Description: Colour Patch – Headquarters – 15th Australian Infantry Brigade.

Condition: Very Good

Comments: Colour Patch – Headquarters – 15th Australian Infantry Brigade.

Reference: KG 806

The 15th Brigade was an infantry brigade of the Australian Army. Originally raised in 1916 for service during World War I, the brigade took part in the fighting on the Western Front in France and Belgium before being disbanded in 1919. After this it was re-raised as a part-time unit of the Citizens Force in 1921 in Victoria. During World War II the brigade took part in the Salamaua-Lae and Bougainville campaigns before being disbanded following the end of hostilities.

At the outset of the World War II, due to the provisions of the Defence Act (1903) which prohibited sending the Militia to fight outside of Australian territory, the decision was made to raise an all volunteer force, the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), for service overseas. As a result of this, the Militia units that already existed were used to provide a cadre of trained personnel upon which to raise the units of the 2nd AIF, as well as to administer the training of conscripts that were called up following the reinstitution of the compulsory training scheme in January 1940. They were also called up progressively to undertake brief periods of continuous service throughout 1940-41 to improve overall military preparedness.

Throughout 1941 the 15th Brigade was stationed around Seymour, Victoria, before undertaking training further training near Casino, New South Wales, in 1942. At this time they were joined by the 24th Battalion after it was transferred to the brigade from the 10th Brigade, which had been disbanded during the partial demobilisation of Australian forces that was undertaken to rectify a manpower shortage that had developed within the Australian economy. As a result of the addition of the 24th Battalion the 58th and 59th Battalions were amalgamated to form the 58th/59th Battalion, in order to maintain the triangular structure of the brigade.

Later in 1943 the brigade was deployed to New Guinea where it fought against the Japanese during the Salamaua-Lae campaign, with its most significant actions coming in June and into July when they were involved in the fighting around Bobdubi Ridge. At the end of the campaign they were moved back to Port Moresby, before later, in early 1944, being temporarily attached to the 7th Division for its campaign in the Markham and Ramu valleys, arriving at Dumpu on 7 January. In February, after fighting around the Kankiryo Saddle, the 15th Brigade moved up the Faria Valley to take over from the 18th Brigade. The brigade then proceeded to advance towards Madang, which was reached on 24 April 1944.

In October 1944, after 16 months active service, the brigade returned to Australia for rest and reorganisation on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland. By that time it had grown to a full brigade-group, consisting of a headquarters, three infantry battalions the 24th, 57th/60th and 58th/59th Battalions and supporting elements including a signals section, a flamethrower platoon, three troops of tanks from the 2/4th Armoured Regiment, a section of engineers from the 15th Field Company, a company from the 1st New Guinea Infantry Battalion, the 266th Light Aid Detachment, as well as military police, postal and dental units and a detachment from the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit. Also in support was artillery from 5 Battery, 2nd Field Regiment and four 155 mm guns of ‘U’ Heavy Battery.

In April 1945, the 15th Brigade was sent to Bougainville to rejoin the 3rd Division where, under the command of Brigadier Heathcote Hammer, it took part in the advance to the Hongorai River as well as the drive towards the Mivo before being relieved by the 29th Brigade on 1 July. Its losses while on Bougainville were heavier than any other Australian brigade that took part in the campaign, suffering 32 officers and 493 men killed or wounded.