Australian Chemical Weapons Unit(s)

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by Kyt, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. 218

    218 New Member

    no I got a photocopy of the original
  2. Dave Barlow

    Dave Barlow Member

    101 australian heavy mortar company - aif

    Reading the digitised version of the file on-line is very simple and most of the text is easy to read. I have no idea if you have the complete photocopy, or if it is still legible. Depending on how long ago it was photocopied, on what sort of paper and what sort of photocopier then the text could be hard to read and it will sometimes deteriorate.

    The digital file shows quite clearly that your grandfather landed at Torokina (Bougainville) at the start of 1945 and departed from there around 12 months later. Torokina was the port used by Aussie troops on their way to the fighting further into the island.

    Torokina was the location for the surrender ceremony in September 1945 when the Japanese generals formally handed their swords to General Savige. It was the site of a couple of airfields and it was used as a POW camp for the Japanese forces There are around 1800 photos on the AWM site showing Torokina. Pictures show units in action and after the surrender. Pictures of POWs and of recreation activities after the surrender. (the digger history site has a good synopsis on the Bougainville campaign)

    Besides the info I supplied previously I have since worked out that at least one other member of the unit was KIA - GRANTER, ERIC Lance Corporal NX102698 101 Hvy. Mortar Coy. Australian Infantry. 20th April 1945. Other members uncovered were: (NX161750 / N246448 BALDERSTON, ATHOL GORDON). (COOLING, Harold Charles, Craftsman, Q269130, 101 HVY MORTAR COY) (Private ROY EDMOND HIGGINS NX201516)

    A search of the internet shows many actions on Bougainville involving support by mortar crews / platoons. The AWM photo collection shows mortars in action and group portraits of various mortar units at the end of the war. eg – “Australian soldiers belonging to the 31st/51st Battalion load their 3-inch mortar during the battle to capture Tsimba Ridge, Bougainville, 8 February 1945” (Do we even know if a “heavy mortar” company used 2” or 3” mortars or whatever??)

    What is needed to work out is what battalions the 101st were attached to, it probably changed regularly as mortar companies usually belonged to higher formations and were used to support battalion operations as required. Knowing the KIA dates can be used to find out who was in action on that date and from there guesstimate where the 101st was in action. Then again, different platoons of the company could have been in action in different places with different battalions etc.

    A request was placed in the vetaffairs magazine a few years ago for info on the unit and I would suggest getting in touch and (a) giving him the info you now know on your grandfather and a few names of those who served with him (b) ask what info is known by the requester on the unit and if there is any mention of your grandfather. (David Whelan, 5 West Cres, Hurstville Grove NSW 2220, (02) 9580 6942, seeks ex-members of 101 Heavy Mortar Coy AIF)

    At least in Melbourne in 2006, the unit was represented on Anzac day, maybe contacting the Victorian RSL will give you a person to contact for the unit. (“looking for the battalion sign, searching past the 101 Heavy Mortar Company camped by Hugo Boss”)

    A company called Eureka miniatures produce some metal models that might be of interest – 300WWT65 Pacific Australian 2” mortar and No. 2, in bush hat & 300WWT69 Pacific Australian heavy mortar and three crew – their website catalogue has piccies.

    BERTWISTLE QX45721 (Q149106) - 101 AUST HY MORTAR COY

    NX100704 Private Phillip Darcy Foran (KIA) - 101 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery

    Lieutenant Leon Brooke Bates VX86174 (V158053) - 101 AUST HY MORTAR COY

    PTE Robert John Scowen QX40089 (Q14223) - 101 AUST HEAVY MORTAR COY

    GRANTER, Lance Corporal, ERIC, NX102698 (N155465) (KIA) - 101 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery


    COOLING, Harold Charles, Craftsman, Q269130 (Court Martial 1944) - 101 HVY MORTAR COY


    (Higgins + Cooling + Balderston + Granter haven't had their service files digitised by the NAA)
  3. Dave Barlow

    Dave Barlow Member

    General thoughts on researching etc

    On a side note, I haven’t actually read the noddy guides for this site but I notice that originally information was sought without providing much to start with. Someone else requested details and once they were provided from there it was possible to do some research to help.

    I would consider that before seeking assistance contributors should do a bit of research themselves and then post what they have found out with a request for further help. First, go to the ww2roll site to confirm the member’s service number and other relevant information (and to print out a neat looking certificate). Then the NAA site and using the service number to see if the file is available in digital form for reading , if not then apply to have it done (it costs less than $20). An AWM collection search is a good idea, using service number or surname (if it is uncommon enough) or unit name etc.

    The NLA picture library is good too, but it includes AWM and NAA images so you might double up. I also check too, although the ww2roll mentions if there are any awards it is worth checking to see if something was missed (awarded after the war) and to maybe get a citation for the award if there was one. If it is a gallantry award (MM, MC, DSO etc) or if you think the person has received a Mention in Despatches then an on-line search of the London Gazette will be in order. Once again service number and / or surname can be used to search the gazette. If you get lucky, it will list the award, the date notified, the unit and what theatre it was awarded in. If you get real lucky, and it’s an MC MM etc then there might even be a full citation taking up a paragraph or two detailing the full reasons for the award.

    Finally, if you uncover some other info - by reading unit diaries or contacting other researchers or organisations etc - then post that information up here. It lets people know what is going on and prevents duplication of effort. It might help the next researcher find info on their family member etc. It also gives people a warm fuzzy feeling to know that they have helped someone fill in the gaps.


    We are spoilt in this country for researching information on military veterans, the sites I mentioned earlier make the task a lot simpler. The situation in most other countries lags well behind us here, and finding anything on the net for veterans of other armies is blimming difficult.

    Family stories shouldn’t be discounted, if you are told that someone received a medal that is easy to check and makes finding more info easier. If they were part of some sort of special unit then that should be easy to check as they have plenty of good history works available.

    A good reference site is the CWGC, for members who were KIA or died from wounds sustained. There are nominal rolls for most other conflicts Australians have served in and some other countries have nominal rolls for their service personnel. There are also Roll of Honour websites around, more or less duplicating the CWGC site – but quite often with photos attached etc. Aussie WW1 info is relatively easy to track, but that is a subject for elsewhere.

    The best I have found in the UK besides the gazette is the IWM site (especially the photo search). The NZETC is the best resource I have found for NZ military history. The other options from NZ and UK are very time-consuming and difficult.

    If you find that some information you know to be true is missing from the relevant official websites, don’t hesitate to send them a short email to let them know so they can update their records. Just something polite to suggest that they check to see if their info is correct. The staff are human and small things get missed. That neat certificate from the ww2roll will look better for anyone that wants it if all of the fields are filled out correctly. I send emails notifying typos etc I find on any record I decide to have a look at.

    Google is always your friend but you have to be willing to put some effort in with regards variations in spelling etc. That is one of the problems with checking the internet – differing ways of writing the same thing. It could be any variation of the following, and this doesn’t take into account misspellings and typos etc:

    101 heavy mortar company:

    101 or 101st or One Hundred and First etc / heavy or hvy or hy etc / mortar or mort or mortr etc / company or coy or co or cmpny etc

    4 Field Regiment – Indian Artillery:

    4 or 4th or fourth etc / field or fld etc / regiment or regt etc / Indian or Ind etc / artillery or arty etc

    (I am going to post a variation of this on a couple of sites / boards now that I have gone to the trouble of typing it all out)
  4. Cobber

    Cobber New Member

    Maybe we should also try and write long hand or abreviated, in our own words the story and facts of a story we are posting.
    I Suppose it's not everyones thing but it can make for some great conversations.

    you can then offer a link to back up your writings
  5. 218

    218 New Member

    With the name that you mentioned before David. Do you know why he is seeking ex-members is he a veteran or a researcher.
  6. Dave Barlow

    Dave Barlow Member

    101 australian heavy mortar company - aif

    Struth 218 - as I suggested, maybe you should contact him and ask him. I posted everything I found, the rest is up to you.

    The last thing I'll offer is a link to a research paper where the author makes reference to the 101st Australian Heavy Mortar company -

    Cheers and good luck with your research and don't forget to let everyone know how you get on.

  7. 218

    218 New Member

    Thanks for all the info and help mate.
    I appreciate it a lot.
  8. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    I am interested in any ex United States Chemical Warfare Service personnel who worked in Australia during World War II to contact me;

    Chemical Warfare in Australia

    Andy - Geoff, I removed the @ from your email so the spammers can't get hold of it.
  9. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    Death By Mustard Gas

    Dear all

    If anyone is interested this is a new one;

    In 1943 a top secret consignment of chemical weapons, including deadly mustard gas, arrived in Australia by ship. But there was a problem — it was leaking. Military authorities quickly realised this but, in the interests of secrecy, sent unprotected and unsuspecting wharf labourers into a lethal environment. The result was catastrophic: permanent disability and death. This shocking narrative includes accounts of official deceit, intimidation of gassed labourers and denial of natural justice. The truth, buried in classified documents and the testimony of the few survivors, is that human life was sacrificed for the sake of secrecy.

    Almost 70 years after war stocks of chemical weapons were apparently totally destroyed, mustard gas is still present on the Australian mainland, in her oceans and along her coastal fringes. The total destruction of chemical stocks is simply another military assumption. The truth is that these deadly weapons were incompletely destroyed, buried or simply lost. Many retain their effectiveness despite the passing of time, a fact that cost one man his life and saw staff and children at a school badly burned. Mustard gas weapons have been retrieved as recently as 2012 and more may lie in shallow graves waiting to be uncovered. This is a very real lesson for the military of today.

    All the Best
    Geoff Plunkett

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