2/7th Field Regiment
The 2/7th Field Regiment began to take shape in late April 1940. Its first recruits had previously been members of the militia artillery brigades in South and Western Australia. The first South Australians came from the 13th Field Brigade, were sworn in on 20 May at the state recruiting depots at Wayville, and went into camp at Woodside. The first group of Western Australians came from the 3rd Field Brigade and were sworn in at Swan Barracks on 15 May, before going on to Northam camp. The South Australians made up the regiment's 13th Battery and the West Australians made up the regiment's 14th Battery. Although the regiment had been raised around the same time as the 7th Division, in October it was instead allotted to the 9th Division. The division's other artillery regiments were the 2/8th and 2/12th Field Regiments. Later, in October 1941, when the regiment was in the Middle East, a third battery, the 57th, was formed.
In November the regiment's two batteries were finally brought together. On 17 November 13th Battery left Woodside and travelled by train to Port Adelaide's Outer Harbour ,where it joined the 2/48th Battalion and other auxiliary units, aboard the troopship Stratheden. The Stratheden reached Fremantle four days later, where 14th Battery embarked on 22 November.
The Stratheden was part of convey taking Australian and New Zealander troops to the Middle East. The voyage took just under a month and on 17 December the Stratheden reached the harbour at Kantara, on the edge of the Sinai, and the regiment travelled by train to Palestine, going into camp at Qastina. It remained in Palestine for four months, training with 18-pounder guns and 4.5-inch howitzers.
In March 1941 the 9th Division was brought from Palestine to Libya to garrison the area east of Tobruk, but the division did not have enough vehicles to bring all its units forward. In April the 2/7th Field Regiment moved to Ikingi Marut, Egypt, and in May to Mersa Matruh, where it and the 2/8th Field Regiment contributed to defending the "fortress". (The 2/12th Field Regiment followed the infantry to Tobruk). It was not until the end of July, while still at Matruh, that the regiment received most of its 25-pounders.
After three months at Matruh, at the start of September, the 2/7th moved closer to the front, taking up a position between Halfaya Pass, controlled by German and Italian troops, and Sidi Barrani, which was being developed into a fortress by British Commonwealth troops, in the Coastal Sector. While here, the 2/7th and 2/8th employed a "sniping gun", where a 25-pounder would go forward in the morning, observing enemy artillery fire, and fire several shells in reply, before retiring to its own lines.
The gunners remained in the western desert until October. By this time nearly all Australian troops had been evacuated from Tobruk and the 9th Division was reforming in Palestine. The 2/7th, however, was sent to the Royal Artillery's Almaza Base Depot, Cairo, where it became the depot training regiment at the Middle East School of Artillery. In early 1942 the 9th Division moved to Syria, and in February the 2/7th took over defensive positions at Bsarma, near Tripoli, from the 2/5th Field Regiment.
By June the war in North Africa had become critical for the Allies, with the German and Italian forces reaching El Alamein, in Egypt, about 112 kilometres west of Alexandria. The 9th Division was rushed to the Alamein "box" and held the northern sector for almost four months. It was at Alamein where the 2/8th "came into its own". The regiment reached the Alamein front in July and, having been placed under the command of the 9th Division's 26th Brigade, took up position at Kilo 91, east of El Alamein, on 8 July. The regiment went into action two days later.
On 10 July, attacking inland from the coast, the 26th Brigade attacked the German positions at Tel el Eisa. The attack was supported by all three of the division's artillery regiments, with the 2/7th being involved in the heavy fighting that followed when the Germans counter-attacked. Fighting continued for five days, during which time the 2/7th fired 20,129 rounds.
The 2/7th remained in action during the following months, supporting Operation Bulimba, the 20th Brigade's attack at the start of September. During the main Alamein offensive at the end of October and the start of November, the 2/7th supported the 20th Brigade's advance. During the 13 days of battle, the regiment fired 65,594 rounds of high-explosive shells. Once the breakthrough occurred, the regiment participated in the pursuit of enemy troops and went as far as El Daba. The 2/7th was one of the few Australian units that left the divisional area during the battle.
Alamein was a vital success for the Allies and was one of the war's turning points. The 9th Division, however, was needed elsewhere and began returning to Australia in January 1943. The 2/7th arrived in Fremantle on 18 February and in Melbourne a week later. The regiment was given leave before moving to Queensland in April.
The gunners spent the next two years in north Australia, training first at Kiri and then Ravenshoe, on the Atherton Tablelands. Indeed, the war was almost over before the regiment again went into action. In April 1945 the division was transported to Morotai, which was being used as a staging area for the Oboe operations on Borneo.
The first phase of the Borneo operation was an amphibious landing on Tarakan Island by the 26th Brigade and the 2/7th. Coming ashore in landing craft, following the infantry, the regiment landed on Tarakan on the first day of the invasion on 1 May. Preceding the invasion, five guns from the regiment's 57th Battery landed on Sadau Island to help cover the landing. The regiment was frequently called upon to give artillery support, shelling heavily defended Japanese positions. The regiment fired more than 37,000 shells during the campaign.
Following Japan's surrender and the end of the war, the regiment's ranks thinned as men were discharged or transferred. The last members of the unit left Tarakan in December and the 2/7th Field Regiment was disbanded in January 1946.
The Australian commander on Tarakan, Brigadier D.A. Whitehead, later wrote it was "good to know" that he had a whole artillery regiment to support his operations on the island. "It was certainly good to know," he wrote, "that the Regiment was the 2/7th."
|Conflict||Second World War, 1939-1945|