42ND AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION
29TH INFANTRY BRIGADE
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

42nd Battalion Colours

Our Colours

"A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole,
It does not look likely to stir a man's soul,
`Tis the deeds that were done `neath the moth-eaten rag,
When the pole was a Staff,
And the rag was a Flag."

 

 

The 42nd Battalion transferred from Yeppoon to Tiaro about 20 miles from Maryborough in March 1942. They made the trip by transport and trains. The 47th Battalion arrived from Maryborough and the 15th Battalion from Brisbane. Thus the newly formed 29th Infantry Brigade were assembled together for the first time.

The troops were allowed 2 gallons of water per day. The Tiaro Shire Hall was used as an office. A special leave train was run to Rockhampton.

In April 1942, some Intelligence personnel and a recce party left for an unknown destination. They boarded the Townsville mail train.

After some confusion in establishing a suitable camp site, the Battalion arrived late at night at Stuart Creek railway siding near the gaol just outside Townsville. The whole 5th Australian Division moved there in 42 trains. They then moved to Nome where a line ran down to Alligator Creek meatworks.

The Battalion was responsible for patrolling the coast line. They were part of a defence scheme for the Kyber Pass through which the northern rail line ran to Townsville. No one had yet been issued with ammunition. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, from 4th to 8th May 1942, they were each issued with 20 rounds of ammunition and sent to the coast near Alligator Creek, just south of Townsville, and told to fix bayonets and face out to sea.

On 14 May 1942 the 42nd Battalion was located at Mundingburra, in Townsville.

After a few months at Nome they moved to Julago on 1 June 1942. Leave to Townsville was granted once a fortnight. When the danger of an attack on Townsville passed, the Battalion moved in August 1942 to Mount Louisa where it was engaged in supplying working parties and in training.

During the night 19 July 1942, the air raid siren went off. A Japanese plane had come in from the sea and was quickly picked up by the searchlights. All its bombs landed in the sea. A similar incident happened on 26 July 1942 and another raid occurred on 29 July 1942.

A Beaufighter squadron arrived at nearby Garbutt airfield while the Battalion were at Mount Louisa. The Battalion moved to the Blue Water area near Althaus Creek, about 20 miles north of Townsville, in about October 1942.

My father, James Thomas " Jim" Dunn was a machine gunner attached to the HQ Company of the 42nd Battalion. 

The Battalion started jungle training in the Mount Spec area. Personnel were taken up to Mt. Spec and then had to march down through the wolfram field to Ollera Gorge, round the back of the gorge to Rollingstone Gorge and down Rollingstone Creek to the main highway. Jim Dunn often used to drive soldiers up to Mt. Spec in a large truck for these marches.

While Jim Dunn was camped at Bluewater just north of Townsville, a Private Green, who was later killed in action, pinched a radio out of the padre's car. Private Green was a bit of a character. He could not get it to work.

He later heard that Jim was a radio mechanic before he joined the Army. Green never let on that the radio had been stolen. He got Jim to fix the radio and they were able to listen to reports on the war each night.

Private Green caught a large carpet snake while on manoeuvres at Mt. Spec. When back in Townsville, he put the snake in a sugar bag and let it loose in Lowth's Hotel amongst all the Yanks. This caused quite a commotion!

December 1942 was full of rumours which were confirmed in January 1943. The Battalion was going overseas. They dyed their khaki clothing to a green colour.

On 9 January 1943 the 42nd Battalion embarked on the ship Duntroon from Townsville and disembarked at Milne Bay on 12 January 1943 in small boats. To everyone's surprise they were herded into trucks which took them over well formed roads to huts and tents galore. In some areas there were electric lights! They were expecting much more primitive conditions. Their first camp at Milne Bay was somewhere on Route 8.

Their first Japanese air raid came about a week after they landed. About 27 planes came over on a Sunday afternoon and pattern bombed No. 3 strip.

Bombing raids were numerous, particularly on moon-lit nights. No casualties resulted.

The Battalion was ordered to relieve the 61st Australian Infantry Battalion manning the coastal defences in the Gili Gili and Rabi sectors of Milne Bay. They camped in the Wehuria Creek area. On the edge of nearby Turnbull strip was a monument marking the most forward point reached by the Japanese.

 

42nd Battalion on Bougainville
Jim "Rowdy" Dunn, 2nd from left in front row

 

My dad, Jim Dunn in his parents back yard in Bolsover Street, Rockhampton

 

All letters written by troops back to their family and friends were all seen by the censor who would often cut out or blot out sections of the letter to protect the identity and location of units, etc to ensure useful information could not fall into enemy hands.

Many troops would devise codes etc to allow them to keep their family informed of their whereabouts. My father, Jim Dunn, used a numbered code in his letters home to his mother in Rockhampton. This allowed her to determine exactly where her son Jim was. She would then write to her other son John (Jack) Joseph Dunn who was based in Townsville with 36 Squadron RAAF using a similar code. Jack was a flight mechanic on Dakotas. Jack would then volunteer for a flight to the area where Jim was in New Guinea and attempt to meet up with him. In the mean time their mother would bake some cakes and post them through to Jack in Townsville so that he could take them up to his brother Jim. On one of the trips to New Guinea, Jack went to the open air picture shows that were held for the soldiers. He sat against a 44 gallon drum and whistled their special whistle that they used to help locate each other. Jim was leaning against the other side of the same drum!

 


Souvenir Menu:- via Bob Baker

The 42nd Aust. Inf. Bn. Association held its 60th Annual Reunion in Rockhampton on 10 September 2005. The Reunion commemorated Salamaua Day and was held in conjunction with Australia's 60th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific.

 

The Defence of Townsville 

 

42nd Infantry Battalion Diary
held on AWM site

 


 

Plaque for 42nd Battalion dedicated outside the AWM

A dedication ceremony was hosted by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra at 2:00pm on 26 August 2014 to unveil a plaque commemorating the 42nd Battalion from the First World War to the present day. This added to the avenue of plaques that lead from the car park to the left hand side of the Australian War Memorial to the War Memorial entrance.

 


Photo:- Brian Dunn

 


Photo:- Brian Dunn

 


Photo:- Brian Dunn

 


Photo:- Brian Dunn

 


Photo:- Brian Dunn

 

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This page first produced 13 July 1998

This page last updated 26 August 2014