Australian - 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by spidge, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Courtesy of:

    2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion: Australian War Memorial
    2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion

    The 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion was formed in June 1940 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Blackburn, VC. Although raised in South Australia, B Company came from Victoria, C Company came from Tasmania and D Company came from Western Australia. Indeed, it was not until April 1941, that the whole battalion was brought together as a whole and this was on board the troopship taking them to the Middle East.
    Arriving at the Suez Canal in mid-May, the battalion travelled to Palestine, where it joined the 7th Division which was preparing to invade Syria. Allied forces began their invasion of Syria on 8 June and were soon engaged in heavy fighting against the Vichy French.
    Although Syria was a short campaign, the machine-gunners saw extensive service. B Company supported the 25th Brigade, covering the attack on Fort Metulla on 10 June and participating in the fighting around and defence of Jezzine. In mid-June, A Company supported the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion attack on Fort Merdjayoun, while D Company was attached to the 21st Brigade, which captured Said (Sidon) and Damour. C Company’s first action was at Quoneitra in support of British units. By the second week of July the campaign was over, with the Vichy French surrounding and a cease fire coming into effect at midnight on 11 July. The machine-gunners remained in Syria as part of the occupation force for the rest of the year.
    But by now, though, Japan had entered the war and the AIF had been recalled to Australia. In January and February 1942 units from the 7th Division began to return to Australia and the 2/3rd (less B Company) sailed on 1 February. However, the battalion was about to caught in the Japanese thrust.
    British forces in Singapore surrendered on 15 February. Two days later the troopship Orcades, carrying the 2/3rd, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, and 2/6th Field Company, reached Oosthaven in Sumatra, before going on to Batavia in Java. The Japanese were already moving through the Netherlands East Indies and, in what was more a political decision than strategic one, it was decided these divisional support units would make a stand on Java. It was a futile gesture.
    The small Allied force that was supposed to defend Java was built around the 2/3rd and other units aboard Orcades, as well as a battery of American artillery already on Java and a squadron from the 3rd King’s Own Hussars. Blackburn was promoted to brigadier and was placed in command of the force which became “Blackforce”.
    The Japanese landed on Java on 28 February. Blackforce went into action at Leuwiliang, near Buitenzorg, on 4 March. They fought the Japanese for two days but on 8 March Dutch forces surrendered and the next day Blackforce was ordered to lay down its arms.
    Those who had survived the fighting spent the rest of the war as prisoners. For the next three years they were used for labour, most of them working on the infamous Thai–Burma Railway or languishing in prison camps. One-hundred-and-thirty-nine men from the 2/3rd died while prisoners.
    However, not all of the battalion was captured. While its headquarters and fighting components were in action in Java, the battalion’s B Company had returned to Australia in March. The group formed the basis of what was essentially a new 2/3rd, as from April the battalion was reformed at Ingelburn in Sydney, before it moved to the prisoner of war camp at Cowra in July.
    In May 1943, after ten months at Cowra, the battalion moved to Queensland. Based at Deception Bay, C Company went to Moreton Island, D Company to Bribie Island, and B Company to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea. Later in the year the 2/3rd was concentrated at Wondecla, on the Atherton Tablelands, where it came under the command of the 6th Division.
    The 2/3rd spent the rest of 1943 and almost all of 1944 on the Tableland. In December the battalion was sent to New Guinea to support the 6th Division’s Aitape–Wewak campaign. But rather than fight as a machine-gun battalion, with its companies separated and supporting the division’s different units, the 2/3rd fought as infantry from February 1945. The machine-gunners performed well in their new role, capturing a number of positions. B Company even made an amphibious landing at Dove Bay, east of Wewak, as part of Farida Force in May.
    Following Japan’s surrender in August, the 2/3rd’s ranks thinned, as men were either discharged or transferred. In December the remaining members of the battalion returned to Australia and in January 1946 the 2/3rd was disbanded in Sydney.

    21 Brigade ; 25 Brigade ; 2nd Australian Imperial Force ; 6 Division ; Aitape-Wewak Campaign ; Battle of Damour ; Machine gun battalions ; Wewak ; Syrian Campaign Battle Honours


    • 202 died
    • 136 wounded
    • 567 captured
    For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.
    Commanding Officers


    • 1CBE
    • 1 DSO
    • 3 MC
    • 4 MM
    • 4 MBE
    • 1 BEM
    • 21 MID
    For more information please see Honours and Awards database
    Collection Items

    Search for related collection items

    • AWM52: 8/5/3 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion war diary
    • Bellair, John, Amateur soldier : an Australian machine gunner's memories of World War II, (Melbourne: Spectrum, 1984)
    • Bellair, John, From snow to jungle : a history of the 2/3rd Australian Machine Gun Battalion, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1987)
    • Sheppard, Alf; Sheppard, Daphne, Wanderings of a warrior, ([Perth, W.A.?]: D. Sheppard, 1995)
  2. My Father was in the 2/3 and recalled vividly the fight against the Vichy and the French Foreign Legion, taking Damascus , it is such a thrill to see your imformation here. Their remembered for being the Java Rabble after Black Jack refused them food boots etc at Changi before going to build the Railway.

    Dad spent the last 27 years of his life promoting Weary Dunlop and started the BTR Three Pagodas, made the Hellfire Soldiers story and the QUIET LIONS DOCO all with his own money. Sadly the Syria episode was largely never spoken of. It is only with hispassing and reading his lettersI of the battle, loosing men and friends, as he was in 10TH LIGHT HORSE before joining the 2/3

    I am only 34 and have gone on many tours with Weary JackI, Jack Chaclker, Blue Butterworth, Bill Griffiths who lost both hands and eyes when made too defuse a booby trap.

    But I am after the 2/3 emblem to place on a hat for a few ex soldiers and descendents do you know where I can get them? Also the president of the 2/3 friends and family in Perth. John Witton lost his father in java when he tried to escape, I remember going with dad when I was 10 looking for a grave of 3 or 4 Australians who were executed one of which I believe was mr whittons father do you have any information on his fathers where abouts or official accounts of his execution.

  3. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Welcome Liam

    Glad you found the information useful. That's quite a user-name. I see it encapsulates the service, subunit, unit etc.

    I shall look into finding the details that you are after. There's probably a file on the Nationa Archives of Australia (don't know if will be digitised yet).

    As to the insignia, have you tried ebay? Good reproductions can be had on there.
  4. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Welcome Liam,

    The silent 7th exploits were "blacked out" as they were fighting of the Vichy French was not politically palatable. They played a back seat to the 9th division.

    The 6th division put the Italians out of business, the 9th imposed the first land defeat on Germany at Tobruk, the 7th were first to beat the Vichy French. At Milne Bay, the Australians were first to defeat the Japanese after they had made a beachhead.

    A impressive record for the Colonials.
  5. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    G'day Liam, welcome to the forum. I've just moved to Melbourne from Perth so sorry I can't meet up with you to discuss further if you were interested in doing so.

    On the badge front, another option might be to get in touch with the Military Branch of the Vintage Car Club over in Perth. Those guys often source unit markings etc for their vehicles so they might be able to point you in the right direction for a 2/3 emblem or 10.

    Would love to hear about some of your tours with Weary etc. I walk passed the statue of Weary in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne twice a day to and from work. Always make sure I give him a nod. I'll be posting a pic of the statue here in the next few weeks as I am photographing the Shrine and surrounds.
  6. Nostalgair

    Nostalgair New Member

    Welcome Liam,


  7. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Hello Liam

    I believe this is John's father, though note the spelling Whitton with a "h":

    Initials: H
    Nationality: Australian
    Rank: Sergeant
    Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry
    Unit Text: A.I.F. 2/3 M.G. Bn.
    Age: 35
    Date of Death: 30/04/1942
    Service No: WX/4758
    Additional information: Son of Thomas James Whitton and Minnie Whitton; husband of Delce Lambeth Whitton, of Inglewood, Western Australia.
    Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
    Grave/Memorial Reference: Column 134.

    Service Record
    Service Australian Army
    Service Number WX4758
    Date of Birth 11 Oct 1906
    Place of Birth PERTH, WA
    Date of Enlistment 23 Jun 1940
    Locality on Enlistment MAYLANDS, WA
    Place of Enlistment PERTH, WA
    Next of Kin WHITTON, DELCA
    Date of Death 30 Apr 1942
    Rank Sergeant
    Posting on Death 2/3 MACHINE GUN BATTALION
    WW2 Honours and Gallantry None for display
    Prisoner of War No
    Roll of Honour Unknown

    As you can see he has no known grave, hence his inclusionon the Memorial.

    Unfortunately the NAA is being difficult so I can't search the records, But you may find this interesting in the mean time:

    The Lost Battalion: Australia's 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
  8. CTNana

    CTNana Active Member

    I am sure that Spidge posted the rationale used for Australian Regiments, and I apologise if this is truly an absurd question, but are 2/3rd Pioneer and 2/3rd Machine Gun two different things within the same regiment?
  9. spidge

    spidge Active Member

  10. Thank's and Thanks to all.

    Just got back to the site and was rather overcome by the responses.
    Cheers too all!
    I got the patches made up by Burridge Milatary Antique's under $10.
    I have reams and a computer full of pics of Weary and writings by Dad, Donald "Scorp"Stuart it was Donald who was also Dads best mate and whom I remember well who wrote " We Built a Railway from near Bangkok to near Rangoon....thousands of us POWS starved scourged,racked with malaria,dysentary,beriberi,pellagra and the stinking tropical ulcers that a leg to the bone... when despair and death reached for us Weary stood fast, a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering, Dad used to acuse Scorp of tugging his forlock when Weary's name was mentioned and this was a pretty big thing to say to Scorp who did'nt get the name Scorp for his poetry > Scorps father was Julian Stuart one of the ring leaders of the famous shearers strike and the Stuarts were taught to despised all authority.
    Also I found some notes on the beheadings written by dad and it makes for pretty grueling stuff, a few Dutch were among the party and one even spat in his executioners eye so was bayoneted instead after a hour or so he told them he was'nt dead and was promptly dispatched with a pistol shot to the head and it goes on like that.
    Not sure if I would want to hear about any of that if it was my Dad.
    Also I have a slide show that dad used to give called the Quietlion yes same name as Dads documentry but I was wondering if anyone knows how I could upload it to a site where it can be viewed free?
    Thanks again every one
  11. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    What format are the slides? Have they been scanned onto the computer. If so you can attach them as pictures to the posts.

    If the slide show is a PowerPoint show then they would need to be extracted as individual slides. If you have any problems you can email me the presentation and I can extract the slides. PM me if you would like to do that and I shall let you have my email
  12. Cheers

    Theres pleanty of pics of Weary Dad and other ex POWS finding Hellfire Pass when it was still reclaimed by the jungle heaps of writings
  13. Getting these?

    Are you getting any of the attachments?/Users/keithflanaghan/Desktop/4.tif/Users/keithflanaghan/Desktop/4.tif/Users/keithflanaghan/Desktop/Tour PICS/bill&WDmap.psd/Users/keithflanaghan/Desktop/Tour PICS/Bill&Weary Hellfire.psd
  14. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    If you pics then you could create an Album

    Go to Quick Links at the top right corner of the page.

    The User Control Panel

    On the left you will find a list - choose Pictures & Albums under Networking. The rest is pretty self explanotary. Just beware that pictures need to be a certain side. If they are too big then they will need to be edited down because you will get an error message. Try experimenting and if you have any problems then let me know

    Once you have created an album you can post a link to it here
  15. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Afraid not

    Are you using the following procedure:

    1) at the bottom of the message box you will see Go Advanced Click on it and scroll down to Manage Attachments A pop up window will appear. Search for each picture using Browse Then Upload

    there is a limit of 5 pictures per post, but you can load as many pics as you like, 5 in each post. But you will need to have a few words of text in each post window too (try just adding a short description)
  16. Eszrae

    Eszrae New Member

    2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion

    hi my grandpa was in the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion i dont really know much about him, he keeped everything of the war a secret and got rid of everything his nickname in the war was Blondie Tebmanson real name was Jack Tebmanson can you help me find out some information about him and some books to read about 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion.

    From Eszrae
  17. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Eszrae, was he Australian as I cannot find him listed on the Australian Nominal Roll. If he was British then you will need to apply for his service records as they are not in the public domain:

    Service records - Army
  18. Eszrae

    Eszrae New Member

    his full name is Clarence Conrade Jack Tedmanson i have only just found that out and yes he was in the Australian 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
  19. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Hi Eszrae. A good place to look for books on the subject is the AWM's unit history as listed on their website. Spidge listed details from the site in one of the early posts in this thread:

    Those books might help.
  20. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Hi Eszrae

    my apologies - I couldn't find him initially as you had given his surname as Tebmanson. There are a couple of Nominal Roll entries (I think the first maybe for the Militia):

    Service Record
    Service Australian Army
    Service Number S543140
    Date of Birth 7 Oct 1918
    Place of Birth PORT ADELAIDE, SA
    Date of Enlistment 3 Jan 1940
    Locality on Enlistment ADELAIDE, SA
    Place of Enlistment ADELAIDE, SA
    Date of Discharge Unknown
    Rank Unknown
    Posting at Discharge Unknown
    WW2 Honours and Gallantry None for display
    Prisoner of War No

    Service Record
    Service Australian Army
    Service Number SX8616
    Date of Birth 7 Oct 1918
    Place of Birth EXETOR, SA
    Date of Enlistment 12 Jul 1940
    Locality on Enlistment FORRESTVILLE, SA
    Place of Enlistment ADELAIDE, SA
    Date of Discharge 1 Jul 1946
    Rank Private
    Posting at Discharge 2/3 MACHINE GUN BATTALION
    WW2 Honours and Gallantry None for display
    Prisoner of War Yes

    His service file is available at the NAA but it has not been digitised so you will have to request a copy:

    National Archives of Australia - Login
    Click on Guest
    Search for his service number - SX8616
    Then click Request a Copy and folow the instructions

    the Battalion's War Diaries are also available online

    Australian War Memorial - Second World War Diaries - AWM52, Item 8/5/3

    Unfortunately, it is a hard slog to go through each one, and it maybe best to wait until you have his service records before going to the relevant date and finding out how, where and when he became a POW

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