2nd/28th Infantry Battalion 24th Brigade, 9th Division, 2nd AIF

About This Unit

2nd/28th Infantry Battalion, 24th Brigade, 9th Division

The 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion was raised in Western Australia in 1940.  The 2nd/28th Infantry Battalion was initially raised as part of the 24th Brigade of the 8th Division. The battalion assembled at Melville Camp, near Fremantle, on 17 July.

However the 24th Brigade was, with the benefit of hindsight, fortunate that it was transferred to the newly formed 9th Division in December, and so did not share the 8th Division's fate in Singapore later in the War. In early January 1941 the 2nd/28th concentrated at Fremantle, where it embarked as part of a convoy to the Middle East. They arrived in Egypt at the end of January 1941. Disembarking at Suez, the battalion was despatched by train to Southern Palestine, which was being used as a concentration and training area for the Australians. The 2nd/28th was encamped north of Gaza, at Khassa.


By early 1941 the British advance in the Western Desert had reached El Agheila. In March the 9th Division was brought from Palestine to Libya to garrison the area east of Tobruk. The division did not have enough vehicles to bring all of its units forward towards Benghazi and the 24th Brigade (composed of the 2nd/28th, 2nd/43rd, and 2nd/32nd Battalions) remained in Tobruk.

By April the British advance had been halted at El Aghelia and then they were obliged to withdraw in the face of the relentless advance of General Erwin Rommell's much vaunted 'Afrika Corps'.  The 9th Division withdrew to Tobruk and, joined by the 7th Division's 18th Brigade and supporting British units, the Commande Major General Leslie Morshead was ordered to defend the "fortress", which was aligned around a Perimeter previously established by the Italians and based on concrete fortifications and strong points.

The Red Line was Tobruk's outer line of defence and was a series of concrete pillboxes forming a semicircle around the town. The Blue Line was the second line of defence.

9th Division and supporting troops won world-wide attention and acclaim for their dogged defence of Tobruk, holding out against all German efforts to dislodge them with relentless armour and air assaults.  Using captured Italian artillery, aggressive patrolling and resupplied by sea via the 'Tobruk Ferry Service', comprising elements of the RAN's 'scrap iron flotilla', the 'Rats of Tobruk' held out for six months. 

In September and October, after pressure from the Australian Government,  the majority of Australians were evacuated by sea. The 2nd/28th was evacuated on 23 September to Alexandria, from where it was transferred to the camp at Kilo 89 in Palestine. The brigade later moved to Syria and then Lebanon for rest, training, and garrison duties.

After the outbreak of the Pacific War in Decmeber 1941, the Australian Government demanded the return of the 6th and 7th Divisions to Australia, in order  to defend against the rapid advance of the Japanese.  Meanwhile the 9th Division remained in the Middle East.

El Alamein

By July 1942 the war in North Africa was drawing to a climax. The Germans and Italians had reached El Alamein in Egypt, overrunning Tobruk early in the year. El Alamein is about seventy miles from Alexandra. Consequently, the 9th Division was rushed to the Alamein defnsive "box" and held the northern sector for almost four months, as the British Eighth Army was reinforced and equipped for a new offensive under a new Commander, General Montgomery.

The 2nd/28th reached the Alamein front on 10 July and the division attacked a week later. On 17 July the 2nd/32nd and 2nd/43rd moved inland, fighting along the ridgeline from Trig 22 ( a survey point on high ground) and approaching Ruin Ridge. The 2nd/32nd led the attack, advancing from Trig 22 to the Qattara Track. The 2nd/43rd then followed towards Ruin Ridge.

Just after midnight on 27 July, the 2nd/28th attacked Ruin Ridge and by 1 am they were on the feature. But things were starting to go wrong: the Germans were attacking the Australians from rear positions; three company commanders were wounded; and many of the vehicles that should have brought forward ammunition were destroyed or damaged. Increasingly cut off, an attempt by British tanks to relieve the battalion was abandoned after 22 vehicles were "knocked out". Shortly before 10 am enemy tanks began moving in on the Australians from three directions. A company was overrun and the battalion's commander had little choice but to surrender. The Australians were rounded up and marched through the British artillery barrage, resulting in more casualties, as they moved behind the German lines.

The 2nd/28th suffered heavily at its 'Black Day' on the appropriately named Ruin Ridge. Sixty-five officers and men from the battalion and its support units were killed or wounded; nearly 500 were captured and became prisoners of war. From those who participated in the attack, only 92 men remained. The 2nd/28th was withdrawn and rebuilt during the following weeks. It was back on the front line by September.

During the general Allied offensive from 23 October to 4 November the 24th Brigade was in reserve. Its task was to deceive the Axis forces by faking an attack. The 2nd/28th and 2nd/43rd raided enemy lines, while the 2nd/32nd directed a smokescreen and placed "dummy soldiers" in no man's land. The 24th Brigade did not take part in the main fighting until the night of 31 October, when it relieved the 26th Brigade in the "Saucer", where the heaviest fighting took place.

Alamein was a great, although bloody, success for the Allies and by 6 November enemy forces were retreating. But the 9th Division was needed elsewhere. - the Australian Government wanted them home.  A large number of 7th Division leaders had been lost in the Kokoda and particularly in the Northern Beacheads campaigns in New Guinea.

The battalion's casualties during its time in the Middle East amounted to over 60 officers and 1,400 other ranks killed, wounded or captured.

The 2nd/28th left Egypt in December and went to Gaza in Palestine to participate in the 9th Division parade on 22 December. In January 1943 the battalion left Palestine for the Suez Canal, from where it was shipped back to Fremantle on 18 February to joing the fight against Japan.

New Guinea 1943-44

Reorganised for jungle operations, the 2nd/28th participated in the 9th Division amphibious landing at Red Beach, north-west of Lae, in early September. Following the fall of Lae the 20th Brigade landed at Scarlet Beach, north of Finschhafen, on 22 September. It gradually moved to Scarlet Beach, the 2nd/28th arriving on 14 October. Days later the Japanese made a strong counter-attack against Scarlet Beach but the brigade was too strong and by the end of the month the main Japanese force withdrew to Sattelberg. But large numbers of enemy troops were still north of Scarlet Beach, near Pino Hill and Nongora. Moving inland, the 2nd/32nd captured Pino and then Pabu. The 2nd/28th followed the coast and captured Guiska. It then moved to Wareo, where it spent Christmas. The battalion returned to Australia at the end of January 1944.

After some leave, the 2nd/28th reformed at Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, in what had become a massive AIF training area for what proved to be an extended period of training. Indeed, the war was almost over before the battalion went into action again.

Borneo - 1945

In April 1945 the 9th Division was transported to Morotai, an island in the Netherlands East Indies archipeligo (now Indonesia) which was being used as a huge staging area in preparation for the 7th and 9th Divisions' amphibious operations on Borneo, codenamed Operation 'Oboe'.

The 24th Brigade landed on "Brown Beach" on Labuan Island on 10 June. It took the 2nd/28th and 2nd/43rd 11 days to clear the island. The strongest Japanese resistance came from the area called the "Pocket". The battle began on 15 June and, after almost a week of shelling, air strikes, and naval bombardment, the 2nd/28th captured the position. The Pocket was captured on 21 June and the 2nd/28th moved to Beaufort, on the opposite side of Brunei Bay, spending the final weeks of the war patrolling the surrounding area.

Following the end of the war and Japan's surrender, the ranks of the 2nd/28th thinned, as men were discharged, transferred, or volunteered for the occupation force for Japan. They returned to Australia in January 1946, where the 2nd/28th was disbanded.

Unit Members were the recipients of 2 Distinguished Service Orders, 6 Military Crosses, 4 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 15 Military Medals and 51 Mentions in Despatches.

Derived from AWM https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U56071 (www.awm.gov.au)



2nd/28th Battalion Battle Honours

Awarded the following Battle Honours:

Beaufort - 1945
Borneo - 1945
Busu River - 1943
Defence of Alamein Line - 1942
Defence of Scarlet Beach - 1943
Defence of Tobruk - 1941
El Alamein - 1942
Finschhafen - 1943
Gusika - 1943
Labuan - 1945
Qattara Track - 1942
Sanyet el Miteirya - 1942
Siki Cove - 1943
Tell el Makh Khad - 1942

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