37/52nd Battalion (Henty 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. Consequently, Militia units were also known by the name of their shire. Thus, the Victorian 37th Infantry Battalion was the “Henty Regiment”, while the 52nd Infantry Battalion was the “Gippsland Regiment”. Both were raised in 1921 and linked in 1930, forming the 37th/52nd Infantry Battalion. In 1937 the battalion was separated but merged again in August 1942, after Japan’s entry into the Second World War and the subsequent reorganisation of the Australian Army.

The 37th and the 52nd were originally part of the 3rd Division’s 10th Brigade. However, the 10th Brigade was disbanded a month after the 37th/52nd was created. The 37th/52nd moved to the 4th Brigade, with which it remained for the duration of the war.

When the war started in September 1939 the 37th and 52nd held numerous training camps. However, with Japan’s entry into the war and 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. Composed of the 22nd, 37th/52nd and the 29th/46th Battalions, the brigade spent just under a year in Queensland, first at Warwick and then Caloundra, Mount Gravatt, and in mid-September the Maroochydore-Mooloolaba area.

In March 1943 the 4th Brigade was transferred to Milne Bay in Papua and spent the next 16 months on the islands. The 37th/52nd 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 the brigade would go into action, returning to the 5th Division later in the war.

In September the 37th/52nd 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, in preparation for 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 pushed on to Gusika, Lakona, and Fortification Point. The 37th/52nd participated in the advance to Sio, also landing on Karkar Island. Between April and August it garrisoned the Madang area and carried out numerous patrols.

In September the brigade returned to Australia and, after a period of leave, regrouped at Strathpine in Queensland for further training. It shortly returned to the islands, this time to New Britain in January.

Rather than carry out a major offensive against the Japanese, the much smaller Australian force confined the Japanese to Rabaul and the Gazelle Peninsula with active patrolling. The 5th Division’s two other brigades, the 6th and 13th, arrived first on New Britain, in November. 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 in January 1945, where it was based for the next 12 months. The Japanese threat to the area was minimal and the brigade’s battalions spent most of their time training, as well as patrolling the surrounding area. However, the 37th/52nd actively engaged the Japanese in May, when it relieved the 6th Brigade’s 36th Battalion at Open Bay.

Following Japan’s surrender, the 4th Brigade moved into Rabaul as part of the occupation force. With the war over, the ranks of the 37th/52nd gradually thinned, as men were discharged or transferred. By March 1946 most members of the battalion who had sailed to New Britain the previous year were discharged or awaiting discharge in Australia. The 37th/52nd was disbanded in June.

Glossary

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 30 died
  • 35 wounded

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

Decorations

  • 1 DCM
  • 1 MM
  • 10 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References