The 39th Australian Infantry Battalion 1941-1943 existed as a unit for only twenty months of World War II, but its story is one of the most unusual and proudest in the annals of Australian military history.
Formed in haste from disparate Victorian militia (home defence) elements in October-November 1941, initially officered (except for platoon commanders) by World War I veterans, its ranks largely composed of 18-19 year old boys armed with World War I weapons and designated for a passive garrison role in Australian administered Papua, the 39th Battalion was, in the full sense of the term, a ‘scratch’ unit. Just three weeks after the devastating aero-naval attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour, the battalion, together with other equally ‘scratch’ elements of the 30th Brigade, embarked on the Aquitania for Port Moresby, where it was to fulfil a much more significant and historic role than was ever contemplated at the time of its formation.
This website, together with its associated links, and recommended reading materials, attempts to tell something of the real story about those men who have been described variously as ‘Those Ragged Bloody Heroes” or perhaps as “Those Chockos”! Whatever they may be called the fact remains that Australia owes them a great deal of gratitude.