The battalion had a long period of rebuilding and intensive training after returning to Brisbane on February 10, 1944, following the Lae-Ramu Valley campaign. It was based mainly at Kairi on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland. On August 8 7th Division troops, including the 2/33rd Battalion, were given their long overdue honour and recognition with a march through Brisbane. A huge crowd clapped and applauded every step.

It was to be 11 months after the Brisbane march before the battalion was called back into action, this time to help recapture oil-rich Balikpapan in Borneo. Inter-allied politics were the reason for the delay. By this stage of the war US forces had assumed the primary responsibility for the fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific.

This raised significant uncertainty about the Australian Army’s next actions against the Japanese following the victories in New Guinea.

While the politics were being argued the battalion continued training in Queensland. Extensive amphibious exercises indicated their next action could involve their first seaborne landing. That proved to be the case. It was the invasion of Balikpapan, Borneo.

Excitement at the prospect swept the battalion when Balikpapan in Japanese-held British and Dutch Borneo was revealed as the next objective. At Kairi on October 15, 1944, Captain G. R. Connor was finally awarded his Russian Order of Patriotic War 1st Class decoration for gallantry in the Middle East three years earlier.

Major General E.J. Milford, D.S.O. General Officer Commanding 7th Division inspecting members of the 2/33rd Battalion at Kairi, North Queensland.


Left : Major-General E.J. Milford, presenting the Russian Patriotic War Class 1 award to Captain George Connor at Kairi. Connor won the award for gallantry during the Syria campaign but this was the first opportunity for him to receive it.

A small group of 2/33rd men unable to settle back into civilian life at the end of World War II enlisted to fight in the Korean war. One was NX43768 Corporal Len Smeaton, of Earlwood, NSW, seen here with five mates. Smeaton is on the far left. The others were (left to right) NX43920 Fred Morath, Narrabri, NSW, NX43597 Charles “Chic” Glassey, QX18599 Ron Stewart, NX44159 Ron Shaw, of Fairy Meadow, NSW, and NX43723 Henry Johnson. Smeaton enlisted as a private to fight in Korea. He died on November 8, 1950, of wounds received at the Battle of Pakchon, on November 5. He was aged 28.

Home leave, when they could get it, was looked forward to by all the men. Enjoying their leave above were Ray Gibson, centre, with 2/33rd Battalion mates, Bill Keech (left) and Frank Moncreiff (right).

2/33rd men attending to personal hygiene at Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands (left to right): Lt. H.G. Glanville, Pte. J.U. Russell, Pte. S.G. Wenham, Pte. N.H. Crawford and Cpl.W.A. Musgrave.

B Company Football Team, Kairi, Atherton Tablelands late 1944

A. E. “Butch” Maguire, E. “Snowy” Digby, Allan Sparrow, Gerry Kennedy, Ron Purcell, Ken Cleall, Alf Brierley, Sid Bendall, John McLaughlin, Stan Hartman, Bill Atkinson, Vic Harkins, Dick Galloway, George Campbell, “Heck” Davies (O.C.), Les Rodwell, Gordon Bennett (Bn. 2IC), “Tex” Morton, Charlie O’Grady. Sport, especially rugby league, was an important part of training and recreation for players and spectators alike. The proudest supporter of his inter-battalion and inter-division footballers was the C.O. Lt. Col. Tom Cotton. His proudest sporting moment was when the 2/33rd Battalion won the inter-division championship three weeks before the start of the Lae campaign in 1943

The Duke of Gloucester, Governor-General of Australia, accompanied by Major C.B.N. Peach (left) inspecting soldiers of the 2/33rd Infantry Battalion at Kairi, North Queensland, on February 13, 1945.

The 7th Division and the 2/33rd were finally given some of the long overdue honour and recognition they deserved in a march through Brisbane, August 8, 1944. The C.O. Lt. Col. Tom Cotton is leading with the Adjutant “Rick” Marshall, left, R.S.M. Ken Anderson, right, and Norm Peach leading H.Q. Company. The 7th Division started being called “The Silent Seventh” in 1941 while fightng the Vichy French in Syria. Tight security was kept on the campaign to avoid adverse reaction and possible confusion in Australia over our soldiers fighting the French who were one of our main allies in World War II. The break-away Vichy French supported Hitler. During the war the main Australian news from the Mediterranean and the Middle East focused on the 6th, 8th and 9th Divisions in action against the Germans in Tobruk, Greece and other areas. Even soldiers in other divisions and the general public knew little about the actions of the 7th Division in Syria. The 7th Division was the last to be granted a victory march in Australia to recognise its service overseas.

The band leading the battalion taking part in a march to honour 7th Division troops in Brisbane, August 8, 1944. They were moving past the saluting base on the steps of the Brisbane City Hall. Band members at the front (left to right) were NX125341 Corporal A.J. Smith, NX 95281 Corporal W. Garnon, NX171602 Private A.P. Cassidy, NX96759 Private W.G.Wright, NX131936 Private A.D Gray, VX11674 Private E. Dennis, NX160760 Private A.P. Devine, NX104944 Private T.B. Fulham, QX36618 Private L. H. Davis, NX131157 Private A. Draper.

August 8, 1944: A day to remember – Brisbane honours the “Silent” 7th

By Ken Cunnigham
First published in Mud & Blood

It was to be the first time that the Australian people had been given the opportunity to show their pride in this magnificent Division. It was a typically sunny Brisbane day fortunately, however, that prevailing westerly wind with its whiplash of ice remained absent. Although the Armed Services were still precautionarily dressed in their winter uniforms the ladies and girls lightened the scene with their spring like clothing. At this stage of the War Brisbane had long taken on the aspect of a garrison town and as such was quite blasé about troop movements in their city. But as in the rest of Australia, whenever the AIF paraded in force it acted as a magnet to the people, and on this day they turned out in their tens of thousands to acclaim their fighting men. For these were their valorous sons who, by their deeds overseas, had so illuminated the name of Australia throughout the world that its lustre reflected brightly on all Australians. My Mother wrote me from her Brisbane home to my ship in waters north of Australia, also sending me the newspaper clippings of the March. The papers saw this as one significant public display of the AIF and claimed it to be the greatest march of the War. My Mother was clearly moved by the event (she was wearing, of course, her Mothers Badge given her by the Federal Government with its three stars indicating that all three men in her family were on active service). She was not alone when she mentioned that tears of pride rolled down her cheeks, for she noted that some of the old First War Diggers with those splendid Returned Badges gleaming in their coatlapels, were also deeply affected.

“Watching the Boys of the Seventh Division”, she wrote me “one could not help being thrilled by the sight of those superbly turned-out soldiers. They looked so strong, so tanned, so fit and so capable that everybody must have gone home with complete confidence in the eventual outcome of the War. It was a huge and seemingly never-ending March, but one absolutely unforgettable. That famous march had been well and truly earned for, by August 1944, Seventh Division had been in the very front line of Australia’s wartime defenders for over three years. When it retuned home from the Middle Eastin 1942 it had been sent to New Guinea at the most critical time in Australia’s history. With other A.I.F. and Militia Units it had fought and defeated the Japanese Army on the Kokoda Trail and then sealed that defeat by crushing them on the beach at Gona. To take Gona (and nearby Buna) the Japanese had to be eliminated from inground defences of immense strength. For Gona had been the starting point for their drive on Port Moresby, over Kokoda’s precipitous mountain track. It had been one of the cruellest campaigns in all A.I.F. history. Battle casualties were 50% while just as many had to be relieved by a variety of strange illnesses. No A.I.F. Campaign had ever been fought over such difficult and physically exhausting terrain and the troops then had to endure the poorest of supply lines and medical assistance.

The jungle environment, so foreign to Australian training, demanded a re-education in the arts of war. The Japanese had mastered jungle-fighting technique (and no one had ever explained how or where) and, allied with their fatalistic attitude and natural bravery, they were an extremely formidable enemy. However, one of the Australian soldiers great attributes is his ability to master the physical environment of this battlefield and then go on to teach his enemy a military lesson. Once again this precept was exercised, this time against their new Japanese enemy. The Japanese, in their arrogance, didn’t believe in taking prisoners but, from the time that they started fighting Australians in New Guinea, they were given some never-forgotten instruction in military toughness when the Australians reciprocated. This successful Kokoda Campaign had an enormous psychological reaction on both sides of the conflict. The Japanese had been forced on to those never-ending backward steps that didn’t stop until their humiliating defeat in 1945. While the entire Allied war effort realised for the first time the “all-conquering, invincible” Japanese Forces on Land, sea and air could be defeated. When historians marked the high points of the Australian Army in World War II they were to set Kokoda, with Tobruk and Alamein, as the third jewel in the Battle Crown of the Second A.I.F.