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Lang 18-07-21 01:09

Military Regulations
Mike Cecil in his usual thorough way has given us a great insight into the instructions surrounding the 12th Australian Division in the Northern Territory. I wanted to reply to his information but it was getting away from the Back to the Track thread which is dedicated to the current event and probably will fill several pages by the time everyone reaches Darwin.

Mike Wrote:


Hi Lang,

Actually, I think you accorded 12 Aust Inf Division a much shorter life than it actually had, and listed units that were not part of the 'Division'.

On 19 Dec 1942, NT Force HQ issued an instruction which stated that 'to give formation identity to units now classified as Force Troops, they will be re-designated as shown below ...' The list has two columns: the left being the NT Force name, the right being the new designation. A few examples: HQ RAA NT Force became HQ RAA 12 Aust Div; NT Force Cipher Section became 12 Aust Div Cipher Section; NT Force Provost Company became 12 Aust Div Provost Company, and so on. These units continued, while they existed, in the order of battle (OOB) for NT Force as 12 Aust Div units, and later 12 Aust Div (AIF) units, until a reorganisation in 1945. Correspondence for all units in NT was still to be addressed to 'HQ NT Force' and signals to 'NORFORCE'. The units you listed as part of 12 Inf Div, unless I've missed a subsequent instruction, remained as part of the over-arching formation, that is, NT Force.

So NT Force was never renamed '12 Aust Div', only units of Force Troops within NT Force, and those designations were retained for the duration, although some documents, just to confuse things, seem to use the two designations interchangeably. The differentiation between Force and Field Troops (ie NT Force and 12 Inf Div) for command and administration was retained until 7 October 1944, when all Field Troops (12 Aust Div units) came back under direct command of NT Force HQ.

The formation sign of a Buffalo over a boomerang, in white on a black background: during 1942, NT Force issued specific instructions on several occasions that all formation insignia in the form of emblems be removed from vehicles, with a horizontal bar above or below the unit sign, either white or grey depending upon the unit's designation, used to indicate NT Force Units. The earliest official reference I have to the buffalo over boomerang formation sign for NT Force (and hence, all the units within NT Force, including those designated as 12 Inf Div) is a list of approved formation signs dated 7 April 1943. Secondary sources (eg Taubert) state the sign dates from Dec 1942, but nothing I've seen to date in either LHQ or NT Force instructions supports that. I may well have missed an instruction, of course, but the above is what I have at the moment. The formation sign remained extant for the duration.

Hope that clarifies things a little. Very nice car: should be a pleasant motoring holiday in the company of many like-minded enthusiasts.


Lang 18-07-21 01:14

Thanks Mike

All a bit convoluted.

As we know they can issue as many instructions as they like and many researchers have these as verified evidence of something happening or not happening. Real life does not work like that particularly in something as large, complex and diverse as military organisations even in a peacetime setting let alone a wartime setting in a "remote" area.

I am not questioning your records and instruction evidence and no doubt in the Order of Battle all those North Force changes appeared. How many of the minor details (such as vehicle markings) actually reached fruition at minor unit level would be interesting, but now impossible, to calculate. Minor units being given new command structures often to this day continue to work to and under other units for convenience or proximity.

Almost every time units do things together the system changes and we have all the varying degrees of command, Under Command, Under Command for Administration, In Direct Support, In Support, On Call.

The status of units changes constantly according to the situation and there is no time limit on any of the command relationships which can have an end-by date or in many cases are almost permanent*arrangements and the sub-units hardly know their Order of Battle command structure.

As I said, your record research, as usual, is exemplary but I think it gives people who have not been in the system a false sense of order and efficiency. This is particularly so in the Northern Territory during WW2 with units spread over vast distances comprised of AIF, AMF , Militia plus the input of Dutch, American (and even a Canadian Signal Unit), RAAF, USAAF plus US and Australian Navy all trying to suck off the same supply teat.

Photo evidence is really interesting. Someone trying to prove something (say markings or truck type) will find a photo of a vehicle of the correct type or markings in a group and shout "proof" while ignoring the other 40 photos of vehicles on the same operation with different types or wrong or missing markings.

Armies are made up of people, no supply chain is perfect and nothing stays constant for more than 10 seconds. I absolutely bet the Coldstream Guards on a Trooping*the Colour Parade, despite regulations, tradition and discipline, will have a few people with their boot laces tied crossed instead of straight, strap on their rifle buckled wrongly or still wearing a watch when told to remove them.

This non-conformity extends past individuals to whole major units, not for rebellion but for convenience and efficiency to cater for the current situation including supply problems, undermanning and spontaneous decisions to take advantage of an evolving situation.

Whole point of my argument is historic regulations and instructions are only pointers to history they are not written in stone proof. On many occasions (probably most) military instructions are wish-lists. They must be used in the full knowledge there are ALWAYS real world factors that preclude absolute 100% implementation, 100% of the time.


Mike Cecil 18-07-21 01:41


"Whole point of my argument is historic regulations and instructions are only pointers to history they are not written in stone proof"
Lang, to be fair, I didn't say they were 'stone proof' as you put it, but in the absence of anything to disprove that the instructions were generally applied, they and period images are pretty much all we are left with, and provide a damn fine start. I'm well aware of the dilution of HQ instructions as they trickle down to unit and sub-unit level, and the many reasons why, but I believe in this instance it is not relevant to my comments about 12 Aust Div.

The main point of my post was that the commonly held view that 12th Aust Div had a very limited 'life' of just weeks, is incorrect, and that the impression that it contained several main force units is also incorrect. The surviving records show clearly that it was never a division in the true meaning of that word, but simply a means of providing 'formation identity' to a group of field force units, an identity that persisted long after the cut-off date provided in Wiked-pedia.


Lang 18-07-21 03:17


I am not criticising your records as I know you have been around the traps and can read between the lines. I have the highest regard for your research.

The problem is you are too good and those with limited knowledge have often used you as final iron-clad authority when all you were doing was pointing out the rules in evidence at the time and the guidelines they should have been working to.

I fully understand MOST of the regulations MOST of the time are applied as written but the devil is in the detail and how much finer detail can an army have than things such as vehicle marking. The more inconvenient and time consuming a regulation is, particularly if it achieves little more than an administrative result, the less likely it is to be adhered to,

We need blokes like you. You anchor the boat in the right spot. It is just how many and what type of fish we catch that is extremely hard to predict let alone regulate. This is even harder when we try to find out how the blokes 75 years ago caught and counted their fish. You might put the anchoring point in the ships log for future reference but nobody is going to make a detailed written account of the day's fishing results and as we know fish grow with the telling.


PS Just a point on Wikipedia. I know serious researchers discredit this site but it is still the best option for the average punter. I believe it is written in the main by people with a wide range of knowledge ranging from world authorities to those with hearsay evidence. They do try to demand verification of facts but often the notation request stays for a long time but it alerts people to unverified statements. Many pages have huge bibliographies and source credits. I know they are constantly checking entries for inappropriate content and regularly people making unfounded statements are corrected quickly. Very little malicious misinformation survives long.

Just like Encyclopedia Britannica which was the unchallenged but deeply flawed authority for 100 years Wiki has its faults but if you do not bet the house on the information it certainly is the best we have for quick results.

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