Second World War
Siege of Tobruk
New Guinea campaign
Unit Colour Patch
Brigade was an infantry brigade of the Australian Army, which
served during the Second World War. The brigade was raised on 13
October 1939 and was one of the first three infantry brigades of the
Second Australian Imperial Force
Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) to be formed. Initially
commanded by Brigadier Leslie Morshead, it served in the United
Kingdom in 1940–1941, where it helped bolster the British garrison
in anticipation of a possible German invasion following the Fall of
France. In early 1941, the brigade was transferred to the Middle East
where it later took part in fighting against the Italians in Libya and
then helped to defend the besieged port of
Tobruk before fighting
against the Vichy French in the Syria–Lebanon campaign. The 18th
Brigade was withdrawn to
Australia in early 1942, and it later took
part in the fighting against the Japanese in Pacific fighting several
campaigns in New Guinea between late 1942 and early 1944. Its final
involvement of the war came in mid-1945 when it took part in re-taking
Balikpapan. Following the end of hostilities, the 18th
disbanded on 3 January 1946.
1.2 Middle East
1.3 New Guinea
5 External links
Brigade was formed on 13 October 1939 as part of the 6th
Division. Upon formation the brigade consisted of the following
battalions: the 2/9th, the 2/10th, the 2/11th and the 2/12th
Battalions, which were raised from Queensland, South Australia,
Tasmania and Western Australia.
Following training, the brigade was dispatched to the Middle East,
Melbourne in May 1940. However, while they were at
sea they were diverted to the
United Kingdom in order to help defend
the island against a possible invasion by German forces following the
Fall of France. After landing at Gourock, Scotland, the brigade
moved south to
Salisbury Plain where they undertook training and
defensive duties. In the United Kingdom, the 18th
a cadre to the newly formed 25th
Brigade and became part of the 9th
Division when it was raised in October 1940.
Later, when the threat of invasion of the
United Kingdom decreased,
the decision was made to transfer the Australian forces there to the
Middle East. The 18th
Brigade arrived there in early January 1941.
Around this time, the 2nd AIF was reorganised and each brigade was
reduced from four battalions to three. As a result, the 2/11th
Battalion was transferred to the 19th Brigade. At the same time also,
Brigade was transferred to the 7th Division. Following
this, on 21 March 1941, the brigade took part in an attack on an
Italian stronghold at Giarabub, 230 kilometres (140 mi) south of
Bardia. Although the fortress was held by about 1,500 Italians
supported by artillery, the Australian force dispatched only consisted
of a reinforced battalion due to supply difficulties. Setting out on
10 March from Siwa, the assault began early on the morning of 21 March
from the south over marshy ground. Led by the 2/9th
machine-gun and mortar support from the 2/12th and 2/10th Battalions,
the attack was put in from the south while the 6th Division Cavalry
Regiment feigned an attack from the north at the strongest point of
the fortress. A heavy sandstorm obscured visibility, which hindered
the supporting artillery and resulted in a number of casualties when
one company moved beyond the barrage. Nevertheless, heavy fighting
followed and resistance continued until 2:00 pm in the afternoon
when the Italians surrendered. About 250 Italians were killed and
1,300 captured for the loss of 17 Australians killed and 77
wounded. Following the attack, the 18th
Brigade returned to Ikingi
In April the brigade was sent to
Tobruk where they took part in the
defence of the port between May and August 1941. In September
1941, the brigade rejoined the rest of the 7th Division, which had
been taking part in the fighting against Vichy French forces in the
Syria–Lebanon campaign. Following the armistice the division was
allocated the task of undertaking garrison duties and the 18th Brigade
was subsequently stationed at Aleppo, near the Turkish border.
Brigade returned to
Australia in early 1942 following the
outbreak of the Pacific War. Following defensive duties and
training in Queensland, the 18th Brigade, under the command of
Brigadier George Wootten, took part in the Battle of Milne Bay.
Deployed with a battery from the 2/5th Field Regiment attached at
brigade level, the 18th
Brigade arrived at Milne Bay between 12
and 21 August. Between 27 August and 7 September the brigade
played an important role in the fighting which resulted in the first
major defeat of the Japanese on land since the war had begun in
December 1941. One of the brigade's soldiers,
French, of the 2/9th Battalion, was awarded a posthumous Victoria
Cross for his actions during the fighting on 4 September 1942.
Later, as the 7th Division was assigned to the advance on the Japanese
bases on the Papuan coast around Buna and Gona, the brigade,
although understrength, was transferred to Buna in mid-December 1942
with the 2/9th
Battalion landing at Oro Bay on 15 December. On 21
January the brigade captured
Sanananda alongside the US 163rd Infantry
Regiment. They were finally withdrawn back to
Australia on 10
March 1943. During the fighting around Buna, the 18th Brigade
suffered 425 men killed and more than 800 wounded. This represented 96
per cent of the brigade's strength at the start of the campaign.
By the time that the brigade returned to Australia, it was down to
only 44 per cent of its authorised strength. In early July, the
brigade was brought back up to strength with an intake of 1,300 men
from the 1st Motor Brigade, which was subsequently
disbanded. In August 1943, after training and re-organisation
around Ravenshoe, Queensland, the 18th
Brigade was deployed to Port
Moresby in preparation for further operations, arriving there on
12 August. During the early phases of the Finisterre Range
campaign the brigade remained in reserve around Port Moresby,
while the other two brigades of the 7th Division, the 21st and 25th
Brigades, were deployed to defend the approaches to Lae. They
remained there until 4 January 1944 when the brigade was transported
by air to Dumpu to relieve the 21st
Brigade around Shaggy Ridge,
subsequently taking part in the fighting around the Kankiryo Saddle,
Prothero I and II and Crater Hill. Following the conclusion of the
fighting around Shaggy Ridge in February, the brigade remained in New
Guinea until May 1944 when they were withdrawn back to
The brigade's final involvement in the war came when they landed at
Borneo on 1 July 1945. Following the initial
landing, the 18th Brigade, supported by 'D' Company, 2/1st Machine Gun
Battalion, secured the high ground around Klandasan. On 3 July
they captured the town of Balikpapan before being relieved by the 25th
Brigade. Following the completion of hostilities in August, the
brigade remained on
Borneo as the demobilisation process began. The
Brigade was disbanded on 3 January 1946 at Balikpapan after its
component battalions were disbanded throughout December 1945 and
The following officers served as commanding officer of the 18th
Leslie Morshead (1939–41);
George Wootten (1941–43);
Brigadier Frederick Chilton (1943–45).
^ a b c "18 Australian
Infantry Brigade". Orders of Battle.com.
Retrieved 31 March 2011.
^ a b c "18th Brigade". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 31 March
^ a b Johnston 2005, p. 4.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 6.
^ Johnston 2005, pp. 2–3.
^ a b c Johnston 2005, p. 22.
^ Coulthard-Clark 1998, p. 179.
^ a b Coulthard-Clark 1998, p. 180.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 25.
^ Wilmot 1993, pp. 88, 150–151 and 280.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 71.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 77.
^ Brune 2004, p. 279.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 85.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 84.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 92.
^ Johnston 2005, pp. 91–92.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 124.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 140.
^ Keogh 1965, p. 276.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 162.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 161.
^ a b Johnston 2005, p. 164.
^ Dexter 1961, p. 268.
^ "1 Australian Motor Brigade". Orders of Battle.com. Retrieved 7
^ Johnston 2005, p. 165.
^ Dexter 1961, p. 269.
^ Bradley 2004, p. 179.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 181.
^ Keogh 1965, p. 352.
^ Johnston 2005, pp. 196–205.
^ Johnston 2005, p. 207.
^ Keogh 1965, p. 461.
^ "2/1st Machine Gun Battalion". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 13
^ Keogh 1965, p. 462.
^ "2/9th Battalion". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 31 March
^ "2/10th Battalion". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 31 March
^ "2/12th Battalion". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 31 March
^ "18 Australian
Infantry Brigade: Unit Appointments". Orders of
Battle.com. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
Bradley, Phillip (2004). On Shaggy Ridge—The Australian Seventh
Division in the Ramu Valley: From Kaiapit to the Finisterres. South
Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Brune, Peter (2004) . A Bastard of a Place: The Australians in
Papua. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin.
Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1998). Where Australians Fought: The
Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles. St Leonards, New South Wales:
Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-611-2.
Dexter, David (1961). The New Guinea Offensives.
Australia in the War
of 1939–1945, Series 1—Army. Volume VII (1st ed.). Canberra,
Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial.
Johnston, Mark (2005). The Silent 7th: An Illustrated History of the
7th Australian Division 1940–46. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen
& Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-191-5.
Keogh, Eustace (1965). South West Pacific 1941–45. Melbourne,
Victoria: Grayflower Publications. OCLC 7185705.
Wilmot, Chester (1993) .
Tobruk 1941. Ringwood, New South Wales:
Penguin Books Australia. ISBN 0-14-017584-9.
Brigade War Diaries – Seco