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Equal to the Task vol 2 The Movement and Transportation Services

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Equal to the Task


Volume 2


The Movement and Transportation Services




Neville Lindsay editor

and contributing authors


… his researches are here set down
That the great deeds of men …
may not be forgotten

Herodotos 1.1


Dedicated to the members of the
Royal Australian Engineers (Transportation) and other participating Corps and Staffs
and their achievements


(C) N.R. Lindsay 1992
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention
No reproduction without permission. All rights reserved

First published in 2010
Historia Productions
P0 Box 604
Kenmore 4069


National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-publication entry
Lindsay, Neville.
Equal to the Task. Volume 2 - The Australian Army Transportation Services
Includes index
ISBN 978-0-9808415-1-0
ISBN 978-0-646-06706-3 (set).

1. Australia. Army. Royal Australian Army Service Corps - History.

2. Australia. Army. Transportation - History.
I. Title. II. Title: The Movement and Transportation Services



Typeset by Historia Productions, Brisbane



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The Movements and Transportation Services of the Australain Army mostly existed as an adjunct to the Royal Australian Engineers. While completely neglected in time of peace, where survival of the Engineer units took primary importance, its services of Movement, Movement Control, Water Transport, Terminal Operations and Postal Services grew to major proportions in time of war as an essential element of deploying and supporting the field army. With a major war gone and forgotten, the services languished or virtually disappeared.

While propping up low priority services is not an attractive idea, if it is allowed that the function of an army in peace is to prepare for future war, then all the elements should be prepared to ensure that the army can be sustained when called for. The Transportation services were denied this position, at best having to resurrect themselves from a small base, at worst having to start again from a zero base.

That they managed to do so in the heavy demands of World War 2, particularly in the Pacific theatre, where the customary British support structure on which previous efforts had leant simply didn't exist, is a tribute to the energy andd edication of the officers and soldiers who met the challenge. With the usual post-war relapse, elements had to be reactivated to meet the lesser contingencies which arose against the low priority given by its sponsor corps.

With the amalgamation of the services into the newly formed Royal Australian Corps of Transport in 1973, the Transportation services at last found a home in which they were recognised on an equal footing.






Ninian Stephens? Who?

X November 2010




This book is the follow up and parallel to the first in the Series on the Royal Australian Service Corps, covering those components of the Royal Australian Corps of Transport which were largely absorbed from the Royal Australian Engineers, and some which had disappeared before that amalgamation.

As much of the structural basis and history of the Army at large, so essential to putting any significant element in its context, was covered in the first volume, all of it has not been repeated here. It will be necessary to refer back to that volume to place the movements and transportation services within their framework, except where it is necessary to include some repetition to give sense to the text in this volume. The result is naturally a less structured book, which is also more episodic and compartmentalised into the separate services which had comparatively little overlap and operated virtually independently of each other: the cohesiveness enforced by the unity of the supply and transport providng the sinews of war which dominated volume 1 is missing from this one. While there is a notional similarity between the different modes of transportation, their operation was quite separated by their different environments, coming together only in the terminals which link them and the planning and control which directs complementary modes.

While much of the events covered here are a record of the transportation component of the Royal Australian Engineers, a number of elements of other corps was involved in various ways in those services, either before Engineers took them over or as an integral part of the operating structure. An obvious if not necessarily exemplary example was the Railways Service, which at one time encompassed Royal Australian Engineers to operate trains, Signals for railway signalling and communications, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for railway workshops and Xxxxxxxxxx for xxxxxxxxx. Other contributors to the non-road transportation services are noted throughout the book, but the main burden was covered by Engineers, particularly in the periods of war operations in World War 1, and even more so in World War 2, in the later years of which water transport provided much of the backbone of the resupply traffic in the New Guinea and Islands campaigns. So while some insignia and motto of the Royal Australian Engineers have been used to highlight the outward symbols of this book, this is not strictly correct, as other corps – the colonial AASC, Railway Staff Corps, Australian Postal Service, Australian Army Transportation Corps, and the all-arms input to the Movements staff were present and influential at various periods. However, in order to provide a central theme of the majority stakeholder, the RAE symbolism has been used where appropriate as a reasonable coverall.

With such an important contribution to the Army, it might have been expected that all these movements and transportation elements would be adequately recognised in official war histories, but like the other logistics arms their efforts go largely unrecorded. More to the point, it would have been expected that, as about xxx percent of the Royal Australian Engineers, they would figure prominently in the xxx volumes of that Corps’ history. The reality is far from that, amounting to little more than an appendix on water transport in one volume and some wider coverage in another, making this volume all the more necessary to keep their exploits and achievements alive and in perspective.

This volume is published on-line. This is a new and growing technique, as it offers multiple advantages: significantly, the ability to provide audio-visual content at modern standards, to liberate the hidden visual records which otherwise lie unseen in archives and the home collections which are eventual candidates for the rubbish tip; and also to be able to readily update and correct content, with a capability for expansion as new material comes forward as a result of the publication. In addition, access to other resources, glossaries, indexes and notes is readily available through the click of a cue.

As an additional bonus, it provides the opportunity to place Corps members on record, which can rectify the anonymity which such accounts as this place on the participants. Members, and their families for deceased members, are welcome to submit brief biographies in the formats shown in the text, to the website for inclusion. Take advantage of this opportunity to bring the Corps members to life. Similarly units and associations can also have outline histories similarly featured. It is beyond the author's capacity and intent to produce the thousands of potential entries, so it is up to interested parties to submit them for inclusion.

While the printed book will survive for a long time, the on-line format pays very considerable dividends, especially for reference publications such as this. However if the demand is sufficient, there is always the possibility of publishing a limited edition in book form thanks to the efficiencies which have emerged in modern printing techniques.

The other innovation is cooperative authorship. While the edited collection by several authors is not uncommon, this publication has been virtually written on line by a host of authors, who have contributed their researches in specific fields and locations. This has shared the research load and allowed progress at several times the rate of a single or few authors, and brought a higher level of expertise in different areas. This is not achieved without its editorial tensions and compromises, but it has made this book possible at a time where is has been necessary to harvest the knowledge and expertise before it fades away. The major contributors are identified in the popup table Contributing Authors at the beginning of this page, while smaller contributors are included in the general listing in the Acknowledgements appendix.

In conclusion I return to the unseen contributors: the website was again mostly self help, with setting up and finessing of the website by programmer Jim Chisholm. The completers Xxxxx Xxxxx kept the authors out of a certain amount of trouble which endless self reading fails to eradicate. I hope the quality of this second volume matches that of the first, so that the members of the Transportation Services will also have a fitting record presented in a fashion they will be proud of.


Neville Lindsay
1 December 2010