24th Australian Employment Company

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Brief History

Formed as the 24th Australian Labour Company at Watsonia in Victoria during June 1942 and moved to Camp Pell in order to work at the port of Melbourne. In October they were renamed 24th Employment Company. In April 1944 they were based at Royal Park when they were renamed 24 Works Company. By November 1944 two platoons were working from Randwick Racecourse in New South Wales, with other detachments at Nagambie and Mangalore cutting firewood. In July 1945 the NSW detachment rejoined the unit at Pell Camp in Melbourne.

Unit Personnel


During the Second World War, the Australian Army established 39 Employment Companies, totaling by war’s end about 15,000 men. While the name of these army units occasionally varied – Employment Company, Labour Company, Works Company, Labour Unit, Labour Corps – their function did not. They were established to ensure that the Australian Defence Force had a large corpus of soldiers dedicated to essential labouring tasks, the hard physical labour needed to maintain the war effort and support the fighting forces. Of the 39 Companies, 11 were in part or whole made up of ‘aliens’, non-British citizens.

The ‘alien’ companies were not armed. Soldiers without guns, they camped at places like Tocumwal and Albury on the New South Wales/Victorian border, where an earlier history of State rivalry led to the stupidity of differing rail gauges. There they worked on the trains, loading and unloading military supplies, including foodstuffs and armaments. Across the country, parties of Employment Company soldiers were directed to factories for packing and transporting goods; others worked on the wharves, repaired roads, drove trucks loaded with military equipment. In the words of a journalist, ‘Men who were not allowed to carry arms spent their days loading bombs on trucks.’ Some of the Chinese in the 7th Company worked in the mines in Queensland and later ended up under the control of the US military. A number of the Koepangese from the 23rd Company became members of the sabotage units in Z Force, sent to report on and infiltrate Japanese-occupied Timor.

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