The 2/27th Battalion Headquarters Company salutes as it passes Brisbane Town Hall on parade through the city on August 8, 1944. Pictured front, from left, Lieut W.A. Warbuton (SX8029); Lieut J.E. Korf (NX37346); Lieut H.A. McGuire (NX69270); Sgt G. Eddy (SX9986); Sgt F. Ellard (SX10692); SGT J.W. Rothe (SX3610); Lieut F.A. Norman (SX12111); Sgt D.C. Wallace (SX10045) and Sgt R.N. Underwood (SX4262).

Road to the Holy Land

Based at Woodside in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, the 2/27th Battalion AIF was formed on May 7, 1940.

Following training, the battalion was  transported by train from Woodside to Melbourne on October 19, from where it sailed by troop ship to berth in India en route to Egypt, where it disembarked on November 24 to be forwarded to Palestine for desert training with the 21st Brigade.

The 21st Brigade was part of the Australian 7th Division, later known as “The Silent Seventh” due to its semi-covert involvement in the invasion of Syria and Lebanon.
The 2/27th Battalion’s first battle role was to help protect the Egypt-Libya frontier from an expected German attack, based at Maaten Bagush and then Mersa Matruh before returning to Palestine to prepare for the invasion of Syria and Lebanon, which began on June 8. 
As the 7th Division struck north along the Lebanon coast, the 2/27th Battalion ghosted the long columns of troop trucks, artillery units, tanks and equipment. It patrolled the hills along the edge of the coastal plain to prevent a surprise attack from Vichy French colonial forces which had fallen under German control following the Nazi occupation of Paris.

The battalion saw major action against French and French Foreign Legion forces at Adloun on June 11, Miyeoumiye on June 13 and 14 and at El Boum from July 6 to 9 as part of the battle of Damour.

An armistice was signed on July 12, but the battalion stayed in Lebanon as part of the Allied Garrison until January 11, 1942, then sailed from Egypt on January 30, arriving back in Adelaide on March 24.

Following leave, the battalion was sent to Northern Queensland for jungle warfare training before being shipped to Papua, arriving in Port Moresby on August 14.

The training ill prepared them for the forbidding density of the jungle in which they would fight.

It was a long way from the successful campaigns of the Middle East. The troops landed in Port Moresby with their full desert kit, sandy, tan-coloured uniforms which made them prime targets against the backdrop of the green jungle.

The powers that be came up with a solution, turning their uniforms green, boiling them in 44-gallon drums of green dye which washed out in the first tropical downpour.

 It made them a grey/green colour, better suited to the field conditions under which they would fight.

By September 6, sore and tired after a forced march in heavy kit which sometimes became a clawing, precipitous scramble up the muddy Kokoda Track, the battalion was dug in on Mission Ridge in slit trenches overlooking Efogi, preparing to meet the relentless advance of an as-yet unbeaten and unseen enemy.

The 2/27th Battalion held off the advance for two days, but was outflanked and encircled, cut off from headquarters when Japanese troops beat a path through the jungle along the lower ridge under constant fire and a rain of grenades, to climb back up to the track and attack headquarters, which had been established in the rear on Brigade Hill.

The order was given for the Australians to pull back.

Carrying some of their wounded on stretchers, the main force of 300-odd men made a grim, two-week trek through the jungle to re-join the Australian forces, arriving sick, starving and exhausted at Jawarere rubber plantation, 40km east of Port Moresby, on September 21.

They were issued with new uniforms and their tattered old ones were burnt.

The battalion was sent back into action at Gona on November 28 but rushed and poorly planned attacks on the heavily fortified Japanese beachhead resulted in heavy casualties. As the death and wounded tolls mounted, increasing numbers of soldiers succumbed to tropical disease.
With only 70 men left standing, the 2/27th Battalion was relieved of duty on January 6, 1943.
The remnants of the battalion returned to Australia in mid-January on leave and recuperation and its numbers were bolstered by soldiers transferred from other Australian battalions.

The 2/27th Battalion was sent back to Papua in August, spent a month training near Port Moresby and was then flown to Kaipit in New Guinea for the Australian advance along the Ramu Valley.

The 21st Brigade reached Dumpu on October 4 and began pushing the Japanese back in the Finisterre Range, with the 2/27th Battalion bearing the brunt of a major counterattack on October 12.

After that, the battalion was mainly involved in patrols, finally being reassembled for disembarkation in Port Moresby in January,1944, arriving back in Australia on

March 1. 
The battalion’s last action for World War II was on July 1 in the landing at Balikpapan in Borneo, where it sustained light casualties.

From then on, the 2/27th Battalion was relegated to patrolling until the end of the war on August 15.

From mid-October to late January, 1946 the battalion was part of the garrison force occupying the Celebes.

The 2/27th Battalion sailed for home on February 4, arriving in Brisbane on February 14 to be greeted by waving crowds.

It was disbanded on March 18, 1946.

Timeline

1940

May 7 - 2/27th Battalion formed under Lieutenant Colonel M.J. Moten at Woodside Army Camp, Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

October 19 - Departed Woodside by train, sailed the next day on the Mauretania.

November 4 - Arrived Bombay, India, then travelled by truck to Deolali, 193km inland.

November 1 - Sailed from Bombay on the Takliwa.

November 24 - Arrived El Kantara, Egypt, trucked to Julius Camp, Palestine.

 

1941

March 29 - Trucked to Dimra Camp.

April 10 - Moved to Ikingi Maryut, Egypt, ready for action in Greece.

April 15 - Greece deployment cancelled. Battalion moved to Mersa Matruh.

May 25 - Departed Mersa Matruh.

May 27 - Arrived Kfar Yehezqel, near Palestine/Syria border.

June 8 - Crossed border into Syria on active duty against forces of the Vichy French and the French Foreign Legion.

July 12 - Ceasefire. Battalion moved to Hammana. Battle casualties 138.

September 13 - Battalion moved to Tripoli to defend Tripoli Fortess.

 

1942

January 11 - Relieved by 2/43rd Battalion. Moved to Hill 69 Camp, Palestine.

January 25 - Moved to Port Tewfik.

January 30 - Embarked on the Ile de France, bound for Bombay.

February 13 - Departed Bombay on the City of London.

February 25 - Arrived Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), after several plan changes.

March 1 - Homeward bound for Australia.

March 24 - Arrived Port Adelaide, based at Springbank Camp.

April/May - Stationed Glen Innes, NSW; Landsborough, Queensland and finally Caloundra, Queensland, to hold the “Brisbane Line”.

August 7 - Departed Brisbane on the Liberty Ship Zebulon Pike, bound for New Guinea.

August 14 - Arrived Port Moresby, stationed Itiki Plantation.

September 1 - Battalion moved up the Kokoda Track.

September 6 to 8 - Major battle with Japanese forces at Efogi in the Owen Stanley Ranges. Surrounded, battalion escaped encirclement. Killed in action, 39 out of total casualties of 101.  More than 300 soldiers lost in the jungle.

September 21 - Main body of battalion reaches Jawarere.

October 12 - Chaforce formed from soldiers fit for duty, with 120 men each from 2/27th, 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions.

November 23 - Chaforce flown over the Owen Stanley Ranges to Popondetta and from there marched to Gona to assist the 16th and 25th Brigades in defeating the Japanese stronghold.

November 28 - 2/27th Battalion infantrymen arrive as part of Chaforce.

November 29 - First of several bloody, often futile attacks on Gona. Killed in action, 100 out of total casualties of 379.

December 9 - Japanese forces defeated at Gona. Remnants of battalion moved to Amboga River.

 

1943

January 6 - Battalion relieved. Unit strength, 3 officers and 67 infantrymen. Battle casualties 253.

January to August - Back in Australia on leave. Battalion reinforced with recruits from all states.

August 4 - Embarked for New Guinea.

September 23 - Airlifted to Kaipit for Ramu Valley Campaign. Battle casualties 92.

 

1944

January - Relieved by 2/10th Battalion, the 2/27th Battalion returns to Australia.

May - Based at Strathpine. Later moved to Kairi Camp.

 

1945

June 2 - Battalion embarked on the General A.E. Anderson for Morotai.

June 20 - Departed Morotai on the HMAS Westralia for assault landing at Balikpapan, Borneo.

July 1 - 2/27th attacks as right forward battalion. Battle casualties 20.

August 15 - Armistice.

September - Military occupation of Makassar, south-west Celebes.

 

1946

February 2 - 2/27th Battalion relieved of duties by 80th Infantry Brigade, Indian Army, and embarked for home on the U.S.S. Winchester Victory.

February 13 - Battalion disembarked in Brisbane to rousing public welcome.

March 18 - 2/27th Battalion officially disbanded, with last serving officer, Major Jack Crafter, marching out of Woodside Camp.

Sources: AWM, 2/27BRSA

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The Lost Battalion
Kokoda's forgotten foot soldiers