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Category: 2nd AIF/7th Division

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The 2/4th Australian Field Regiment RAA

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1939 - 1945

The Sixth Division having been raised and despatched overseas, early in 1940, the Australian Government decided to raise another division, the Seventh. Included in the Divisional OOB were the three artillery units. Two regiments the 2/5th and 2/6th to come from N.S.W. and the third, the 2/4th, from Victoria. On 2nd May a Commanding Officer was appointed and officers to fill the main positions within the unit were chosen from C.M.F. units existing in R.A.A. 3 Division. Quite a number of C.M.F. NCO's also, offered themselves and were drafted as recruits through recruiting depots to the new unit.

On 7th May, 1940, the first batch of 20 recruits marched into H Block at Puckapunyal Camp. And so was born a vigorous new child to our illustrious parent The Royal Regiment of Artillery whose blood lines go back to the very foundations of British history. Throughout May recruits continued to arrive and by the end of that month unit strength had reached 500. We had also been joined by 51 LAD and E Section Divisional Signals.

Those were busy days and what a study in sociology. Here was a large group of men drawn from every walk of life thrown together to learn the art of war - to become soldiers - a profession which has no parallel in civilian life. For many it was quite a traumatic experience; sleeping on hard floors in large groups, being wakened early cold and uncomfortable, hurried into unfamiliar dress and hounded out on a long run, back to cold showers and a strange lifestyle. However, all were volunteers, most were young - they had a sense of adventure and many a proud lineage and heritage from parents or close relatives who had not so long ago, served in the first A.I.F.

Friendships were formed in those first months at Pucka, strengthened through shared experiences during the next five years and still exist firmly among many still alive. These bonds continue as long as those concerned are alive.

The unit sailed on the 'MAURETANIA' from Port Melbourne on 21st October, 1940, called briefly at Fremantle and arrived at BOMBAY on 4th November. After about a week at an upcountry British camp DEOLALI, it re-embarked on a British troopship 'The Lancashire' for the remainder of the journey to the Middle East.

On 25th November we disembarked at EL KANTARA in the Suez Canal and moved by rail to our new camp at DIER SUNIED in Palestine, At DIER SUNIED we marched, we did gun drill, we bathed in the Mediterranean, we held practice shoots, we enjoyed the Palestine Symphony orchestra and concerts and picture shows.

We spent our first Christmas abroad, had donkey races and visited many places of historic biblical Interest. And by this time we had mastered many of the very varied skills which together make an effective artillery unit and we were proud of what we had learned and proud as a unit.

In early April, 1941 we moved by road through EGYPT to MERSA MATRUH on the edge of the Western Desert and took up defensive positions. Here we suffered our first casualties. After about six weeks we retraced our steps back to a bivouac site in Northern Palestine. En route we received our full compliment of twenty four 25 pr. guns. A hectic short period of training and checking equipment followed and then, on 8th June, we crossed into SYRIA. For the next month we campaigned against a strong Vichy French force.

This was real war, we suffered casualties, we endured hardships, there was fierce competition between various elements of the regiment to demonstrate their efficiency. We rejoiced in our ability to support the infantry with accurate fire at short notice. 'Then the Syrian campaign ended on 11 th July 1941. A great deal had been learned. The Regiment had come of age.

From August through to January, 1942 we were part of an Occupation Force in Syria, first at KFAR CLAD-CHIMA and then north at JDAIDE. We had to leave to BEYROUTH and DAMASCUS and many other interesting places. practiced shooting at BA ALBEK and broke our picks and our hearts working on defensive position on.

At times JDAIDE was a cold and miserable place. However, it was here on 23rd September, 1942 that the Regiment was re-organised on a four gun troop basis and 54th Battery was formed from elements of 7th and 8th Batteries - an historic occasion. Here, too, we had news of Japan's entry into the war. We spent a miserable Christmas day at JDIADE and were all pleased when at the end of January, we started a long journey which finished in Adelaide towards the end of March. After that there was a period of home leave and for the remainder of 1942 we. moved around GLEN PMS, NAMBOUR, D'AGUILAR where we spent Christmas.

Early in 1943 we moved to BELIDON. This was a period of considerable frustration. Our infantry had gone to New Guinea where the terrain was thought impossible for artillery deployment, we grumbled at being left behind. At Helidon we got the first SHORT 25 pr. guns and a fresh spark of interest. Amphibious training at TOORBUL POINT was a welcome break from the boredom of operational inactivity.

In early May 1943 the Seventh Division re-assembled on the ATHERTON TABLELANDS and we were glad to move north to RAVENSHOE where with much physical effort, we built a home; roads, shops, a sports ground all on a piece of good Australian bush. Here we practised close co-operation with our infantry each battery with one of the three brigades. We got to know them very well and became physically fit in the long marches accompanying them.

In late July,1943 we moved to New Guinea, camped outside PORT MORESBY and learned to dismantle our guns and load them, in pieces, into DC.3 aircraft. It was here that a selected group representatives of all Batteries, trained briefly with an American parachute regiment and jumped with two short 25 pr. guns to support that regiment in the initial seizure of a landing field at NADZAB. 54 Battery who were to support 25 Infantry Brigade, emplaned on 7th September and concentrated in the NADZAB area. For the next eight days, despite great difficulty and in shocking conditions, 54 Battery gave close support to their infantry in the capture of LAE. It is difficult without going into detail, to follow the subsequent moves by elements of the Regiment during the remainder of the New Guinea campaign.

In October the Regiment had concentrated at DUMPU with each battery providing observation to support its affiliated brigade, shooting a limited number of guns available to all. Slowly but surely the Japanese grip on SHAGGY RIDGE and the surrounding features was beaten and their forces withdrew north towards MADANG. We spent Christmas, 1943 at DUMPU, the occasion marked by the C.O. getting every man to fire a couple of rounds into the enemy backblocks as a Christmas gift. Early in February 1944 we were relieved in situ by 4th Field Regiment, flown back to concentrate at PORT MORESBY for a brief period and moved by sea to TOWNSVILLE.

Few who took part in operations in New Guinea will forget the horrible conditions in which we lived and fought. These conditions hardened men, tried them physically and mentally, bonded them in even closer friendships through personal privation and suffering. There were many fine examples of great achievement through concentrated effort and splendid teamwork. At the end of the New Guinea campaign we were very close to our infantry and had earned their respect and gratitude. We went on a long period of leave somewhat toilworn. Happy to be home and very proud to wear the red and blue diamond of our colour patch in a big march through MELBOURNE.

In April/May 1944 we reassembled at STRATHPINE, just north of BRISBANE. A period of light training and local leave followed. Late in August we moved on a slow, memorable journey by Queensland Rail to KAIRI on the ATHERTON TABLELANDS. Here we operated on a Divisional basis, each battery with one infantry Battalion. During the next few months we worked hard to perfect every aspect of operations at every level, while the future use of the A.I.F. in the war in the Pacific was determined. Rumours were many, varied and frequent. Life once again became boring, there was much discontent and many changes in personnel took place. In November we had a welcomed break during amphibious training at TRINITY BEACH near CAIRNS, and later practised Regimental and Divisional shooting. Christmas 1944 at KAIRI was hectic, much feasting and competition for supplies of the 'home brew' made at the Regimental brewery. More training in the New Year by this time we were overtrained and browned off. When in April/May we were warned for embarkation, spirits soared.

On 25th May, 1945 we left KAIRI, staged through TOWNSVILLE, and embarked on the U.S. transport 'GENERAL ANDERSON" which got us quickly to MOROTAI. At MOROTAI we existed in a staging area which our historian aptly described as "living in primitive discomfort'. Here we had very thorough briefings for an assault landing at BALIKPAPAN in BORNEO. There was a great deal of sorting and packing, a full-scale practise run then on 26th June the invasion fleet sailed, a convoy of over 120 ships. The naval support element included aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers. Our regiment had an initial task to support the 18th Infantry Brigade in the assault. H hour was 9 a.m. on 1st July, 1945. The preliminary bombardment was tremendous.

We got ashore as planned, In a state of orderly disorder and despite considerable confusion, had guns in action ready to support the Infantry in their assault on the initial objectives. After a good deal of sporadic fighting by 12th July the main objectives at BALIKPAPAN had been secured. Batteries then set up semi-permanent positions and made themselves comfortable. From then until the Japanese surrender on 14th August 1945 there were a number of small operations mainly involving 7 and 54 Batteries, to support the clean out of isolated pockets of resistance in outlying areas.

The war over, the scramble to get home was on in earnest. By November only a small cadre winding up the Regiment remained. They spent Christmas in BORNEO, came home by sea early in the New Year and finalised records at CHERMSIDE camp where, on 7th February 1946, the Regiment was removed from the Order of Battle.

In all, 1744 men served in the Regiment in the 5 years and 7 months it existed. They lived together, worked together, played together, fought together and grieved together. With 5 years of almost continuous training and operations the REG , when it went to BORNEO, was a very experienced and highly professional artillery until Fundamentally, what made 214 Field Regiment a very good unit was the men of the Regiment, a real mix of city and country; their natural gifts and combined skills could deal with all the problems which arose. They did not think of themselves a noble or fearless or heroes but they had the essential qualities which combined to make a team that was never beaten.
By W.A. (Bill) Whyte.


Regimental movements 1940-45

Embarked 20 Oct 1940 Australia
Disembarked 26 Nov 1940 Dior Sunold
Arrived 10 Apr 1941 Matrah
Arrived 29 May 1941 Palestine
Arrived 8 Jun 1941 Syria
Arrived 13 Jan 1942 Palestine
Embarked 30 Jan 1942 Palestine
Disembarked 24 Mar 1942 Adelaide
Embarked 30 Jul 1943 Townsville
Disembarked 4 Aug 1943 New Guinea
Embarked 6 Mar 1944 New Guinea
Disembarked 8 Mar 1944 Bonnsville
Embarked 2 Jun 1944 Queensland
Disembarked 8 Jun 1944 Morotai
Arrived 1 Jul 1944 Balikpapan
Arrived 1 Dec 1945 Australia



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