15th Australian Infantry Battalion (Oxley Regiment)

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15th BN.jpg
A mortar crew from the 15th Battalion on Bougainville, July 1945 AWM photo 093913

Brief History

After the First World War the defence of Australia was in the hands of part-time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force, also known as the Militia. The Brisbane-based 15th Australian Infantry Battalion was known as the "Oxley Regiment". However, during the 1930s little was spent on defence and the Militia had few volunteers. In 1930 the 15th merged with the 9th Battalion, forming the 9th/15th Infantry Battalion and in 1934 with the 26th Infantry Battalion, forming the 15th/26th Infantry Battalion which later separated.

With the outbreak of war, the Militia was slowly mobilised and a 200 strong detachment of the 15th was sent to the Three Mile camp in Port Moresby in Papua in August 1940. It trained there while participating in the town's defence. The battalion returned to Australia that year and, as part of the 7th Brigade, conducted training and exercises at Chermside in Brisbane.

After Japan's entry into the Second World War on 7 December 1941, the 7th Brigade was given he task of preparing defensive positions around Caloundra. In May 1942 the brigade moved to Rollingston, north of Townsville, to defend the area against possible Japanese landings. By now, the 15th had transferred to the 29th Brigade, with whom it remained for the rest of the war. The 29th Brigade was responsible for the defence of Townsville.

In January 1943 the brigade moved to Milne Bay in New Guinea, before moving to Buna in mid-July, and then to Morobe at the end of the month. In August the battalion had been gazeted as an AIF Battalion and it began moving to Nassau Bay, and then Tambu Bay to take part in the Salamaua Campaign. In early 1944 as part of the 29th Brigade they linked with the 7th Division, in order to clear the Japanese from Lae. After several months patrolling around Lae, the 15th was transferred to Samford in Queensland in June 1944.

At Samford the 15th was given well-earned leave before the 29th Brigade was sent to Bougainville to become part of the 3rd Division. On Bougainville the 29th Brigade opened the campaign in the Southern Sector. At the end of December the 15th Battalion made the initial advance, moving down the coast from Jaba to Tavera Rivers. The 15th followed the Tavera River inland along the Mendai Road and also landed a company by barge at the Adele River. As a result of frequent clashes with the Japanese and the miserable environment the brigade's campaign is aptly known as the "battle of the swamps". Having reached Mawaraka, it was relived by the 7th Brigade and returned to Torokina.

In early July the 29th Brigade relieved the 15th Brigade along the Mivo River, taking up positions along the Buin Road, between Mobiai River and Nana Creek. The 15th was the furthest forward at Sisikatekori, with two companies along Killen's Track. The 29th Brigade's advance to the Silibai River was postponed on 3 July, beginning a week later on 10 July, because of dogged Japanese resistance, in which the 15th was the focus of counter-attacks. Australian fighting patrols reported regular contact with the Japanese, sometimes fighting up to sixty or seventy troops in one group. A series of minor attacks culminated in a major assault against the battalion's 'D' Company on 9 July. Though they won the battle the 15th had a hard time trying to advance further. Patrols could cross the Mivo but came into contact with strong Japanese positions. It was not until August that patrols could successfully carry out a full reconnaissance of the areas east of the Mivo to the Oamai. By that time the war was just about over.

The 15th was disbanded on 28 March 1946.

Battalion Personnel

Battle Honours

  • South West Pacific 1943-45
  • Liberation of Australian new Guinea
  • Tambu Bay
  • Sio
  • Adele River
  • Mawaraka
  • Mivo Ford
  • Lae-Nadzab

Individual Honours

  • 2 x Officer of the Order of the British Empire
  • 4 x Military Cross
  • 2 x Distinguished Conduct Medal
  • 11 x Military Medal
  • 35 x Mentioned in Despatches


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