The 2/21st Australian Infantry Battalion was raised in July 1940 for service in the Second World War. Half of the recruits were from Melbourne, while the rest came from rural Victoria. They trained at Trawool in central Victoria before moving to Bonegilla, close to the New South Wales border. This 235km journey was made on foot.
The 2/21st Battalion was earmarked to reinforce Dutch troops on the Indonesian island of Ambon. Despite having the opportunity to prepare defences and train on the island, the 2/21st did not deploy until Japan's intentions became clear.
The 2/21st Battalion arrived on Ambon in December 1941 where they created Gull Force with a number of smaller units. Gull Force's combined strength was 1,131 men, and when a Japanese force numbering 20,000 landed on Ambon, they were inevitably overwhelmed. Only an estimated 54 Australians were killed in the fighting on Ambon, though another 229 men were massacred after surrendering. Over 800 members of Gull Force became prisoners of war and endured three years of forced labour, starvation and brutality. Only 300 of these men would survive to make it home to Australia.
- Shrine Governor Colonel Jason Cooke
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Reviewed 16 January 2023