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Author Topic: 6th Australian Division  (Read 7102 times)
Mad Russian
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« on: 18 January 2009, 23:59:04 »
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6th Australian Division Order of Battle

* 16th Australian Infantry Brigade, New South Wales (NSW)
          o 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion (to 19th Brigade in 1940)

    * 17th Australian Infantry Brigade, Victoria (Vic.)
          o 2/5th Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/6th Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/7th Australian Infantry Battalion
          o 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalion (to 19th Brigade in 1940)

    * 18th Australian Infantry Brigade (to 7th Division in 1940)

    * 19th Australian Infantry Brigade (formed from other 6th Div. brigades, 1940)
          o 2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion, NSW)
          o 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalion, Vic.
          o 2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion, Western Australia

    * Artillery regiments
          o 2/1st Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (RAA), NSW
          o 2/2nd Field Regiment, RAA, Vic.
          o 2/3rd Field Regiment, RAA, NSW/SA/WA/Northern Territory (NT)
          o 2/5th Field Regiment, RAA, Queensland (Qld)/Tasmania (Tas.) (Became 2/1st Anti-Tank Regiment, 1940.)

    * Other units
          o 2/1st Australian Machine-Gun Regiment
          o 2/1st Australian Pioneer Battalion
          o 6th Australian Divisional Cavalry
          o Engineer companies
                + 2/1st Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) (NSW)
                + 2/2nd Field Company, RAE (Vic.)
                + 2/3rd Field Company, RAE (Tas./WA/SA)
                + 2/1st Field Park Company, RAE (Qld)




PRIMARY SOUCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_6th_Division
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Mad Russian
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« Reply #1 on: 19 January 2009, 00:31:54 »
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6th Australian Division History

The 6th Division first saw action in late 1940, against Italian forces in North Africa, in the advance to Benghazi

On 3 January 1941, the first major Australian action of World War II took place, the Battle of Bardia. The 6th Division penetrated the defences of the Italian stronghold. Despite some heavy resistance the town fell to the Australians just two days later. The Australians captured Italian war material as well as thousands of Italian prisoners of war (POWs), many of whom were shipped to prison camps in Australia.

The fighting continued until 5 January when the Italian position had been cut almost into two. The allies took nearly 40,000 Italian prisoners and considerable amounts of enemy weapons, supplies and equipment. The battle for Bardia cost 130 Australian lives with 320 men wounded.

Tobruk, a small town on the Libyan coast, was central to much of the fighting that took place in the Western Desert during the Second World War. It had originally been developed by the Italians during their colonisation of eastern Libya during the early decades of the 20th century. With a sheltered deep water harbour it became a key naval outpost. It was fortified during the 1930s with both coastal defence batteries and a 50 kilometre-long perimeter of reinforced concrete platoon posts, and other supporting infrastructure such as gun positions, headquarters bunkers, underground supply dumps, and observation towers.

When British and Commonwealth forces advanced out of Egypt and into Libya in January 1941, Tobruk was their second objective. The Italian defence perimeter was attacked by the 6th Australian Division on the morning of 22 January and the town fell the next morning. The operation resulted in approximately 27,000 Italian prisoners and the capture of over 200 artillery pieces, but cost 49 Australian lives. The 6th Division's advance continued on beyond Tobruk.

While Australians were still rounding up the remnants of Tobruk's garrison, the British Armoured Division were thrusting far to the westward. By the evening of 22nd January, their forward elements were in touch with the enemy ten miles southeast of Derna.

The 19th and 17th Australian Infantry Brigades followed. The 16th remained in the Tobruk area, forming a garrison for what was to be a most valuable port, guarding prisoners and salvaging the considerable quantities of war material within the defence lines. This brigade was to have moved to occupy Mechili, but the rapidity of the Italian retreat, and the limited transport available for our pursuit were factors in the decision to leave the 16th at Tobruk. Behind the advance guard, which included "A" Squadron of Sixth Australian Division Cavalry Regiment, with British and Australian artillery, the 19th Australian Infantry Brigade moved by truck towards Derna.

Cupping the pretty white town of Derna was a lofty and steep escarpment. This escarpment was veined with wadis, chief among which was the huge Wadi Derna, curving northwards to the sea on a line which protected the town from the southwest, south and south-cast. The whole seamed edge of the plateau hereabouts had good defensive possibilities for a determined force. But apparently neither the resources nor the will for sustained resistance could now be summoned up.

By 25th January it was clear that the Italians could attempt no more than a delaying action while their main force and the white population were given a chance to withdraw further west.

Caution was necessary, however, in our approach to Derna. We had not that detailed knowledge of local defences which had helped our assaults on Bardia and Tobruk. But under the probing pressure of tanks and artillery the enemy fell back, by 25th January, to within a few miles of Derna. The 19th Australian Infantry Brigade moved from the south-east towards the escarpment edge.

On the 26th, after some sharp fighting, the 2/4th Battalion were astride the Tobruk-Derna road, with their right flank north of the aerodrome. The 2/11th Battalion, after a night march, had reached the Wadi Derna to the south-west of the town, had gained a footing on the further bank and had repulsed a counter-attack. The wadi in this sector was some 1,500 feet wide, and its sides sloped at about 60 degrees. The enemy may have thought it impassable. The 2/8th Battalion was in reserve, near the Tobruk road, some eight miles south-east of Derna.

At this stage there was some risk to the rear and left flank of 19th Australian Infantry Brigade if the enemy had a striking force inland and south of Derna. Mechili was the centre from which such an opportunity might have been exploited by the Italians. What appeared to be the advance elements of a motorised force did, in fact, attack the 2/4th Battalion. This attack, carried out with some spirit, covered a withdrawal of Italian troops from Derna in the late afternoon Of 27th January.

The covering action against the 2/4th Battalion was launched by a force reported to comprise 200 vehicles. The commander of the 2/4th Battalion realised the potential danger. To create an impression in the enemy's mind that our left flank was being reinforced, he arranged for several heavy lorries to ply along the Martuba road, raising as much dust as possible.

The 17th Australian Infantry Brigade, which had moved from the Tobruk area after the 19th, was now approaching to cover this flank and reconnoitre towards Mechili. This place was, however, evacuated by the enemy on 27th January, and the 17th Australian Infantry Brigade relieved the 2/4th Battalion in its Wadi Derna position on 3oth January.

To the north-cast, in the meanwhile, the 2/11th Battalion had gained ground steadily. The road from Tobruk, winding down to Derna from the plateau in steep grades, was commanded by a number of small defence posts, with an old rampart wall extending over the broken country on its flanks. But practically no attempt was made to hold the inner defences. The town of Derna was entered by the 2/11th Battalion on 30th January.

The campaign was now definitely one of pursuit. The two available infantry brigades of the Sixth Australian Division pushed forward, behind the armoured forces and artillery units.

Our engineers worked throughout the night of 30th January to repair sections of the road which had been demolished by the enemy. Traffic was able to make its congested way through Derna, and crawl up the escarpment west of the town. The 19th Australian Infantry Brigade took this route. The 17th skirted south of the Wadi Derna and made necessarily slow progress westwards over difficult, rugged country.

An arduous phase of skirmishing advances began, with problems of supply and vehicle maintenance rising to levels which might have been accepted as fantastic and insurmountable but which were, somehow, overcome by a force which now saw the conquest of all Cirenaica within reach.

West of Derna, desert landscapes shaded into more fertile country, and the Libyan colonisation settlements were reached.

By 2nd February, the 19th Australian Infantry Brigade group, in its necessarily slow advance, was losing touch with the retreating enemy. An Italian rearguard, with artillery, had to be dealt with. The 17th Australian Infantry Brigade, making a strenuous approach march on Giovanni Berta from the south, had some skirmishes on the way but found many strong posts unoccupied.

Giovanni Berta itself was not defended. Even the telephone wires were intact, and one officer, picking up a telephone receiver, heard an operator answering "Benghazi."

Settlers welcomed the entry of our troops, as a protection against marauding Libyans. From then on, the Australians were frequently met by groups of Italians waving white flags outside their farm houses. The colonisation settlements were trim, and each civic centre, with its white stucco facades and the flamboyant insignia of Fascism, was a self-conscious showpiece of Mussolini's empire. But the frugal populace were no proud imperialists. The regime had driven them hard. It had sown among the native Libyans a crop of hatred.

Some farmers, greeting the Australian troops as their transports rolled along the road, hastily corrected their familiar Fascist salute into a gesture similar to the military salute.

On 3rd February, Cirene, the ancient centre of the province and another thirty miles along the road to Benghazi, was entered by "A" Squadron of the Sixth Australian Division Cavalry without opposition. Next day our infantry were on the escarpment overlooking Barce. Resistance here had consisted chiefly of artillery fire to cover the work of Italian demolition squads on the road.

Barce was claimed to be the first Libyan town to surrender to an Australian artillery regiment. The white flag was raised after the regiment fired a few shells into the town. One officer and six men then went in and accepted Barce's surrender.

By now, our troops laboured forward with resources strained to the uttermost. The problems of supply and communication, alone, were tremendous. The signallers, in these latter days of the pursuit, had to abandon the use of the field telephone service. Wireless and motor-cycle dispatch riders were the only practical means of keeping units in touch with each other. In a hurried and determined flood, Sixth Division was pouring along the highways and side-tracks of Cirenaica.

There were signs that the Italians had begun to prepare defensive positions, but had abandoned them before completion. Roads were found to be effectively mined in one or two places, but our forces were now familiar with this type of obstacle, and casualties were very slight. A more serious barrier was the heavy rain which set in on the morning of 6th February. The over-taxed transport struggled and bogged as columns followed the highway and the by-ways of the sixty miles from Barce to Benghazi.

The Italian command was by then leaving Benghazi, with all available transport and armoured vehicles marshalled for the last phase of the retreat across Cirenaica

At 4.45 p.m. on 6th February, a small party of British and Australian troops entered the city with messages to the civil and remaining military authorities, demanding surrender.

Municipal representatives reported that evening at the headquarters of the 19th Australian Infantry Brigade at Benina aerodrome. Next morning the formal surrender of the city was taken by the Brigadier; "B" Company of the 2/4th Battalion formed a guard in front of the Municipal building during the formalities.

A little more than a month had passed since the first battle on Libyan sand. Units of the A.I.F. had covered 74o miles across Egypt and Cirenaica in six weeks, and were now 36o miles from their first battlefield at Bardia.

While Benghazi was surrendering, the climax of the campaign was taking place seventy-five miles to the south, on the road to Tripoli. The remains of Italy's Cirenaican forces were brought to bay and destroyed by the British Armoured Division. For this action the British had only twenty-six cruiser tanks and fifty light tanks in fighting trim. These were the available tanks in a striking force Of 500 vehicles which had dashed from Mechili to cut off the Italian retreat, covering 170 miles of cross-country in thirty-six hours.

The force achieved what the Italians had thought impossible. It reached the Tripoli road, south of Benghazi, in time to cut off their retreat.

The Armoured Division called for infantry pressure from the north to help them in containing and destroying the huge enemy columns. If the rain had not slowed down their progress on 6th February, a sufficient force of the 19th Australian Infantry Brigade might have been far enough forward to join in this action. As it was, the 2/11th Battalion went forward at dawn on 7th February, the commanding officer stepping up the speed of his carriers to twenty miles per hour on the main road. The battalion were thirty-five miles south of Benghazi when word came that their aid would not be necessary. The Armoured Division, with its own Support Group of motorised infantry, had completed the destruction of Bergonzoli's army.

It was fitting that the pursuit across Cirenaica should end with this "battle of the tanks" in which the honours went entirely to the Armoured Division. They had formed the spearhead of the tireless drive across Libya, and had won the admiration and confidence of all our units in the campaign.

The Prime Minister, Mr. R. G. Menzies, had arrived on a visit to the A.I.F. in the Middle East. Now, accompanied by General Blarney, he saw a number of our units in Cirenaica. These were battle-scarred parades of troops in stained and torn uniforms. Numbers of them wore Italian boots, their equipment was variegated, and hats -for those who still had them -had acquired shapeless droops.

The Headquarters of 1st Australian Corps now moved into Cirenaica for a brief period. This was to carry out the arrangement made early in January for the relief of Headquarters, 13th (British) Corps. An Australian Imperial Force Headquarters was at the same time set up in Egypt, comprising heads of services with their staffs, and designed to relieve Corps of non-operational responsibilities.

On 15th February, Corps took over the command of certain forward areas, including the Cirenaica-Tripolitania coastal frontier region near El Agheila.

The 7th Armoured Division was withdrawn from this area on 18th February, and  a light force was left. It included Australian infantry and artillery, some British detachments and a Free French unit. The whole could be regarded only as an outpost line.

The remainder of the A.I.F. troops then in Benghazi Province were widely and intricately disposed. Corps Headquarters were at El Abiar, and the Headquarters of the Sixth Australian Division at Baracca. Battalions were in various settlement areas, resting and performing local guard duties. Artillery, engineer and service detachments were spread among the settlements, each tackling some phase in the complex programme of security, repair and communication in the newly conquered territory.

In early April 1941, the 6th Division was withdrawn from North Africa and replaced by the Australian 9th Division , which took part in the epic Siege of Tobruk between April and November 1941 against Italian and German forces.

In March 1941, Prime Minister Robert Menzies, of Australia, with the concurrence of his Cabinet, agreed to the sending of Australian troops to Greece. The 6th Division arrived in Greece in early April 1941 and on 6 April the Germans began their invasion of Greece. Despite their efforts, the Allied force, together with Greek units, was unable to halt the rapid German advance down central Greece towards Athens. During the campaign, Brig. George Vasey's 19th Brigade (minus the 2/11th Battalion) was defeated by the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler brigade, at the Battle of Vevi. The 2/4th and 2/8th Battalions became the only Australian Army units to face elite Waffen SS soldiers in combat.The Allies were outflanked by the Germans, and were driven off the Greek mainland. The 19th Brigade Group then took part in the Battle of Crete. More than 3,000 members of the division could not be evacuated, and were taken prisoner in the Greek campaign, including Crete. A great deal of equipment was also lost. Almost immediately, however, the 17th Brigade was detached to take part in the bloody but successful attack on Vichy French forces in the Syria-Lebanon campaign.

After war with Japan broke out, the 16th Brigade and 17th Brigade were at first sent to garrison Ceylon, which was under threat of invasion. In late 1942 the 16th Brigade and other elements of the division were sent to New Guinea, initially to reinforce and relieve Militia (reserve) and 7th Division units on the Kokoda Track.

The U.S. 32nd Infantry Division, an inexperienced National Guard formation, commanded by Major General Edwin F. Harding launched the initial attack on Buna. The Australian 7th Division (minus one brigade) under Major General George Vasey, and the U.S. 126th Infantry Regiment (detached from the 32nd Division) was to attack Gona. The Gona push was reinforced by the remnants of Maroubra Force, in the shape of the battered 30th Brigade, a Militia unit which included the "ragged bloody heroes" of the Kokoda Track, the 39th (Militia) Battalion. The Australian 16th Brigade, detached from the 6th Division, would push towards Sanananda.

On 16 November 1942, Australian and United States forces began to attack the main Japanese beachheads in New Guinea, at Buna, Sanananda and Gona. By 22 January 1943, after prolonged heavy fighting in trying conditions, the Allied forces had overcome the defenders. 

During 1943, the division was converted to a Jungle Division and the 17th Brigade and other elements of the division took part in the Salamaua-Lae campaign. The Salamaua–Lae campaign was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Australian and United States forces sought to capture two major Japanese bases, one in the town of Lae, and another one at Salamaua.

Between 22 April and 29 May 1943, the Australian 2/7th Infantry Battalion, at the end of a long and tenuous supply line, attacked the southern extremity of Japanese lines, the Mubo area, at features known to the Allies as "The Pimple" and "Green Hill". While the 2/7th made little progress, they provided a diversion for the 2/3rd Indepent Company, which advanced in an arc and raided Japanese positions at Bobdubi Ridge, inflicting severe losses. In May, the 2/7th repelled a number of strong Japanese counterattacks.

At the same time as the first battle at Mubo, the Australian 24th Infantry Battalion attacked to the near south-west of Salamaua, in the Bobdubi Range, between 22 April and 29 May. This allowed other units to secure the crossing over the Francisco River, on the track to Salamaua.

The Japanese Eighteenth Army commander, Lieutenant General Hatazô Adachi, sent the 66th Regiment from Finschhafen to reinforce the Okabe Detachment and launch an offensive. The 1,500 strong 66th attacked at Lababia Ridge, on 20 June-23 June. The battle has been described as one of the Australian Army's "classic engagements" of World War II. The ridge's only defenders were "D" Company of the 2/6th Battalion. The Australians relied on well-established and linked defensive positions, featuring extensive, cleared free-fire zones. These assets and the determination of "D" Company defeated the Japanese envelopment tactics.

Between 30 June and 19 August, the Australian 15th Infantry Brigade cleared Bobdubi Ridge. A week after the Bobdubi attack and Nassau Bay landing, the Australian 17th Brigade launched another assault on Japanese positions at Mubo. With the Allies making ground closer to Salamaua, the Japanese withdrew to avoid encirclement.

On 23 August, Savige and the 3rd Division handed over the Salamaua operation to the Australian 5th Division under Major General Edward Milford. After Allied landings near Lae in the first week of September, Japanese forces withdrew to the north, and the 5th Division occupied Salamaua on 11 September.

The Aitape-Wewak campaign took place in northern New Guinea between November 1944 and August 1945. Aitape had been occupied by the Japanese in 1942 and then recaptured by an American landing on 22 April 1944, it was developed as a base area to support the continuing drive towards the Philippines. In order to free American troops for the Philippine operations, defence of the area was passed to Australian forces. Troops of the 3rd Base Sub Area and the 6th Division began progressively relieving the Americans from early October 1944.



PRIMARY SOURCES:

http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_220.asp

http://www.diggerhistory2.info/army/1941/chapter03.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_6th_Division

"The Foxes of the Desert" by Paul Carell

"Tobruk the Seige" by James W. Stock

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