Places - Lark Force - A.I.F. Anti Aircraft and Military Landing Craft Defence (Rabaul), Royal Australian Artillery

Also known as 'L' Anti-Aircraft Battery - Commanded by Lieutenant (later Major) D.M. Selby (NX142851). Arrived in Rabaul on 16 August 1941 with 53 other ranks and two 3" anti-aircraft guns. On 4 January 1942, they became the first Australian troops in action in Australian territory and the first Militia unit to fire at the enemy.

Selby writes in Hell and High Fever page 4-6:-

"A.A. Bty., Rabaul" was the flattering title of the two officers and fifty-two other ranks with their two 3-inch guns and obsolete ring-sight telescope, but officially it had been known earler by the quaint name "A.A. & A/M.L.C. Defence Force, Rabaul". It took considerable research to discover the letters A/M.L.C. stood for Anti-Military Landing Craft, and it was this aspect of the title which led to or rather dictated the choice of this unpromising gun position [Frisbee Ridge], silhouetted as it was against both northern and southern skylines. For Rabaul ... lay in what was virtually a gigantic crater; only from this ridge could the guns command anything like the requisite 360 degrees angle of traverse.

The position was everything an A.A. battery position should not be. Painfully conspicuous from land, sea and air, the site was so cramped and narrow that it was all the gunners could do to avoid stumbling over one another as they ran to man the guns on the sounding of the alarm. The drill book lays down the salutary rule that the position should be set up in the form of an equilateral triangle with a minimum of twenty yards between gun and gun and twenty yards from gun to command post. The guns on Frisbee Ridge were a bare fifteen yards apart along the line of the ridge, whilst the triangle was so flattened at its apex that the command post, hanging precariously on the edge of a six hundred feet drop, was just five yards from the grim muzzle of No. 1 gun. Experience justified the two considerations in favour of the site. The first consideration was that this was the only accessible position in the locality from which the guns could do their job efficiently. The second was that nothing but a direct hit could harm the battery, so narrow was the ridge. A near miss would fall harmlessly into the gully on either side.

The personnel of the battery deserves special mention. Never had a keener set of boys gone into action against a ruthless and efficient enemy. Like all soldiers they had a grievance but in their case the grievance was fully justified. The great majority were boys under nineteen years of age who during the recruiting rally of early 1941 had volunteered for service in the A.I.F. They had been told that, being under nineteen, they were ineligible for the A.I.F., but were advised to join the Coast Defence Command which was also crying aloud for recruits, on the ground that on reaching nineteen they could transfer to the A.I.F., not as raw recruits but as trained soldiers. They were not told that once in the Coast Defence Command they would be held there as firmly as though chained by leg irons. They were drafted to 1 A.A. Bde. and early in July, 1941, there was a call for volunteers to form a small anti-aircraft force to go "overseas".

... A couple of hundred volunteered but the chosen few were not informed until their return from pre-embarkation leave that their destination was Rabaul. Hopes still ran high that the unit would be an A.I.F. one but these hopes, too, were dashed.

All requests, petitions and representations met either with a discreet silence or the reminder that as Rabaul was in Australian Mandated Territory the force could have been sent there under the provisions of the Defence Act, volunteers or not.

... It was therefore, as a Militia unit we sailed on 6 August 1941, and as a Militia unit we went into action in January, 1942.



  • David Selby, Hell and High Fever, Currawong Publishing Co., Sydney, 1956, 198 pp.

See also

  • Gordon Abel, To War and Back: A Young Soldier's Journey through the Terrors and Boredoms of World War II, The Printing Office, South Brisbane, Queensland, 1999, 102 pp.
  • Jen Rosenberg, 'David Mayer Selby, Judge, 1906-2002', Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 2002, p. 42.

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Created by Joanne and Jenny Evans, July 2002. Updated 29 May 2011