2/11th colour patch
was 8th Division RAE

All sections, 2/11th Fd. Coy.

No.2 section, 2/11th Fd. Coy.

Training at Redbank, Qld.

At South Brisbane station

NARL Premiers 1941

Battle-ready sub-section

11th Field Coy. sappers

Bridge building

Raised in country Queensland, this WW2 unit used the '2/' prefix designation to differentiate from its Great War predecessor, the 11th Field Company. The 11th Fd. Coy. in the Great War distinguished itself on the western front. Field engineers, for which the private rank was 'sapper', were essential in the trench warfare of western Europe at the time. They constructed defences, roads and bridges, tunnels, trenches, communication lines, buildings of all types and observation posts. For the soldier's well-being, they organised piped water, baths, showers and cookhouses, so their engineering expertise played an important role on the battlefield in many ways. Engineers then, and still today, are regarded as semi-combatants, so their small arms skills and training makes them multi-purpose 'diggers'.


After arriving on Timor, it was little different to 7MD Northern Territory as they built roads and bridges, ran water pipelines, communications, constructed washrooms and latrines, huts and buildings. Field engineers perhaps had a broader responsibility than the Fortress engineers who were essentially serving the Heavy Battery and emplacement. Based at Penfui at the airstrip, the 2/11th nonetheless assisted with the re-mounting of the 6-inch Mk XI guns farther up the hillside at Klapalima. Another important role for the sappers was demolition; they destroyed bridges and airfields and removed enemy roadblocks, handling explosive charges.


 Initially, the 11th Field Company was based at Redbank for training, west of Brisbane, Queensland. They had a headquarters component and three sections numbered from 1 to 3. As a full company, they left the South Brisbane railway station in March 1941 and went to Newcastle, Sunshine (Melbourne), Adelaide and on to Terowie where they changed trains for the narrow gauge 'Ghan' to Alice Springs. After camping in tents for a few days at 'the Alice', they took trucks of the DOMF to camp at Winnellie outside Darwin, similar to the other units moving north.


At Winnellie, the 2/11th prepared defences for the RAAF airfields and munitions stores. Parties were also engaged in bridge building with the push to improve roads and communications up to Darwin. During field exercises in mid-November, sections of the 2/11th acted as 'enemy' for the 2/40th and were umpired as victors over the infantry companies. The 2/11th had a football team that also won the NARL Premiership in 1941, in Darwin.

Sections of 2/11th were...
     HQ Company stationed at Winnellie, Darwin
     No.1 Section at Darwin- later went to New Guinea & Borneo
          Sgt. Alexander (Sandy) Thompson
     No.2 Section - Lieut. Gordon F. Stronach - Sparrow Force to West Timor
          2-i.c. John B.K. Ley
          A sub-section (captured 23/2/1942 at Airkom)
          B sub-section (captured 23/2/1942 at Airkom) 
          C sub-section (captured 23/2/1942 at Airkom) 
          D sub-section (not captured) - L/Sgt. John F. Healey
          2-i.c. Cpl. John W.G. Campbell
     No.3 Section - Lieut. Edward P.O. Campbell - Gull Force to Ambon

Each Field Coy. section was broken up into smaller units of 16 men, these were nominated as A, B C & D sub-sections. Nominal strength of a Field Company section was 64 men although only 46 are recorded as having embarked with Sparrow Force to Timor in December 1941. 

No.2 Section of 2/11th left Darwin on the H.M.A.S. Westralia on 10th December 1941 and arrived at the Usapa Besar beach near Kupang two days later. After wading ashore, they set up at the Penfui airstrip and proceeded to install water supply, ablution blocks and erect buildings. A track was cut from Baoemata to Usau and dispersal airfields were established. With so many tasks and sub-sections under strength, another officer, Lieut. Ley and about 18 other sappers were flown in to Penfui by Hudson on 6th February.  

On 20th February after the Japanese landing, the 2/11th detonated prepared charges at Penfui and blew the aerodrome and bomb dumps up in spectacular fashion. There were 9 bomb dumps, each with fifty 500lb. bombs and another dump with fuses. Eighty craters were put in the runway so that the Japanese would need to spend considerable time in repairing it in order to make it serviceable again.


For their action at Usau Ridge in taking down a Japanese road block at the Amabi River under heavy fire, Lieut. Stronach, Sgt. Couch, L/Cpl. Kay and four sappers were mentioned in despatches. Upon their return to Australia and reunion after the war, L/Sgt. Healey was nominated to wear the MID on behalf of No.2 section. Healey with D sub-section had fought on in East Timor with the 2nd Ind. Coy. commandos and was taken off with the remainder of the 2nd. Ind. Coy., back to Australia in December 1942.


D sub-section of No.2 section, 2/11th Fd. Coy. was at Champlong upgrading bridges or destroying landing strips in the north during the fateful days of 20th - 23rd February so they did not go into captivity. The men left the Champlong headquarters and hospital and with Lieut. Doig of the 2nd Ind. Coy., blew up the Mina River bridge and then the Benain bridge so as to prevent the Japanese from pursuing those who headed east to join up with the 2nd. Ind. Coy. commandos. This group was credited with slowing down the Japanese advance for months as they destroyed bridges and roads.

This and more... DVD & Computer CD set                                                                                  return topage

Copyright © 2012-2013
All rights reserved
Ian D. Skennerton

Please report any site problems/questions such as broken links here.