29/46th Battalion (East Melbourne Regiment/ Brighton Rifles)

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. Thus Melbourne’s 29th Infantry Battalion was the “East Melbourne Regiment”, while the 46th Infantry Battalion was the “Brighton Rifles”. Both battalions were raised in 1921. In 1930 the 29th was linked with the 22nd Infantry Battalion, forming the 29th/22nd. Although it was separated several years later, the 29th and 22nd maintained a close history, as both battalions and the 46th were part of the 4th Brigade and served together during the Second World War.

When the war started in September 1939, the 29th and the 46th held numerous training camps. However, with Japan’s entry into the conflict and a run of victories in South East Asia and the Pacific, the battalions’ training intensified and in March 1942 the 4th Brigade was sent to Queensland. In August the 29th merged with the 46th, thus forming the 29th/46th Infantry Battalion. The 4th Brigade, composed of the 29th/46th, 22nd, and 37th, spent just under a year in Queensland, first at Warwick and then Caloundra, Mount Gravatt, and in mid-September in the Maroochydore-Mooloolaba area.

In March 1943 the 4th Brigade was transferred to Milne Bay in Papua and spent the next 16 months in the islands. While at Milne Bay the 29th/46th carried out intensive jungle training, conducted patrols, and was used as a source of labour for work parties. In March the 4th Brigade joined the 5th Division. But it was with the 9th Division that the brigade would go into action, returning to the 5th Division later in the war.

In September the 29th/46th and the rest of the 4th Brigade left Milne Bay for Lae in New Guinea. Moving by landing craft, the brigade was to protect Red Beach and support the 9th Division during the Huon Peninsula campaign. The 4th Brigade saw extensive service in New Guinea. After patrolling the rugged country behind Sattelberg, from December to April 1944, the 4th Brigade followed the coast from Gusika to Lakona and the 29th/46th captured Fortification Point. Between April and August the brigade garrisoned the Madang area and carried out numerous patrols.

In September the 29th/46th returned to Australia and, after some leave, regrouped at Strathpine in Queensland for further training. However its stay in Australia was brief and the brigade returned to the islands in January 1945, this time to New Britain.

Rather than carry out a major offensive against the Japanese, the much smaller Australian force used active patrolling to confine the Japanese to Rabaul and the Gazelle Peninsula. The 5th Division’s two other brigades, the 6th and 13th, were the first to arrive on New Britain, in November. During the campaign, the 6th Brigade carried out most of the Australian advance, establishing the line across the Gazelle Peninsula. The 4th Brigade arrived at Wunung Bay, on the southern shore of Jacquinot Bay, where it was based for the next 12 months. The Japanese threat to the area was minimal and the 29th/46th spent most of the time training, as well as patrolling.

Following Japan’s surrender, the 4th Brigade moved into Rabaul, as part of the occupation force, in September. With the war over, the ranks of the 29th/46th gradually thinned, as men were discharged or transferred. By March 1946 most members of the battalion, who had sailed to New Britain in the previous year, were discharged or awaiting discharge in Australia. In June 1946 the 29th/46th Battalion was disbanded.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 38 died
  • 63 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 MC
  • 3 MM
  • 6 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References