- The Fighting 47th. Battalion -
The Wide Bay Regiment
Being born and raised in the Wide Bay Queensland, this is my favorite Regiment
What does the "Second Queenslanders" mean to you?. Do the names Somme, Bullecourt, Ypres, Ancre, Menin Road, Passchedale have any special significience? What do you know of Nassau, Salamaua, Bougainville, Torokina Bay and Mawaaka? All these names belong to the glorious history of the of the 47th Battalion, the Wide Bay Regiment, with Headquarters in Maryborough , my home town. The Regimental Colours are Brown over Blue. Every 25 to 30 years new Colours are presented to the regiment, the existing Colours were presented by the then Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Wilson. When new Colours are presented the old Colours are honored at a Trooping of the Colours ceremony, and being consecrated emblems, are then laid in the Garrison Church, where they remain until they rot away. Two sets of Colours of the Wide Bay Regiment are in St. Paul's Church, Maryborough, representing more than 75 years of regimental history. Many people wonder why such old tattered "flags" are displayed in church, without realizing their significance, representing as they do a perpetual memory of those who served God, King/Queen and Country.
The 47th had it's origins in 1860, forty one years before Australia was a Federation, when troops were enrolled in the Volunteer Mounted Rifles. Companies were raised in both Maryborough and Bundaberg. The "Second Queenslanders" was the name Gazetted by the Government when the Maryborough and Bundaberg were grouped under the command of Major N. E. N. Tooth in 1885.
In February 1916, the 47th Infantry Battalion, A.I.F. ( Australian Imperial Force) was formed in Egypt following the evacuation of the Australian forces from Gallipoli, it comprised mainly volunteers from Queensland. During the First World War, 1914 - 1918, men from the Battalion won one hundred and forty nine(149) decorations and were Mentioned in Dispatches twenty (20) times. Included amongst the the men decorated was , 4061 Sergeant Stanley Robert McDougall VC MM, who won the units first Victoria Cross. Three men won the D.S.O. ( Distinguished Service Order), one man with the D.S.O. and Bar, one the O.B.E. ( Order of the British Empire) and there were fifteen Military Crosses.
In 1922 - 1922, the Unit was regrouped and some training centres were closed. By the time war was declared against Germany in September, 1939 it was reported by the C.O, Colonel E.E. Patterson, (C.O from 1936 -1942) that the Battalion had Units at Tiaro, ( just 18 miles South of Maryborough, not shown on the map) Gympie, Murgon, Wondai, Kingaroy, Childers, Howard (near Torbanlea) and Bundaberg. One of his remarks in his report was that the only transport at the time was four (4) light horse drawn wagons, and weapons were "in a bad way". Colonel Patterson said the battalion was mobilized on March 17, 1941 and went into camp at the Maryborough showground's, "We had sufficient rifles for only two(2) Company's" he said, there were also eight (8) L.M.G.s ( Light Machine Guns), of which only three (3) were serviceable, five (5) Vickers M.G's ( again only three (3) serviceable) and six (6) light trench mortars. Transport consisted of one (1) truck, which was purchased, second hand, locally for the sum of 60 Pounds (AU$120). In his report Col. Patterson advised that eventually they were allotted the thirty two (32) trucks and twelve (12) Bren Carriers they were entitled to under Provisions and Stores Regulations. Training was a problem, as many of the N.C.O's had enlisted in the 2nd A.I.F. Towards the end of 1941, beginning of 1942 the 42nd. Battalion came from Rockhampton and both units moved to Tiaro. When the 29th Brigade became operational, Brigadier Lench set up H.Q. at Tiaro, shortly after the Brigade moved to Townsville, which was early 1942, and was engaged in setting up defended positions from Giru to Rollingstone. Later the Brigade had special jungle training in the Mt. Spec area near Townsville. The Battalion was stationed in Townsville while the Battle of the Coral Sea was being fought. In January of 1943 the Battalion was sent to Milne Bay, New Guinea.
From there it went east in the Pacific to Goodenough Island, which was considered to be of significant strategic importance at the time. The main job was to build dummy huts and gun emplacements to give the Japanese Forces the impression of a Brigade. The 800 or so men protected the Island from Japanese attacks from February to August 1943. The Island is between the Japanese held air bases at Rabaul and the Allies at Milne Bay, while the men were stationed at Goodenough a Japanese convoy was sunk nearby. Many of the Japanese survivors came ashore at Goodenough, and one had with him documents considered of the utmost importance. These gave details of the current formation of the Japanese Imperial Army, and a generous overview of the Japanese war plan. The importance of the documents was magnified when it was discovered that it also gave the strength and intentions of the plans for New Guinea. After Goodenough Island, the Battalion was then sent to Nassau Bay and then on to Tambu Bay. The Tambu fight is better known as the Salamaua Campaign. The mountainous nature of the country prevented the Battalion from receiving supplies except by air drops and native carriers. Salamaua was captured with assistance from other units of the 29th Brigade. Early in 1944, the 47th linked up with the "Silent Seventh", the Australian 7th. Division in Lae. The battalion was given order to clear the surrounding areas of Japanese, and spent several months on intensive patrolling to achieve this goal.
The unit was transferred to Strathpine, Brisbane in May ,1944, men were given leave and the Battalion was completely re-equipped. Replacement personnel were trained and after their leave the Battalion trained with the new equipment and were sent back to New Guinea, this time to Bougainville. Late in December 1944 they engaged the enemy forces between the Jaba and Mawaraka Rivers. They were finally relieved by the 42nd. Battalion and were sent back to the Bougainville base at Torokina. to be re-equipped. They fought on at the Hongaroi and Mivo Rivers until the end of the war. returning to Australia on December 23,1945. The unit was disbanded on January 9, 1946.
Acknowledgements :- Extracts from "Short History of the 47th Battalion" by Ted Webber, Maryborough Reunion Committee 47th Battalion, Maryborough Library and Maryborough Chronicle Microfilm files.
ADDRESS GIVEN BY COMANDER 2 AUSTRALIAN CORPS Maj. Gen. Berryman
29th AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE at LAE on 8th MARCH, 1944
Brig.Monaghan, Officers, W.O.s, N.C.O.s and Men
I congratulate you on your smart and fine physical appearance and on your excellent management, as, after 14 months in New Guinea and a hard campaign your strength is very little less than when you first came to New Guinea. This is a fine tribute to your standard of discipline and training and to each one of you individually. It is a record that is well worthy of your achievements in battle.
You have also played a most important part in pioneering the development of this base as well as the further development of Milne Bay, Goodenough Island and Buna. Your contribution amounts to 2,000,000 man hours of work.
After the Bismarck Sea Air and Naval action you dealt with the survivors and captured the first Jap army list - A matter of great importance and assistance to the Allies throughout the World. It was the biggest forward move in regard to our knowledge of the Japanese Army to date.
In your final jungle training at Mt. Spec you trained hard and gave a glimpse of that toughness and initiative which brought about such good results at Tambu Bay. In six weeks fighting you drew the best of the enemy troops out of Lae, you fought for six weeks over the most difficult country, you all swam the flooded Francisco River, captured Salamaua thence continued to Lae. Not only did you defeat the enemy in front of you, but you provided the screen which enabled the 9th Division to effect a big surprise landing, ending in the complete defeat of the enemy in Lae and the Markham Valley thus providing us with strategic airfields enabling the Air Force to continue it's successful offensive. For this campaign 14 awards were made for special acts of gallantry. These awards are a tribute to the individual but more so to each one of you who fought with them and enabled them to perform such acts.
Let us remember our American comrades who fought with us, the mighty power of their Air Force and Navy and let us see the bonds forged on the field of battle continue in the years to come to safeguard the peace in the Pacific.
On a parade like this it is fitting we should remember our fallen comrades, be enriched by their examples and be determined to complete the task for which they laid down their lives.
For your record I congratulate you, and for your service I thank you and wish each one of you Good Luck.
(Supplied by Erie Townsend)
"Lest we Forget"