs Eleven: Being the story of the 11
By Belford, Walter Cheyne. First published by
Imperial Printing Company, Perth, 1940 Reprinted by John Burridge
Military Antiques, Swanbourne WA, 1992
The Second 28th. By Masel, Philip.
Published by John Burridge Military Antiques, Swanbourne WA, ISBN 0 646
On Active Service with the AIF.
Griffith John. (1893-1997) The experiences of a soldier of the 28 Bn
1914-1918. ISBN O 646 082663 pbk, first published in 1918. 1994 limited
edition of 200 copies.
Various other material is held in vertical
files at the Defence Centre-Perth library within Leeuwin Barracks, East
The history above is an extract from notes
written by WO1 Tugwell, RSM 11/28 RWAR, February 1995.
WO1 Tugwell made special thanks to Captain Syd
Jenkins, RFD, ED, Rtd, who is the historian to the RWAR Committee.