25th Battalion (Darling Downs Regiment)

After the First World War the defence of the Australian mainland lay with the part-time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force (CMF), also known as the Militia. The Militia was organized to maintain the structure of the First AIF and kept the same numerical designations. The Militia units were distributed in the same areas the original AIF units were raised and known by the name of their shire. Thus, the 25th Infantry Battalion was the “Darling Downs Regiment”, as it was headquartered in Toowoomba. However, during the 1930s little was spent on defence and the Militia had few volunteers. In 1930 the 25th merged with the 49th Infantry Battalion to form the 25th/49th Infantry Battalion. In 1934 the two battalions separated and the 25th stood alone.

During 1940 the 25th was called-up and joined the rest of the 7th Brigade (comprised of the 9th/49th, 15th, and 61st Battalions) at Chermside, a northern suburb of Brisbane. Full-time duty was introduced on September 1940 and the brigade was brought up to strength the following month. The 9th/49th was separated into its two respective units, with the 49th Battalion sent to Port Moresby. The 15th Battalion was later transferred to the 29th Brigade.

The 7th Brigade spent 1941 conducting exercises and training at Chermside. When Japan entered the Second World War on 7 December 1941 the 7th Brigade prepared defensive positions at Caloundra. In May 1942 it moved to Rollingston, north of Townsville, to defend the area against a possible Japanese landing. Between July and August the brigade moved to Milne Bay, on the south-east tip of New Guinea.

The 25th arrived at Milne Bay on 15 July and was deployed with the 61st defending the No. 3 strip at Gili Gili. The 25th also covered the beach. On 27 August the Japanese made an amphibious landing at Milne Bay and reached the edge of the airstrip the next day, waiting to be reinforced. Early in the morning of 31 August the Japanese forces charged but suffered against the Australian defence and withdrew at dawn. The battle ended on 7 September.

The 7th Brigade remained at Milne Bay until March 1943 when it was transferred to Donadabu, near Port Moresby, to continue training. The brigade progressively returned to Australia in November and was granted leave until February 1944, when it regrouped on the Atherton Tablelandsin Queensland. In July the brigade returned to New Guinea, garrisoning the Madang area before being transferred to Torokina in Bougainville in November. About one-third of the men in the brigade were veterans of Milne Bay.

The 25th served in both the Central and Southern Sectors in Bougainville. In the Central Sector, the 25th relieved the 9th and captured Pearl Ridge on 30 December. In January the 25th was transferred to the Southern Sector, where it joined the brigade’s advance to the Puriata River until March. Leaving from Motupena Point the battalion followed the coast to Toko and headed inland to Slater’s Knoll on the bank of the Puriata. One of its companies made a successful bayonet charge at Kero Creek on the way. Three days later Corporal Reginald Rattey was awarded a VC for capturing a series of Japanese posts. However, the Japanese counter-attack fell against the 25th at Slater’s Knoll. Surrounded and outnumbered, the battalion repealed numerous attacks from two Japanese regiments from 26 March to 5 April. If not for the timely arrival of tanks from the 2/4th Armoured Regiment the 25th might have been overrun.

The 7th Brigade was relieved on 15 April by the 29th Brigade. The 25th took no further part in the campaign but members of the battalion were involved in the surrender ceremony in Torokina. The 25th was disbanded on 7 February 1946.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 62 died
  • 174 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 VC
  • 3 DSO
  • 3 MC
  • 13 MM
  • 16 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • AWM52/8/3/63: 25 Infantry Battalion unit diary
  • Chamberlain, H B, "Slater's Knoll"
  • Denham, Peter J, The Blue Diamonds: History of the 7th Brigade, (Melbourne; P Denham, 1987)
  • Shaw, Patricia, Brother digger : the Sullivans, 2nd AIF, (Richmond, Vic. : Greenhouse Publications, 1984)
  • Shaw, W J, "The Battle at Slater's Knoll"