2nd Australian Employment Company

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Brief History

The 2nd Labour Company was formed at Narellan in New South Wales in March 1942 with volunteer enemy aliens recruited from internment camps in NSW. In April they moved to Bathurst and worked at a number of armament and ammunition storage depots in rural NSW. By November they had a HQ and three platoons when the unit was renamed 2nd Australian Employment Company. Over the next two years they had detachments working at Myambat, Werris Creek, Bogan Gate, Marrangaroo and Lithgow. The HQ unit later moved to Ascot, with the platoons operating throughout NSW until the end of the war.

Company 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 6.133 - Graham R McKenzie-Smith - Big Sky Publishing - 2018

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