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Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) - History

Before January 1966 when HQ PNG Command was raised and the link with HQ Northern Command severed, the history of the PNGDF was in reality the history of the Pacific Infantry Regiment (PIR). Until that time PNG Area Command, located at Murray Barracks, provided the link with Northern Command, while the PIR constituted almost the entire Defence Force.

During 1964/66 arms and service sub-units were raised at Murray Barracks culminating in the raising of HQ Murray Barracks Area. In addition the PIR was expanded to include 1 PIR at Taurama Barracks and 2 PIR at Moem Barracks in Wewak, whilst the PIR Recruit Company at Goldie River became the PNG Training depot. A Joint Force Headquarter was established on 01 Feb 72, and was further designated HQ PNGDF on 26 Jan 1973.

The Pacific Infantry Regiment (PIR) in its short life built up a proud reputation and has high standards of conduct and service. Prior to World War 2 there were no regular local troops except for the Royal Papuan Constabulary and the New Guinea Police Force. The PIR was born on 19 Jun 1940 when the first company of the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) was raised from volunteers from the RPC, Kokoda and other districts of Papua. They were trained in Port Moresby and until early 1942 were engaged in road making, wharf building and sometimes guard duties.

In February 1941, the PIB consisted of a Battalion HQ, HQ Company and two Rifle Companies. With the Japanese landings at Lae and the growing threat to Papua, the unit was assigned an operational role, making the first patrols to the coast at Buna and to the Kokoda area. On 23 Jul 1942, the PIB soldiers made their first contact with the Japanese. This was at about 1600hrs approximately 1000 yards East of Awala. The Japanese were armed with mortars, machine guns and artillery which forced the withdrawal of the PIB who then fought a series of delaying actions until reinforced by Australians from the 39th Battalion. During the withdrawal from Kokoda the PIB patrols operated to the rear and flanks of the enemy.

In January 1943, the battalion shared in the Australian success at Buna and Sandananda thus revenging themselves for their earlier withdrawal from Kokoda. The PIB had an active life of five years. During that time the unit was on constant operations. They were tough soldiers, accounted for many of the enemy troops and won numerous decorations.

The 1st Battalion came into existence in March 1944 at Wampit near Nadzab. By November that year it was ready for action. From November 1944 until the end of the war, the New Guinea Infantry Battalion (NGIB) was employed in Bougainville and New Britain. At the end of hostilities in August 1945, 1 NGIB had accounted for 346 enemy dead, 88 wounded, and 13 PWs. Their own losses had been 16 killed and 27 wounded.

In September 1944 another local battalion was formed and bore the designation 2 NGIB. They were deployed in Wewak Sector with the Australian 6th Division. Fighting as a battalion, they advanced down the road toward the Sepik inflicting heavy casualties with aggressive patrols, ambushing and surprise raids on enemy positions. It was in this sector that local troops were used for the first time in set-piece attacks. Several company attacks were carried out by 2 NGIB. Here too, for the first time, air and artillery support were used with a local unit.

The Pacific Infantry Regiment (PIR) was reformed with Papuan recruits and became 1st Papuan Infantry Battalion [1 PIB] in June 1945, and went into action in Bougainville. 1 PIB proved it could carry out company attacks and it killed 360 enemies and took 105 prisoners for the loss of 6 killed and 3 wounded.

In November 1944 Headquarters Pacific Islands Regiment (HQPIR) came into being. This unit was formed to cope with the growing local component. It was designed to administer up to four PIR Battalions and a Depot Company. The colours of the PIR were then as they are now, Red and Green and its organisation was:

  • HQPIR + Depot Coy
  • 1 PIB , 1 NGIB,
  • 2 NGIB , PIR,
  • 3 NGIB - was raised in August 1945 saw no active service and served in Rabaul after the surrender.
  • 4 NGIB was raised at the same time but with the collapse of the Japanese, was abandoned.

Dress of the PIR was Green Beret, Green Shirt, and Green Lap-Lap. They used 1937 pattern equipment, but had no boots.


  • 2209 enemy killed for the loss of 63 own troops.
  • Decorations won:
  • DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) 3
  • GM (George Medal) 1
  • MM (Military Medal) 12
  • MID (Mentioned in Dispatch) 7

The PIR disbanded on 12 Aug 46. On 23 November 1950 the Pacific Islands Regiment was re-raised and became a unit on 11 Mar 51. Eggys Corner as it was known then, became Taurama Barracks. With the expansion of the PIR in 1963 the 1st and 2nd battalions were born out of the PIR and subsequently housed at Taurama and Moem respectively. Later both battalions had bestowed upon them the prefix Royal become 1 and 2 RPIR.

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Page last modified: 19-11-2018 14:41:56 ZULU