7th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment
Training was conducted mainly in the Cowra area of New South Wales using a few of the Vickers Light Tanks of the Australian Tank Corps as well as some early Australian made Machine Gun Carriers.
Arrival in the Middle East allowed real training to begin in Palestine, and then the Regiment moved to Helwan in Egypt, where it handed over its recently acquired vehicles to the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment and undertook defence of the Suez Canal using trucks.
Following the German invasion of Greece, Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed that a force of about 1500 men was all that was required to deter the Germans from an invasion of
Cyprus. Accordingly, the British 7th Division provided a brigade headquarters along with a battalion of infantry (the Sherwood Foresters). The mechanised component was to be the 7th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment.
The Regiment disembarked in Cyprus on 5 May 1941 and on 6 May the Regiment’s heavy equipment and transport arrived. Preparations to defeat the German invader began. On 10 May 1941 the Regiment moved to its main camp at Athaslassa, outside Nicosia.
One useful piece of ordnance issued was the towed version of the 2 Pounder Anti-tank gun, of which four were issued to the Regiment. Originally the guns were towed by 15cwt Fordson WOT2C trucks. Later the guns were mounted “portee” style on the back of Morris 30 cwt CS11 trucks.
The Regiment was organised into the standard headquarters squadron and three “sabre” squadrons. All vehicles had a dug-in defensive position for when they were not patrolling the island. This was also to protect the vehicles from the effects of dive-bombing.
The main job of the force was to show the flag, and make believe that there was at least a brigade on the island, which it was hoped would deter the German invader. Following the fall of Crete, air raids by the Luftwaffe and the Regina Aeronautica increased. In order to simulate the brigade size group, patrols of light tanks, machine gun carriers and trucks of the Regiment roamed far and wide over the island. The normal head dress of black beret with the small collar-badge size “Rising Sun“ was often substituted for the Australian slouch hat or steel helmet, to make it appear as though there was a large force on the Island.
Fortunately the German Airborne invasion of Crete was so costly in casualties that the expected invasion of Cyprus did not eventuate, and so the Regiment rejoined their parent organisation in garrison duties in Syria, where they relieved their sister unit, the 6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment.
The Regiment arrived back in Australia in March 1942, and moved to Queensland. There they trained again with Machine Gun Carriers, until being sent to New Guinea in September 1942, where it fought in the dismounted role at Sananada. In the battles of January 1943, the regiment was almost decimated. Reforming on the Atherton Tableland in Queensland in February 1943, the Regiment was converted to a Cavalry Commando unit the following month.