2/4th Battalion’s first drafts of recruits arrived at Ingleburn Camp
on 3 November 1939, following the formation its headquarters at Victoria
Barracks in Sydney the previous week. Part of the 16th Brigade of the
6th Australian Division, the battalion departed Sydney for service
overseas on 10 January 1940. While the battalion was en route for the
Middle East Australian infantry brigades were reorganised along British
lines, with three battalions instead of four. This meant the 2/4th was
eventually transferred to the 19th Brigade, but remained part of the 6th
Arriving in the Middle East on 14
February 1940, the 2/4th trained in Palestine and Egypt in preparation
for its first campaign, against the Italians in eastern Libya. It played
only a small role at Bardia (3–5 January 1941) but was more active
during the battle for Tobruk (21–22 January 1941), and had to fight
particularly hard to secure the Wadi Derna (26–30 January). It was the
first Australian unit to enter Benghazi, on 6 February, and subsequently
garrisoned the town until 22 February.
In early April 1941, the 2/4th, with
the rest of the 6th Division, deployed to Greece to resist the
anticipated German invasion. It fought a fierce battle at Vevi in
northern Greece on 11 and 12 April and then withdrew through a series of
rearguard positions until evacuated, by sea, from Megara on 26 April.
The battalion landed on Crete the next day and eventually joined the
force defending Heraklion airfield. When German paratroops landed on 20
May they were rapidly overcome in the area immediately around the
airfield. The paratroops were, however, able to gain a foothold outside
the defended area. This, combined with German successes elsewhere on
Crete, brought about the evacuation of Heraklion by sea on 29 May.
After a period of training in
Palestine, the 2/4th joined the force garrisoning Syria. It completed
this duty in mid-January 1942, embarked for home on 12 February, and
arrived at Adelaide on 27 March. In June, the 19th Brigade was deployed
to defend Darwin and the 2/4th remained there for what became a boring
and frustrating year. The brigade rejoined the rest of the 6th Division
training in northern Queensland in June 1943 but another 18 months would
pass before it saw action again.
The 2/4th landed at Aitape in New
Guinea on 2 November 1944 to undertake its only campaign against the
Japanese. Its most intense effort took place between April and July.
Landed at But, the battalion advanced along the coast, captured Wewak on
10 May, and then swung inland to clear the foothills of the Prince
Alexander Range. For his actions during the attack on Wirui Mission on
14 May, Private Edward Kenna was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Following the Japanese surrender on 15
August, drafts of 2/4th men began returning to Australia for discharge.
The remainder of the battalion itself arrived home on 26 October and
disbanded at Chermside in Queensland on 12 November 1945. Text from AWM