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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. 

They 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 months".

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 campaign.

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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 AIF.

The 2/11 Bn. AIF, Battle for Retimo Airfield, Crete

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.

As 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 Battalion (AIF). 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 256181

On Active Service with the AIF. By Owen, 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 Fremantle.

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. 


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