Private Frank Richard Archibald, 2/2nd Australian Infantry Battalion

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Posted on 8 June 2021
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Frank “Dickie” Archibald was born on 17 February 1915 in Walcha, New South Wales, the eldest son of Frank and Sarah Archibald.

Frank was also the elected successor of the Gumbaynggirr peoples, whose lands stretch along the Pacific coast from the Nambucca River in the south, to the Clarence River in the north, and the Great Dividing Range in the west.

Frank Archibald lived in the Armidale-Walcha area until 1935, when the family moved to Burnt Bridge Mission near Kempsey. They reportedly moved to the Mission after authorities threatened to remove their children.

Frank Archibald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Kempsey in May 1940 at the age of 25.

He was assigned to the 2/2nd Infantry Battalion reinforcements, 16th Brigade, 6th Division. His younger brother, Ronald, and his uncle, Richard, enlisted around the same time.

Archibald arrived in Palestine in September 1940. The 2/2nd Battalion advanced from Egypt into eastern Libya in January, and February 1941, took part in the Bardia and Tobruk battles.

In late March 1941, the 2/2nd arrived in Greece and on 18 April and, in a desperate fight, the unit helped the withdrawal of Allied forces further south.

During the evacuation, Frank was among 12 others cut off by the German army. They made their way to the coast and escaped to Crete.

In March 1942, Archibald and his battalion began the voyage home. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted the Australian 16th and 17th Brigades to bolster British defences in Ceylon but the Australian Government ordered them home to defend Australia. Japanese forces had landed in New Guinea and were heading south.

On 4 August 1942, Frank Archibald arrived in Melbourne and was later welcomed in Kempsey at a public function.

After this brief trip home, the battalion numbering 700 men arrived in Port Moresby on 21 September 1942. They fought at Templeton’s Crossing, Oivi, and on the Sanananda Track, suffering heavy casualties. By December 1942, they had less than 100 men, due to injury and sickness.

Frank’s brother Ronald was evacuated with but Frank stayed on, noting in his letters that he used his bush skills to help fellow soldiers collect drinking water.

On 24 November 1942, the battalion encountered a group of Japanese soldiers dug in along the Sanananda Track.

Under intense fire, the commander split the platoon; one group engaged the enemy while the rest moved forward. Frank was engaging the enemy when he saw a friend in a dangerous position. He tried to help him but was shot and killed.

He was 27 years old.

Initially buried near where he fell, his remains were later reinterred in Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery.

On Anzac Day 2012, members of the Archibald family gathered at the cemetery to call Frank’s spirit home in a traditional spiritual ceremony. Soil was also taken from his gravesite and reinterred with his family in Armidale Cemetery.
 

Duncan Beard, Editor, Military History Section