The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX102373) Private Albert John Garrett, 14th/32nd Battalion, Second World War

Place Oceania: Pacific Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, New Britain, Jacquinot Bay Area, Jacquinot Bay
Accession Number PAFU2015/123.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 23 March 2015
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by , the story for this day was on (VX102373) Private Albert John Garrett, 14th/32nd Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX102373 Private Albert John Garrett, 14th/32nd Battalion
KIA 17 March 1945

No photograph in collection

Today we remember Private Albert John Garrett, who was killed in action while serving in the 14th/32nd Battalion on New Britain.

Albert Garrett was born on 13 March 1924 in Casterton, south-western Victoria, the son of George and Gwendolyn Garrett. Little is known about Albert Garrett’s early life, but before the war he worked as a farm worker, earning an income as a rabbiter. Two months before the start of the war in the Pacific, the 18-year-old was mobilised for service in the Militia in October 1941. His first full day in the army began on 27 December and after a month’s initial training he was posted to the Militia’s 32nd Battalion.

Originally raised during the Great War in Footscray, the 32nd Battalion drew in recruits from west and south-west Melbourne. During the interwar period the battalion was granted the title of the “Footscray Regiment”. When Garrett marched into his unit it was part of the force performing defensive duties around Port Phillip Bay, with the 32nd Battalion garrisoning the Mornington Peninsula. In August the battalion joined the 6th Brigade near Geraldton, Western Australia, and Garrett volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force. In September the Militia’s 32nd and 14th Battalions merged and to become the 14th/32nd Battalion.

In February 1943 the 14th/32nd Battalion underwent amphibious landing and jungle warfare training on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland. In July the battalion embarked for the islands, and after reaching Port Moresby was flown across to the Buna–Gona area. Garrett’s battalion spent more than a year in garrison duties and carrying out long-range coastal patrols along Papua’s north coast.

In late 1944 the 14th/32nd Battalion and the 6th Brigade, as part of the Militia’s 5th Division, were given the task of relieving the Americans garrisoning New Britain. Rather than carry out a major offensive against the Japanese on the island, as Australian forces in New Guinea and Bougainville would do, the 5th Division would concentrate on confining the much larger Japanese force to Rabaul and the Gazelle Peninsula.

In November the 14th/32nd Battalion landed at Jacquinot Bay, from where the 6th Brigade pushed up the coast by barge and on foot. By mid-March 1945 the brigade’s lead battalion had reached a feature dubbed “Bacon Hill”, the main Japanese defensive line in the Waitavalo–Tol Plantation area; this region had been the scene of a Japanese massacre of Australians earlier in the war.

From 16 to 20 March the 14th/32nd Battalion fought to secure the area. Though the Japanese were well entrenched on Bacon Hill, the battalion captured it within days. This was the final major engagement of the New Britain campaign and the battalion’s first and last battle. The Australians established a line across the neck of the Gazelle Peninsula, which they held and patrolled for the rest of the war.

In five days of fighting the 14th/32nd Battalion suffered 57 killed and wounded, including Private Albert Garrett, who was killed in action on 17 March. He was 21 years old.

Garrett is buried in the Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery on New Britain. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Albert John Garrett, and all of those Australians who gave their lives during the Second World War.

Dr Karl James
Historian, Military History Section

Sources:
National Archives of Australia, Albert John Garrett service record.

Keith Bilney, 14/32 Australian infantry battalion A.I.F. 1940–1945, Australia, New Guinea and New Britain, 14/32nd Australian Infantry Battalion Association, Melbourne, 1994.

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