26th Australian Employment Company

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Brief History

Also known as 26th Australian Labour Company, and 26th Australian Works Company. Formed as the 26th Australian Labour Company at Davilak (Hamilton Hill) in June 1942 with a HQ and two platoons. The unit was tasked with providing cargo handling in northern ports. In August 1942 they were handling ammunition at Woodman Point, with detachments at Port Hedland, Marble Bar, Broome, Exmouth and Kalgoorlie. The unit's name changed to 26th Australian Employment Company, and then in April 1944 expanded to four platoons and renamed the 26th Australian Works Company. A large detachment was sent to Pippingarra to service the Corunna Downs airfield.

The north west port detachments were withdrawn in December 1944 and in March it was reduced to three platoons. At the end of the war, the unit HQ was still in Hamilton Hill, with fourteen detachments working around WA.

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.

Brief History content has come from The Unit Guide - Volume 6 - The Australian Army 1939-1945 , pages 6.41 & 6.142 - Graham R McKenzie-Smith - Big Sky Publishing - 2018

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