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Category: Army History/WW2

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The Australian Army of 3rd September 1939 consisted of a small Permanent Force cadre mostly manning staff, Royal Australian Artillery fortress units and Royal Australian Engineer fortress units. The majority of the army formed part of the Citizen Military Force (CMF), which was also known as the militia.

Unlike the United Kingdom, where both regular and Territorial Army units were integrated into a single force entitled the British Army, Australia maintained two distinct armies until the third year of the war. Many people have felt that this put Australia's security in jeopardy, especially during the dark days of 1942/3 when the Japanese threatened Australia with invasion.

During September 1939 an all-volunteer force was raised for service world-wide. This force was entitled the Second Australian Imperial Force or 2nd AIF and was modelled after the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) that was raised during the first world war. Units of the 2nd AIF had the prefix 2/ in front of the unit, hence the 2/4th Field Regiment.

The divisions and brigades of the CMF or Militia constituted the part-time home defence army and held this role until the start of the war with Japan on December 7, 1941. The Militia was not mobilized until that date, but all units did a series of brigade camps beginning at the outbreak of war and ending with full-time service on mobilization. For example, the 5th Battalion (The Victoria Scottish Regiment) of South Melbourne, Victoria did a 90 day camp at Mt. Martha starting on January 3, 1940, another 90 day camp from September to December 1940 at Mt. Martha, and a third camp there from 1 May to 29 July 1941. At the end of the later camp, the battalion remained on full-time service. The 5th's experience was repeated by the other units of the militia.

During September 1939 an all-volunteer force was raised for service world-wide. This force was entitled the Second Australian Imperial Force or 2nd AIF and was modelled after the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) that was raised during the first world war. Units of the 2nd AIF had the prefix 2/ in front of the unit, hence the 2/4th Field Regiment.

By 7 December 1941, the AIF had units in the Middle East, Malaya, Australia, the islands and the United Kingdom.

The role of the militia changed on the 19th February 1943, when the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act was passed. Commonly known as the Militia Bill, it defied the area by which those units could be stationed. It also allowed for Militia units to pass to AIF control if more than 75% of the units strength or 65% of the authorized "war establishment", whichever was greater, had volunteered to join the AIF.

By this time 15 AIF and 8 Militia Battalions had gained battle experience in New Guinea. The militia battalions belonged to the 7th Brigade (9th, 25th and 61st Battalions) in the successful defence of Milne Bay; the 30th Brigade (3rd, 39th and 55th/53rd Battalions) which had fought over the Kokoda Trail and the 14th Brigade (36th and 49th Battalions) which had joined the four AIF Brigades in the attack on Gona and Sanananda.


It was not possible to join the AIF until you were 20 years old but you could be conscripted at age 18. This led to much of the bitterness about the term "Chocko" with blokes that were labelled as 'not willing to fight in the AIF' but who could not legally join the AIF yet were in uniform, fighting, dying and getting wounded side by side with AIF blokes. It wasn't me that said Governments are smart.

The Australian Army (Militia) on 7 December 1941

Outline Order of Battle - Main Units

Not including Army, Base and Corps units or Anti-Aircraft Units

  • Note that many Brigades served in more than one Division and that
    • After this date the 5th, 11th and 12th Divisions were formed
Northern Command - HQ Brisbane, Queensland

	2nd Reconnaissance Battalion
	49th Infantry Battalion Details - Thursday Island
	Torres Strait Infantry Company - Thursday Island
	101st Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
	55th Field Park Company, RAE

	1st Motor Brigade
		5th, 11th Motor Regiments

	7th Infantry Brigade
		9th, 15th, 25th, 47th, 61st Infantry Battalions
		5th Field Regiment, RAA
		7th Field Company, RAE

	11th Infantry Brigade
		26th, 31st, 42nd, 51st Infantry Battalions
		11th Field Regiment, RAA
		11th Field Company, RAE

Eastern Command - HQ Sydney, New South Wales

	53rd Infantry Battalion - 
		Located at Sydney preparing for embarkation to New Guinea

	1st Cavalry Division
		1st, 16th Machine-Gun Regiments
		2nd Armoured Regiment
		21st Field Regiment, RAA
		102nd Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		1st Field Squadron, RAE

		2nd Cavalry Brigade
			12th, 24th Light Horse Regiments
			15th Motor Regiment

		4th Cavalry Brigade
			3rd Armoured Regiment
			6th Motor Regiment
			7th Light Horse Regiment
			14th Machine-Gun Regiment

	1st Infantry Division
		1st, 9th Field Regiments, RAA
		103rd Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		1st, 9th Field Companies, RAE
		51st Field Park Company, RAE

		1st Infantry Brigade
			2nd, 13th, 33rd, 41st Infantry Battalions

		9th Infantry Brigade
			1st, 17th, 18th, 45th Infantry Battalions
			The Sydney University Regiment

	2nd Infantry Division
		21st Reconnaissance Battalion
		7th, 14th, 18th Field Regiments, RAA
		104th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		5th, 8th, 14th Field Companies, RAE
		52nd Field Park Company, RAE

		5th Infantry Brigade
			20th, 34th, 54th, 56th Infantry Battalions

		8th Infantry Brigade
			4th, 30th, 35th Infantry Battalions

		14th Infantry Brigade
			3rd, 36th, 55th Infantry Battalions

Southern Command - HQ Melbourne, Victoria

	39th Infantry Battalion - Located at Darly Camp preparing for New Guinea
	22nd Motor Regiment - Brighton Camp, Tasmania - 
		Attached 12th Infantry Brigade

	2nd Cavalry Division - Victoria
		4th Armoured Regiment
		17th Machine-Gun Regiment
		19th Machine-Gun Regiment - Left for Darwin from Melbourne 14/1/42.
		13th Light Horse
		22nd Field Regiment, RAA
		105th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		2nd Field Squadron, RAE

		3rd Motor Brigade
			1st Armoured Car Regiment
			4th Light Horse Regiment
			20th Motor Regiment
			26th Machine-Gun Regiment

	3rd Infantry Division - Victoria
		8th Reconnaissance Battalion
		2nd, 4th, 8th Field Regiments, RAA
		106th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		4th, 10th, 15th Field Companies, RAE
		53rd Field Park Company, RAE

		4th Infantry Brigade
			22nd, 29th, 46th Infantry Battalions

		10th Infantry Brigade
			24th, 37th, 52nd Infantry Battalions

		15th Infantry Brigade
			57th/60th, 58th, 59th Infantry Battalions

	4th Infantry Division - Victoria
		10th, 15th Field Regiments, RAA
		107th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		2nd, 6th Field Companies, RAE
		54th Field Park Company, RAE

		2nd Infantry Brigade
			5th, 6th, 14th, 32nd Infantry Battalions

		6th Infantry Brigade
			7th, 8th, 23rd/21st, 38th Infantry Battalions

	6th Cavalry Brigade - South Australia
		3rd, 23rd Reconnaissance Companies
		9th Motor Regiment
		18th Machine-Gun Regiment

	3rd Infantry Brigade - South Australia
             (Later in December 1941, 27th and 43rd Battalions to Darwin)
		10th, 27th, 43rd, 48th Infantry Battalions
		13th Field Regiment, RAA
		3rd Field Company, RAE

	12th Infantry Brigade - Tasmania
		12th/50th, 40th Infantry Battalions
		110th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
		6th Field Regiment, RAA
		12th Field Company, RAE

Western Command - HQ Perth, Western Australia

	10th Reconnaissance Battalion
	25th Machine-Gun Regiment
	44th Infantry Battalion
	109th Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
	56th Field Park Company, RAE

	13th Infantry Brigade
		11th, 16th, 28th Infantry Battalions
		3rd Field Regiment, RAA
		13th Field Company, RAE

Military District #7 - Northern Territory

	19th Infantry Battalion - Darwin
	18th Field Battery, RAA - Darwin

Military District #8 - Rabaul, New Hebrides and New Guinea

	49th Infantry Battalion - Port Moresby, Papua
	Papuan Infantry Battalion - Port Moresby, Papua
	The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles - Rabaul and New Guinea

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