Back History


Western Australia sent six specially recruited contingents to the Boer War, a total of approximately 1500 personnel. The units were named the 1-6 Western Australia Mounted Infantry. They were recruited from volunteer units and from the general populace. Enlistment was for about one year. A Lieutenant Bell was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first in WA and the only WA soldier to be awarded a VC during the Boer War.

On 1 January 1901 Federation occurred as the former colonies of Australia united to form a nation governed from Canberra. This event also formalised the birth of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), and control of military forces passed to Canberra. In reality this did not occur until 1903.

History of 16th Battalion AIF

16th Battalion AIF was raised at Blackboy Hill Camp, WA on 16th September 1914, forming part of the 4th Infantry Brigade of Australia's newly raised force for overseas service. The Battalion consisted of men from South Australia and Western Australia. The 4th Infantry Brigade became part of the Australian and New Zealand Division and carried out months of strenuous training in the Egyptian desert around Heliopolis camp.

The 16 Bn on the march in Melbourne in 1914.

The Battalion was landed late on 25 April at Gallipoli and reinforced the line at Pope's Hill. It landed with a strength of about 1000 men, but by dawn on the 3rd May, after an attack on 'Baby 700', it numbered 309. The Battlion saw further action at Quinn's Post, and in the area towards Suvla, including the unsuccessful attack on hill 971.

Soldiers of the Machine Gun Section at Blackboy Hill in 1914

After the evacuation to Egypt, and reorganisation, the Battalion was sent to France where it took part in many famous battles including Poziers, Bullecourt, Passchendaele, Villeriers Bretonneux, Hamel, the Hindenburg Line and the final action at Le Verguier. At the end of hostilities in 1918 the 16th Battalion was disbanded and its members returned to Australia in small groups.

16th Infantry Battalion / The Goldfields Regiment

The 16th Battalion became a CMF (Citizen's Militia Force) unit with effect from 1 October 1918. The regimental area included a number of Perth suburbs. 1921 saw reallocation of regimental areas and various units were combined to form new units. The designation '16th' was transferred to the CMF Infantry in Kalgoorlie and Boulder (The Goldfields Regiment).

During the 1920s the Goldfields Regiment became so depleted in strength that by 1930 it disappeared as a seperate unit from the Order of Battle. Its numerical designation was then linked with the 11th Battalion, henceforth designated 11/16th Battalion.

Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia

Early in 1936, Dr C.W. Courtney a former officer of the 5th Battalion (The Victorian Scottish Regiment) offered to raise a Scottish regiment in Perth.

This proposal aroused a great deal of interest, as a result the WA Highland Regiment was formed. There was a unanimous desire for the proposed regiment to adopt the dress and name of ‘Cameron Highlanders’.

The proposal for raising the unit was approved and within six weeks over 280 applicants for enlistment had been received, the minimum required by the Military authorities being 250. The newly formed Scottish unit was given approval to bear the designation of 16th Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia).

2/16 Infantry Battalion AIF

In April 1940 the 2/16 AIF Bn was raised at Northam as part of the 21st Bde AIF. Their first campaign was in Syria against the Vichy French Forces. The Battalion distinguish itself in Battle at the Litani River, Sidon and Damour. After the capitulation of the French, the 2/16 garrisoned Beirut until Dec 1941.

In early 1942, the unit returned to Australia and on 12 August arrived in Port Moresby. It was immediately sent over the Kokoda Trail to reinforce the 30th Bde (Militia). The unit then took part in the costly withdrawal south over the trail. When the battalion was taken out of the line on 26 Sep it numbered 142 men. In late November after rest and reinforcement at Port Moresby, the 21st Bde was flown to Popondetta to take part in the battles of Buna and Gona. Casualties were high. On the 15th Jan 43 the battalion (now numbering 66) was flown out of the battle area and sent to the Atherton Tableland in North Queensland.

1943 was spent training as part of the 7the Division in North Queensland until July when they travelled to take part in the campaign along the Markham and Ramu Valleys. The battalion once again distinguished itself by capturing the notorious Shaggy Ridge from the Japanese on 27th December. Once again the unit returned to North Queensland for further reinforcement and training for the landing at Balikpapan on 29th January 1945. The unit remained in Borneo until the Japanese surrender, and was then disbanded.

16th Infantry Battalion in World War II

With the entry of Japan into the war in December 1941, 16th Battalion mobilised and commenced intensive training in the Peel Estate areas, south of Perth. Throughout 1942, 16th Battalion was engaged in coast watching activities and received training in jungle warfare. In 1943, the Battalion, as part of 13th Infantry Brigade, relieved the 3rd Infantry Brigade in defence of the Darwin Fortress area.

In November 1944, the battalion was embarked on the US ship ‘Evangeline’ for the island of New Britain. Active service was seen here until news of the Japanese surrender reached at the island on the 15th August 1945. In September, the Battalion moved to Rabaul where it remained until being finally disbanded in January 1946.

Post War Reorganisation

Following the disbandment of 16th Battalion in January 1946, a short dormant period existed until 1948 when the Citizen Forces were reactivated. This year saw the reformation of the Battalion under the linked titled of 16th/28th Infantry Battalion. (The Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia Regiment).

In 1952 with the inflow of National Service trainees into the CMF, the 16th/28th Battalion was reactivated as separate battalions. With the adoption of the Pentropic establishment in 1960, 16th Battalion was amalgamated with 11/44th and 28th Battalion to form ‘1st Battalion’. The Royal Western Australia Regiment. In July 1965 1 RWAR was split to form 1 RWAR and 2 RWAR.

On 1st January 1966, 1st and 2nd Battalion of Royal Western Australia Regiment were redesignated as 16th and 11th Battalions Royal Western Australia Regiment respectively. In 1976 16 RWAR and 11 RWAR were reorganised. 16 RWAR was allocated the country depots north of Perth, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton whilst 11 RWAR was redesignated 11 Independent Rifle Company and allocated the country depots south of Perth, Albany, Katanning and Bunbury. Also in 1976, 28 Independent Rifle Company came under the command of 16 RWAR. It was not until December 1979 that 16 RWAR and 28 Independent Rifle company were separated. 16 RWAR and 28 Independent Rifle Company were separated with 16 RWAR remaining at Cameron Barracks, Victoria Park and 28 Independent Rifle Company moved to Irwin Barracks.

During early 1988 the metropolitan elements of 16 RWAR moved to Cameron Lines at Karrakatta to form part of the re-raised 13th Brigade.

Victoria Cross Recipients

PTE M.O'Meara, Poziers 1916
Between 9/12 August 1916 at Pozières, France, during four days of very heavy fighting, Private O'Meara repeatedly went out and brought in wounded officers and men from "No Man's Land" under intense artillery and machine-gun fire. He also volunteered and carried up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches which was being heavily shelled at the time. Throughout this period he showed utter contempt of danger and undoubtedly saved many lives. PTE O'Meara was wounded on three occasions.


PTE T.L.Axford, Hamel Woods 1917
On 4 July 1918 during the attack at Vaire and Hamel Woods, France, when the advance of the adjoining platoon was being delayed in uncut wire and machine-gun fire, and his company commander had become a casualty, Lance-Corporal Axford charged and threw bombs amongst the enemy gun crews. He then jumped into the trench, and charging with his bayonet, killed 10 of the enemy and took six prisoners. He threw the machine-guns over the parapet and the delayed platoon was able to advance. He then rejoined his own platoon and fought with it during the remainder of the operations.


LT L.McCarthy, Hindenburg Line 1917
On 23 August 1918, near Madam Wood, east of Vermandovillers, France, the battalion was heavily opposed by well-posted machine-guns. Lieutenant McCarthy, realizing the situation, dashed across the open ground with two men to the nearest post, where, having out-distanced his companions, he put the gun out of action, then continued fighting his way down the trench. Later, having been joined by one of his men, together they bombed their way along the trench until contact was established with an adjoining unit. During this action Lieutenant McCarthy had killed 20 of the enemy, taken 50 prisoners and captured 5 machine-guns.

When he jumped into the last trench the surrendering Germans closed in on him from all sides, took his revolver, patted him on the back and then allowed him to lead them back to the Australian lines. He handed over 500 metres of captured trench to the British. This feat was described in the official history as being, next to Jacka’s at Pozieres, perhaps the most effective individual feat in the history of the AIF.


The Old Sixteenth: Being a record of the 16 Battalion (AIF). By Captain C. Longmore. Published by the committee of the 16th Battalion Association, Perth, 1929

"1,000 Men at War" (The Story of the 2/16th Battalion AIF) by Malcolm Uren

Largely a Gamble - Australians in Syria June - July 1941 Jim McAllester & Syd Trigellis-Smith

Australian War Memorial website

Various other material is held in vertical files at the Defence Centre-Perth library within Leuuwin Barracks, East Fremantle.

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