AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The Original 2/1st Battalion A Quantitative Study of an Australian Fighting Unit

by Richard Travers

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: History & Philosophy
Year: 2015
Keywords: Unit culture; Diggers; 2/1st Battalion
Record ID: 1054100
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54288


This study addresses the historian’s question: what kind of men were the diggers? It concentrates on a single Australian infantry battalion of World War II – the 2/1st Battalion. The study asks: what was special about the 2/1st Battalion? What was its character and composition? What defined it as a social entity? What influenced the way the Battalion carried itself, the way it behaved? What was its culture? Accepting that many forms of answers to these questions are possible, the study aims to answer them by the evaluation of evidence – evidence that was created by the members of the Battalion themselves when they answered a standard questionnaire on enlistment. The majority of men of the 2/1st Battalion were: white; 25 or younger; single; employed; Australian-born; Protestant; and living in Sydney. All but one of these majority traits were balanced by a percentage of men in the Battalion with the corresponding minority trait. Only one trait was shared across the Battalion – everyone was white. The men of the original 2/1st Battalion shared physical qualities that were valuable in a good soldier – they were young, fit, tall and healthy. They also shared mental and spiritual qualities that were equally valuable in a good soldier – they were volunteers, free of the ties of home, they shared a common ethnicity and a common allegiance as British subjects, they shared a Christian ethos, and they were imbued with the traditions of the 1st AIF. These qualities lay at the heart of the culture of the 2/1st Battalion.