57/60th Battalion (Merri/ Heidelberg Regiment)

After the First World War the defence of the Australian mainland lay with the part time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force, otherwise known as the Militia. The Militia was organized to maintain the structure of the First AIF and kept the same numerical designations. These Militia units were also distributed in the same areas that had raised the original AIF units. Consequently, Militia units were also known by the name of their shire. Thus Victoria’s 57th Infantry Battalion was the “Merri Regiment”, with its headquarters in Preston, while the 60th Infantry Battalion was the “Heidelberg Regiment”, with its headquarters at Westgarth. However, during the 1930s little was spent on defence and the Militia had few volunteers. In 1930 the 57th merged first with the 60th to form the 57th/60th Infantry Battalion. Along with the 58th and 59th Battalions, the 57th/60th was part of the 3rd Division’s 15th Brigade.

With the outbreak of the Second World War and the call up of the Militia, the 57th/60th spent most of 1940 and 1941 in training camps at Mt Martha. At the start of 1942 the 57th/60th moved to Seymour, in Central Victoria, where it joined the rest of the 15th brigade. At the end of March 1942 the brigade moved to Albury and then, in the third week of May, to Casino and South Grafton, in northern NSW, for their first operational role - the defence of the Tweed Valley and the adjacent coast line. On 27 August the 58th and the 59th Battalions merged, forming the 58th/59th Infantry Battalion. About half the men from the 59th were sent to the 57th/60th. In September the 24th Infantry Battalion joined the brigade.

Meanwhile, the 15th Brigade was in the process of moving to Caboolture, north of Brisbane. In December the 58th/59th moved to Cooroy, where it carried out further training. In 1943 the 3rd Division moved to New Guinea, with the 57th/60th arriving in the Goon Valley, behind Port Moresby, in March. The division’s ultimate destination was the Lae-Salamaua front. However, the 57th/60th was to miss out on that battle. Instead, it was sent to protect the American airbase at Tsili Tsili. The Australians captured Salamaua on 11 September and Lae fell on 16 September.

After Salamaua, there was a brief respite and the 15th Brigade moved to Port Moresby and then the Donadabu Highlands, behind the city. In early 1944 the 15th Brigade returned to the front, this time to Dumpu in the Ramu Valley, where it was under the command of the 7th Division. The brigade supported the clearing of the Ramu Valley and the advance on Madang. A patrol from the 57th/60th captured Madang on 24 April.

After almost 18 months in New Guinea, the 15th Brigade finally returned to Australia in August. The official war historian, Gavin Long, considered that with its extensive service the brigade had marched over more of New Guinea than any other Allied formation.

After receiving leave, the brigade regrouped in Queensland on the Atherton Tableland in October. Unlike may other units, theirs was only a brief stay. The 3rd Division had already moved to Bougainville and the brigade followed.

In Bougainville’s Southern Sector the 15th Brigade took over from the 7th Brigade in mid-April 1945. In order to continue the Australian advance to Buin, the 15th Brigade advanced on a two-battalion front. One battalion followed the Commando Road, known as the North axis, while the other battalion followed the Buin Road, the South axis. Taking up a position at Kero Creek, the 24th was in the lead, with the 58th/89th behind at Barara. On 17 April the 24th opened the brigade’s attack by crossing Dawe’s Creek and by 7 May it had reached the Hongoria River. The 57th/60th, moving along the Commando Road, had also reached the river. The 24th was then joined by the 58th/59th. During the “battle of the rivers” both battalions advanced along the Buin Road until they reached the Mivo River at the end of June. The 15th Brigade was relieved by the 29th Brigade on 1 July.

With the war over the ranks of the 58th/59th thinned, as men were discharged or transferred. At the end of November the battalion boarded the transport Ormiston to return to Australia and arrived in Brisbane on 7 December. Later that day the battalion travelled by train to Chermside, where the Queenslanders were discharged, while the New South Welshmen went on to Sydney. On 13 December the Victorians and South Australians reached Seymour and Puckapunyal. The battalion was disbanded on 30 March 1946.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 58 died
  • 134 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 DSO
  • 8 MC
  • 1DCM
  • 14 MM
  • 24 MID
  • 2 ED

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM52/8/3/94: 57/60 Infantry Battalion unit diary
  • Corfield, Robin S., 1929-, Hold hard, cobbers : the story of the 57th and 60th and 57/60th Australian Army Infantry Battalions, 1912-1990, (Glenhuntly, Vic. : 57/60th Battalion (AIF) Association, 1991-1992)
  • Palazzo, Albert, Defenders of Australia : the Third Australian Division, 1916-1991, (Loftus, NSW : Australian Military History Publications, 2002., 2002)