2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion

From Our Contribution

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Troops from the Australian 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion travel on a truck from Alice Springs and Birdum, October 1941.
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ex POW members of 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion on MV Highland Brigade 10 Oct 1945 - AWM 117847
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Battalion Colour Patch

Brief History

Formed at Northam, WA in October 1940 to replace the 2/3rd Aust Machine Gun Battalion that had transferred from the 8th Division to the 9th Division. Initial training was conducted at Northam until in July 1941 they moved to Woodside in South Australia, before moving again to Darwin in October where they joined the 23rd Infantry Brigade Group. In Darwin they took over all the machine gun posts in forward areas.

In December 1941 The battalion sailed from Darwin on 30 Dec 1941 aboard SS Marella and HMAS Westralia for Port Moresby where they transferred to HMT Aquitania on 3 Jan 1942. They sailed the next day for Singapore via Port Moresby, Sydney, and Fremantle (a route chosen to avoid Japanese forces that had recently attacked Rabaul, New Britain.) The battalion was fated to transship once more, Ratai Bay, Java, before they arrived in Singapore on 21 Jan 1942. There they joined the 8th Australian Infantry Division in defending the Western Area. With Malaya already over run by the Japanese, they were quickly thrown into defensive positions, with 'B' Company near the Naval base; 'C' Company on the west and south west coast of the island; 'D' Company on the north west coast and 'A' Company and Battalion HQs in the centre of the island. 'D' Company was attached to the 22nd Infantry Brigade Group in the north west sector, which was to feel the brunt of the Japanese attack on 8/9 February. They inflicted heavy casualties before being forced back with the infantry units. 'B' Company was attached to the 27th Infantry Brigade Group in the Causeway Sector and was heavily engaged in the Kranji area before withdrawing. 'C' Company was with the 44th Infantry Brigade Group in the south west sector, and although not attacked initially they were forced to withdraw as the north west sector was overrun. 'A' Company was initially held back in reserve, but by 9 February were committed to the north west sector before withdrawing with the remnants of the 22nd Infantry Brigade group. 'E' Company (the unit's reinforcements) were included in a cobbled Special Reserve Battalion and they reinforced the 22nd Infantry Brigade Group after the initial Japanese breakthrough. The companies continued to be dispersed until the AIF Units withdrew to a final perimeter around Taglin Barracks before the surrender on 15 February 1942. During the battle the battalion had 137 men killed or missing in action, and 106 others wounded. 832 were captured by the Japanese following the surrender.

Those who had survived were to spend the next three years as POWs, with the unit initially concentrated at Changi gaol before drafts of men were sent to Borneo, the Burma-Thai Railway or to Japan. During their imprisonment, another 263 men perished due to poor treatment by their Japanese captors. 391 men lost their life while posted to the 2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion.

Battalion Personnel

Battle Honours

  • Malaya 1941-42
  • Singapore Island

Individual Honours

  • 1 x Member of the Order of the British Empire
  • 1 x Military Cross
  • 1 x Distinguished Conduct Medal
  • 2 x British Empire Medals
  • 1 x Military Medal
  • 9 x Mentioned in Despatches


Content has come from The Unit Guide - Volume 2 - The Australian Army 1939-1945 - page 2.354 Graham R McKenzie-Smith - Big Sky Publishing - 2018

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