Toast to the Regiments
By Kevin Maloney
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of the Cavalry. President Shorty has asked me (as one who has a foot in both the camps of 2/6 Cav Cdo Regt (through my dad, Spike), and 2 Cav Regt, as a former RAAC officer), to propose a Toast to the Regiments.
But before I do I think that it is important to draw not only on the history of these two fine Regiments, but also some common threads that inextricably link them.
History of 2/6 Cav Cdo Regt
Please allow me to touch briefly on the history of 2/6th by using extracts from the brief resume of 2/6 Cavalry Commando Regiment published in the Cavalry News of 2005.
The Regiment was the first armoured unit raised in the 2nd AIF in November 1939.
It was first called the 6th Div Reconnaissance Regiment.
During the six years of the Second World War, the Regiment changed titles and roles four separate times.
In 1939 - 40 they were the 6 Div Reconnaissance regiment.
In 1940-42 they became 6 Div Cav Regt
Another name change in 1942-43 to 2/6 Cavalry Regiment
And finally 2/6 Cav Cdo Regt from 1943 - 46
The origin was important because in the Divisional Order of Battle, 6 Div Recon Regt was placed at the right of the line as the Senior Regiment followed by Artillery Regiments and then Infantry Battalions.
The Regiment sailed for the Middle East on 10 Jan 40 (only 3 months after formation). B Sqn was the first AIF unit into action against land forces in the Second World War on 12 Dec 40 at Fort Garn el Grein. A Sqn joined O'Connor's 6th Div drive along the coast of North Africa through Bardia, Tobruk and onto Benghazi; actions which historians have called "The Benghazi Handicap". B and C Sqns moved inland to Fort Maddelina and Giarabub.
On completion of the first desert campaign, the Regiment was refitted in Egypt and returned as the reconnaissance screen for the British 7th Armoured Division in an attempt to relieve Tobruk, which was now under siege by Rommel. The Regiment was again on the move as Rommel by-passed Tobruk and pushed east towards the Suez Canal. At this time C Sqn, which had lost most of its armoured vehicles in heavy combat in Syria, converted to horse cavalry scouts on 'borrowed' French horses. They utilized their short life spotting enemy gun positions in the Merdajoun Sector.
In Dec 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and began their drive south through Burma, Malaya and Singapore to create their resource rich East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. 6 Div. were withdrawn from the Middle East essentially to provide troops for the defence of Singapore.
As we know, Singapore fell and the ships containing 6 Div returned to Australia to prepare for the Defence of our homeland.
The Regiment moved to the Northern Territory in June 1942 for some 15 months whilst politicians fought for armoured vehicles for the conduct of the Defence of Australia. These vehicles were withheld for the European Theatre. When arriving back in Australia 2/6 Cavalry Regiment had fought against the Germans, Italians and Vichy French on trucks, light and medium reconnaissance vehicles and on horseback. But it was now time to address the new threat of Japan in a new role and new organisation.
On 2 Dec 43 the Regiment was reformed and renamed 2/6 Cav Cdo Regt. A and B Sqn soldiers become 2/9 and 2/10 Sqns. HQ and C Sqn were disbanded. The Regiment moved to the Atherton Tablelands where they were reinforced with fit young volunteers from all over Australia. This included 7 Independent Company which had seen considerable action already in New Guinea as part of Kanga Force in the Mubo/Salamaua areas.
Thus the Regiment was again complete as 2/7, 2/9 and 2/10 Sqns.
A side bit of strategic history here. Having halted the Japanese on the Kokoda Track and then fought all the way to the coast at Buna and Gona, the New Guinea Campaign - according to MacArthur was over. He estimated that it would take some 12 Divisions to mop up and clear all of the South West Pacific Island of Japanese troops whilst he 'island hopped' towards Japan. 12 Divisions were not available so Blamey volunteered 12 Brigades to do the job. This in reality broke down to less than 12 Regiments or Battalions to clear New Guinea, the Solomons, Bouganville, and Borneo.
As part of the 'clearing of New Guinea' campaign the Regiment landed at Aitape in October 1944 and served with great distinction, operating independently as commandos in the Wewak - Maprik - Aitape areas, until repatriated to Australia in 1945.
Peace at last for the soldiers of 2/6th. Their Courage, Initiative and Fighting skill rewarded with Battle Honours from :
Capture of Tobruk
Battle Honours also from the South West Pacific, including;
The Liberation of New Guinea
Wewak, Wirui Mission.
With the war over and a new Army facing a variety of different threats, Defence posture moved to one of Forward Defence that saw our Army (post Korea) fighting in the Malayan Emergency; confrontation with Indonesia and eventually Vietnam.
Equipment may have changed, but the need for well trained reconnaisance soldiers did not. With this in mind 2/6th ceremoniously handed their Battle Honours over to the Second Cavalry Regiment on 9th October 1971.
History of 2Cav Regt
2 Cav Regt was formed in 1965 - initially as 1st Cavalry Regiment made up of the ARA Squadrons of CMF Regiments 4th/19th PWLH and 2/14QMI. These two squadrons remained independant with no HQ Sqn or RHQ. They were simple reinforcement elements to the APC Squadron operating in Vietnam.
This changed in 1971 when the Regiment proper was formed at Gallipoli Barracks in Holsworthy NSW. In order to avoid confusion with 1 Armd Regt, the Regiment was renamed 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
When first formed -under what was then called an RAAC Regiment Concept - 2 Cav had a reconnaissance squadron and an Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron. This continued until 1976 when the Infantry took responsibility for some of its battlefield mobility and 2 Cav Regt concentrated on its primary role of reconnaissance. They were so good at it that in the major exercise of its era - Exercise Kangaroo 89- 2Cav Regt almost spoilt the exercise by locating all of the enemy positions before they were supposed to be found. Consequently they were withdrawn from the exercise for two days to allow the enemy some breathing space in which to "surprise' the attacking force.
In 1992, 2 Cav Regt completed its part of the 'Army Presence in the North' initiative and relocated to new barracks in Darwin under its new Co, Lt Col Alan Brimelow. The relocation, according to the politicians, was a success. The barracks expanded over the next 5 years and now Robertson Barracks is the home of 1st Brigade.
By the mid 90's the Regiment had 3 squadrons still equipped with the ageing M113 vehicle.
In 1996 the regiment was re- equipped with ASLAV wheeled armoured reconnaissance vehicles. This new vehicle provided a much needed shot in the arm, not only to 2 Cav, but to the whole Army. When training areas were difficult to find and soldiers were 'suffering the peace' the then CO Lt Col Spike McKasskil demonstrated to the Army the flexibility of mind and spirit of modern Cavalry when he had a squadron deployed to High Range near Townsville, another at Cultana in South Australia and a third at Puckapunyal. All travel was either on the wheels of ASLAVs or on unit Mack Trucks. Such rugged proven flexibility was to come in very handy when Australian troops were deployed to East Timor in 1999. Our troops are still there on rotation.
2 Cav was again called into action in 2003 post Gulf War and found themselves deployed to Iraq under Co, Lt Col Roger Noble where once again they distinguished themselves.
Their activity level has not stopped with elements of the Regiment currently deployed in Afghanistan.
I said at the start that there were many common threads that linked these two fine Regiments.
Some of these are geography - the common deployments to the deserts of the Middle East; the common ground their soldiers walked in Darwin and parts of the Northern Territory.
But no these are not enough. What links these two Regiments is the spirit of Cavalrymen. Roles, vehicles, theatres may change, but their indominable spirit does not. Just as our fathers were called 70 years ago, the sons of our daughter Regiment (2Cav Regt) proudly serve and carry on the traditions of their forefathers of 2/6 Cav Cdo Regiment and hold those Battle Honours close because these will be added to by their service in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our new Association is the proof positive of that ongoing relationship and the indominable spirit that exists still and is alive and well among our soldiers - the crew commanders, drivers, gunners and scouts of 2 Cav Regt.
What we have achieved in ensuring that the history of one of the regiments of the Second AIF continues, is the envy of many former units and their soldiers who feel that, like the names of old battalions and regiments, their deeds and sacrifice will be either forgotten or consigned to the back pages of history books.
The history of 2/6 Cav Cdo Regt is now inextricably linked to 2 Cav Regt and expanded through this Association thus ensuring that the past, present and future of the spirit of mateship and the initiative and flexibility of the Cavalry will live on.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would ask you all to be upstanding and drink a toast to our Regiments -
2/6 Cav Cdo Regt and 2 Cav Regt.
Ladies and Gentlemen - THE REGIMENTS.