Military History

This Week in History | Week 23

By The Cove June 1, 2020

01 - 07 June


01 June 1941 | Evacuation from Crete 

After a fierce offensive by the German forces, the Allies were forced to retreat to the southern edges of Crete where troops were evacuated over the period 28 May – 1 June. They were mostly lifted from Sfakia on the south coast and were bound for Egypt where about 6,000 troops were rescued on the night of 29/30 May.  The force was attacked by Luftwaffe dive bombers on the voyage to Egypt and suffered many losses. About 4,000 men were withdrawn from Heraklion on the night of 28/29 May, while on the next night 1,500 soldiers were withdrawn by four destroyers and during the night of 31 May /1 June another 4,000 men were lifted off the island. A total of about 18,600 men of the 32,000 British troops on the island were evacuated, but 12,000 British and Dominion troops and thousands of Greeks were still on Crete when the island came under German control on 1 June.


02 June 1967 | 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, arrives in Vietnam

The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment advance party arrived in Vietnam in April 1967. Some members of the battalion would only serve six months in Vietnam, as they had already completed 18 months of overseas service in Malaysia and Borneo. The battalion was brought to full strength with new recruits and National Service Scheme conscripts from Australia. 2 RAR took over from 6 RAR in June and was stationed at Nui Dat, Phuoc Tuy province, as part of the First Australian Task Force (1ATF).


05 June 1916 | First Australian operations in France

Following the Gallipoli campaign, the two battle-worn infantry divisions had returned to the camps in Egypt. There they were joined by large numbers of fresh reinforcements and more men arriving from Australia. The two divisions were expanded to four, while a further division (the 3rd Australian Division) was raised in Australia and sent straight on to Britain. From March 1916, the first of the divisions from Egypt began arriving in France.

Australia had committed four infantry brigades to the initial Gallipoli landings with further brigades of infantry and light horse arriving afterwards. Now, on the Western Front, they had four divisions (each of three brigades). These (the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Australian Divisions) were initially sent to the region of the Belgian border to gain familiarity with some of the new weapons of modern warfare, including gas. They then moved into the front-line trenches near Armentières, in an area dubbed “the nursery”.

Although the Australians were in a relatively quiet sector, there were periods of sharp fighting, shelling, and some heavy raids. By the end of June over 600 men had been killed. Private William Jackson became the first man of the AIF to be awarded the Victoria Cross in France. He rescued wounded members of his raiding party from no man’s land until his arm was blown off by a shell. (AWM)


06 June 1969 | Battle of Binh-Ba

The battle of Binh Ba was one of the more significant actions fought by Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. Before the battle, soldiers of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) had fought mainly in open or jungle settings. This battle took place in the village of Binh Ba, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, against a large, well-armed communist force.

In early June 1969, the newly arrived 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment/New Zealand (ANZAC), deployed north of 1ATF’s base at Nui Dat on Operation Lavarack. The battalion immediately began encountering large formations of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) soldiers and a series of near constant firefights ensued. On the evening of the 5th of June 1969, a combined communist force of well-armed and resolute troops occupied Binh Ba. 

At 8 am the following morning, an Australian Centurion tank moving north past the village was fired on with a rocket propelled grenade which damaged the tank and wounded at least one of the crew. Two and a half hours later, 1ATF launched Operation Hammer, sending an understrength company of 5RAR, supported by armoured vehicles and artillery, into the village. What followed was two days of fierce house-to-house fighting as the Australians attempted to remove the NVA and VC from the village. (AWM)


07 June 1917 | The Battle of Messines

The battle of Messines was the first large-scale action involving Australian troops in Belgium and it also marked the entry of the 3rd Division into a major battle. Messines was an important success for the British Army leading up to the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres several weeks later.

At 3.10 am on 7 June 1917, nineteen powerful mines exploded under the German trenches along the Wytschaete – Messines ridge. Heavily supported by great volumes of artillery fire, the British troops, commanded by General Sir Herbert Plumer, surged forward to capture the enemy positions. The 3rd Australian Division under Major-General John Monash, entering battle for the first time, was anxious to prove itself worthy of the reputation of the other veteran Australian divisions. It made a very successful attack alongside the New Zealand Division just south of the Messines village. The other Australian division involved, the 4th (under Major-General William Holmes), made a follow-up attack later in the day. Although some fighting continued, the result was virtually decided by the end of the first evening with the ridge being taken and enemy counter-attacks repulsed. (AWM)




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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