The men of the Section were originally recruited at the Sydney Show Grounds in June and July 1940.
About October of that year the unit, the 1st Australian Brigade Anti-Aircraft Workshops, was divided into two sections. One of the Sections was transferred to 2/1st Heavy A.A. Regiment at Ingleburn, and the other Section to 2/2nd Heavy A.A. Regiment at Puckapunyal.
In December 1940 six men each from the two Heavy Regiments were transferred to 2/3rd Aust. L.A.A. Regiment and, after assembling at Royal Park with men from Victoria and other States, were granted final leave.
The Section then proceeded to Werribee and became a part of the Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Roy Massina. The Regiment had not received any guns, and there were few motor-vehicles on strength, so there was not a great deal of work for the Section.
On 29th December 1940, the Regiment embarked for the Middle East, eventually arriving at Khassa Camp in Palestine at the end of January 1941. Six days later, the 8th Battery of the Regiment moved out for Cyrenaica, without guns or equipment. No members of the Workshops Section accompanied the Battery. Lieutenant George Wiley was now in charge of the Section.
On Good Friday, 11th April, the Regiment, less 8th Battery, commenced the move from Khassa to Amariya Camp, about fifteen miles from Alexandria in Egypt. The Workshops Section was split, some travelling with the troops by train and some twelve men as maintenance crew with the trucks, tractors and guns, by road.
The 7th Battery moved out of Amariya on Tuesday, 22nd April, bound for Crete. Norm Anderson, Jack Marr, and Dick Plant of the Section were attached to the Battery. Temporarily attached were Viv Shinn and Jack Crowley, to assist in the unloading and installation of equipment.
These two men, on completion of their work, returned to Alexandria on the corvette “Bathurst”, and reinforced R.H.Q. and 9th Battery at Amariya. Subsequent to the German invasion of Crete, Anderson was killed when the destroyer “Dido” was bombed. Marr was evacuated and moved with other 7th Battery evacuees to Hill 95 in Palestine at the end of May.
On 23rd April R.H.Q., 9th Battery, Signals Section, Workshops Section and some R.A.S.C. personnel moved out of Amariya and into the Western Desert.
The guns of 9th Battery moved on to various airfields as air defence, while R.H.Q. and ancillary troops were stationed near Abu Haggag.
The Workshops Section set up its camp with two trailers and several light-aid tents, and was attached to 9th Battery for rations and discipline. The area covered ranged between El Daba and Sidi Barrani, and included the maintenance of vehicles and guns of 9th Battery and British 3.7 Heavy A.A. Regiments.
The Section was reasonably well-equipped with transport, trade tools and some small power units, later augmented with captured German and Italian equipment. This allowed the Section to perform numerous tasks including convoy servicing, recovery and repair of captured Fiat, Lancia S.P.A. and Volvo diesel trucks, recovery and repair of tanks, moving 3.7 A.A. guns into position to be used as field artillery, and in one instance fabricating plates for the repair of H.M.S. Elizabeth” after the stern had been damaged by Italian limpet mines in Alexandria Harbor.
In one situation, a Ford V.8 staff car was found abandoned with its carburetor missing. A spare Chevrolet carburetor was connected to the Ford engine by an inlet fabricated from a piece of wood, the repair being sufficient to recover the vehicle.
The Section moved from Abu Haggag to Ras Hawala on 6th June. When R.H.Q. and 9th Battery moved out of the Western Desert in July 1941, Chris Allen and Jack Crowley were attached to the 9th Battery convoy (which included a Lancia diesel truck and a B.M.W. motor cycle) until arrival in Beirut. They then returned to the Workshops Section at Hill 95, where R.H.Q. and the evacuees of 7th Battery were camped.
At Hill 95, the Section was engaged in routine maintenance and convoy servicing. The 2/4th Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was formed in January 1942, and the Section lost many of its men to the new Regiment.
In early January 1942 R.H.Q., Signals and Workshops moved to the Canal Zone to await embarkation. Some men of the Section embarked on “Shillong”, a fast, heavily-armed ship which was one of the first ships into Cochin, India. From Cochin, the vessel was ordered unescorted towards Singapore, but was recalled to Cochin until later directed to Australia.
The remainder of the Section, comprising about thirty men, embarked on the “Orcades”.
The Workshops Section was eventually brought together in Adelaide, where the men were billeted in private homes, as were other members of the Regiment.
Here the Regiment was split up once again, with 9th Battery ordered to New Guinea, and 7th and 8th Batteries to Western Australia.
Chris Allen, Jim Allan, Vic Kent, Viv Shinn, F. Harrison, W. Parkinson, K. Parker, J. Gray, J. Houghton, J. Faulkner, F. Watson and some others were attached to 9th Battery. W.O.II Stockdale was in charge. At Milne Bay, these men serviced the Battery’s equipment, unloaded ships in the first few weeks, and stood in as infantry when the Japanese landed, and when more Japanese troops were expected to be landed.
Some of the men were unloading the ship “Anshun” when it was sunk at the wharf by Japanese naval shelling.
In 1943, 9th Battery became part of the 2/3rd Composite A.A. Regiment and moved to Lae on 4th October, the Workshops Section moving with them.
At Lae the routine maintenance of guns and vehicles was carried out. A task of a more unusual nature was, with some 9th Battery gunners, assembling a 25mm triple barrel anti-aircraft, anti-tank gun captured from the Japanese. This entailed searching for parts to complete the gun. This was the first complete gun of its kind in the hands of the Allies at that time, and was test-fired before Headquarters staff.
The gun was sent back to Monegeetta Ordnance Depot and is now with the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
The 9th Battery, as part of 2/3rd Composite A.A. Regiment, returned to Australia in 1944, and refitted. The Battery was sent to Borneo and was at the landing on Labuan Island on 10th June 1945. Some men of the Workshops Section were with the Battery at that time.
The men who had not left Adelaide with 9th Battery were attached to R.H.Q. and 7th and 8th Batteries on their being posted to Western Australia.
These men included Jack Crowley, V. T. Bowen, V. Smith, T. Board and J. Stoneham and some others. Captain W. Beaurt was in charge, having taken over from Lieutenant Wiley in the Middle East.
On arrival in Western Australia, the Section was stationed at Guildford in a private house, and, working from a garage serviced not only the 2/3rd Light A.A. Regiment, but many other units including some American formations.
Later, some guns moved north to Geraldton, Exmouth Gulf and Onslow, requiring the services of the Section on convoy maintenance and on the guns.
Some Western Australian personnel of other units were attached for training purposes.
In July 1943, the Regiment was disbanded, but 7th Battery and 8th Battery retained their identity. Some men of the Section went to the 8th Battery as gunners and artificers.
This account of the Workshops Section has been mainly compiled from information offered from former members of the Section.
The authors acknowledge the assistance given by Jack Crowley and Vic Kent.