|9th Australian Division|
Members of the 9th Division parade at Gaza Airport in late 1942
|Branch||Second Australian Imperial Force|
|Nickname(s)||"The Rats of Tobruk";|
"The Magnificent 9th"
|Engagements||World War II|
| Sir Leslie Morshead |
The 9th Division was a division of the Australian Army that served during World War II. It was the fourth division raised for the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF). The distinctions of the division include it being:
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The Second Australian Imperial Force was the name given to the volunteer personnel of the Australian Army in World War II. Under the Defence Act (1903), neither the part-time Militia nor the full-time Permanent Military Force (PMF) could serve outside Australia or its territories unless they volunteered to do so. The Second AIF fought against Nazi Germany, Italy, Vichy France and Japan. After the war, Australia's wartime military structures were demobilised and the 2nd AIF was disbanded, although a small cadre of its personnel became part of the Interim Army that was established in 1947, and from which the Australian Regular Army was formed in 1948.
The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.
A medal or medallion is a small portable artistic object, a thin disc, normally of metal, carrying a design, usually on both sides. They typically have a commemorative purpose of some kind, and many are given as awards. They may be intended to be worn, suspended from clothing or jewellery in some way. They are traditionally struck like a coin by dies.
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein,, nicknamed "Monty" and "The Spartan General", was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War.
During 1940, the component units of the 9th Division were sent to the UK to defend it against a possible German invasion. After serving during 1941–1942 in the North African campaign, at the Siege of Tobruk and both the First and Second Battles of El Alamein, the 9th Division returned to Australia. In 1943–1944, it served in the New Guinea campaign and, during 1945, in the Borneo campaign. It was disbanded, following the end of the war, in early 1946.
The Siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against Allied forces in Libya, during the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the Allies had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. During early 1941, much of the Western Desert Force (WDF) was sent to the Greek and Syrian campaigns. As German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, only a skeleton Allied force remained, short of equipment and supplies.
The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought in Egypt between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa and Allied forces of the Eighth Army.
The Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.
The 9th Division was the fourth AIF division raised, being formed in the United Kingdom in late 1940. Initially it consisted of only two infantry brigades which had been formed in Australia and dispatched to Britain in order to defend against a possible invasion following the Fall of France—the 18th and 25th Brigades—under the command of Major General Henry Wynter.Later, the 24th Brigade was also assigned to the division.
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division.
The 18th Brigade was an infantry brigade of the Australian Army. The brigade briefly existed as a Militia formation prior to the First World War, but this was short lived. During the Second World War, the brigade was raised on 13 October 1939 and was one of the first three infantry brigades of the Second Australian Imperial Force to be formed. Initially commanded by Brigadier Leslie Morshead, it served in the United Kingdom in 1940–1941, where it helped bolster the British garrison in anticipation of a possible German invasion following the Fall of France. In early 1941, the brigade was transferred to the Middle East where it later took part in fighting against the Italians in Libya and then helped to defend the besieged port of Tobruk before fighting against the Vichy French in the Syria–Lebanon campaign. The 18th Brigade was withdrawn to Australia in early 1942, and it later took part in the fighting against the Japanese in Pacific fighting several campaigns in New Guinea between late 1942 and early 1944. Its final involvement of the war came in mid-1945 when it took part in re-taking Balikpapan. Following the end of hostilities, the 18th Brigade was disbanded on 3 January 1946.
The 25th Brigade was a brigade-sized infantry unit of the Australian Army that served during the Second World War. Raised in July 1940 and consisting of three infantry battalions, the 25th Brigade initially served in the United Kingdom, where it formed part of the garrison tasked with defending against a possible German invasion. In 1941, the brigade was redeployed to the Middle East where it took part in the Syria–Lebanon campaign fighting several actions around Merdjayoun and Jezzine.
In January 1941 Wynter became ill and was replaced as divisional commander by Leslie Morshead.By February 1941, 9th Division headquarters had been relocated to the Middle East. Around this time the divisions of the AIF underwent a reorganisation as the decision was made to send the more established brigades to Greece; as a result both the 18th and 25th Brigades were transferred from the 9th to the 7th Division. They were replaced by the 20th and 26th Brigades, both of which were considered to be less experienced and therefore less ready for action.
Lieutenant General Sir Leslie James Morshead, was an Australian soldier, teacher, businessman, and farmer, whose military career spanned both world wars. During the Second World War, he led the Australian and British troops at the Siege of Tobruk (1941) and at the Second Battle of El Alamein, achieving decisive victories over Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. A strict and demanding officer, his soldiers nicknamed him "Ming the Merciless", later simply "Ming", after the villain in the Flash Gordon comics.
The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East beginning in the early 20th century.
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion of Allied Greece by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in April 1941 during World War II. The Italian invasion in October 1940, which is usually known as the Greco-Italian War, was followed by the German invasion in April 1941. German landings on the island of Crete came after Allied forces had been defeated in mainland Greece. These battles were part of the greater Balkan Campaign of Germany.
After completing its initial training in Australia, Great Britain and Palestine, the units of the 9th Division were sent to Cyrenaica in Libya in early March 1941 to complete their training and equipping as part of the garrison of this region. March the 20th Brigade relieved the 17th Brigade from the 6th Division, along the Cyrenaican frontier.Short of equipment such as machine guns, mortars, anti-tank guns and carriers, most of the division's artillery and cavalry units did not accompany the infantry brigades to Cyrenaica at this time. The 20th Brigade was the first unit from the division to move, departing on 27 February, although it was joined shortly by the other two brigades and it was during this time that the division suffered its first casualties when German bombers attacked the transport column in which the 2/13th Battalion was travelling, killing two Australians and wounding one other. By 9
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya. Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it formed part of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica, later divided into Libya Pentapolis and Libya Sicca. During the Islamic period, the area came to be known as Barqa, after the city of Barca.
Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm designed to fire rifle cartridges in rapid succession from an ammunition belt or magazine for the purpose of suppressive fire. Not all fully automatic firearms are machine guns. Submachine guns, rifles, assault rifles, battle rifles, shotguns, pistols or cannons may be capable of fully automatic fire, but are not designed for sustained fire. As a class of military rapid-fire guns, machine guns are fully automatic weapons designed to be used as support weapons and generally used when attached to a mount- or fired from the ground on a bipod or tripod. Many machine guns also use belt feeding and open bolt operation, features not normally found on rifles.
By late March, it became clear that German-led Axis forces planned to launch an offensive in Cyrenaica and as a result, the 9th Division commander, Leslie Morshead, ordered the 20th Brigade to withdraw from the frontier, moving 160 miles (260 km) back towards Benghazi. The offensive began on 24 March, quickly forcing the British units along the frontier back as it drove towards Benghazi. Two days later the 26th Brigade took up positions in the west near the coast to support the 20th Brigade which was holding the pass at Er Regima. At this stage, the division's anti-tank troops were issued with captured Italian guns in order to make up the shortfall in British weapons.
As the Axis advance continued with German victories at Marsa Brega and Agedabia which threatened to outflank the units cut off in Benghazi, the 9th Division ordered to fall back from their positions along the coast to the east to Derna. 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) managed to delay a German force of about 3,000 personnel mounted in lorries and accompanied by armoured cars and tanks. Only lightly armed, however, they were unable to prevent the Germans from outflanking them and gradually they were forced to pull back before, at 2200 hours, their transport arrived and they were able to withdraw just as they were faced with encirclement. In this action the 2/13th Battalion suffered five killed and 93 wounded or captured.Lacking their own transport, they had to rely on that provided by other units and thus the withdrawal had to be undertaken in stages. In order to achieve this, the 2/13th Battalion was used as a rear guard and late in the afternoon of 4 April it undertook the division's first action of the war when the Germans attacked their positions in the Er Regima Pass. Supported by British artillery, the battalion, spread out across a
Two days after the action at Er Regima Pass, the 9th Division was ordered to fall back along the coast road towards Tobruk in what was later called the "Benghazi Handicap". Due to the speed of the Axis advance and the division's lack of transport, confusion reigned and part of the 2/15th Battalion, including most of its headquarters and its commanding officer, were captured.
Covered by rear guard actions at Er Regima and Mechili, the 9th Division reached Tobruk on 9 April 1941.The 7th Division's 18th Brigade had arrived two days earlier and together with a number of British artillery and armoured regiments and an Indian cavalry regiment, the 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry (now 18 Cavalry), they were placed under the command of Major General John Lavarack and ordered to hold the port for at least two months while a relieving force from Egypt was organised.
The first engagement came on 10 April when an Axis force approached the port from the west but was repelled. The following day, Tobruk was effectively placed under siege when German forces cut the supply road to its east, encircling the Allied garrison. On 13 April the first major attack came when the German commander, Erwin Rommel, launched an attack against the 20th Brigade west of the El Adem road.This attack was beaten off, although that night a force of Germans with mortars and machine guns managed to break into the defences only to be counterattacked by a small group of Australians, including John Edmondson, armed with bayonets and grenades. For his part in the attack Edmondson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the first of seven which were bestowed upon members of the 9th Division during the war.
Over the course of the next six months the 9th Division and the rest of the garrison repelled repeated attempts by Rommel's forces to capture the port.The Australian defence of Tobruk was anchored on three factors: the use of the pre-existing Italian fortifications around the port, aggressive patrolling and raiding of Axis positions and the firepower of the garrison's artillery. Fighting from fixed positions, the Australian infantry successfully contained and defeated repeated German armoured and infantry attacks on the fortress. After the failure of the British attempts to relieve the fortress in May and June 1941 the 9th Division was successful in gradually improving Tobruk's defences through aggressively raiding Axis positions.
Upon the request of the Australian War Cabinet, the bulk of the 9th Division was withdrawn from Tobruk in September and October 1941, and handed over to the British 70th Divisionwith only the 2/13th Battalion remaining in the fortress at the time the garrison was finally relieved in December. The defence of Tobruk cost the 9th Division 3,164 casualties including 650 killed, 1,597 wounded and 917 captured.
After its withdrawal from Tobruk the 9th Division enjoyed only a brief period of rest in Palestine before being redeployed to northern Syria where, as part of the British Ninth Army, it was responsible for guarding the Turkish–Syrian frontier. 1,200 square miles (3,100 km2). In addition to its garrison duties, the 9th Division also conducted some much needed training in mobile warfare during its stay in Syria.Here they were rejoined by the 9th Division Cavalry Regiment, which had been detached in June 1941 to take part in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign. This deployment was the first time all the elements of the division had been concentrated in one area, albeit an area that stretched
In early 1942 Australian I Corps, including the 6th and 7th Divisions, was withdrawn to Australia in response to Japan's entry into the war.The Australian government, however, agreed to British requests to retain the 9th Division in the Middle East in exchange for an additional American division being sent to Australia.
During early 1942 the Axis forces advanced steadily through north west Egypt. It was decided that the British Eighth Army should make a stand just over 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Alexandria, at the railway siding of El Alamein, where the coastal plain narrowed between the Mediterranean Sea and the inhospitable Qattara Depression. On 26 June 1942 the 9th Division was ordered to begin moving from northern Syria to El Alamein. On 1 July, Rommel's forces made a major attack, hoping to dislodge the Allies from the area, take Alexandria, and open the way to Cairo and the Suez Canal. However, the Eighth Army had regrouped sufficiently to repel the Axis forces and launch counterattacks. On 6 July, the lead elements of the 9th Division arrived at Tel el Shammama 22 miles (35 km) from the front, from where they would be committed to the fighting in the northern sector.
Before dawn on 10 July, as Rommel focused his efforts on the southern flank of the battlefield, the 9th Division attacked the north flank of the enemy positions and captured the strategic high ground around Tel el Eisa. In the days following, Rommel redirected his forces against them, in a series of intense counterattacks, but was unable to dislodge the Australians.On 22 July, the 24th and 26th Brigades attacked German positions on the ridges south of Tel el Esia, suffering heavy casualties taking positions on Tel el Eisa Ridge and Makh Khad Ridge.
The final phase of the First Battle of El Alamein was a disaster for the Allies and the 2/28th Battalion in particular: an attempt to capture Sanyet el Miteiriya, known as "Ruin Ridge", on 27 July.The operation was part of a complex series of night attacks. The 2/28th suffered significant casualties and vehicle losses in its advance, but achieved its objective. However, the battalion was soon surrounded by German infantry. A planned advance by British tanks failed and German tanks arrived. The 2/28th's positions came under a prolonged and methodical attack by the Axis forces. By the time they surrendered, 65 Australians had been killed. Although the vast majority of the 2/28th had become prisoners of war, 93 members of the battalion remained behind Allied lines and it was subsequently rebuilt.
Following the fighting in July, the 9th Division remained in front-line positions around El Alamein, but were engaged in mainly static defensive duties for the next three months. 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south-west of Tel el Eisa in which 150 Germans were killed and another 140 taken prisoner, against which the Australians lost 39 killed, 109 wounded and another 25 missing.Nevertheless, patrols were maintained and some raiding was undertaken, including a raid on 1 September undertaken by the 2/15th Battalion to seize a point
By late October 1942, the Eighth Army, now commanded by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, decided to launch his own offensive in the Western Desert, amassing a force of some 220,000 personnel supported by 1,100 tanks and 900 artillery pieces.The 9th Division was positioned in the northern sector of the Eighth Army's front at El Alamein, nearest the coast, as part of British XXX Corps. This sector was to effect the main thrust of the Allied attack. While XIII and most of XXX Corps failed to meet their objectives on 25 October, the 9th Division gained considerable momentum, attacking both frontally and executing a wide "left hook" from their original positions, in their sector, with one Axis outpost after another falling to them. Together with the 51st (Highland) Division, and the 2nd New Zealand Division, they had mauled the Italian Trento Division and the German 164th Division. By the following day the 9th Division had managed to further slice through the German 164th Division and trap the greater part of it against the sea. This caused the Axis to rush reinforcements to their sector.
As events unfolded, it was on the 9th that Montgomery, the Eighth Army commander, pinned his hopes on a breakthrough.Before this breakthrough was attempted, however, the 9th Division was subjected to numerous counter-attacks by German forces and many of the division's units suffered so many casualties that they were described as "mere skeletons". By the night of 31 October/1 November Morshead decided to relieve his forward brigade, the 26th Brigade, with the relatively fresh 24th Brigade, however, the following day two German divisions attacked the brigade.
On 2 November, Operation Supercharge—as the breakout was named—began and the final phase of the battle began. 6 miles (9.7 km) through which the armour was redirected. The result of this was that the pressure was taken off the 9th Division as the focus of the fighting shifted to the south of Tel el Eisa. After this the 9th Division ceased offensive action, although they continued patrolling operations until 4 November when Rommel ordered a general withdrawal. The four months that the 9th Division had been involved in the fighting around El Alamein cost them 1,225 killed, 3,638 wounded and 946 captured, for a total of 5,809 casualties.The British armoured formations suffered heavily in the initial stages, before on the second day the 51st Division managed to force a gap through the Axis lines, creating a gap of over
In October 1942 the Australian government requested that the 9th Division be released from service in the Middle East and returned to Australia to be utilised against the Japanese in the Pacific.Although both the British prime minister, Winston Churchill and the American president Franklin Roosevelt advised against this, the Australian prime minister John Curtin insisted and by mid December the decision to bring the division back to Australia was confirmed. In late December the division concentrated around Gaza, where a divisional parade was held before preparations for embarkation began.
The 9th Division began embarking for its return to Australia on 24 January 1943.Transported on four troopships—the Queen Mary , Ile de France , Nieuw Amsterdam and Aquitania —as part of Operation Pamphlet the division arrived at Fremantle in Western Australia on 18 February whereupon all members of the division were granted three weeks leave. Welcome-home parades were held in every Australian capital city, after which the 9th Division began reforming in April 1943 in the semi-tropical Atherton Tablelands region of Far North Queensland where it began re-organising and re-training for jungle warfare. As part of the conversion to a Jungle Division many of the division’s units were either separated from the division, reorganised into new roles or disbanded. Of note, the division's cavalry unit, the 9th Division Cavalry Regiment, gave up its vehicles and was converted to the commando role, becoming the 2/9th Cavalry Commando Regiment. After completing amphibious training near Cairns the 9th Division, now under Major General George Wootten who had taken command of the division in March, departed for Milne Bay in New Guinea in late July and early August 1943.
The 9th Division's first task in New Guinea was to liberate the town of Lae in a joint operation with the 7th Division. 80 miles (130 km) run to the landing beaches, arriving just before dawn.The 9th Division would carry out an amphibious landing to the east of the town at Malahang—the first large scale seaborne landing by an Australian formation since the Gallipoli campaign in 1915—while the 7th Division would be flown into the recently secured Nadzab airfield, to the west of Lae. The 20th Brigade, now under Brigadier Victor Windeyer, was chosen as the lead assault unit and on 1 September it began embarking at Milne Bay. Departing the following day, they were transported to the Buna–Morobe area where it linked up with the 57 landing craft that had been assigned to the operation. On the night of 3/4 September they began the
At 0630 hours on 4 September the 20th Brigade launched the initial assault under the cover of naval bombardment. Two battalions were landed on the main beach, codenamed Red Beach, while one more was landed 3 miles (4.8 km) west at Yellow Beach. Experiencing no opposition on the beaches, patrols were sent out to effect a link up along the beachhead. 35 minutes later as the 26th Brigade came ashore, they were attacked by nine Japanese aircraft which inflicted a number of casualties on the Australians in the LCIs, with eight personnel being killed, including the commanding officer of the 2/23rd Battalion, while another 20 were wounded. The following day, the 26th Brigade passed through the perimeter that had been set up by the 20th Brigade and began to advance along the coast towards Lae, crossing the Buso river before nightfall on 5 September. That night, the 24th Brigade, which had been held back as the divisional reserve, landed at the beachhead.
After establishing their supply bases the two Australian divisions raced each other to Lae. The 7th Division entered the town several hours ahead of the 9th Division on 16 September.The 9th Division's advance had been held up by Japanese resistance and difficulties with crossing the rivers between the landing beaches and Lae.
The capture of Lae ahead of schedule meant that the focus of Allied operations could then be shifted upon an advance up the Huon Peninsula, which was strategically important to the Allies as it would allow them to establish air and naval bases for future operations. 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north of Finschhafen. Because of the haste with which the operation had been put together, there had been no time for rehearsals and this, coupled with faulty maps and the fact that the landing took place in darkness, resulted in the majority of the brigade being landed on the wrong beach. Allied intelligence estimates of Japanese strength around Finschhafen were also faulty, with an expected force of between 500 and 2,100, although the Japanese really had around 5,000 personnel in the area.On 22 September 1943, only six days after the fall of Lae, the 20th Brigade made an amphibious landing at Scarlet Beach,
Nevertheless, after a week of heavy fighting against well-entrenched Japanese troops, the Australians captured the town and airfield of Finschhafen, declaring it liberated on 2 October.
However, most of the Japanese that had been around Finschhafen managed to retreat to a 1,000-metre-high (3,300 ft) mountain around Sattelberg. On 16 October they launched a counterattack from there. In response to this, the 26th Brigade was brought up to relieve the 20th, and by 25 October the Japanese counterattack was beaten off. The 9th Division then went on the offensive against Sattelberg on 7 November. With intermittent and sometimes heavy air support, the Australian troops worked to uproot the Japanese from the strategically important peak. It fell to the 9th Division on 25 November 1943, after the 2/48th Battalion reached the summit. It was during this final assault that Sergeant Tom Derrick carried out the actions that led to him receiving the Victoria Cross.
In January 1944 the 9th Division was relieved by the 5th Division around Sioand progressively over the following two months they were brought back to Australia. After a period of leave the division once again re-formed on the Atherton Tablelands. Due to high personnel turnover in this period as personnel were discharged or transferred to other units, many of the division's units had to be virtually rebuilt from scratch. Indeed, in order to bring the division's infantry units an entire Militia battalion—nearly 400 personnel—from the 62nd Battalion was broken up to provide reinforcements.
Due to rapid developments in the war and strategic uncertainty over the role of Australian forces in the Pacific, the 9th Division remained in Australia for over a year before seeing action once more. While the Australian I Corps (of which the 9th Division was part) had originally been intended to participate in the liberation of the Philippines,these plans were dropped, and the Corps was instead tasked with the liberation of Borneo. This would be the division's final involvement in the war and its participation in the campaign was broken up into two primary operations: a landing on Tarakan and another on Brunei and Labuan.
The 26th Brigade group was assigned the task of capturing Tarakan Island and destroying the Japanese garrison.Japanese forces on the island were estimated at around 2,000 personnel along with around 250 civilians working in the oil plants. On 30 April 1945 a small force of commandos from the 2/4th Commando Squadron landed along with battery of 25-pounder field guns from the 2/7th Field Regiment was landed on Sadau Island off the coast of Tarakan, from where they would provide indirect fire support during the landing. The following day, 1 May, at 0640 the battery on Sadau opened the preliminary bombardment along with two cruisers and six destroyers stationed offshore. At 0656 hours the main assault began as the LCIs carrying the two battalions that would lead the attack—the 2/23rd and 2/48th—crossed the line of departure and headed towards the landing beach at Lingkas.
Although initially Japanese opposition to the landing was light, as the Australians advanced inland from the landing beach, the resistance grew in its intensity and it was mid June by the time that the main Japanese force was broken up and mopping up operations began.These operations continued throughout July until starvation forced the majority of those remaining to surrender. The Australians lost 250 killed and 670 wounded in this operation, while the Japanese lost around 1,500 personnel killed and another 250 captured trying to defend the island.
The remainder of the 9th Division landed in the Labuan and Brunei area on 10 June 1945.Tasked with securing Brunei Bay in order to establish a naval base and secure vital oil and rubber production facilities, 14,079 personnel from the division took part, just under half of a total of 30,000 that were assigned to the operation. Following a preliminary naval and aerial bombardment, the 24th Brigade landed at the southern end of Labuan island, which situated as it was at the entrance of Brunei Bay, commanded the approach to northern Borneo. At the same time, the 20th Brigade landed near Brooketon, on a small peninsula in the southern end of the bay. A third, albeit smaller, landing was made by one of the 20th Brigade's battalions—the 2/15th—on the small island of Muara. The island had not been garrisoned by the Japanese and all the Australian landings went in unopposed.
The 20th Brigade rapidly secured Brunei town against relatively light opposition, suffering only 40 casualties in this campaign.The 24th Brigade, however, encountered greater opposition in taking the island of Labuan, where the defenders withdrew to an inland stronghold where they held out along dense jungle covered ridges and muddy swamps. In order to subdue the Japanese resistance an intense naval and artillery bombardment was laid down over the course of a week before an assault was put in by two companies of infantry supported by tanks and flamethrowers.
After securing Labuan, the 24th Brigade was landed on the northern shore of Brunei Bay on 16 June, while the 20th Brigade continued to consolidate the southern lodgement by advanced south-west along the coast towards Kuching and securing the hinterland as well. 23 kilometres (14 mi) inland. Held by 800–1,000 Japanese, on 27 June an attack was carried out there by the 2/43rd Battalion. Amid a torrential downpour and encountering difficult terrain, the 2/32nd Battalion secured the south bank of the Padas River, while one company from the 2/43rd was sent to take the town and another marched to the flanks, to take up ambush positions along the route that the Japanese were expected to withdraw along. The 2/28th Battalion secured the lines of communication north of the river. On the night of 27/28 June the Japanese launched six counterattacks which devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Amid appalling conditions, one company became isolated and the next morning another was sent to its aid to attack the Japanese from the rear. Fighting its way through numerous Japanese positions, the company killed at least 100 Japanese and one of its members, Private Tom Starcevich, was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts.The 2/32nd Battalion landed at Padas Bay and seized the town of Weston, before sending out patrols towards Beaufort,
Following this, the Japanese began to withdraw from Beaufort and the Australians began a slow, cautious advance using indirect fire to limit casualties. By 12 July they occupied Papar,and from there sent out patrols to the north and along the river until the cessation of hostilities. By August the fighting came to an end. The division's total casualties in this operation were 114 killed and 221 wounded, while the Japanese lost at least 1,234 personnel.
Following the end of the war the 9th Division remained in Borneo and performed emergency relief and occupation duties until the arrival of Indian troops in January 1946. The 9th Division began gradually demobilising on 1 October 1945 with soldiers with dependants or long service being the first to be discharged. The division's headquarters was disbanded on 10 February 1946 and the last unit of the division was disbanded in May 1946. While the majority of the division's personnel returned civilian life after the war, some continued to serve with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan,joining the 66th Infantry Battalion.
The 9th Division suffered a total of 2,732 killed in action, 7,501 wounded and 1,863 captured. These 12,096 casualties represent approximately one quarter of the personnel who served with the division.
The 9th Division was the most highly decorated of the four AIF divisions raised during the war.Seven of its members received the Victoria Cross, the nation's highest award for gallantry, these were (in alphabetical order by surname):
Military decorations awarded to members of the 9th Division include:
The 9th Division's structure was as follows:
The 7th Division was an infantry division of the Australian Army. It was formed in February 1940 to serve in World War II, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force. The division was raised on the British establishment of nine infantry battalions per division and consisted of two new brigades and three of the original 12 battalions of the 6th Division forming the third brigade. The division is sometimes known by the nickname "The Silent Seventh", due to a perception that its achievements were unrecognised, in comparison to the other Australian divisions. The origin of this belief appears to be censorship of the part played by the 7th Division in the fierce fighting in the 1941 Syria-Lebanon campaign. The 7th Division along with the 6th and 9th Australian Divisions were the only divisions to serve in both the Middle East and the South West Pacific Area. It was disbanded in 1946, following the end of the war.
The Battle of North Borneo took place during the Second World War between Allied and Japanese forces. Part of the wider Borneo campaign of the Pacific War, it was fought between 10 June and 15 August 1945 in North Borneo. The battle involved a series of amphibious landings by Australian forces on various points on the mainland around Brunei Bay and upon islands situated around the bay. Japanese opposition to the landings was sporadic initially, although as the campaign progressed a number of considerable clashes occurred and both sides suffered relatively significant casualties. Ultimately, however, the Australians were successful in seizing control of the region, although to a large extent the strategic gains that possession of North Borneo provided the Allies with were ultimately negated by the sudden conclusion of the war in August 1945.
The Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range campaign, was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. The campaign began with an Allied offensive in the Ramu Valley, from 19 September 1943, and concluded when Allied troops entered Madang on 24 April 1944. During the campaign, Australian forces – supported by Australian and US aircraft – advanced through the Markham and Ramu Valleys during which there were minor clashes with Japanese forces, which withdrew towards their main defensive line in the Finisterre Range. The central geographical and strategic feature of the campaign was the imposing Shaggy Ridge, running north-south in the Finisterres; this was the scene of a climactic battle during which the Australians assaulted the Japanese positions in December 1943 and January 1944. Following the fighting around Shaggy Ridge, the Japanese withdrew towards the northern coast of New Guinea, where they were pursued by Australian and US forces advancing through the Finisterres and along the coast from Saidor. Following the capture of Madang, the Japanese eventually withdrew to Wewak where further fighting took place in 1944 and 1945.
The Huon Peninsula campaign was a series of battles fought in north-eastern Papua New Guinea in 1943–1944 during the Second World War. The campaign formed the initial part of an offensive that the Allies launched in the Pacific in late 1943 and resulted in the Japanese being pushed north from Lae to Sio on the northern coast of New Guinea over the course of a four-month period. For the Australians, a significant advantage was gained through the technological edge that Allied industry had achieved over the Japanese by this phase of the war, while the Japanese were hampered by a lack of supplies and reinforcements due to Allied interdiction efforts at sea and in the air.
The Salamaua–Lae campaign was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Australian and United States forces sought to capture two major Japanese bases, one in the town of Lae, and another one at Salamaua. The campaign to take the Salamaua and Lae area began after the successful defence of Wau in late January, which was followed up by an Australian advance towards Mubo as the Japanese troops that had attacked Wau withdrew to positions around Mubo. A series of actions followed over the course of several months as the Australian 3rd Division advanced north-east towards Salamaua. After an amphibious landing at Nassau Bay, the Australians were reinforced by a US regimental combat team, which subsequently advanced north up the coast.
The 11th/28th Battalion, Royal Western Australia Regiment is a Reserve infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Located in Western Australia, it is one of the two battalions of the Royal Western Australia Regiment which forms the infantry component of the 13th Brigade.
The Landing at Lae was an amphibious landing to the east of Lae and then the subsequent advance on the town during the Salamaua–Lae campaign of World War II. Part of Operation Postern, which was undertaken to capture the Japanese base at Lae, the landing was undertaken between 4 and 6 September 1943 by Australian troops from the 9th Division, supported by US naval forces from the VII Amphibious Force. The first major amphibious operation undertaken by the Australian Army since the failed Gallipoli Campaign, the Australians invested a significant amount of effort into planning the operation.
The 2/48th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army which served during the Second World War. Raised in Adelaide in South Australia in August 1940, the battalion formed part of the 26th Brigade and was initially assigned to the 7th Division, although it was later transferred to the 9th Division in 1941 when it was deployed to the Middle East. While there, it saw action during the siege of Tobruk and the First and Second Battles of El Alamein before being returned to Australia to take part in the fighting in New Guinea following Japan's entry into the war.
The 24th Brigade was a brigade-sized infantry unit of the Australian Army. Formed on 1 July 1940 as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, the unit was raised for service during World War II. Originally formed as part of the 8th Australian Division the brigade was subsequently transferred to the newly created 9th Australian Division in December. The brigade served during the Western Desert Campaign, forming part of the Allied garrison during the Siege of Tobruk. Later, the brigade was withdrawn to Syria for occupation duties, but then later took part in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein. In early 1943, the brigade was returned to Australia to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific. In 1943–1944, the brigade fought in New Guinea, taking part in the landing at Lae and the Huon Peninsula campaign. Its final campaign came late in the war, when it took part in the Labuan landings and the Battle of North Borneo in mid-1945. After the war, the brigade was disbanded in early 1946.
The 20th Brigade was a brigade-sized infantry unit of the Australian Army. First raised in 1912 as a Militia formation to provide training under the compulsory training scheme, the brigade was later re-raised on 7 May 1940 as part of the all volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force for service during the World War II. The brigade was initially assigned to the 7th Division, but was later transferred to the 9th Division in early 1941. They subsequently took part in the Siege of Tobruk that year, and then the First and Second Battles of El Alamein in 1942. In early 1943, the brigade was returned to Australia to join the fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific. In late 1943, the brigade took part in the capture of Lae and then the Huon Peninsula campaign. Withdrawn to Australia in early 1944, its final campaign came during the Battle of North Borneo in the final months of the war. It was disbanded in February 1946.
The 2/17th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised in April 1940 in New South Wales, it formed part of the 20th Brigade, and was eventually allocated to the 9th Division. After completing basic training in Australia, the unit was deployed to the Middle East. In early 1941, it took part in the fighting at Tobruk, defending the port until relieved. A period of garrison duties followed in Syria and Lebanon before the battalion took part in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein in mid-1942. As the focus of the Australian Army's operations shifted to the Pacific theatre to fight the Japanese, the 2/17th Battalion returned to Australia early in 1943.
The 2/43rd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Raised in July 1940 in South Australia as part of the 24th Brigade, the battalion was initially part of the 8th Division, until the 24th Brigade was re-allocated to the 9th Division in late 1940. It was with this formation that the 2/43rd saw service in the Middle East in 1941–1942, taking part in the fighting at Tobruk and in the First and Second Battles of El Alamein. It also undertook garrison duties in Syria, before returning to Australia early in 1943 to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific.
The 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion was an infantry support unit of the all-volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force that was raised for service overseas during the Second World War. Formed in mid-1940 in Sydney, from personnel drawn from the states of Queensland and New South Wales, the battalion was allocated to the Australian 9th Division. After completing training in Australia, the battalion operated in the Middle East between early 1941 and early 1943, seeing action against German and Italian forces at the First and Second Battles of El Alamein, and undertaking garrison duties in Syria as part of the Allied garrison that was established there after the Syria–Lebanon campaign.
The 2/28th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during the Second World War. Formed in mid-1940 from Western Australian volunteers, the battalion served in North Africa in 1941–42 as part of the 24th Brigade, which was assigned to the 9th Division. The battalion's first major engagement came during the Siege of Tobruk, where the battalion carried out defensive duties as part of the garrison for over six months before being withdrawn by sea. After undertaking occupation duties in Syria and Lebanon, the 2/28th took part in the First Battle of El Alamein in mid-1942 during which it was heavily depleted, and had to be rebuilt prior to its commitment to the Second Battle of El Alamein later in the year. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–44, where it was committed to capturing Lae, and then clearing the Huon Peninsula, and then retaking Borneo in 1945. After the war, the battalion was disbanded in early 1946.
The 2/15th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army that served during World War II. Formed in May 1940 primarily from Queensland volunteers, the battalion saw action in North Africa in 1941–1942 as part of the 20th Brigade, which was part of the 7th Division before being reassigned to the 9th Division.
The 2/13th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during World War II. Formed in April 1940 from volunteers drawn primarily from New South Wales, as part of the 20th Brigade of the 7th Division, the battalion served in North Africa in 1941–1942, after being reassigned to the 9th Division. While most of the 9th Division was withdrawn from Tobruk, during October 1942, the battalion remained and fought alongside the new garrison built around the British 70th Division. Following the lifting of the siege, the battalion returned to Australia during 1943. It later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–1944 and Borneo in 1945, before being disbanded in 1946.
The 2/23rd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during the Second World War. Formed in June 1940 from primarily volunteers from Albury, New South Wales, the battalion served in North Africa in 1941–1942 as part of the 26th Brigade, which was assigned to the 7th Division, before being reassigned to the 9th Division. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–1944 and Borneo in 1945, before being disbanded in 1946.
The 2/24th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during World War II. A unit of the all-volunteer Second Australian Imperial Force, it was formed in July 1940 from primarily Victorian volunteers and was known as "Wangaratta's Own" because of the time the battalion spent in the town during its formative period prior to deployment overseas. It served in North Africa in 1941–1942 as part of the 26th Brigade, which was assigned to the 7th Division, before being reassigned to the 9th Division. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–1944 and Borneo in 1945, before being disbanded in 1946. The 2/24th suffered the highest number of casualties of any 2nd AIF infantry battalion.
The 2/32nd Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during the Second World War. Formed in June 1940 from surplus Australian troops who had been sent to the United Kingdom shortly after the Fall of France, the battalion was originally designated the "71st Battalion", before being redesignated. After completing training in the United Kingdom, the 2/32nd served in North Africa in 1941–42 as part of the 25th Brigade, which was assigned to the 9th Division, before being assigned to the 24th Brigade. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–44 around Lae and on the Huon Peninsula, and in Borneo, landing on Labuan in mid-1945, before being disbanded in 1946.