In September of 1941, Japan had not yet entered the war however it would only be a matter of time. In order to bolster Australia’s security, Sothern Command of the Australian Army, decided to raise a new infantry brigade. On 1 October 1942 the 39 Australian Infantry Battalion was raised. Along with the 49th Battalion from Queensland and the 53rd Battalion from New South Wales the Victorian 39th Battalion comprised the new 30th Brigade.
Jack volunteered for the 39th Battalion, however he later recalled the welcome he and his fellow volunteers recieved when one of the officer's made the following statement: “We can make you or break you. It’s entirely up to you”. Jack ended up being posted to C Company and undertook all manner of training in the dusty scrub filled paddocks of Darley and the surrounding area.
After Darley, Jack and the 39th along with the 53rd Battalion, embarked aboard the RMS Aquitania bound for Port Moresby. They arrived on 3 January 1942 and set about unloading the ship, guarding the airstrip, digging slit trenches and preparing against enemy attack. A fellow C Company soldier, Ken Phelan described the 39th’s time in Port Moresby: “Life was very casual. Soldiers built their own cookhouses, sleeping place, latrines…defensive positions…attitude was that if the Japs came we would be defeated…”
Life seemed pretty monotonous for Jack and the other members of C Company in the months leading up to the start of the Kokoda Campaign. On 27 June 1942, Jack penned a letter on Australian Comforts Fund letterhead before posting it off to Miss W. Batty of 28 Myrtle St, Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Victoria. Kokoda Historical recently acquired this letter as part of our collection of Second World War memorabilia.
This never before published letter of a 39th Battalion solider gives an insight into the thoughts and feelings of an infantry soldier.
V125027, 14 Plt.
C Coy. 39BN
Just a line to say that you are not forgotten ^or you may think so. I am sorry I have not written for such a while but we have been very busy lately and I have not had time to settle down to answer your most welcomed letter. I was given an interesting letter and it had me baffled when I received it. Well at present it is quite warm although there is a slight breeze blowing *********over here yesterday. They ************* eggs but not all of them got home.
Well I think that is all the news of this place so I’ll try and answer your letter, here goes. I told Mick what you said and you may know what he said. I can imagine how you felt about getting a letter from any one there you may have had the same feeling as I did. You said I never mentioned about yourself we all make mistakes. So tell you the truth I didn’t know what to write about so I had to get Mick’s assistance and you may know how he starts off. I suppose he thought he was writing....
Darley Camp 1941, 14 Platoon, C Company, 39th Battalion.