In the five years of World War II, from 1939 to 1945, few Australian infantry battalions achieved a prouder record than the 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion A.I.F. hard-earned in gallant battles against the Vichy French in Syria and in helping defeat the Japanese in the disease-ridden jungles of Papua, New Guinea and Borneo. This website honours and pays tribute to the 3,065 men who saw active service with the battalion and the 500 who served after hostilities ended. The names of those who saw active service, including the 195 who paid the supreme sacrifice with their lives, and those who were wounded are listed in the Roll of Honour.

Their service and sacrifice is also proudly enshrined in our nation’s war archives and in the pages of the battalion’s official history, The Footsoldiers, written by one of their own, NX 8104 William Crooks, and ranked as one of the five most important unit histories of the war. Crooks served with the battalion for all five years of the war. His meticulous and detailed accounts of the battalion’s campaigns took him five years to research and write. First published in 1971, it is a hugely important addition to the national war records. A second 50th Anniversary edition was published in 2021. Military historians regard the book so highly because it contains graphic details of every battle involving the battalion and is based on the battalion’s war diaries and the diaries and recollections of hundreds of the men who fought in them, but whose stories had never been told before.

The graphic war details in The Footsoldiers come straight from the jungles, the mountains and the trenches where men of the 2/33rd Battalion fought and died in defending world freedom and opposing the tyranny of Nazi Germany and Japan. The gallant deeds of the 2/33rd Battalion are part of the great Anzac tradition that honours and remembers the veterans of all wars. This website, containing a short history of the battalion, has special links to encourage primary and secondary school students to study the 2/33rd’s contribution to that great tradition and its role in helping defeat the enemies of world peace in one of the most perilous periods in world history.


The Batallion’s newsletters, The Griffin on the left and Mud & Blood on the right have given news of the Battalion’s activities in peace and war since 1943 and are an essential part of the battalion’s proud history. The Griffin was published from 1943 to 1949 and Mud & Blood, published bi-monthly, became the main newsletter from 1949.

The battalion’s official history, The Footsoldiers, written by William Crooks. Copies can be purchased through the Merchandise page.

Web Manager: Peter Allen. Contact: [email protected]



Few, if any. A.I.F. battalions in the history of World War II suffered a worse disaster, in a matter of minutes, than the 2/33rd waiting at Port Moresby on September 7, 1943, to be airlifted for the campaign to re-capture Lae from the Japanese.
The battle-ready troops were in a convoy of trucks at the end of Jackson’s field runway when a U.S. Army Air Force Liberator, taking off on a bombing mission at 4.20am, hit a tree and crashed into fi ve trucks in the convoy.
There were horrendous scenes as two of the Liberator’s 500 lb bombs and more than 3,000 gallons of aviation fuel exploded on impact in a huge fireball. Dramatic eyewitness accounts of survivors are in the battalion’s war history, The Footsoldiers, which has been republished in a long-awaited second edition.
Seventy three died as a result of the crash – 60 battalion members, two truck drivers and the 11 crew of the Liberator. Ninety other men of the battalion were injured in what is still the worst air disaster in Australian history, in peace or war.
Memories of what happened that morning, seeing mates on fi re and being blown up by their own ammunition, haunted survivors for the rest of their lives.
First published in 1971 and written by William Crooks, who served with the battalion for five years, The Footsoldiers,is widely acclaimed as one of the fi ve most important unit histories of World War II. Crooks’ meticulous and detailed accounts of the battalion’s battle campaigns in the Middle East, Kokoda, Lae, Ramu Valley, Shaggy Ridge and Balikpapan took him five years to research and write. Military historians regard the book so highly because it details every action based on the diaries and recollections of hundreds of the men who fought in the battles.

Author of The Footsoldiers, William Crooks, as a Corporal early in World War II. Born in Cleland, Scotland, he joined the Army in 1939 and served for five years. He was a Warrant Officer Class 2 when discharged in October, 1945. He later rejoined the Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The second edition contains three new chapters covering events since 1970, including a new theory on the cause of the Liberator crash and a reexamination of some of the actions on the Kokoda Trail. It also includes, for the fi rst time, the names and service numbers of more than 3,600 men who served with the battalion.
With The Footsoldiers long out of print and rare first editions selling for up to $2,000 dollars, the 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion Association decided to publish a 50th anniversary second edition to bring the 2/33rd Battalion’s remarkable story to a new generation of readers, as well as being a treasured record for the relatives of the men who served but have been unable to obtain a copy of the first edition.
The 500 copies are being sold direct to association members, historians and libraries, with all money going to help the association’s work in commemorating the sacrifice and service of Australian men and women in all wars. The association has also published 50 numbered, leather-bound deluxe limited editions of The Footsoldiers in a special presentation box.

See Merchandising for details on how to purchase The Footsoldiers.


K.W. Eather former Major General and C.O. 25th Brigade A.I.F.
It is a most fascinating and rewarding experience to have been associated with an Australian infantry battalion for a period during the progress of the 1939-45 war and to notice the development of an almost intangible unit spirit, the pride all serving ranks come to have in their particular unit.
In times of war it is vital that a feeling of espritde-corps should develop and permeate throughout all ranks. Unless such a feeling of pride in the unit does develop no unit can hope to achieve a reputation for battle efficiency. The discerning reader of a unit history can observe the development of unit pride which is repeatedly shown to have sustained men of all ranks in times of stress and danger.
The author of “The Footsoldiers”, which is the story of the 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion during the 1939-45 war, himself a member of the battalion, has throughout his narrative, perhaps unconsciously, told of the intense pride of unit which grew in the hearts and minds of those who served with the unit. He has also shown how this pride of unit or esprit-de-corps made the 2/33rd Battalion one of the premier units of the 2nd A.I.F.
Most units of the 2nd A.I.F. were formed in Australia and went abroad as a formed unit in a particular formation. Most had the opportunity, during their pre-embarkation training and training overseas as complete units, to sow and develop the seeds of unit pride that were to stand by them in the later years of the war. This opportunity was denied the 2/33rd Battalion. The unit, as explained in the history, was formed in England and it was not until some months later, together with its sister battalions, that it found a “home” within the 25th Australian Infantry Brigade where it served with distinction as a unit of the 7th Australian Division in several campaigns under conditions which varied greatly.
The Syrian Campaign provided the battalion with its “baptism of fire”. The unit had already developed a high degree of unit spirit which was to carry it through a trying and difficult period with distinction. After Syria, came the return to Australia, the short home leave and reassembly, the move by stages to Queensland, then Papua and the beginning of a campaign which proved to be

K.W. Eather

as arduous as the worst – the “Kokoda Trail” over the Owen Stanley Range. In this short but strenuous campaign a new foe, flushed with victory, was met and defeated in conditions no member of the unit will ever forget. The eternal wetness of the rain forests, the razor back ridges, the lack of even moderate amenities were met and overcome by all ranks of what was now widely acclaimed to be one of the A.I.F’s finest battalions.
After the Papuan Campaign came the return to Australia, the Atherton

Tablelands, home leave, reorganisation, training and preparation for the next task the development of the war was to bring to the battalion. Incidents occurring during the Nadzab-Lae campaign described by the historian illustrate perfectly the superb spirit of a superb fighting unit which played such a prominent role in the success of the Brigade in the capture of Lae. The fighting efficiency and spirit of the unit was sufficient to absorb the shocking air disaster in which many gallant comrades were lost. While this grievous event left its mark on the unit it also added to the confidence members of the unit now had in themselves and their unit. All ranks were quite well aware and proud of the reputation justly accorded their battalion.
The historian takes the reader from Lae to the Ramu Valley and through the battalion’s actions on Surinam and does not forget to mention, with some degree of impishness, the battalion’s glee when brigade headquarters was “near-missed” by a lone enemy night bomber. Following a return to Atherton and another spell of home leave the battalion entered into the strenuous programme of training in preparation for the Balikpapan campaign which was to be the brigade’s and the battalion’s last campaign of the war. At Borneo the 25th Brigade was the 7th Division’s floating reserve and was committed after the two assaulting brigades gained their set objectives. The brigade was given the role of forcing the enemy
back from within striking distance of the area vital to the Division. The terrain allowed a greater degree of manoeuvre and the 2/33rd Battalion proved its reputation for dash and efficiency.
It was with mixed feelings that I left the 25th Brigade at this time to command the 11th Australian Division. Bonds that had grown over some four years refused to be broken and I still find pleasure and pride even after this long interval of years in occasionally meeting men who had served with the 2/33rd Battalion.

Formerly Major General

The 2/33rd Infantry Battalion was one of three formed in the United Kingdom on June 27, 1940, to create the 25th Infantry Brigade. The battalion’s personnel were drawn from throughout the Australian force that had arrived in Britain earlier in the month and manpower shortages meant the battalion included only three rifle companies instead of the usual four. It was initially known as the 72nd Battalion and was based at Tidworth, but in October it was retitled the 2/33rd, and in the same month relocated to Colchester.
It left Britain on January 10, 1941. and disembarked in Egypt on March 8. Upon arrival, the 2/33rd moved to Palestine for training where it was joined by a fourth rifle company. On April 11 the 25th Brigade, now part of the 7th Australian Division, began to move to Egypt to bolster the defences along the Libyan frontier against an expected German attack and the 2/33rd occupied positions at Mersa Matruh.
In late May 1941, the 25th Brigade returned to Palestine to take part in the invasion of Syria and Lebanon, which began on 8 June.
The 2/33rd fought, principally in dispersed company groups, around Merdjayoun until 28 June. It was then moved to the area around Jezzine and was still conducting operations in the rugged hills to the east of the town when the armistice was declared on 12 July. The 2/33rd remained in Lebanon as part
of the Allies garrison until January 14, 1942, when it commenced the first stage of its journey back to Australia.
It sailed from Port Tewfik in Egypt on February 9, 1942, and disembarked in Adelaide on March 10.
After a period of leave and training in Australia the 2/33rd was deployed to Papua to reinforce the battered Australian units on the Kokoda Trail.
It arrived in Port Moresby on September 9 and by the 13th was in action at Ioribaiwa. With the rest of the Australian force, the 2/33rd was soon withdrawn to Imita Ridge; the Japanese did not follow.
The battalion subsequently participated in the advance back along the trail that followed the Japanese retreat and it fought major engagements at Myola (October 11-15) and at Gorari (November 7-11). The 2/33rd was briefly involved in the bitter, confused fighting at Gona between November 23 and December 4, by which time dwindling numbers had forced its four rifle companies to be amalgamated into two. It returned to Port Moresby by air between December 15 and 17 and eventually sailed back to Australia in early January, 1943.The 2/33rd returned to Port Moresby in late July in preparation for the operations to capture Lae, in New Guinea. On September 7, while it waited at Jackson’s Airfield at Moresby to be flown to Nadzab, via Tsili Tsili,
a fully-loaded Liberator bomber crashed among the trucks carrying the battalion. Sixty men were killed and 90 injured – a third of the battalion’s fatal casualties for the entire war.
The remnants of the 2/33rd arrived in Nadzab on September 8 and subsequently participated in the advance on Lae, which fell on September 16. On September 29 the 2/33rd was flown from Nadzab to Kaipit and spent the rest of the year principally engaged in patrol actions in the Ramu Valley and the Finisterre Range. It returned to Australia on February 10, 1944.
Following over a year of training, the 2/33rd departed Australia on June 9, 1945, for its last operation of the war. It landed at Balikpapan in Borneo on July 1 and its subsequent operations were concentrated around the Milford Highway -– the site of the most determined Japanese resistance. It was withdrawn to rest on July 24. The war ended on August 15 and almost immediately drafts of long service personnel began returning to Australia. The remainder of the battalion arrived in Brisbane on February 22, and it disbanded there on March 12.