2/4th Armoured Regiment

Although it was one of the last armoured units to be raised during the Second World War, the 2/4th Armoured Regiment arguably saw the most action in the Pacific theatre; its tanks participated in two long and difficult campaigns, fighting in New Guinea and Bougainville during 1945. Only the record of the 1st Tank Battalion (AIF), later the 1st Armoured Regiment (AIF), with its participation in New Guinea and Balikpapan, would be comparable.

The 2/4th Armoured Regiment was formed in November 1942 at Wee Waa, New South Wales, in order to replace a 1st Armoured Division regiment that had been sent to New Guinea. The 2/4th was constitiuted from an amalgamation of other armoured units - D Squadron from the 2/11th Armoured Car Regiment became the 2/4th’s A Squadron; the 2nd Armoured Brigade Reconnaissance Squadron became the 2/4th’s B Squadron; the 1st Armoured Brigade Reconnaissance Squadron became the 2/4th’s C Squadron; and the 2/4th became part of the 2nd Armoured Brigade.

The regiment trained on M3 Grant medium tanks and some M3 Stuart light tanks, and in early 1943 the 2nd Armoured Brigade moved to Queensland, where it joined the 3rd Armoured Division, based at Manumbah. In October the 3rd Armoured Division was disbanded and the 2/4th became part of the independent 4th Armoured Brigade.

Unlike most Australian armoured formations that served only in Australia, the 4th had been organised for “tropical” service and its regiments were equipped with Matilda tanks. Matilda tanks were ideal for supporting the infantry’s operations in the Pacific. In June the brigade moved to Southport, on the Gold Coast, but two months later was transferred to Madang, New Guinea, where it replaced the 1st Tank Battalion.

While at Madang, the regiment was reorganised to be self-sufficient and to cope with the different locations in coming campaigns. “Squadron groups” were formed, with each squadron having its own workshop, field park, and signals element.

In November C Squadron moved from Madang to Aitape, where it subsequently supported the 6th Division’s campaign in the advance towards Wewak. In December B Squadron was sent to Bougainville to support the II Australian Corps. In June 1945 the rest of the regiment, except C Squadron, moved to Bougainville, where it served in the Southern Sector supporting the 3rd Division’s advance towards the main Japanese base at Buin.

On Bougainville B Squadron first went into action at the end of March 1945, when a troop of its tanks was rushed to Slater’s Knoll, where the 25th Battalion had been surrounded by a much larger Japanese force. The arrival of the tanks turned the tide against the Japanese and saved the Australians from being overrun. Moving down the Buin and the Commando roads, engineers and infantry worked closely with the tanks, engaging Japanese bunkers, searching for mines, and patrolling through the jungle. In July, meanwhile, a troop of tanks were sent to Northern Sector to support the 23rd Brigade, in the Bonis Peninsula.

Following the end of the war and Japan’s surrender, a tank troop from A Squadron was sent to Rabual in mid-September to help the Australians guard the Japanese. In October it was joined by B Squadron, which would man Japanese tanks in case of an emergency.

Over time, the regiment thinned, as men were discharged or transferred. In May 1946 the regiment left Rabaul for Australia, and its affairs were wound up in Sydney. The last remaining member of the regiment was discharged on 4 September.

Glossary

Equipment

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 25 died
  • 31 wounded

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

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 DSO
  • 3 MC
  • 2 OBE
  • 3 MM
  • 7 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

Search for related collection items

References

  • AWM52/3/1/10: 2/4 Armoured Regiment war diary
  • MacArthur-Onslow, Denzil, "A brief history of the Australian Armoured Corps" MSS1403
  • Tank tracks : the war history of the 2/4th Australian Armoured Regimental Group., (Sydney: Halstead Press, 1953)