A History of 23 Fd Bty, 2/15 Fd Regt

This page is a working document to capture the history of 23 Field Battery, 2/15 Field Regiment. It is designed to be the basis of a series of essays to record the history of Reserve Artillery in Victoria.

We welcome any additional information and photos you may have. Please reach out to David Edwards, or contact the Secretary (secretary@artilleryvic.org.au).

The sections on this page are:

Apologies for the page appearing somewhat jumbled and sparse as we develop this.

23 Bty Before Baxter

The Battery was originally a detachment of 10 Mdm Regt that was moved from the Landcox St Brighton depot to Frankston in 1961 and subsequently renamed 23 Bty, 15 Fd Regt. There had been artillery at Frankston for some time with a detachment of P Bty, 10 Med there in the late 1950’s. (from Cascabel #29, although it notes it as 23 Bty, 2 Fd Regt).

The early 80’s were great days for the Army Reserve in Victoria, particularly the Artillery. Whilst there had been some consolidation of units from the post-war CMF period, the Artillery at the time in 3rd Division consisted of a Divisional Artillery cell commanded by a Colonel (CDA), a Field Artillery Regiment (2/15 Fd Regt) in Melbourne, a Medium Artillery Regiment (10 Mdm Regt) in Geelong and Colac, and a Divisional Locating Battery (132 Div Loc Bty) in Brighton. 2/15 Fd Regt comprised RHQ, HQ Bty, TST and 3 Bty at the Batman Ave depot, 2 Fd Bty at Dandenong and 23 Fd Bty at Frankston.

23 Fd Bty came from the old 15 Fd Regt (City of Dandenong and Gippsland Regiment) and was originally located in an old timber drill hall in the middle of Frankston opposite the train station where it had been for many years.

The Baxter Depot

An arrangement was made between the State/Federal departments covering Education and Defence, to build a shared facility for the new Baxter Tech and 23 Fd Bty on Robinsons Road, Baxter. The initial plan was for sharing of facilities between the two, but this did not eventuate, with dedicated (permanent brick and portable) buildings for the battery fenced off from the school facilities.

Depot Opening

The new depot was officially opened on Sunday 18th April 1982 by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce and Member for Flinders, The Rt. Hon. Sir Phillip Lynch KCMG MP. (The below plaque was affixed to the wall outside the ORs mess and meeting room.)

Baxter Depot Commemoration Plaque
Plaque for new 23 Bty Depot at Baxter

The whole 2/15 Fd Regt was on parade for the opening, as shown in the following photos from Mitch Kenny. The parade was in ceremonial greens – note the female members wearing the flat KFF hats and blue pugarees (this was before consolidation of WRAAC and uniforms).

Opening of Baxter Depot
Opening of Baxter Depot
Opening of Baxter Depot

You can see many more of Mitch’s photos from the 23 Bty days here – https://artilleryvic.org.au/index.php/gallery-new/member-photos/2023-photos-from-mitch-kenny.

The Depot Facilities

The photos show some of the facilities of the depot. The main block of buildings, permanent and portable comprised:

  • An admin block of portables, with orderly room and some offices (BC etc.) with parking out the front
  • A pair of portable classrooms serving as Sigs room and CP room
  • A permanent building with a large room that served as a classroom and ORs mess (with a concertina wall down the middle), a small Sgts Mess (where the Bty Officers were invited on a permanent basis) and an armoury out the side
  • A portable for the Q-store
  • A large hardstanding area
  • A permanent structure with gun bays (front) and vehicle bays (rear)

The site also had a football oval and a small bit of bush – both of which were technically part of the school and we weren’t supposed to use. The following (current) Google maps view shows the depot with the permanent buildings bottom right, gun/vehicle bays on the left and the two sets of portables (gone).

Screenshot

The battery occupied the depot from 1982 until after the amalgamation with 2 Bty to form 22 Bty in early 1991, and soon after 22 Bty moved out of Baxer and consolidated in Dandenong (moving to the Multiple User Depot, or MUD, in Doveton).

The Battery Flag and Plaque

The Battery had adopted the nickname “The Rebels” and used a modified American Civil War Confederate Flag with an Artillery emblem and “23 Fd Bty” on it. It can be seen in the formal photo later on in this article.

23 Bty Rebels plaque
23 Bty Rebels plaque

The battery chose a less contentious motif for the plaque produced in the last 80’s – a Dolphin which was the logo for the Frankston Football Club (now the Frankston Dolphins Football Netball Club). The plaque was designed by WO2 Col Swindells (the Battery Quartermaster, or BQ).

23 Fd Bty Plaque
23 Fd Bty 2/15 Fd Regt

Depot Weekends

Training weekends at the depot were a regular fixture in the parade card.

I recall one weekend when I was GPO of us carrying survey from the market embedded in the hardstanding out the back and into the CP portable (running the tapes through the windows).

The following is a random photo from a depot weekend (sleeves rolled up) with both Tony Wilkins and Peter Heard looking very young.

23 Bty Detachment (with a very young Wilko)

Parades, Marches and The Sky Show

Freedom of Entry to the City Of Dandenong

Freedom of Entry to the City of Dandenong was conferred on 15 Field Regiment in March 1962. With the amalgamation of 2 Fd Regt and 15 Fd Regt in 1975, the Freedom of Entry transferred to 2/15 Fd Regt.

2/15 Fd Regt, including 23 Bty exercised this right twice, once in in March 1983 (see https://artilleryvic.org.au/index.php/gallery-new/historical-photos/2-15-fd-regt-exercising-freedom-of-entry-to-the-city-of-dandenong/) and again in early 1987.

3XY/EON FM Sky Show

Over a number of years the Regiment particpated in the Sky Show, which started with AM radio station 3XY and then got taken over by EON FM. This was a co-ordinated music and fireworks display. The Army supported the event for recruiting and involved many units, such as having tanks and carriers from 1 Armd Regt, Commando’s doing hot insertions from helicopters and the guns from 2/15.

Skyshow – 2/15 Fd

For the event formed up at Batman Ave, and had a police escort to Albert Park Lake. Due to the high kerbs, we had to landrover/man-handle the guns into position the first year (we had ramps the second year). The area, including the road, was cordoned off. One year there was a car left in the cordoned off area and police were called fearing a bomb.

We provided a static display along with a blank firing in support of the 1812 Overture. I was Firing Officer (GPO) for one of these and it was a great experience.

Life in the Field

Range Exercises and Technical Shoots

Regular exercises at Pucka were the norm for the battery, whether it was for tactical or technical activities. It was common to alternate between field deployment/firing exercises and courses camp. For example the 2/15 Fd Regt AFE 1984 in August was a courses camp covering Subj4 (for WO, Sgt, Bdr Op Cp, Bdr gunnery), IET (gunnery, op cp and sig) and driver training. From Cascabel Nbr 5: “Heavy rain fell during this exercise which gave the new gunners and drivers a first hand introduction to life and some associated problems within a battery in the field“.

The following photo appears to be from a technical shoot with Frank Marschner’s gun.

23 Bty in the field

This photo appears to be the FO parties with Frank Marschner and Jack Bohmer, probably in the early 80’s.

One one Regt field firing weekend, the two batteries (2 & 23) had a night shoot with Illum rounds scheduled after a night deployment. 2 Bty had gotten bogged and couldn’t fire their illum rounds and as the rnage closed at midnight and we didn’t want to return ammunition, the 23 Bty BSM was despatched in a landrover to retrieve 2 Btys illum rounds. The battery fired a “Range and Lateral Spread” mission where four rounds are spread out like a cross to provide a wider illumination. It was continuous fire with 12 rounds in the air at any one time – at one point there was no-one in the CP, we were all outside watching the show.

It was not uncommon to have either 16 Fd Bty (from Tasmania) or 48 Fd Bty (South Australia) join us for exercises. In 1987 48 Bty joined us at Pucka.

ARTEPs

The Army Training and Evaluation Plan was for every field unit, Regular and Reserve, to be assessed against a standard set of criteria every two years. Artillery was the only corps to adopt this. They involved staff (an IG and Master Gunner) assessing the unit over a two-day period, with the IG being on the hill with FOs and the Master Gunner on the gun line. I was a GPO though one assessment (in 23 Bty) and an FO through another (in 22 Bty) and it was an intense and stressful activity. The results of the ARTEP for reserve batteries was used to decide which sub unit won the Mount Schanck trophy.

The Bty participated in a number of ARTEPs during the 80s, including one in Apr 85. From Cascabel Nbr 7 “The IG and Master Gunner from the CFFA’s Staff assessed each Bty in direct and deliberate night occupations and a move to alternate position. Types of missions included immediate neutralization, airburst, registration in HE and time, quick smoke, illumination of an area, FPF and FO’s and BC’s quick fire plans. Due to shortages of personnel 2 and 3 Bty amalgamated for camp and were assessed together and 23 Bty was assesed as is. Both sub units performed creditably, although not well enough to earn the Mount Schanck Tropy.“.

From Cascabel Nbr 21 rgarding ARTEP on the 1989 Annual Camp “From Colonel A.W. English, Comd. Land Command Artillery ‘I believe that both 2 & 23 Field Batteires generally met the performance requirements of the ARTEP for Rd Regt RAA. Both batteries were able to fire, move and communicate to a satisfactory standard. Key personnel were aware of their technical duties.'”

Field Ex with Chinooks

The 1983 Field Firing Exercise (FFEx) including using RAAF Chinook helicopters for deploying the battery.

FieldEx with Chinook

There was another exercise with Chinooks in Mar 86, the last time for the Bty.

Direct Shoot Competition

The Regiment held a direct shoot competition sometime in 1987 with gun detachments from all the batteries competing.

The competition was held around Tehans Hill at Pucka. The detachment would be mounted and proceed along a road. The DS would jump out, direct the Nbr 1 where the target was, the Nbr 1 wold bring the gun into action and engage the target. This occurred three times, and each one was scored.

The winning detachment is shown: Sgt Garry Rolfe (Nbr1), Jimmy Goldsmith, 2LT David Edwards, Wolfgang Wessner, ? and Paul Visser (Nbr7). The prize was a direct shoot using White Phosphorous rounds after some HE adjustment rounds. The prize, the Rammer, is seen in many of the battery photos.

Social Activities

St Barbara’s Day

The following St Barbara’s Day mentions were for 23 Bty members:

  • 1985 – 23 Fd Bty 2/15 Fd Regt – McNeill Trophy which was awarded to the best gun battery in 3MD
  • 1985 – SNR NCO Award – WO2 R. G. Armstrong
  • 1986 – OR/BDR Award – BDR A.C. Wilkins
  • 1987 – WO/SNR NCO – SGT Gary (Garry) Rolfe
  • 1987 – Junior Officer (Gilbert Golomb Sam Browne Belt) – LT David Edwards
  • 1988 – “B” Battery Trophy (best Bty in 3MD) – 23 Fd Bty
  • 1988 – Vickery Trophy (Best FO in 3MD) – CAPT J.A. Traill
  • 1988 – Officer Award – CAPT S.C. Venn
  • 1988 – WO/SNR NCO Award – SGT W.G. Beale

Dining-In Nights and Fancy Dress

Over the years there were many social events held at the battery and with the other units in 2/15 Fd Regt. Some photos can be found at:

Bty Officers and SNCOs at Dining In Night

This is an early photo, perhaps taken at the Frankston depot showing battery officers and SNCOs in their mess kit for a function.

23 Bty Offr and SNCO

It features Sgt Garry Rolfe, Sgt George Beale, WO2 Bob Armstrong, Sgt Don Errey, Sgt Frank Marschner, Lt Ron Harris, Lt John Traill, Capt Ross Peterken, May Robin Smith and Lt John Sheard (apologies to those not identified). That would place it sometime around 1985-1986.

Inter-Battery Footy Comps

For some time there was an inter battery footy competition between 2 Bty and 23 Bty, often rotated between Baxter and Police Paddocks (I recall a game at Police Paddocks where one 2Lt Cooke was concussed in the 1st quarter and spent the game in Dandenong Hospital). There was a fierce rivalry between the batteries and this came out on the footy field.

The following photo is from a game held at Baxter (gun bays in the background) on 25 Aug 1985.

The 23 Bty faces identified are:

  • Standing (l-r) – Frank Quigley, Bob Armstrong, Trevor Mile, Jim Higgins, Jack Bohmer, ? Cavallaro, Wolfgang Wessner, Stuart Pigdon, unknown.
  • Seated (l-r) – John Traill, Jim Lake, Jim Goldsmith, unknown, Paul Visser, Tony Wilkins, Hookie, Adrian Cajero, unknown

Some very young faces there.

SGTS (OFFR) Mess Traditions

As with every unit there were customs and practices in the mess, particularly the Sgts Mess at Baxter that the officers were invited to.

The 2/15 Fd Regt Sgts Mess had a tradition of the chromed spoon (chromed FRED), which was also extended to the Officers at Baxter. I believe this particular tradition started at 2 Bty (Dandenong). This chromed spoon was to be carried at all times (in uniform and outside) and when challenged by another member, one had to present their spoon and if unable, then shout the mess. Whilst it seemed anyone could challenge at any time, showering on camp was popular – but many were able to produce said spoon.

The 23 Bty Officers also had the Cigar Award called the Major John Henry Perpetual Tropy “Awarded to the officer of 23 Fd Bty, 2/15 Fd Regt R.A.A for the most significant act of notoriety in the training year.

Maj John Henry Perpetual Trophy
The Major John Henry Perpetual Trophy 1978

1990 Artillery Ball

The Artillery Ball was an all-ranks event held annually. The 1990 Ball was the last for 2/15 Fd Regt and 2 & 23 Btys.

The faces identified are:

  • Rear rank – Linda Blake, John Traill (BK), Frank Marschner, Roger Dalton (BC), Garry Rolfe, Andrew Cadd, Kirsten Larsen, Jason Cooke, Elise McConnell (McKelvie)
  • Middle Rank – Mick Hayes (SMIG), Mark Stokes, David Edwards, Peter Campbell, Jim Lake, Jimmy Goldsmith, Jon Moodie, J Patterson
  • Front Rank – Peter Heard, Stuart Pigdon, Stephen Monks, Scott (Norm) Gallagher, Mark Vosti, Paul Wainwright, Tony Wilkins, Mike Womack

The Characters of 23 Bty

TBA

The Last Formal Photos

The following photos were the last taken of the Bty in 1991, one of the full battery and one of the Sgts/Offr Mess members.

23 Bty, 2/15 Fd Regt
23 Bty Sgts Mess Feb91

Many great characters in both of those photos, many who had been with 23 Bty from before the move to Baxter. This included 2Lt (later Maj) Steward Pigdon, Sgt (later WO2) Tony “Wilco” Wilkins, Capt Don Taylor (RIP), SGT George “Georgie” Beale, Capt (later Maj) Mike Womack, WO2 (later Maj) Garry Rofle, WO2 Col Swindels and SMIG WO2 Mick Hayes.

Amalgamation into 22 Fd Bty

Sometime during 1990 it was decided to remove the 3rd Division from the Order of Battle and amalgamate 2/15 Field Regiment and 10 Medium Regiment into a single regiment with one field battery and one medium battery. This meant 2 Fd Bty and 23 Fd Bty amalgamated to form 2 Fd Bty. The units were amalgamated on 6 Apr 1991.

For some time 22 Bty operated out of both Baxter and Dandenong depots, before consolidating into the new Multi-User Depot (MUD) in Doveton. The Robinsons Road depot was handed over to the Vic Dept of Education, although Army and Airforce Cadets still operate out of the depot.

Appendix A – Staff Listings / Postings to the Bty

This section is a summary of the key postings to the Bty from sources such as Cascabel.

Offr Appointments at 1 Jan 1986

  • BC – MAJ Ross Peterken (from 1 Jul 85 – 30 Jun 87)
  • BK – CAPT John Sheard
  • FO – LT John Lambert
  • GPO – LT Ron Harris
  • ASST GPO – LT Don Taylor
  • BTY LDR – LT Peter Reinhold

Offr Appointments at Jul 1988

  • BC – MAJ Bill Cross
  • BK – CAPT Steve Venn
  • FO – CAPT John Traill
  • FO – CAPT Peter Rowley (?)
  • GPO – LT Dave (David) Edwards
  • ASST GPO – LT Keith Scott
  • BTY LDR – 2LT Jason Cooke
  • Other Offr – 2LT Peter Fennell, 2LT Lorenso Marasco

Offr Changes at Jan 1989

  • MAJ R.P. Dalton to BC 23 Fd Bty
  • CAPT J.A. Traill to BK 23 Fd Bty
  • CAPT R.S. Moorby to FO 23 Fd Bty

Mentions in Jul 1990 Cascabel (Nbr 25) and Oct 1990 Cascabel (Nbr 26)

  • Promotion of Garry Rolfe to WO2
  • Appointment of Stuart Pigdon as 2LT (Stuart had previously been a Op CP Bdr in 23 Bty)
  • SGT George Beale Certificate of Commendation from the Commander Land Forces (3 Jul 1990)

Recollections of Bty Staff from the Late 70’s and 1980.

The following lists are from a former battery member covering the battery in the last years at the old Frankston depot.

1978

  • BC – Maj John Henry
  • BK – Capt Robin Smith
  • Recruiting Officer – WO2 Pettifer
  • Gun Sgts – Eddie Redfern, Mick Prowse, Vince Jessen
  • Q Store Cadre – Sgt Peter (Gabby) Hayes,
  • Signallers – Jo-ann White, Sandra Keating, Lee Ball, Jeannette ?
  • Tpt staff – Bdr Phil Cavell, and his wife Cpl Gail Cavell, Jill Meicher
  • Gunners – Danny Boyle, Jimmy Heggan, Grant Newman, Darren Manser, Ross ?, Jim? Jack Bohmer, Terry Pritchard, Bdr Waye Watson, David Ashford
  • FO party – Lt Singleton
  • Catering – Sgt George Beale

1979

  • (New) BC – Maj Jim Christie,
  • BK Capt – Neil Hamer
  • FO Party – Lt Singleton, LCPL Sandra Keating, Gnr Mark Eyres? . Bdr or Sgt Peter (Shakey) Larkins, Bdr (Bucky) Bucknell


1980

  • BC Party – Maj Jim Christie (BC), LCPL Sandra Keating, Sgt Ed Chinery. Gnr Mark Eyres?, Gnr Peter Winslade
  • Sigs: Pte Maria Egan

Other names from the era.

  • Lt Doug Caulfield, Lt Jeff Cole (both GPOs at one time)
  • Bdr Ken Black,
  • WO2 Alan Halbish
  • Cadre WO1 or 2 John Mottershead
  • WO1 or 2 (Skeeta) Humphries

Some people stayed on throughout the entirety of this period, whilst others moved on

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