Early 2/40th colour patch

2/40th colour patch

2/40th parade banner

Lt.-Col. William Leggatt

Headquarters staff group

Headquarters company

HQ MG Company, Brighton

HQ No.3 Platoon (mortars)

Reinforcements, Dec. 1941

The 2/40th Infantry Battalion was raised in Tasmania in mid-1940. Lt.-Col. Geoff Youl was nominated as commander on 1st July. The outbreak of war in Europe saw Australians flocking to the flag and units were being allocated to go to Britain and on to Europe. Recruiting was in full swing; nearly one thousand men were required for an infantry battalion. The camp for the 2/40th was at Brighton, north of Hobart city. The '2/' or 'Second' designation was to distinguish WW2 units from their Great War predecessors.


Infantry battalions were made up of Headquarters company with five more companies of infantry, each divided into platoons and sub-divided into sections. HQ company comprised of the command and orderly room group along with six specialist platoons.

     Headquarters group, command - Lt.-Col. William (Bill) W. Leggatt
          2-i.c. Major Ronald A. Campbell
          Adjutant N.P. Maddern
     HQ Company, sections of the six platoons were assigned to various companies or locations as required
          Major John Chisholm

          2-i.c. Captain John Stirling
          1 Platoon (signals) - Lieut. A.A. Davis
          2 Platoon (anti-aircraft) - Lieut. H.D. Miller
          3 Platoon (mortars) - Lieut. B.H. Gordon
          4 Platoon (armoured carriers) - Lieut. G.J. Nicol
          5 Platoon (pioneers) - Lieut. R.W. Vincent
          6 Platoon (transport) - Lieut. S.C.H. Frost 
     A Company - Capt. Norman H. Johnston
          2-i.c. Capt. J.R.N. Murray
          7 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. J.B. Tanner
          8 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. L.G. Thyne
          9 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. R.R. Higgins
     B Company - Capt. Norman H. Roff
          2-i.c. Lieut. N.R. Gatenby

          10 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. B.H. Billett
          11 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. J.B. Morrison
          12 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. T.R. McLeod
     C Company - Capt. Duncan F. Burr
          2-i.c. Lieut. R. Smith

          13 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. R.G.J. Piggott
          14 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. E.A.R. McNeil
          15 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. T.M. Sharman
     D Company - Capt. Allen G. Trevena
          2-i.c. Lieut. F.H. Viney

          16 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. R.G. Williams
          17 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. J.D. Groom
          18 Platoon (infantry) - Lieut. D.N. Corney
     Reinforcements Company - Lieut. M.D. Tippett
           2-i.c. Lieut. John L. Strickland


The 2/40th left Hobart on the S.S. Zealandia on 7th January 1941 and arrived in Melbourne two days later. Trains took the men to Bonegilla camp on the shores of Lake Hume in northern Victoria, where training continued alongside two Victorian battalions, the 2/21st and 2/22nd. These three infantry battalions made up the 23rd Brigade of the 8th Division, all destined 'bird' forces. Some Victorian reinforcements joined the 2/40th in February although members were predominantly Tasmanian.


At the end of March, the 2/40th left Bonegilla for Adelaide on trains, then continued to Alice Springs where the battalion camped. In mid-April, they were trucked by the Darwin O.M.F. and travelled over four days to Larrimah. Then they boarded Vestey train cattle carts and went to Katherine for a few months. In July the companies moved closer to Darwin, to a new camp they constructed at Noonamah, the 'twenty-eight mile' and was stationed there until its departure for Timor on 10th December 1941.


In December, some men were sent home on Christmas leave however soon after they left Darwin, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and war was declared, the 2/40th as the infantry component of Sparrow Force was destined for Timor. These men along with reinforcements from Tasmania and Victoria, did not rejoin the unit on Timor until mid-January 1942, a month before the Japanese invaded. After three days of heavy fighting, low on food, water and ammunition, Lt.-Col. Leggatt surrendered the column at Airkom (Irekum) on 23rd February 1942 and most men became prisoners of war. Losses were 4 officers and about 40 other ranks


Sparrow Force on Timor comprised of the 2/40th Infantry Battalion, 2/1st Heavy Battery, Fortress Engineers and Signals, 2/11th Field Company, 2/12th Field Ambulance, 22nd Dental Unit, 18th Anti-Tank Battery, 75th Light Aid Detachment and Australian Army Service Corps as well as the 2nd Independent Company (Commando) which went to Portuguese East Timor. British Bofors gunners of the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 21st L.A.A. Regiment arrived from Java only a few days before the Japanese invaded. Netherlands East Indies forces were also a component of the Timor defence but did not figure in any of the action.

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