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VB’s Australian Defence Force history snapshot

The 2/1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion

“The diggers of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion embodied the ANZAC mateship that is the stuff of legend. The 500 or so men that went to war as part of this group toiled through many tough times, finding patches of light, under an other wise brutal existence while serving our country.”

The 2/1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion was formed on 14 December 1939 as part of the 6th Division. About 500 soliders served in the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion alone.

In May 1940 the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion left Australian shores with the 18th Brigade to the Middle East but the convoy was diverted to Britain to help bolster defences. The 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion saw action in Greece, Palestine, New Guinea and Borneo. Along the way, 34 men died, 71 were wounded and 77 taken prisoner.

One of the defining moments of the war for the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion took place on April 27, 1941, when members of the battalion were among 2500 Allied soldiers in the ship Costa Rica that was sunk by German aircraft off Greece. They were all rescued by the British navy. By May 20 the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion regrouped on Crete and fought furiously until the Germans took the island.

Survivors of the Crete battle arrived at various ports in Egypt in May 1941, where the above photo was taken of the 13th platoon, D Company, 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion in Ikingi, Egypt.

On March 10, 1942 the battalion travelled to Australia after Japan entered the war. The company went into training in northern Queensland and several companies within the battalion were distributed around the region in anticipation of action which never eventuated.

After the end of the war on May 8, 1945 the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion gradually thinned and what was left of the battalion was disbanded on January 26 1946.

1. Bellair, John, Amateur soldier: an Australian machine gunner's memories of World War II, (Melbourne: Spectrum, 1984)
3. Hocking, Philip; 2/1st Australian Machine Gun Battalion Association, The long carry : a history of the 2/1 Australian Machine Gun Battalion, 1939-46, (Nunawading, Vic.: 2/1 Machine Gun Battalion Association, 1997)
For more information on the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion visit

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