World War II

On 1 October 1936 at Cairns, Queensland, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland regiment was formed and retained the motto 'Ducit Amor Patriae' (Love of Country Leads Me). The Battalion was granted a distinctive black badge described as 'within a belt bearing the motto a kookaburra perched on a branch, holding in its beak a snake within a wreath of bay issuant from behind a rose, the whole surmounted by a crown. The Innisfail depot, located at Calender park, was built for the Battalion's use in 1939 and remains in use today. When war was declared in 1939, 51st Battalion lost many of its militiamen to the 2nd AIF as volunteers. The Battalion continued to train for its Militia role in Cairns until the Japanese entered the war in December 1941, at which time the 51st Battalion was placed on full time duty and given the role of defence of the area from Port Douglas to Gordonvale.

At various times during this period, the Battalion was located at Cairns and Townsville. In early 1943, the Government released 'all essential rural workers from military service'. With their ranks severely depleted, the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment (Cairns) and 31st Battalion The Kennedy Regiment (Townsville) were amalgamated on 12 April 1943 and renamed 31st/51st Battalion. This amalgamation took place at Yatee now the site of the old Sikh temple south of Edmonton where the new Battalion trained until 20 June 1943, when they embarked for overseas service. Disembarkation occurred at Merauke, Dutch new Guinea, on 16 July 1943 and the Battalion conducted successful patrolling operations in this area until 24 July 1944 when it was designated an AIF Battalion (75% of it's members having volunteered for the AIF) and renamed 31/51st Battalion, AIF, thus adding a grey border to its colour patch.

Battalion War Diaries: Jan 1945 | Feb 1945 | April 1945 | June 1945 

The Battalion returned to Australia during August 1944 and underwent further training at Strathpine (near Brisbane) until embarkation for Bougainville, Solomon Islands, in December 1944. On 8 June 1945, A and a part of C Companies were landed at Porton Plantation (see Google Earth map) in the north of Bougainville and became involved in the Battalion's heaviest fighting of World War Two. 

 

Of the 190 members involved in the Battle, 23 were either killed or missing in action, while 106 were wounded. The survivors were evacuated from Porton on 11 June 1945. The General Officer Commanding 2nd Australian Corps AJF, Lieutenant General S.G. Savage, stated that 'the bravery of the men in the Porton operation had not been surpassed by Australian troops in either World War One or World War Two'.

Commander in Chief, General Sir Thomas Blamey, visited the Battalion while the Battle of Porton was in progress on 09 June 1945 and said that it was 'one of the most stirring episode I have ever seen. I was deeply impressed by the determined courage of the men. It was a most gallant and inspiring spectacle'. On the unconditional surrender of the Japanese in September 1945, the Battalion was split up with elements being relocated to Nauru, Rabaul and Ocean Island where they served until returning to Australia and demobilised at Townsville and Cairns in June 1946.
During hostilities the Battalion suffered 46 members Killed in Action, 11 Died of Wounds, 2 Acc. Killed and 1 Died of Illness.  


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The service of 31/51st Battalion during World War Two resulted in the following Battle Honours being awarded:

Liberation of Australian New Guinea
Tsimba Ridge
Bonis-Porton
South West Pacific 1943-45

Due to their efforts in World War Two, members of 31/51st Battalion won the following decorations:

Distinguished Service Order (1)
Military Cross (3)
Distinguished Conduct Medal (1)
Military Medal (10)
British Empire Medal (1)

Mentioned in Despatches (27)


© AWM RELAWM32151

Japanese soldier's autographed good luck flag captured in North Bougainville, 1945

Captured by NX8368 Private Paul Maurer of 31/51 Battalion, in North Bougainville in 1945. Maurer was born in Grafton, NSW in October 1920 and enlisted at Sydney in May 1941. He was discharged in May 1946.

 
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SORAKEN AREA, BOUGAINVILLE, 1945-06-07. MEMBERS OF B COMPANY, 31/51 INFANTRY BATTALION TACTICAL HQ, HAVING A HASTY MEAL BEFORE GOING OUT ON PATROL. IDENTIFIED PERSONNEL ARE:- PTE J.F. DEPPLER (1); PTE J. WHITE (MORTAR) (2); SGT S.E. ROSSITER (3); PTE N.R. TURNER (4); PTE WILLIAMS (5); PTE N. STOCK (MORTAR) (6); PTE H. BRODIE (7).


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BOUGAINVILLE. 1945-05-25. TROOPS OF 31/51 INFANTRY BATTALION COMING ASHORE FROM BARGES ONTO THE BEACH IN THE NORTH BOUGAINVILLE AREA WHERE THEY WILL GO INTO ACTION UNDER 11 INFANTRY BRIGADE. 


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TSIMBA RIDGE, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-06. VX93320 PRIVATE H. WAINRIB, 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION, AT THE UNIT REGIMENTAL AID POST AFTER BEING WOUNDED DURING AN ACTION IN THE AREA.


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TSIMBA RIDGE, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-06. QX130750 "PADRE" JOE CHARLES, SALVATION ARMY (2), GIVING A DRINK TO NX179089 PRIVATE A.C. SMITH, NO 10 PLATOON, "B" COMPANY, 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION AT THE UNIT REGIMENTAL AID POST. PRIVATE SMITH WAS WOUNDED BY BOMB SPLINTERS DURING AN ACTION AGAINST THE ENEMY IN THE AREA.


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TSIMBA AREA, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-07/06. QX59609 PRIVATE E. HASTIE (1) AND QX53099 PRIVATE S. MISCHLEWSKI (2), COOKS OF THE 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION, TAKING COVER IN THEIR SLIT TRENCH DURING AN AIR RAID ALERT.


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TSIMBA AREA, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-13. PRIVATE P. PHILLIPS (1) AND SERGEANT J. COLE (2) 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION MAKING WOODEN CROSSES ON THE BEACH AT PUTO.


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Tsimba Area, Bougainville. 27 May 1945. Private Sam Hearn, 31/51 Australian Infantry Battalion, of Innisfail, Qld, operating a switchboard from a deep foxhole.


© AWM 117299

NAURU ISLAND. 1945-09-16. PRIVATE CORFIELD, 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION MAKES FRIENDS WITH A YOUNG NAURUAN GIRL SOON AFTER THE UNIT HAD TAKEN OVER THE ISLAND FROM THE JAPANESE.


© AWM 097633

OCEAN ISLAND. 1945-10-02. FOLLOWING THE SURRENDER OF THE JAPANESE, TROOPS OF 31/51 INFANTRY BATTALION OCCUPIED THE ISLAND AND JAPANESE TROOPS WERE EVACUATED TO TOROKINA. SHOWN, PRIVATE R.J. JENKINS STANDING GUARD OVER JAPANESE WAITING TO BE SEARCHED PRIOR TO EMBARKATION ON THE SS RIVER BURDEKIN. THEY WERE PERMITTED TO TAKE TWO SETS OF CLOTHING AND GENERAL PERSONAL GEAR.


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TSIMBA AREA, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-06. VX13 LIEUTENANT- GENERAL S.G. SAVIGE, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, ED, GENERAL OFFICER COMMANDING, 2ND AUSTRALIAN CORPS (1) CHATTING WITH WOUNDED SOLDIERS OF THE 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION AT THE UNIT REGIMENTAL AID POST. IDENTIFIED PERSONNEL ARE:- QX28613 CORPORAL S. GERMAINE (2); QX37332 CORPORAL A.T. BOWEN (3); QX49678 PRIVATE R. CROSS (4); QX54790 PRIVATE R.F. HARRIS (5).


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TSIMBA RIDGE, BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND. 1945-02-06. QX49678 PRIVATE R. CROSS (LEFT) AND QX42446 PRIVATE S. H. TURNER, MEMBERS OF 31/51ST INFANTRY BATTALION WHO WERE WOUNDED DURING AN ACTION AGAINST THE JAPANESE FORCES IN THE AREA.


© AWM P07645.001

Informal portrait of QX37294 Corporal (Cpl) Joseph Francis Martin 31/51st Battalion of Mareeba, Qld. A meatworker prior to enlistment, he joined the Citizen Military Force (CMF) in June 1941 and served with the 31st Battalion. In July 1942 he enlisted in the AIF. From August 1942 the 11th Brigade, which included 31st Battalion, was responsible for the defence of Far North Queensland. Private Martin was stationed, periodically, in Townsville and on Thursday Island.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal and then Acting Corporal in March 1943. In April the 31st and 51st Battalions were merged and A/Cpl Martin was attached to the 13th Australian Garrison in Brisbane, Qld. A/Cpl Martin was promoted to Corporal (Cpl) in July 1943. For the remainder of 1943 he undertook further training in Queensland and Victoria. Cpl Martin married Irene Cecilia Martin on 19 April 1944. In November 1944 the 31/51st Battalion undertook training in jungle operations and left Brisbane for Bougainville, New Guinea, arriving on 12 December 1944. Cpl Martin was killed in action at Bougainville on 12 February 1945. He was 29 years of age.



Japanese Mountain Gun captured by 31/51st Bn at Tsimba Ridge, Bougainville 18th January 1945. Now residing outside Mareeba RSL QLD (pic by John Hardy)