2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion

Originally intended to support the 7th Division the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion was raised in Sydney on 2 May 1940 and largely composed of personnel from light horse units in New South Wales and Queensland. Those from New South Wales undertook their initial training at Cowra and from Queensland at Redbank. The battalion came together in Pyrmont in New South Wales at the end of the 1940, prior to embarking for overseas service.

The battalion sailed from Sydney to the Middle East in February 1941. It underwent further training at Khassa, near El Majdal in Palestine and towards the end of April moved to Mersa Matruh in Egypt. The battalion spent the next 12 months carrying out garrison duties in Egypt and from January 1942 in Syria, where it became attached to the 9th Division.

In the third week of June the 9th Division received urgent orders to return to Egypt to reinforce the British Eight Army that had retreated to the Alamein “box”. The 2/2nd played an important part during the subsequent battles, fighting alongside the infantry defending the Alamein line in July and during the counter-attack in October to November. By 6 November Axis forces were retreating. The battalion suffered heavily: one officer and 15 other ranks were killed in action; one officer and 14 other ranks were mortally wounded; four officers and 124 other ranks were wounded; and two officers and 26 other ranks were captured.

Alamein was a great, although bloody, success for the Allies. The 9th Division was now needed back in Australia to fight a new enemy - the Japanese. The 2/2nd left Alamein on 4 December and headed back to Gaza, where it participated in the 9th’s divisional parade on 22 December. The battalion sailed from Palestine in the third week of January 1943 and reached Sydney at the end of February.

After a period of well-earned leave the battalion reformed at Kairi on the Atherton Tableland in April. It was reinforced by machine-gunners from South Australia and Western Australia and undertook jungle training.

In August the 2/2nd was sent to Milne Bay in Papua to temporarily help guard the base and provide labour. The following month it landed at Lae to support the 9th Division’s invasion. Upon landing the battalion was hit by Japanese aircraft: one man was killed and another 28 wounded.

Following Lae’s capture the battalion’s C Company supported the 20th Brigade landing on Scarlet Beach, north of Finschhafen. Finshhafen was officially captured on 2 October, thereafter the rest of the battalion was brought forward to help defend the area. It fought in New Guinea for the rest of the year supporting the infantry during the capture of Sattelberg and advance to Sio.

The 9th Division returned to Australia at the start of 1944 and the 2/2nd spent the rest of the year training at Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tableland. It did not return to action until almost the end of the war.

On 13 March 1945 the battalion received the warning order to depart to a new operational stagging area on Morotai Island. D Company was the first to move, leaving Ravenshoe at the end of the month. The rest of the battalion followed in April.

From Morotai, the 9th Division was set to participate in a series of landings on Borneo as part of the OBOE operations. The first landing took place on 1 May when the 20th Brigade and the 2/2nd D Company came ashore Tarakan Island. The machine-gunners worked closely with the infantry who were using flamethrowers to destroy Japanese positions. It was “a nasty one to finish the war on”, one veteran later remarked. Meanwhile the rest of division and battalion landed on Brunei Bay and Labuan Island in June.

Following Japan’s surrender the battalion was concentrated on Labuan but its ranks gradually thinned, as men were either discharged or transferred. On 20 January 1946 the remaining battalion returned to Australia and was disbanded in Brisbane on 26 February.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 67 died
  • 193 wounded
  • 28 captured

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 2 DSO
  • 1 MC
  • 1 DCM
  • 5 MM
  • 20 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM52/8/5/2: 2/2 Machine Gun Battalion unit diary
  • Oakes, Bill; 2/2 Australian Machine Gun Battalion Association, Muzzle blast : six years of war with the 2/2 Australian Machine Gun Battalion, A.I.F., (Sydney: 2/2 Machine Gun Bn History Committee, 1980)
  • Oakes, E E, Christmas '42 : 2/2 Australian M.G. Bn., A.I.F. abroad, (Tel-Aviv: Rohald Press, 1942)