WA Infantry History

Regimental Heritage

With the formation of The Royal Western Australia Regiment in July 1960 the regiment became custodian of the heritage and traditions associated with its predecessor CMF Infantry Battalions. Although these battalions carried the identity and traditions associated with infantry battalions raised in Western Australia as part of the AIF during the First and Second World Wars, a number of these CMF units can trace their lineage back to the early Colonial military forces in Western Australia.

Colonial Defence Forces

Following the withdrawal of the British garrison troops from the Australian colonies a need was felt for the provision by the colonies of local volunteer defence forces. In Western Australia a number of volunteer units came into existence and amongst the earliest volunteer infantry units to be raised as part of the Western Australian Volunteer Defence Forces were the Perth Volunteer Rifles and the Fremantle Volunteer Rifles formed in 1861. Other volunteer infantry units that were subsequently raised included units at Guildford, Geraldton, Northampton, Albany, York and Bunbury. Not all of these units had a continuous existence, some being disbanded then reformed and eventually becoming absorbed into the Commonwealth Military Forces, whereas others were disbanded prior to the turn of the century.

By the mid 1890s the metropolitan volunteer infantry units, mostly at company strength, were grouped to form the 1st Infantry Regiment. No doubt as a result of the war in South Africa and the men who had flocked to the WA goldfields during the 1890s being endowed with an adventurous spirit, a complete volunteer battalion, known as the Goldfields Battalion of Infantry, was approved to be formed in June1900 with HQ in Kalgoorlie. Under restructure of the Volunteer Forces introduced in September 1900 the 1st Infantry Regiment together with the various regional volunteer infantry units were formed into an infantry brigade consisting of 5 battalions.

1903 - 1921

At the time of the formation of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901 all state colonial forces came under control of the Commonwealth, but it was not until 1903 that major restructuring of these as part of the Commonwealth Military Forces was completed. In Western Australia the following infantry regiments emerged as part of the new Commonwealth Military Force structure: 

11th Australian Infantry Regiment (Perth Regiment)

The Western Australian Infantry Regiment 

The Goldfields Infantry Regiment of Western Australia

Many members of the Volunteer Defence Forces enlisted for service in the South African war between 1899 and 1902. Each of the above regiments was awarded the battle honour for South Africa with varying year dates, in recognition of services of members of their predecessor units in the South African War. They were subsequently presented with Honorary King's Banners also in recognition of service in South Africa. It is through the association with these early units that the battle honour for South Africa was inherited by many of the CMF infantry battalions and is also borne by the current regiment.

In 1911 a major restructure was introduced based on recommendations made by Field Marshall Viscount Kitchener who had been invited by the Australian Government to visit Australia at the end of 1909 and inspect the military forces. As part of these changes a scheme of compulsory part-time military training, known as the Universal Training Scheme was introduced. This scheme required youths between 12 and 14 to do two years as Junior Cadet training followed by Senior Cadet training then adult training in the Citizen Forces, up to age 26.

In implementing these changes Australia was divided into Military Districts and over 90 regimental training areas. In Western Australia these training areas were numbered 84 through to 89 and the militia, or Citizen Force infantry units as they became known, were all renumbered to correspond with these new training area numbers; in some cases units 22 would cover up to 4 of these areas. The new renumbering took effect as from 1912 and under this scheme the existing militia infantry regiments in Western Australia were formed into the following Citizen Force units:

84th Infantry (Goldfields Regiment)

86th Infantry (Western Australian Rifles)

88th (Perth) Infantry

With the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Australia created a separate voluntary expeditionary force, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for overseas service. While the above Citizen Force units continued in their home training roles, separate infantry units came into being in WA as part of the AIF. These were 11th Battalion, 16th Battalion, 28th Battalion, 44th Battalion and 51st Battalion. (16th was recruited from both WA and SA).

The 11th , 16th and 28th Battalions saw service at Gallipoli, Egypt and France. The 44th and 51st Battalions were formed after Gallipoli as part of the expansion of the AIF. The 44th was formed in Claremont, WA, in February 1916 and after initial training in England saw service in France. The 51st was formed in Egypt in early 1916 as a result of splitting of the 11th Battalion and adding reinforcements to form two battalions. The battalion saw service in Egypt then in France. At the conclusion of hostilities at the end of the war these AIF battalions returned to Australia and were disbanded.

It was decided in August 1918 that to perpetuate their identities and preserve the battle honours gained by the units of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the Great War, the designations of the existing Citizen Force units of the Australian Military Forces (AMF) would be changed to conform to the numerical designations of those AIF units that had been raised in the same states and regimental areas.

Under these changes that came into effect on 1st October 1918 the Citizen Force units once more changed their numeric identities. From the three existing Citizen Force infantry units the following units were created:

2nd Battalion, 2nd Pioneer Regiment - created from 84th Infantry (Goldfields Regiment) to perpetuate 2nd Pioneer Battalion, AIF

2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment (Perth Regiment) - created from 88th (Perth) Infantry to perpetuate 11th Battalion, AIF 

2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment (Western Australian Rifles) - created from 86th Infantry (Western Australian Rifles) to perpetuate 16th Battalion, AIF

2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment - created from the 85th Training Area (part of the 88th Infantry), to perpetuate the 28th Battalion, AIF

2nd Battalion, 51st Infantry Regiment - created from the 87th Training Area (part of the 86th Infantry), to perpetuate the 51st Battalion, AIF.

Within this scheme each regimental area was initially proposed to contain three battalions:

a. 1st Battalion - Deemed to be the currently serving AIF battalion overseas at the time. It was intended that at the conclusion of the war this battalion was to consist of those AIF personnel who had joined the Australian Army Reserve and those trainees who had completed their compulsory training period and were placed in the Reserve. (This part of the scheme was never actually implemented)

b. 2nd Battalion - replacing the existing Citizen Force unit

c. 3rd Battalion - replaced the existing Senior Cadets.

Under this restructure a 44th Infantry Regiment was not formed, with plans to form it at a later stage.

In 1919, His Majesty King George V approved the presentation of a King's Colour to each infantry battalion of overseas troops which had served abroad during the Great War of 1914-18. By this time the AIF units to whom these colours were granted had been disbanded, but the existing Citizen Force units of the AMF had been renumbered to correspond with the AIF units as outlined above. The presentation of these colours to the Western Australian units took place at a special parade held in King's Park, Perth, on 2nd October 1920. At this parade each colour, in turn, was presented to representatives of the AIF unit and then transferred to the custody of the corresponding AMF unit. (In the case of the King's Colour for 44th Battalion, there was no corresponding Citizen Force unit designated "44th " at the time, but this colour was passed on to the new 44th Battalion formed in 1921 - see below).

1921 - 1939

Further changes were made in 1921 when the Citizen Forces were organised into a similar divisional structure to that created for the First AIF. Under this restructure the AIF numbering system as introduced in 1918 was retained but some of the numbers were allocated to different regimental areas and various units were combined to form new units. The designations of the infantry units that emerged under these changes were for example just styled "11th Battalion", "16th Battalion" etc. similar to their AIF counterparts, the title "Battalion" replacing "Regiment".

Resulting from these changes the following infantry units emerged, all forming part of the 13 th Infantry Brigade:

11th Battalion (The Perth Regiment)

16th Battalion (The Goldfields Regiment)

28th Battalion (The Swan Valley Regiment)

44th Battalion (The West Australian Rifles)

The territorial titles for these battalions were approved in 1927. The title "The City of Perth Regiment" was approved for 11th Battalion in 1933 and the title for 28th Battalion was changed to "The Swan Regiment" around 1934.

It needs to be noted here that although 51st Battalion was a Western Australian AIF unit and its identity preserved in the restructure of local Citizen Force infantry units from 1918 to 1921 as outlined above, following the 1921 changes the designation "51st " was allocated to Citizen Force battalions in other states. Initially it was allocated to Tasmania, then New South Wales and in 1936 it was finally transferred to Queensland as 51st Battalion (The Far North Queensland Regiment). It is assumed that the King's Colour presented in 1920 for the 51st Battalion was transferred to these successive units.

During the 1920s the Universal Training scheme was modified to be confined to more populous centres and the number of trainees reduced. This saw a number of regional Citizen Force units depleted in strength, some existing on paper only. This was the case with 16th Battalion (The Goldfields Regiment) which was not maintained as an active unit and in 1930 was linked with 11th Battalion (The Perth Regiment) to form 11th /16th Battalion.

The 28th and 44th Battalions were presented with Regimental Colours in 1927, the 11th Battalion being presented one in 1929. A new set of King's and Regimental Colours was presented for 16 th Battalion at a parade of the 11th /16th Battalion held at Perth Oval in October 1933. In November 1929, with a change in Federal Government, compulsory military training was abolished. As from that date the part-time Militia forces, as they became known, reverted to voluntary enlistment only. 16th Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia) was raised in 1936 as a new unit at the instigation of Captain CW Courtney, who was of Scottish background and had served in the 5th Battalion (The Victorian Scottish Regiment). As a result of this, the 11th /16th Battalion became unlinked, effective from 1st October 1936. The new battalion carried forward the identity and traditions of the  16th Battalion, AIF, previously inherited by 16th Battalion (The Goldfields Regiment). The above colours were subsequently passed on to the new battalion. During the 1930s the Militia infantry battalions had sub-units located in the Perth metropolitan area as well as a number of rural centres. 11th Battalion included a company at Geraldton, 28th Battalion included units in Northam and Kalgoorlie and 44th Battalion later included a company at Bunbury.

Second World War 1939 -1946

As with the First World War a second AIF expeditionary force was raised for overseas wartime service. The units that were raised as part of this force all had the prefix "2nd " in their titles. The infantry battalions raised in Western Australia as part of the 2nd AIF between 1939 and 1941 were 2nd /11th , 2nd /16th and 2nd /28th Infantry Battalions. These units saw service in various operational areas in the Middle East, North Africa, Syria, and Greece and in response to the Japanese threat they returned to take part in the campaign in the South-West Pacific, engaging in actions in New Guinea and later in Borneo. These AIF units were disbanded at the end of the war.

On the home front, with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the 13th Infantry Brigade was called up for periods of full time service, serving in various areas as part of the state's home defence initiative. 44th Battalion was separated from 13th Infantry Brigade and became part of a Special Mobile Force created in January 1942 to provide prompt response in the event of any sporadic raids by Japanese Forces against vital installations in WA. The battalion remained in WA, being finally disbanded in June 1944.

Many militia personnel enlisted in the second AIF. In 1942 approval was given for certain Militia units, in which 75% of their strength had volunteered for AIF service, to be classified as an AIF unit and use the suffix "(AIF)" in their title. All of the Militia infantry battalions in WA qualified to become AIF, including 44th Battalion. Also by 1942 the various territorial titles had been discontinued and all units of the Australian Military Forces included the word "Australian" in their title. The existing militia battalions in WA therefore became 11th Australian Infantry Battalion, 16th Australian Infantry Battalion, 28th Australian Infantry Battalion and 44th Australian Infantry Battalion respectively.

With provision for militia units converting to AIF and with changes made to the Defence Act to allow Militia (CMF) personnel to serve within the South West Pacific area, a number of these units were subsequently deployed for active service within this area.

During 1943, the 13th Brigade (less 44th Battalion which was no longer part of the brigade) was deployed to the Northern Territory and in 1944 was sent on active service to New Britain. During part of the New Britain campaign 16th Battalion was attached to the 6th Australian Infantry Brigade and was used as a supporting unit in the action against the Japanese at Waitavolo plantation in March 1945. The battalion was awarded the battle honour "Waitavolo" in recognition of its role in this action.       13th Infantry Brigade remained in New Britain until returning to Australia and disbanding in 1946.

The Second World War battle honours, awarded for service of the battalions raised as part of the Second AIF as well as the militia (CMF) battalions that saw overseas service, were granted to the corresponding CMF Infantry Battalions. Having not been deployed overseas, as were the other militia battalions within 13th Brigade, and there being no 2/44 th Infantry Battalion formed as part of the Second AIF, the 44th Battalion did not inherit any Second Word War battle honours. The Second World War battle honours were not promulgated until 1961, after the various CMF infantry battalions had merged to form the State Regiments.

1948-1960

Following the end of the Second World War there was a dormant period until the re-activation of the Citizen Military Forces in 1948. As part of this re-activation a number of the pre-war Militia battalions were re-raised and in WA the following infantry battalions were formed as part of the CMF: 

11th /44th Infantry Battalion (The City of Perth Regiment)

16th /28th Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia)

The 11th /44th was created as a linked battalion to perpetuate two of Western Australia's pre-World War Two, Militia battalions- 11th Battalion (The City of Perth Regiment) and 44th Battalion (The West Australian Rifles). Similarly the 16th /28th was initially formed as a linked battalion to perpetuate the pre-War 16th Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia) and 28th Battalion (The Swan Regiment). These linked battalions carried the colours of both their predecessor battalions.

A new set of King's and Regimental Colours for 16th Battalion was presented at a parade of the 16th /28th Infantry Battalion held on the Esplanade, Perth in August 1951.

During 1952, as a result of the introduction of National Service and expansion of the CMF, the 16th /28th Infantry Battalion was unlinked to form separate battalions once again - 16th Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia) and    28th Infantry Battalion (The Swan Regiment). At a ceremony held in Northam camp on 24th August 1952, the Colours of the 28th Battalion were handed over to the re-activated 28th Infantry Battalion (The Swan Regiment).

These post-World War Two units, particularly with the introduction of National Service, were able to maintain sub-units in both the Perth metropolitan area and various rural centres, many occupying depots used by the pre-war units. 11th /44th Battalion had its HQ in Nicholson Road, Subiaco with a company located at Bunbury and later at Collie. 16th Infantry Battalion had HQ in Perth, with companies located in Perth, Fremantle, Kalgoorlie and Merredin. (The HQ of 16th Infantry Battalion was located originally at the Mounts Bay Road depot in Perth which had been used by the pre-war 16th Battalion. This depot later became home to Western Australian University Regiment. A new depot on Canning Highway in Victoria Park was opened in 1956 which housed Support Company, ‘A' Company and a platoon from ‘C' Company). 28th Infantry Battalion had HQ in Lord Street, East Perth with depots at Albany, Katanning and later at Geraldton. During the post-World War Two period, Army authorities began to schedule a replacement program for the guidons and colours that had been passed on to the CMF units on the current Order of Battle, many of which had been in service since the 1920s. A number of the Eastern States CMF units received new guidons and colours during the mid to late 1950s. There is record of a new set of colours being manufactured for 28th Infantry Battalion (The Swan Regiment), but these were never presented and were subsequently returned to the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory in Melbourne. National Service was reduced in 1957 and in November 1959 the Australian Government announced that National Service would be discontinued. This provided a catalyst for the modernising and restructuring of the Australian Army, including the converting of the CMF to a wholly volunteer force. The following year major changes were introduced that impacted the CMF Infantry units with the introduction of the State Regiment system.