27 (Machine Gun) Battalion
‘… on the rare occasion one glances through old letters home one's face almost becomes red. We were fairly hard on those in authority we didn't think measured up—often quite wrongly as it later transpired or when the overall picture was able to be seen. Of one thing I am quite convinced, that is we were certainly not normal at the time. Perhaps in some cases it takes ten years to return to that status. Presupposing we were all more or less the same it now becomes clear that the job coordinating all the dope you have got together into something like the true picture is anything but a cinch.’
The man who wrote these words is one of very many who have assisted in the compilation of this history. Without this assistance the task would have been almost impossible. Unlike most other units, which more or less retained their unity in battle, the machine-gunners did not fight together as a battalion: their companies were usually under the command of different brigades, and their platoons in support of different infantry battalions. For long periods the machine-gunners were dispersed throughout the Division; occasionally they were with British, Australian, Indian, Canadian or Greek formations. Only in rest billets or base camps were they able to renew acquaintances and compare notes. This disruption of contacts did not weaken their esprit de corps and spirit of comradeship—which are still evident at reunions—but it meant that few records have been preserved of the actions of platoons and individual gun teams. For this reason I have had to depend on the letters, private diaries and recollections of the survivors of these actions. It has been a most absorbing task.
I am very grateful to all those, far too many to list here, who have so willingly and patiently helped me in various ways, often at great personal inconvenience. The maps were drawn by the Cartographic Branch of the Lands and Survey Department.