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51 Far North Queensland Regiment

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Torres Strait Island-based 51FNQR soldiers perform their Steyr Dance — an adaptation of a traditional bow and arrow dance and military drill movements — during the Australian Army’s 100th Birthday parade in Canberra. Photo by Sgt Bill Guthrie. from ARMY News Online


World War I

The 51st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force was raised at Tel-El-Kebir, Egypt, on 1 March 1916 from half of the 11th Battalion (veterans of the Gallipoli landing) and reinforcements of the 11th and 28th Battalions, all personnel being Western Australian volunteers. During the period 1899-1902, a number of Western Australian volunteers formed the various Mounted Infantry units which served in the Boer War in South Africa. In recognition of their services, These Mounted Infantry were awarded Battle Honour 

  • South Africa 1899-1902

which was then awarded to the Western Australian Infantry Battalions raised for World War One who, by virtue of being volunteers of the same regional origins, were deemed to be the successors of the Western Australian Mounted Infantry. So the 51st Battalion came to bear its first Battle Honour which is still emblazoned on the Regimental Colour today. The Battalion was granted the colour patch chocolate brown over Saxe blue.

The new Battalion, under the command of Lt.Col. A.M.Ross D.S.O., having been allotted to the 13th Infantry Brigade, 4th Australian Division with 49th, 50th and 52nd Battalions, disembarked at Marseilles, France on 11 June 1916 and moved into the front line at Fleurbaix three days later. The 51st Battalion's first major engagements with the enemy occurred at the ruins of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm during the period August - September 1916. During these engagements, the Battalion reached its objectives but was unable to hold the captured positions. In less than three weeks the Battalion had suffered in excess of 650 casualties. 

The Battalion then shifted to the quieter section of the battlefield in Belgium. There its major battle was with the rain and the mud and at one stage the Battalion was down to approximately 300 men due to the shocking conditions they fought in. On the morning of 2nd April,1917, the Battalion along with the 50th Battalion attacked Noreuil, an outpost village near the Hindenberg Line. The attack was a success, but the Battalion suffered 239 casualties during the assault and subsequent defence of the village. The next major engagement of the 51st Battalion was the counter-attack at Villers Bretonneux on 24/25 April 1918, during which action the Battalion lost 389 men in just two days. Lieutenant C.W.K. Sadlier won the Victoria Cross for his valour during the engagement. For the action, the Battalion was awarded a total of 4l decorations. The depleted 52nd Battalion was incorporated into the 51st Battalion to make up the numbers for the rest of the war.

In 1918, a group of English women made a khaki silk flag with the colour patch of the 51st Battalion emblazoned in the middle and presented it to the Battalion. This flag is presently held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. On 10 May 1919, at Aiseau in Belgium, the last entry was made in the War Diary by the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel R. Christie, DSO and Bar. The losses during the war had been severe. 83 officers and 2,477 other ranks having been killed, wounded or captured. In 1920, all 60 Infantry Battalions of the AIF were awarded silk 'Union Flags which are to receive all honours and compliments paid to Colours'.

51st Battalion was also awarded the following battle honours:

  • France and Flanders 1916-18

  • Egypt 1915-16

  • Somme 1916-18

  • Pozieres

  • Bullecourt

  • Messines 1917

  • Menin Road

  • Polygon Wood

  • Passchendaele

  • Ance 1918

  • Villers-Bretonneux

  • Hamel

  • Amiens

  • Albert 1918

  • Hindenberg Line

  • Epehy

  • Because of their gallant efforts during World War One, members of the 51st Battalion were awarded the following decorations:

    • Victoria Cross (1)

    • Distinguished Service Order (2)

    • Bar to DSO (1)

    • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1)

    • Military Cross (15)

    • Bar to MC (2)

    • Distinguished Conduct Medal (14)

    • Military Medal (110)

    • Bar to MM (3)

    • Meritorious Service Medal (9)

    • Croix de Guerre (France) (2)

    • Croix de Guerre (Belgium) (2)

    • Medal of St George 4th Class (Russia) (1)

    • Order of the Crown of Rumania (Chevalier) (1)

    • Order of the White Eagle, 5th Class (Serbian) (1)

    • Mentioned in Despatches (30)

      Inter War Years

    As a result of an Army reorganisation, 51st Battalion was reraised at Subiaco, Western Australia in 1921. The unit was subsequently reformed as a Militia unit, the 51st Battalion, at Launceston, Tasmania in 1922. During 1924, the unit was relocated to Gladesville, Sydney, New South Wales, and the 51st Battalion now became a member of the 8th Brigade 1st Division. In 1927, the unit relocated to Ryde, also in New South Wales, and was renamed the 51st Battalion, The Field of Mars Regiment and awarded the motto 'Ducit Amor Patriate (Love of Country Leads Me). During 1930, the unit was amalgamated with the 30th Battalion (New South Wales Scottish) at Ryde. This amalgamation remained until 1935 when both battalions split and the 51st became amalgamated with the 18th Battalion to become 18th/51st Battalion.

    World War II

    On 1 October 1936 at Cairns, Queensland, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland regiment was formed and retained the motto 'Ducit Amor Patriae'. The Battalion was granted a distinctive black badge described as 'within a belt bearing the motto a kookaburra perched on a branch, holding in its beak a snake within a wreath of bay issuant from behind a rose, the whole surmounted by a crown. The Innisfail depot, located at Calender park, was built for the Battalion's use in 1939 and remains in use today. When war was declared in 1939, 51st Battalion lost many of its militiamen to the 2nd AIF as volunteers. The Battalion continued to train for its Militia role in Cairns until the Japanese entered the war in December 1941, at which time the 51st Battalion was placed on full time duty and given the role of defence of the area from Port Douglas to Gordonvale. At various times during this period, the Battalion was located at Cairns and Townsville. In early 1943, the Government released 'all essential rural workers from military service'. With their ranks severely depleted, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment (Cairns) and 31st Battalion The Kennedy Regiment (Townsville) were amalgamated on 12 April 1943 and renamed 31st/51st Battalion. This amalgamation took place at Yatee now (1987) the site of the old Sikh mosque south of Edmonton where the new Battalion trained until 20 June 1943, when they embarked for overseas service. Disembarkation occurred at Merauke, Dutch new Guinea, on 16 July 1943 and the Battalion conducted successful patrolling operations in this area until 24 July 1944 when it was designated an AIF Battalion (75% of it's members having volunteered for the AIF) and renamed 31/51st Battalion, AIF, thus adding a grey border to its colour patch.

    The Battalion returned to Australia during August 1944 and underwent further training at Strathpine (near Brisbane) until embarkation for Bougainville, Solomon Islands, in December 1944. On 8 June 1945, A and a part of C Companies were landed at Porton Plantation in the north of Bougainville and became involved in the Battalion's heaviest fighting of World War Two. Of the 190 members involved in the Battle, 23 were either killed or missing in action, while 106 were wounded. The survivors were evacuated from Porton on 11 June 1945. The General Officer Commanding 2nd Australian Corps AIF, Lieutenant General S.G. Saviage, stated that 'the bravery of the men in the Porton operation had not been surpassed by Australian troops in either World War One or World War Two'.

    Commander in Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey, visited the Battalion while the Battle of Porton was in progress on 09 June 1945 and said that it was 'one of the most stirring episode I have ever seen. I was deeply impressed by the determined courage of the men. It was a most gallant and inspiring spectacle'. On the unconditional surrender of the Japanese in September 1945, the Battalion was split up with elements being relocated to Nauru, Rabaul and Ocean Island where they served until returning to Australia and demobilised at Townsville and Cairns in June 1946. During hostilities the Battalion suffered 46 members Killed in Action, 11 Died of Wounds, 2 Acc. Killed and 1 Died of Illness.

    The service of 31/51st Battalion during World War Two resulted in the following Battle Honours being awarded:

  • Liberation of Australian New Guinea

  • Tsimba Ridge

  • Bonis-Porton

  • South West Pacific 1943-45

    Due to their efforts in World War Two, members of 31/51st Battalion won the following decorations:

  • Distinguished Service Order (1)

  • Military Cross (3)

  • Distinguished Conduct Medal (1)

  • Military Medal (10)

  • British Empire Medal (1)

  • Mentioned in Despatches (27)

    Post War

    Some records indicate that the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment was reraised at Cairns in 1949, while others attest that the Battalion was reformed at Atherton in May 1950, with headquarters at Cairns and sub-units being located at Atherton, Innisfail, Tully, Mareeba, Babinda and Gordonvale. In 1950, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment was presented its first King's and Regimental Colours incorporating the Battle Honours of all of its predecessor Battalions In June 1951, nine members of the 51st Battalion represented the unit at the Jubilee Celebrations at Canberra. On 18 August 1957 Queen's and Regimental Colours were presented to the 51st Battalion Far.

    North Queensland Regiment by His Excellency, Field Marshall Sir William Slim, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC, Governor General of Australia while on the 1st 1957, the original King's and Regimental Colours were laid up in the Cairns City Council Chambers. These were subsequently transferred to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra in 1973. On 12 September 1959, the Commanding Officer, Officers and Men of the Far North Queensland Regiment were extended the Freedom of the City of Cairns by the Mayor and Council.

    The 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment was again reorganised on 3 June 1960 when it was integrated with 31st Battalion, the Kennedy Regiment and 42nd Battalion, The Capricornia Regiment and renamed 2nd Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, with Battalion headquarters located at Townsville. This was part of an Australia wide reorganisation of the Citizen Military Forces which saw the formation of State Regiments. The new Regiments inherited the Battle Honour of all their composite Battalions and Regiments, but the individual Battalions/Companies retained custody of the Colours of their parent Regiments.

    A further reorganisation of the Citizen Military Forces saw an expansion of 2nd Battalion, the Royal Queensland Regiment into its original Battalion structure and the 51st Battalion was reraised as 51st Battalion The Royal Queensland Regiment at Cairns on 24 May 1965.

    On 16 November 1969, His Excellency The Honourable Sir Alan Mansfield, KCMG, Governor of Queensland, presented the Queen's and Regimental Colours of the Royal Queensland Regiment to the 51st Battalion at Cairns. The Queen's and Regimental Colours of the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment being laid up at St Monica's War Memorial Cathedral, Cairns on 30 November 1969. On 19th of October 1969, the 51st Battalion Association comprising the surviving members of the 51st Battalion AIF from World War One, held a Laying Up of the Colours Ceremony at the State War Memorial at King's Park, Perth, Western Australia, during which a plaque was laid to represent the Queen's and Regimental Colours of the 51st Battalion. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II conducted a Royal tour of Australia during 1970, the 51st Battalion became the only Citizens Military Forces Battalion in Queensland to provide a Royal Guard of Honour during that tour, when her Majesty visited Cairns on 23 April 1970.

    13th September 1970 saw the 51st Battalion move its home to the newly constructed Porton Training Depot at 45 Tills Street Cairns. This depot was named in honour of the gallantry of the men of 31st/51st Battalion in the battle at Porton Plantation in June 1945.

    28 October 1973 saw the Commanding Officer, Officers and men again being extended the freedom of the City of Cairns, this time as the 51st Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment. Yet another Army reorganisation was to occur with the 51st Battalion being reduced in numbers and renamed the 51st Independent Rifle Company, The Royal Queensland Regiment on3l July 1976.

    In the early 1980s, the army began to pay more attention to the northern regions of the nation and raised Regional Force Surveillance Units in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, based on a squadron/troop structure. On 1 October 1985, the 51st Independent Rifle Company, the Royal Queensland Regiment, was re-organised as the Royal Force Surveillance unit in north Queensland and renamed the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment (51 FNQR) This unit differed from the North West Mobile Force. (NORFORCE)

    The new 51st Battalion had Battalion Headquarters, Administration Company, A Company Headquarters and a platoon located in Cairns along with B Company Headquarters, while the platoons of A Company were dispersed at Atherton and Innisfail. B Company Platoons were located at Weipa, Bamaga and the Torres Strait Islands.

    As the 51st Battalion was no longer part of the Royal Queensland Regiment, the Queen's and Regimental Colours were laid up in St Monica's War Memorial Cathedral Cairns on 7 June 1986. On its reformation in 1985, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment adopted the colour patch of the original 51st Battalion AIF and the badge and motto of the original 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment; the new badge being surmounted by the Queen's crown instead of the King's crown of the original.

    On 1 October 1987, the 51st anniversary of the raising of the original 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment at Cairns, His Excellency Air Marshal Sir James Rowland, AC, KBE, DFC, AFC, Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, presented the new Queen's and Regimental Colours of the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment at the North Cairns Oval. During the latter half of 1987, the Battalion extended its recruiting base and soldiers were enlisted from Kowanyama, Edward River Mission (Pormparaaw), Aurukun and Lockhart River. In early 1988, Charlie Company was raised incorporating the Torres Strait Islands and Bamaga, with headquarters on Thursday Island. In 1990, a further Company, D Company, was raised with headquarters in Mount Isa and platoons in Doomadgee, Cloncurry, Normanton, and Mornington Island. Army Orders of 1937 record that the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment was affiliated with The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI). However, this relationship appears to have lapsed and no record is available of the date of or the reasons for the affiliation. The most likely association is that the KOYLI was formally known as the 51st Regiment of Foot and detachments of that Regiment service in Tasmania and Western Australia, two of the previous homes of the 51st Battalion, circa 1840. During the British Army reorganisation of 1960 - 61, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry ceased to exist as an entity and was absorbed onto the Light Division which, in 1987, was located in a new barracks, The Sir John Moore Barracks, at Hants, England, as a composite Regular Army/Territorial Army Division.

    During its time as a member of the Royal Queensland Regiment, the 51st Battalion bore affiliations with the following units:

  • The Kings Own Royal Border Regiment

  • The King's Own Scottish Borderers

  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)

  • The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)

  • The Lincoln and Walland Regiment (Canada)

    The unit has, as its Regimental March, 'The Far North Queensland Regiment' written by Allen Rains, a member of the Battalion Band, at Merauke in 1943. It is the only such march written especially for and containing the title of the unit, of any unit in the Australian Army. It was dedicated to the men of 31/51st Battalion and adopted by the 51St Battalion in 1957. Sergeant R.J. McMellon, 2/4 RAR pipes and drums, wrote the march 'The Black Kookaburra' and P.M.Wm Gall wrote the slow march 'Soldiers of the North'. Both of these marches were written on the occasion of the presentation of the Queen's and Regimental Colours to the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment on 1 October 1987 as the Regimental March could not be played by Pipes and Drums as used on that parade.



  • Lt.Col. A.M.Ross DSO..........................1 Mar.1916 - 30 Nov.1916

  • Maj. R.Christie ................................... 30 Nov.1916 -6 Feb.1917

  • Lt.Col. C.C.Ridley DSO........................ 6 Feb.1917 -23 Oct.1917

  • Lt.Col. R.Christie DSO & Bar, CdeG(Bel) 23 Oct.1917- 10 Mar1919

  • Lt.Col. T.Flintoff ..... 1 Oct.1918 - 11 Mar.1921

  • Maj. B. Sampson DSO ..... 1 Aug.1922-30 Jun.1924

  • Lt.Col. R.M. Sadler DSO, MC .....1 Jul.1924- 16 Mar.1927

  • Lt.Col. W.G.Penrose VD .....1st July 1935- 30th Sep 1936

  • Maj. H.C. Harris ED......1 Oct.1936 -30 Nov.1936

  • Lt.Col. H.C. Harris, ED.....................1 Dec.1936 - 16 Mar.1942

  • Lt.Col. D.C. Isaachsen, DSO, ED......11 Aug.1942 - 2 Sep.1942

  • Lt.Col. G.H. Brock, DSO...................18 Sep.1942 - 12 Apr. 1943
    31st/51st BATTALION

  • Lt.Col. G.H. Brock, DSO (Died of Illness)..12 Apr. 1943 - 18 Dec 1943

  • Maj. W.H. Harris, MM (Admin Comd)..........26 Apr 1943 - 16 Jul 1943

  • Maj. W.H. Harris, M (Admin Comd)..........3 Dec 1943 - 25 Dec 1943

  • Maj. E.J. Callinan (Admin Comd)...............25 Dec 1943 - 6 Apr 1944

  • Lt.Col. P.K. Parbuly, MC.........................7 Apr 1944 - 30 Nov 1944
    3lst/5lst BATTALION AIF

  • Lt.Col. J.L.A. Kelly, DSO............1 Dec.1944 - 5 Feb.1946

  • Capt. AJ. Miller (Admin Comd)....5 Feb.1946 -3 Mar.1946

  • Maj MG. Hassell (Admin Comd) 3 Mar.1946 - 15 Apr.1946

  • Lt. Col. D.J. Lamb.....................15 Apr.1946 -3 Jun. 1946

  • Col. C.J. Cummings, DSO, OBE, ED....16 Jan 1950 - 13 Jan.1952

  • Lt.Col. E.C. Williams, ED.....................14 Jan.1952 - 12 May.1955

  • Lt.Col. H.S. Williams...........................13 May 1955 -31 Aug.1958

  • Lt.Col. F.J. Hartridge............................1 Sep.1958 - 2 Jun 1960

  • Col. IM. Hunter, CVO, MBE.........1 Jul.1961 - 11 Dec.1962

  • Col. E.G. McNamara, OBE, ED...12 Dec.1962 - 18 Dec.1964

  • Col. S.T.G. Coleman, OBE..........19 Dec.1964-30 Jun.1965

  • Lt.Col. E.S. Davis, MC, ED .........1 Jul.1965 - 6 Apr.1968

  • Lt.Col. B.T.P. Cranwell, ED .........12 Dec. 1962 - 1 Feb 1971

  • Lt.Col. R.J. Sharp, ED ................1 Feb 1971 - 2 Aug 1972

  • Lt.Col. E.J. Shambrook, ED.........3 Aug 1972 - 1 Sep 1974

  • Lt.Col. J.J. MacFarlane ...............2 Sep 1974 - 30 Jul 1975

  • Maj. F.J. Liston, ED..........31 Jul. 1975- 6Jul 1978

  • Maj. B.J. Ball, ED.............7 Jul.1978 -3 Jan.1980

  • Maj. L.G. Beck, RFD, ED..3 Jan.1980 -24 Oct.1983

  • Maj. P.B. Murphy.............28 Oct.1983 -4 Jul.1986

  • Lt.Col. K.D. Ryan.........1 Oct.1986 -31 Jan.1988

  • Lt.Col. J.B. Langler.......31 Jan.1988 - Dec.1990

  • Lt.Col. J.J. Culleton.......Jan.1990 - 6 Jun.1993 7Jun.1993

  • Lt.Col. R.J. Tink...........7 Jun. 1993 - 31 Dec 1995

  • Lt.Col. M. Renden .......1 Jan 1996 - 31 Dec 1997

    REGIMENTAL SERGEANT MAJORS of the.. 51st Battalions

    51st Battalion AIF

  • WO 1 F.Renner
    51st Battalion (Militia) Western Australia Launceston Tasmania
    51st Battalion, 8th Infantry Brigade, 1st Division Gladesville, New South Wales
    51st Battalion, The Field of Mars Regiment Ryde, New South Wales
    30th/51st Battalion Ryde, New South Wales
    18th/51st Battalion Ryde, New South Wales
    51st Battalion, 11th Mixed Brigade Cairns, Queensland

  • WO 1 Wilson.......1938

  • WO 1 C Howard...1938-1939

  • WO 1 A Williams.1939-1940
    31/51st Battalion
    3lst/5lst Battalion AIF
    51st Battalion, The Far North Queensland Regiment

  • WO1 C Howard......1950 -

  • WO1 G. Knowles

  • WO1 Brown

  • WO1 W Bell............-1957

  • WO1 KG Beil

  • WO1 Duncombe

2nd Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton.
51st Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment

  • WO1 C. Thompson

  • WO1 R. Deed

  • WO1 B. Weale

  • WO1 B. Betts

    51st Independent Rifle Company The Royal Queensland Regiment Company Sergeant Majors

  • WO 2 R. Walker

  • WO 2 D. Kohler

  • WO 2 M. Upton

  • WO 2 A. Hutton

  • WO 2 J. Jenkins

  • WO 2 J. Meyers

  • WO 2 Cheesman

  • WO 2 Burgess

  • WO 2 D.J. Walker

  • WO 2 D. Russell
    51st Battalion, The Far North Queensland Regiment

  • WO1 R.M. West.................1987 - 1989

  • WO1 H.L. Smith.................1989 - 1991

  • WO1 M.A. Caughey.............1991 - 1994

  • WO1 A. Drummond O.A.M..1994 - 1996


  • Hon Brig.Gen.W. Martin, VD, (RL)..... 21 Mar 1921 - 30 Jun 1924

  • Hon Brig.Gen.W.Martin,VD, (RL)....... 1 Jul 1924 - 16 Mar 1927

  • Hon Brig.Gen.W. Martin, VD, (RL)......17 Mar 1927 - 30 Jun 1930
    3Oth/5lst BATTALION

  • Hon Brig.Gen.W.Martin, VD, (RL)...... 1 Jul 1930 - 30 Jun 1935 18th/5lst BATTALION, WILLOUGHBY, NSW.

  • Hon Brig.Gen.W.Martin, VD, (Rb).......1 Jul 1935 - 30 Sept. 1936

  • Hon Brig (lien W. Martin, VD, (Rb)......1 Oct 1936 - at least 1937

  • LtGen RH Nimmo, CBE.......................1951-17Mar1958

  • His Excellency Colonel Sir Henry Abel Smith, Governor of Queensland 18 Mar 1958 - 2 Jun 1960 KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB,

  • His Excellency Colonel Sir Henry Abel Smith, 19 Aug 1960 - 31 Mar 1967 KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB, Governor of Queensland

  • Brig. J.L. Amies, CBE, ED......1 Apr1967- 10 May 1973

  • His Excellency, Air Marshall Sir Cohn Hannah, KCMG, KBE, CB, Governor of Queensland.....11 May 1973- 20 Mar 1977

  • His Excellency CDRE Sir James Ramsay, CBE, DSC, Governor of Queensland............. 22Apr 1977-22Jul 1985

  • His Excellency The Honourable Sir Walter Campbell, Governor of Queensland...............................22Jul 1985 -30 Sep 1985

  • Lt.Col. Sir Sydney Williams, OBE, ED......21 Sep 1987 - 12 Nov 1993

  • Brig G.L. Mansford, AM...........................12 Nov.1993 -__



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