- 7th Division (Australia)
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 7th Division
Second Australian Imperial Force
nickname= "The Silent Seventh"
World War II
Middle East campaign
North African campaign
South West Pacific Area.
notable_commanders=Major General Arthur "Tubby" Allen
George Alan Vasey
anniversaries=The 7th Division of the
Australian Armywas formed to serve in World War II, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force(2nd AIF). The 7th Division was raised from regular armyunits and new, all-volunteer infantry brigades, from April 1940onwards.
It is sometimes known by the nickname "The Silent Seventh", due to a perception that its achievements were and are unrecognised, in comparison to the other 2nd AIF divisions. The origin of this belief appears to be censorship of the reporting of the fierce fighting in the
Syria-Lebanon campaign, in 1941. [Peter Brune, 2003, "A Bastard of a Place: The Australians in Papua", Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p.48] Senior Allied commanders and/or politicians believed that knowledge of fighting against Vichy French forces would have a negative effect on public opinion in Allied countries.
The 7th Division was one of only a few Allied units to serve with distinction in the
Middle East campaign, North African campaignand the South West Pacific Area.
North Africa and Middle East
The 7th Division left Australia for the Middle East in October 1940. It was then sent to
North Africa, and the 18th Brigade played a successful defensive role in the Siege of Tobruk, from May 1941. Meanwhile, the rest of the 7th Division formed the backbone of the Allied invasion of Lebanon and Syria; with British, Indian and Free Frenchforces, the 7th defeated Vichy Frenchland forces in the Middle East.
Arthur Roden Cutlerwon the Victoria Cross(VC) for his exploits in late June and early July in the Merdjayoun-Damour area, and was later seriously wounded. Corporal Jim Gordon also won a VC in the campaign. Moshe Dayan, a member of the Palestinian Jewish unit " Palmach" (and a future Israeli General), was attached to the division during the Syria-Lebanon campaign as an interpreter. Dayan lost his left eye when he was hit by a sniper's bullet, while using binoculars. As a result, he adopted the black eyepatchthat became his trademark. On the recommendation of a 7th Division officer, Dayan was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, one of the British Commonwealth's highest military honours, for his service during the campaign.
In December 1941, as Japanese forces advanced rapidly in
South East Asia, it was decided that the 6th and 7th Divisions were needed to defend Australia. Elements of the 7th Division were diverted to Java, and fought bravely alongside Dutch forces there, but were soon overwhelmed. The bulk of the division went straight to New Guinea. The 21st Brigade under Brig. Arnold Potts reinforced the reservists of the 39th Battalion, fighting a rearguard action on the Kokoda Track.
Simultaneously, the 18th Brigade, with a Militia brigade,
Royal Australian Air Forceplanes and ground staff, and a US engineer regiment, successfully defended an airbase at the eastern tip of New Guineafrom a major assault by Japanese marines - the Battle of Milne Baywas the first outright defeat of Japanese land forces in World War II. Corporal John French who was killed at Milne Bay, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross (VC).
won a posthumous VC on August 29. The 25th Brigade relieved the 21st, and Australian forces began to gain ground.
The 21st Brigade returned for the
Battle of Buna-Gonain late 1942, in which Australian and US forces suffered very high casualties, while capturing the main Japanese beachheads on the north coast of New Guinea. The Division was converted to a Jungle Divisionin early 1943 and during 1943-44, the whole 7th Division fought extensive and often bloody mopping-up operations against Japanese forces in the north east of New Guinea. The division conducted airborne landings at Nadzab, west of Lae, between 7-9 and 12 September, divisional troops were flown to the Ramu Valley and Markham Valley. Beginning at Nadzab — where Private Richard Kelliher won a VC — they successfully advanced to Lae and Madang simultaneous with the 9th Division, which fell on 16 September.
Another hard campaign, followed in the
Finisterre Ranges campaign, including the intense battles on Shaggy Ridge.
Later in 1944, the 7th Division returned to Australia and retrained in north Queensland, including
amphibious assaulttraining. In July 1945, the whole division, with the Militia's 1st Armoured Regiment, was deployed in the Borneo campaign, and undertook the amphibious assault on Balikpapan, in Sarawak. Fighting continued until the war ended in August. The 7th Division, like most of the 2nd AIF, was disbanded during 1946.
"Main divisional units" (with state of origin, where applicable) Infantry units
* 18th Australian Infantry Brigade – from 6th Division in 1941.
** 2/9th Australian Infantry Battalion,
** 2/10th Australian Infantry Battalion,
** 2/12th Australian Infantry Battalion Qld/
* 20th Australian Infantry Brigade – to 9th Division in 1941.
* 21st Australian Infantry Brigade
** 2/14th Australian Infantry Battalion, Victoria (Vic.)
** 2/16th Australian Infantry Battalion,
** 2/27th Australian Infantry Battalion, SA
* 25th Australian Infantry Brigade - from 9th Division, 1941.
2/25th Australian Infantry Battalion, Qld (from 24th Bde, 9th Div., 1940)
** 2/31st Australian Infantry Battalion, Qld
** 2/33rd Australian Infantry Battalion, NSW
* Artillery regiments
** 2/4th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (RAA)
** 2/5th Field Regiment, RAA
** 2/6th Field Regiment, RAA
** 2/2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, RAA
* Other units
** 2/2nd Australian Machine-Gun Regiment
** 2/2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion, Vic.
** 7th Australian Divisional Cavalry
** Engineer companies
*** 2/4th Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE), NSW
*** 2/5th Field Company, RAE, NSW
*** 2/6th Field Company, RAE, NSW
*** 2/2nd Field Park Company, RAE, WA
Corpslevel units attached to the division"
*Corps Troops Artillery
** 2/9th Army Field Regiment, RAA (originally 8th Division)
** 2/11th Army Field Regiment, RAA (originally 8th Division)
** 2/13th Army Field Regiment, RAA (converted from 2/1st Medium Reg. RAA, Oct. 1940.)
** 2/1st Survey Regiment, RAA
* 1st Australian Anti-Aircraft Brigade
** 2/1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RAA
** 2/2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RAA
** 2/3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RAA
*Corps Troops Engineers
** General engineer units
*** 2/7th Army Field Company, RAE, Qld
*** 2/8th Army Field Company, RAE, Vic.
*** 2/9th Army Field Company, RAE, Tas./Vic.
*** 2/3rd Corps Field Park Company, RAE, SA
** Base and Lines of Communications Units
*** HQ Railway Group
*** 1st Railway Construction Company, RAE
*** 2nd Railway Construction Company, RAE
*** 3rd Railway Construction Company, RAE
*** 1st Railway Survey Company, RAE
*** HQ Forestry Group
*** 1st Forestry Companies, RAE
*** 2nd Forestry Companies, RAE
*** 3rd Forestry Companies, RAE
* A Bastard of a Place: the Australians in Papua, by Peter Brune, Allen & Unwin 2003, ISBN 1-74114-403-5
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