Short History of the 2/14th
The second of the 8th Division’s field regiments, the 2/14th Field Regiment was raised on 17th October 1940 as part of 23rd Brigade and its headquarters were initially at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne. The recruits for the Regimental Headquarters and 27th Battery came from Victoria, while the Regiment’s 28th Battery came from South Australia and included some Tasmanians. By the end of the year the Regimental Head Quarters (RHQ) and 27th Battery (A, B & C Troops) were located at Puckapunyal, Victoria while 28th Battery (D, E & F Troops) was at Woodside, South Australia. 28th Battery moved to Puckapunyal in the third week of February 1941. The Regiment trained with 18-pounder guns and 4.5 inch Howitzers. In April 1942 while in Darwin the Regiment, in line with others, was reorganized into three Batteries of 2 Troops each, being 27th Battery (A & B Troops), 28th Battery (C & D Troops) and a new Battery, 64th Battery (E & F Troops).
In July 1941 the Regiment moved to Winnellie Camp, Darwin, which most thought would only be a temporary move to “acclimatize” themselves with the tropics as most of the 8th Division had already gone overseas. Indeed, two of the division’s infantry brigades 22nd and 27th with its other artillery regiments, the 2/10th and the 2/15th, were serving in Malaya and Singapore. The division’s 23rd Brigade had its headquarters in Darwin and its battalions were later sent to garrison the islands to Australia’s north – the 2/21st went to Ambon, the 2/22nd to Rabaul, New Britain, and the 2/40th to Timor.
Following Japan’s entry into the war and rapid advance through south east Asia and the Pacific, the 8th Division was captured and those who survived the fighting then had to endure three and a half years as prisoners of war of the Japanese.
The 2/14th Field Regiment was the only major combat unit of the 8th Division that was not captured. The Regiment’s colour patch was later changed in part to acknowledge this, as a perpendicular “break” was inserted into the colour patch. The break signified the “Broken Eighth” Division and the intention was to remove the break when the prisoners were liberated and the Division reformed.
Just days after the fall of Singapore, Darwin was bombed on 19 February 1942 for the first time. Darwin and its nearby airfields were raided more than 60 times; the first 47 of which occurred during the time the Regiment remained in the Darwin area.
From June to December 1942 the 2/14th’s activities remained the same; tactical training, calibration shoots, and regimental shoots. The Regiment’s headquarters and 27th Battery remained in the Darwin “fortress” area, while 28th Battery moved to Bagot and 64th Battery moved to 38 Mile – Coomalie Creek.
After 18 months in Darwin, the Regiment returned south in January 1943 and went into camp at Loftus, adjacent to the Audley National Park, south of Sydney. It was while the Regiment was at Loftus that it was re-equipped with 25-pounder guns. The gunners carried out exercises in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, and in November moved north to Brisbane where it prepared to embark for overseas service.
In December 1943 a detachment from RHQ and 64 Battery traveled to Lae, in New Guinea, which was being developed into a major base for the Australian operations in New Guinea. At the start of 1944 64th Battery moved to Massewang, which was north of Finschafen, on the Huon Peninsula. Some personnel were also attached to the headquarters of the 9th Division. By the third week of January 1944 the rest of the Regiment had arrived in Finschhafen where they had relieved the 2/12th Field Regiment. The 2/14th was to support the 5th Division’s advance to clear the Huon Peninsula. Gunners from the Regiment went into action the following month. The Regiment remained in New Guinea for the rest of the year, providing necessary artillery support for the infantry and training. The Regiment supported Infantry in operations at this time between Finschafen and Hansa Bay.
At the end of the year the 5th Division, including the 2/14th began moving to New Britain. Taken by troopship, the Regiment left Alexishafen and arrived in early January 1945 at Jacquinot Bay, the main Allied base on New Britain. American troops had made a large amphibious landing at Jacquinot Bay earlier in the war, and they were now being relieved by Australian troops.
The Australian campaign on New Britain was a limited offensive, one that contained the Japanese to Rabaul and the northern area of the Gazelle Peninsula. This was done with a series of limited offensives to clear the Open and Wide Bays, and with extensive patrolling regimes between the two. As the only field regiment supporting the division, the 2/14th frequently provided support and was heavily engaged in the fighting around Waitavalo, shelling the Japanese positions in March 1945.
While most of the Regiment was located on the east coast of the island at Wide Bay, “A” Troop was located on the west coast, at Open Bay, with the 4th Brigade. “A” Troop mostly supported infantry patrolling, but in June it began engaging Japanese targets in the Matanakunai Bay and Matalaili River area.
Following the end of the war in August 1945 and the surrender of Japanese forces, the Regiment moved to Rabaul in September, where it and the 11th Division formed the garrisoning force. The 2/14th remained in Rabaul for the rest of the year. Over time the Regiment’s ranks thinned as men were discharged or posted to other units. In January 1946 the unit returned to Australia, where the 2/14th Field Regiment was disbanded.
This information is based on details obtained from the Australian War Memorial website at: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_10388second_world_war.asp
It includes some minor amendments to grammar/dates/layout, as well as additional details from Ron Jackson,the author of the complete History of the Regiment, published in 1997 under the title “The Broken Eighth”.
Compiled by Jim and Pat Connor for Friends of the 2/14th Field Regiment – April 2008