Century of Locating 1925 -2025

 Centenary of Locating Artillery in the Australian Army                                                                                                  This history was compiled mainly from the book; “Tracks of the Dragon,” A history of Australian Locating Artillery, written  Keith R. Ayliffe BEM. BA. & John M. Posener and prepared for the commemoration of 100 Years of Locating Artillery in the Australian Army on 1st July 2025.

Acknowledgements.                                                                                                                                                                Thanks to the Committee of the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company for their support and encouragement. Also, to Maj. Russ Hamsey OAM, and Mr. Terry Erbs of the LSTAA Committee for their input and generous assistance.  Mr Keith Ayliffe BEM. BA.

Foreword                                                                                                                                                                                  “Locating Artillery” is probably the  best description for the many units of the Australian Army who have been tasked to locate enemy Artillery and produce targeting information to be used by artillery or air force units during times of hostility. “Locating Artillery” Units have also contained a valuable service capacity to assist Artillery in Survey, Meteorology and Calibration. “Locating Artillery” Units have undergone several name changes, from CB units (British Counter Bombardment) to the current 20th Regiment RAA.

Sir John Monash KBC VD

Towards the end of WW1, Lieutenant General Monash had his staff examine the possibility of 1 Australian Corps having its own locating/survey/intelligence functions but because of Government Financial restrictions this was put on hold. However the findings were eventually implemented with the introduction of survey units into the Australian Garrison Artillery (AGA). To facilitate the introduction Lt-Col (Brev) E.K. Smart DS0.MC was appointed as an Instructor at the Artillery School of Instruction, South Head NSW (24/1/22 – 24/9/23). He had recently returned from Larkhill, England where he had been attending a long course in Survey, Sound Ranging and Flash Spotting. He would assist in the establishment of a survey wing, in preparation for the establishing of Artillery Survey units. They were called survey units because at that time their major function was to to improve the accuracy of survey supplied to artillery units with a secondary task to locate enemy artillery units.

Group portrait of Headquarters Details of the 4th Australian Divisional Field Artillery. Back row, left to right: Major (Maj) E. K. Smart MC; Lieutenant (Lt) R. B. Ashe MC; Lt M. A. Ferguson MC. Front row: Maj C. R. Bates DSO MC; Brigadier General W. L. H. Burgess CMG DSO; Captain A. C. R. Waite MC



   The commencement of “Locating Artillery” in Australia began with the raising, on the 1st July 1925, of 1 Artillery Survey Company AGA at Victoria Barracks Paddington NSW and 2 Arty. Svy. Coy. AGA at Argyle St, St Kilda VIC {Ref.1} {Ref. 9}Both these units were attached as part of Australian Garrison Artillery {AGA} and came under control of the Adjutant and Quartermaster of the Heavy Artillery. These units contained many professional people, particularly qualified and registered civil land Surveyors, who would not only apply their knowledge but also supply their own equipment (i.e., Theodolites and Slide Rules)

During the next five years both units trained along similar lines. To co‑ordinate training, the Artillery School of Instruction commenced courses of instruction in late 1925 under the guidance of Major H. C. Bundock DSO, who had been Brigade Major, 1st Division Artillery from 1921-24 before assuming the newly created position of CI of Survey Wing, Artillery School of Instruction 1925-26.

Brigadier H.C. Bundock 1944

The courses followed the British pattern of survey as laid down by the first `Manual of Artillery Survey’ issued in 1924 by the British War Office. (The ‘Manual of Flash Spotting’ and the ‘Manual of Sound Ranging’ were issued a few years later.)  Most of these were mobile courses where instructors from the Artillery Schools of Instruction conducted courses within the units. Lt-Col Smart would make a brief sojourn back to Survey when he became the officiating instructor for 2 Survey Company (2 Svy Coy) AGA  from 1/6/31 to 25/10/31.

In 1932, a new organization was created with the responsibility for ‘Flash Spotting’ and ‘Sound Ranging’ and placed under control of the Artillery Survey Companies. The Survey Companies now comprised three troops, Survey, Sound Ranging and Flash Spotting.

These innovative changes were the work of three key people. Major A.A. Powell, working for the Imperial General Staff at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, suggested to Major Whitelaw,  Chief Instructor at the Artillery School of instruction, that the British establishment of the Artillery Survey Company be adopted. This concept was accepted and Major H.C. Bundock DSO formulated the final details and in 1932, both units became independent of the Australian Garrison Artillery.

1st Artillery Survey Company RAA                                                                                                                             

1st Artillery Survey Company (lst Arty. Svy. Coy.) (Militia) AGA used ‘Green Hills’ training area, approximately 20 miles southwest of Sydney, the present day range control at Holsworthy, Sydney. Although this report was not tabled in Parliament until March 1939, the Government accepted Squires recommendation concerning the Militia and inaugurated a recruiting campaign. The public was acutely aware of events in Europe and responded well. By the end of 1938 the strength of the Militia was 43,000 and by March 1939, when the report was tabled, it had reached 70,000. The effect, especially on l Svy. Coy., was immediate, with the influx of new recruits the unit in June 1939 was re‑designated 1 Australian Artillery Survey Regiment (Ref. 2). 0n 3 September 1939 1 Australian Artillery Survey Regiment RAA moved to Dapto, on the NSW south coast near Woolongong, to commence the Unit’s annual two-week camp. That night war (WWII) was declared.(Ref. 2)

2nd Artillery Survey Company AGA                                                                                     

In 1937, 2 Arty Svy Coy moved to the Grattan Street Drill Hall in Carlton, Victoria. Major R. 0. Cherry commanded the unit from late 1937, which included;

  • Survey Troop              ‑ Captain S. Atkinson
  • Flash Spotting Troop ‑ Captain J.D. Thorpe
  • Sound Ranging Troop ‑ Captain J. R Callow

Capt. A.G. Rylah, 15 Fd Bde, was Militia Acting Adjutant & Temporary Quartermaster of 2 Arty Svy Coy (4 Light Horse Division, 3 Mil District) on 9 March 1937. (Ref. 3). He later become better known as Sir Arthur Rylah, the Chief Secretary under Sir Henry Bolte Premier of Victoria in the 1960’s. Ref. 3  AA087/1937 (Army posting document). The unit underwent many name changes in a very short period. Note: the dates are from a planning notebook may not be the exact date of the actual name change.

  • Jan/Feb 1939 – 2 Svy Coy
  • 13 July 1939 –    2 Arty Svy Coy
  • 9 Sep 1940  –     2 Svy Coy RAA (M)
  • 27 Nov 1940  –  2 Fd Svy Regt
  • 1 May1941   –  2 Svy Regt RAA ([M)

Officially in Feb 1941 2 Svy. Coy. became 2 Australian Artillery Survey Regiment RAA (M) Note: Although these units both started out as Survey only, there appears no doubt that they were established to fulfill Monash’s aim of locating units based on the British version but in the beginning there were not have enough trained personnel.


1st Australian Artillery Survey Regiment RAA                                                                                                                    lst Aust. Svy. Regt., commanded by Lt. Col. B. Hunter, began training at Greenhills, New South Wales but conducted most of it’s training camps in the Hunter River Region.

2nd Australian Artillery Survey Regiment.RAA                                                                                                       

   In June 1940 Captain S. Atkinson was promoted to Major and assumed command of 2 Svy Coy and in Feb 1941 2 Svy Coy became 2 Australian Artillery Survey Regiment.

2/1 Artillery Survey Regiment RAA (AIF)                                                                                                                                                                                               On the 1st June 1940, the 2/1 Australian Survey Regiment RAA (AIF) was raised as a unit of 1 Australian Corps Artillery, at the Sydney Showground NSW and Caulfield racecourse Vic, with 75% of its initial strength coming from 2 Artillery Survey Company and 1st Australian Survey Regiment. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R.O. Cherry (formerly 2 Artillery Survey Company) with Major J.J.W. Gray (formerly 1 Artillery Survey Company) as Second in Command (2IC) and Regimental Sergeant Major N.G.W. (Norm) Anderson, who had been the Company Sergeant Major of 2 Artillery Survey Company. Lt. Col. Cherry took an active role in manning and staffing his unit, by interviewing a majority of the enlisted men and the personal selection of the unit staff. The unit thus became one of the most erudite units in the Australian army with most of its members having completed secondary and tertiary education.

 The Regiment moved from Greta to Cowra on 5 September 1940, with a strength of 428 all ranks, and spent the next seven month training . The Regiment departed for the Middle East on Good Friday 1941 aboard the “Queen Elizabeth” before boarding the HMS “City of London” for the journey up the Suez Canal. The unit disembarked at Kantara and then traveled by train to Gaza in Palestine.

 C Troop, a composite troop drawn from the Sound Ranging Battery and comprising mainly earlier enlistments with the maximum of training, was assigned to take part in this campaign. The troop was commanded by Captain Ivan Reynolds, Lieutenant Len Blessington (second in charge) and Lieutenant Morris Stephenson were the other officers, supported by two survey parties, linesmen and microphone sections, plotting centre personnel, troop HQ, Motor Transport (MT) drivers, cook and medical orderly. Along with A Troop (Flash Spotters) this troop left Hill 95 camp on the evening of 3 July, entrained at El Majdal railway station and traveled overnight arriving at Haifa at 1000 hrs. the next day.


1 Battery                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1 Battery was attached to 6th Australian Division, Captain W.E.R. (Tassie) Burke was appointed Battery Commander  (BC). , Captain Ivan Reynolds commanded C Troop and Lieutenant Ed Spreadborough 2IC,  and comprised:

  • B Troop (Flash Spotting)
  • C Troop (sound Ranging)
  • F Troop (survey)                                             

2 Battery                        

  2 Battery comprised:

  • A Troop (Flash Spotting),
  • D Troop (Sound Ranging)
  • E Troop (Survey).

2 Battery moved to “Rocky Ridge” near Zgharta just inland from Tripoli and was attached to 7th Australian Division Artillery. They took part in the Syrian campaign and were deployed during the attack on Damascus. HQ Troop for three months in the Middle East retained its separate identity, but then its members were divided between B and F Troops and were never reformed as a separate troop. D Troop moved out from the Poplars camp to Beirut on 28 September and while there, received reinforcements from the Artillery Training Regiment located at Nusierat in Palestine. F Troop and E Troop contained three sections, administrative and drafting/plotting section and a Left and Right Section. The Left and Right Section comprised an officer, Sergeant and two survey parties, plus drivers, etc. After the initial training at Hill 95, these sections operated quite separately for extended periods.

2/1 Aust .Arty  Survey Regiment was withdrawn from Lebanon early in 1942 and returned to Australia aboard USN Transport Ship USS Westpoint. After a period in the Barossa Valley South Australia, the unit was moved to Queensland between Ipswich and Esk. When 2/1 Survey Regiment was disbanded Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cherry wrote “Concluding Remarks” as the last entry for the Unit War Diary (Ref.4) 


The Defence of Australia was now paramount in the military program and the militia units would form the bulk of the defence units with most of the AIF committed to overseas service. The defence of Australia was planned against a possible Japanese invasion. In August 1942, 2/1 Aust. Survey Regiment was reformed into four independent batteries  (2 ‑ Survey Batteries and 2 ‑ Flash Spotting Batteries) and to keep the art of Sound Ranging viable a Sound Ranging Cadre of one officer and twenty ORs was established at the School of Artillery at Holsworthy, N.S.W. In August 1942 the l Aust. Arty. Svy. Regt. RAA and 2 Aust.Arty. Svy. Regt. RAA were reformed into independent Batteries:

l Aust Svy Regt Became

  • l Survey Battery                      Major J Redapple
  • 2 Flash Spotting Battery       Maj R V Stewart
  • 3 Survey Battery                     Major C T Smith
  • 5 Survey Battery                     Major K J Wood

2 Aust Svy Regt Became

  • 2 Svy Battery                          Major A L H Dundas  (Served in WW1)
  • 4 Svy Battery                          Major F R Tait
  • 4 Flash Spotting Battery       Major I.D. Thorpe

AHQ allocated each unit to either a CRA of a division, CsCRA of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Australian Corps or BRAs of 1st and 2nd Army, until the end of hostilities. The casualty of the re-organisation was that Sound Ranging was shelved in Australia, while Allied Forces in the Middle East, and later in North West Europe, were being issued with more accurate equipment (4-pen recorder) which were competing with developing mortar locating radars.

                                                                                                  The RAA “Locating  Batteries”

 1 Survey Battery RAA

      • Raised;            1942    Aug     Warwick Farm NSW.            —–under Command CRA 1 Div
      • Transferred:    1943    Jun      Homebush NSW
      • 1943    Oct      Narellan NSW
      • 1944    Apr      Greta NSW
      • 1944    Jun      Helidon Qlld
      • Disbanded:      1944    Oct

2 Survey Battery RAA

      •  Raised Aug 1942 Springvale, Vic.under Command CRA 2 Div
      • 1942    Oct      Gingin WA
      • 1942    Dec      Rockingham WA
      • 1943    Feb      Greenough WA
      • 1944    Jan       Northam WA
      • 1944    May     48 Mile Peg NT
      • 1945    Jan       Greta NSW
      • Disbanded       Apr 1945

4  Survey Battery RAA

    • Raised;  Aug 1942  Springvale Vic.  under Command  CRA 4 Div
    • 1942 Sept     Irwin & Pinjara WA
    • 1943 Jan       Dandaragan WA
    • 1943 Mar     Greenmount WA
    • 1943 Apr      Hope Valley WA
    • 1944 Feb      Kwinana WA
    • 1944 Apr      Guildford WA
    • 1944 Oct      Mapee Qld. under Command CRA 11 Div
    • 1945 Jan      under Command CCRA 1 Corps
    • 1945 Apr
    • 1945 Jul       New Britain  under Command CRA 11 Div

2 Flash Spotting Battery RAA 

  • Raised ;1942 Aug  Warwick Farm NSW under Command CCRA 2 Corps
  • 1942    Sep      Neurum Qld
  • 1943    Jan       under Command BRA 1st Army
  • Disbanded  Dec 1945

4 Flash Spotting Battery RAA   

      •  Raised;  Aug 1942  Springvale Vic  under Command BRA 2nd Army
      • 1942   Nov   Narellan NSW
      • 1944    Jan   Wallgrove NSW
      • 1944    Apr RAA Depot Greta NSW.
      • Disbanded; Jul 1944 – Many  of members would join 2/3 Flash Spotting   Battery

2/1 Flash Spotting Battery RAA (AIF)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    One hundred and twenty six men voluntarily transferred from 2/1 Artillery Survey Regiment to form the new 2/1 Australian Flash Spotting Battery. The officers and majority of the men had come from A Troop (Flash Spotters) and the remainder (about thirty) from C and D Troops (Sound Rangers), E Troop (Survey) and RHQ. Captain W.B. Tully was appointed as Officer Commanding with Lieutenant D.F. Lewis as Acting Battery Captain and Lieutenant G.A.J. Wyeth and E.K. Robinson as Troop Commanders. The Battery came under command of HQ, RAA, 1st Australian Corps and had a high proportion of professionally qualified men: surveyors, architects, engineers, and draftsmen. It was not surprising that later many of these men would get “itchy feet” and seek transfer to other units where their civilian skills could be employed more usefully to further the war effort.

Late in 1943 the 4th Australian Flash Spotting Battery was disbanded, and most of its personnel were transferred to 2/1 Flash-Spotting Bty. It was almost a merger when OC Major J.D. Thorpe assumed command and Lieutenant Colin McDonald became BK. Major Bill Tully, who had borne the brunt of a difficult two years, was seconded to MGRA. The Battery was disbanded on 13 November 1945. It was the only Australian Army Flash Spotting Battery on ORBAT on Armistice Day 1945

2/3 Flash Spotting Battery RAA (AIF)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     2/3 Flash Spotting Battery RAA was formed from the majority of men coming from B Troop, and the balance from C Troop and BHQ, 1 Battery. (Six men with WX numbers transferred from 2 Battery as it was thought that the unit might be going to Western Australia, which it did.)The strength of the unit was 5 officers, (including a reinforcement officer) and 120 ORs, (including first reinforcements and an AAMC corporal). There was much activity regarding the transfer of stores and the establishment of a self-contained separate unit. Training continued at Arakoon with a depleted unit comprising 2 officers and 27 ORs which arrived at Brisbane on 15 October 1944 and by the end of the month was at Mapee on the Atherton Tablelands.




2/6 Survey Battery RAA (AIF)                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Following the disbandment of the 2/1 Australian Artillery Survey Regiment, F Troop became the 2/6 Survey Battery attached to the Australian 6th Division. Thus the history of the 2/6 Survey Battery RAA traces the history of the old ‘F’ Troop of the 2/1 Survey Regiment. The Officer Commanding was Major Eric Robinson and the 2IC was Captain C.E.H. Rich, both held similar positions in the old ‘F’ Troop. The Lieutenants were Wally Cridland, Frank Kell and Bob Britton. In January 1943 the move north began and after reaching Gladstone by rail, the battery boarded the M.V. “Duntroon” for Townsville. From there, on 19 January, the troops, boarded the M.V. “Taroona” and arrived in Port Moresby on the 21st Jan. They camped at the 7 Mile Airstrip and experienced the bombings. The 2/6 Survey Battery became heavily involved in the Wau-Salamaua Campaign, recognised by the award of the M.B.E. to Captain Cecil Rich, with  Sergeant Tom Lenehan and Bombardier Frank Bailey both mentioned in dispatches (MID). In early November, half the battery under the command of Lieutenant Frank Kell joined the Australian 7th Division in the Ramu Valley, in the inland push towards the capture of Madang on the Northern Coast of New Guinea. On 30 January 1944, the battery embarked on the ‘Van Den Bosch’ at Lae and set out for the return journey to Australia, disembarking at Townsville on the 11 February to begin a well-earned leave. At the conclusion of the Wewak Campaign the following decorations were gazetted:

  • Major Eric N. Robinson.OBE
  • Lieutenant Bob. T. Britton, MBE
  • Lieutenant Frank F. Kell MBE
  • Bombardier Ken. R. Glasson, BEM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The 2/6 Survey Battery returned to Australia in late 1945 and was disbanded.                                                                                                                                                           Note. Further information may be obtained from a pamphlet. 2/6 Survey Regiment By David Warner.

2/7 Survey Battery RAA (AIF)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The 2/7 Australian Survey Battery RAA became a part of 7th Division Artillery. Most of the personnel for this battery were from the former ‘E’ Troop, with others transferring from other batteries of the old 2/1 Australian Survey Regiment. On Friday 2 October 1942, a warning order arrived giving 48 hours notice for embarkation to New Guinea. The Unit entered Moresby Harbour on Tuesday 10 November 1942 and were taken ashore by barge and then transported to Murray Barracks Transit Camp about 4 miles from the wharf. This was to be the Battery’s headquarters for the next 12 months. The Battery’s immediate task was to provide survey control for Coastal Defence artillery positions. The task was covered as follows:

  • 1 Section – Bootless Bay – Lieutenant Prince in command
  • 2 Section – Boerabada – Lieutenant Wing in command
  • 3 Section – Paga – Lieutenant Dent in command

When this work was completed, HQ Section commenced a detailed survey of Varol Headland (Marvarvole) across the bay from Port Moresby. The Buna‑Gona campaign was destined to be a bloody conflict, the most merciless in the entire New Guinea campaign. The determined Australian/ American forces smashed the Japanese. Veterans of the Kokoda Trail plus elements of the US 126th Infantry Regiment (32nd Division). These GIs had also walked from Port Moresby along the Kapa Kapa trail, a track over the Owen Stanleys parallel to but east of the Kokoda trail with no Japanese to hinder them but with higher mountains and rougher terrain to contend with and with no support. On 2 December 1942, number 2 Section, under command of Lieutenant Wing, began preparing for a move over the Owen Stanleys to Buna, however bad weather delayed the move for ten days. On 8 July, the CRA asked that a reconnaissance be made for a Flash Spotting base overlooking suspected gun areas. However, the CRA would not allow the Flash Spotting base as selected to be manned, owing to the risk to observers and directed that a base further back be established. On the following day the Recce and survey of the rear Flash Spotting base was commenced and completed by 1500 hours. The CRA told the unit not to occupy the posts until the following day, as the signal personnel had not been able to provide the communications.With the final surrender of the Japanese on 18 August 1945, the act was completed, and troops were listed for return to Australia on a priority system based on years of service. The first three members left on the 20th. Until the end of August, A and B Troop carried out surveys for the engineer store dump and railway survey. The 2/7 Survey Battery was slowly wound down but in its three years of existence, it had performed all tasks allocated with pride and distinction and 2/7 Survey Battery was disbanded in Sydney in December 1945.


                                                                  The Militia  Survey Batteries

3 Survey Bty RAA, under command of Major Mick Malloy, conducted Survey work around the area of Eumundi (SE QLD) and on the Atherton Tablelands before active Service in Lae, Finschhafen and Bougainville.

  • Raised Aug. 1942  Warwick Farm NSW  under Command CRA 3 Div
  • 1942 Sept        Coolum Beach Qld;
  • 1942 Dec         Eumundi Qld;
  • 1943 Mar        Haughton Valley Qld.  under Command CCRA 2 Corps
  • 1943 Aug        Kiari Qld  under Command 7, 9 Divs Lae, Wondecla Qld, Dumpu, Finschhafen.
  • 1944 Jul          Kiari Qld  under Command 11 Div
  • 1944 Aug        Mapee Qld.
  • 1945 Feb         Bougainville under Command 3 Div
  • Disbanded       Oct 1945

5 Survey Battery RAA

  • Raised Aug. 1942  Warwick Farm NSW under Command CRA 5 Div
  • 1942 Sept               Townsville Qld. under Command CCRA 2 Corps
  • 1943 May                New Guinea 
  • 1943 Sep                 Dobodura, Finschhafen, Rai Coast
  • 1944 Jun                  Mililat
  • 1944 Dec                 Alexishafen under Command 5 Div
  • 1945 Feb                 New Britain
  • Disbanded; Oct 1945.

8 Survey Battery RAA (2 Flash Spotting Bty) (Sometimes referred to as 2/8 Survey Bty in reference to original title 2 Flash Spotting Battery)

  • Aug 1943        Reorganised and renamed under Command CRA 9 Div
  • Oct 1943         Kiari Qld. under Command CCRA 1 Corps
  • Nov 1943                          under Command CRA 3 Div
  • Mar 1944        Wongabel Qld
  • May 1944        Ravenshoe Qld. under Command CRA 9 Div
  • Mar 1945        Morotai and Borneo.
  • Disbanded;     Jan 1946

Final disposition Survey Batteries

  In August 1945 towards the end of the final campaigns leading to the Japanese surrender, the disposition of survey batteries was;

  • 2/6th Survey Battery 6th Division, Aitape, PNG
  • 2/7th Survey Battery 7th Division, Balikpapan
  • 3rd Survey Battery      3rd Division, Torokina, New Britain
  • 4th Survey Battery      11th Division, New Britain
  • 5th Survey Battery      5th Division, New Britain
  • 2/8th Survey Battery   9th Division, Morotai and Borneo.

By early 1946, all locating units had been disbanded and three years were to pass before Locating would next appear.(Ref. 6)

See. ANNEX A. 1. Locating Organisation Charts Survey Units 1925 to 1946



Locating went into a hiatus with army closing many units, there were 15 men trained in Locating skills who were posted to the Artillery School of Instruction at Victoria Barracks Sydney, with the aim of Locating Artillery returning in the foreseeable future .

Korea war 1950–1953

North Korea invaded the South Korea on 25th June 1950 and swiftly overran most of the country. In September 1950 United Nations force, led by the U.S., intervened to defend South Korea and following the Incheon Landing and breakout from the Pusan Perimeter. As the UN force neared the border with China, Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war again. Whilst no Australian Artillery Locating units fought in the Korean War, individual gunners served with the infantry, and artillery units from New Zealand and Britain. Both the Commonwealth forces and the American forces employed Locating units in Korea and two Australian Locators were attached to these Units. Captains Eric Nowill (later Lt. Colonel) and John Stevenson (later Major General) spent some months with a Locating battery, which was part of the 61st Light Regiment, Royal Artillery. Fighting ended on 27 July 1953, with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea (Ref 7)

LT Eric Nowill
3477 Colonel John D. Stevenson of Campbell, ACT. Commander of the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) April 1969

Revival of Locating

 In 1948, the Government embarked on an ambitious plan to reorganise the Army into a combat ready force of 70,000 troops, to consist of a 19,000 permanent force Australian Regular Army (ARA) and 50,000 volunteer Citizen Military Force (CMF). The Army never reached the targets set and according to the defence report of 1963, the maximum strength reached in 1950 was 14,543 ARA and 18,236 CMF.The aim was to raise a permanent ARA Brigade group (1st Infantry Brigade Group), plus two CMF infantry divisions (2nd Division based in NSW and 3rd Division based in VIC) and a CMF Infantry Brigade Group in WA. Also to be raised was an Armoured Brigade Group based in VIC and NSW and Corps Troops. Included on the Order of Battle (ORBAT) were:

  • 2 Div Locating Bty, South Head, NSW.
  • 3 Div Locating Bty, Richmond, VIC.
  • 1 Corps Observation Regiment, South Head, NSW and St Kilda, VIC.

 To start this plan ten Australian officers were dispatched to the British School of Artillery, Larkhill, Wiltshire, England. These Officers would study Counter Mortar tactics by Gun Regiments, locating methods by Sound Ranging (radio link) and the new method of Radar Location. The responsibility of structuring the new Artillery Locating Unit to fill Australian needs was assigned to these officers. In 1951 Captain John Stevenson attended a long Observation Course at Larkhill, England and was subsequently attached to 7 Armd. Div. Locating Battery in Germany for 4 Months. Upon his return to Australia, he was posted to 4 Obs. Tp. 1Fd. Regt. at Georges Heights in Sydney. In November of 1952 he was posted to Korea to relieve Captain Eric Nowill. Both Captain’s had obtained combat experience and the practical side of Locating in Korea and the lessons learnt by these men and were invaluable to the new locating units that were just emerging. Captain John Stevenson continued service with the Australian Army, had further active service in South Vietnam and held a number of prestigious postings prior to his retirement as Major- General.

                                                       Raising of Post war Locating Units

C Observation Troop

The first post-war Locating unit had its beginnings in 1949 when ‘A’ Field Battery, recently returned from Japan and at North Head (North Fort, Manly NSW) moved to a new location at Georges Heights, Sydney to form the nucleus of the newly formed 1st Field Regiment. Attached to Headquarter Battery was C Observation Troop. It was organised on a Troop of the pre-war Survey Company. C Observation Troop was a small unit commanded by a Captain, who also filled the role of CBO (counter bombardment officer). It consisted of:

  •  Survey Section
  •  Sound Ranging Section
  •  Flash Spotting Section

The unit was basically a holding place for officers and senior NCOs who had been trained in the Sound Ranging, Survey and Flash Spotting techniques.

4 Observation Troop

 In early 1950, because of a new Army policy that all Regular Army units were to be prefixed with a number, C Observation Troop was renamed 4 Observation Troop, the only exception being ‘A’ Field Battery, and was commanded by Captain John Stevenson.

 In July 1950 Prime Minister Robert Menzies released details of the national service scheme which commenced in September 1950 and operated until 1959. This required compulsory military service within the Navy, Army and Air Force by all men aged 18 years.

 In the Army, the Scheme was structured for three call-ups per year. Training comprised of an initial period of 98 days of basic training, followed by three years (later reduced to two years) in a CMF unit. It is estimated that during this period of call up 1950 to 1959, 250,000 young Nashos (the common name given to the national servicemen) served their country in the three services.

 There was also a dramatic increase in the regular Army enlistment during this period. The age for enlistment was lowered to the age of 17, however a number of restrictions were applied, mainly that enlistees were not be posted to an infantry battalion that was in Korea or due to go. As Australia only had three Infantry Battalions at this stage and they were either in Korea or preparing to go, so a great number of these younger soldiers were posted to other units.

4 Locating Battery (104)

 The manning levels in 4 Observation Troop increased such that the unit was re-designated on the 10 June 1952 as 4 Locating Battery,  becoming  the first Regular Army unit to use the title ‘Locating’ and was commanded by Captain John (“Jack”). R. Stoddart.

 In January 1954, the results of a study conducted by the School of Tactics and Administration was released and subsequently accepted as doctrine for the  re-organisation of the Australian Army. The organisation allowed each Division to have a Locating Battery with provision, if needed, for a Corps Locating Regiment.  Sequential numbering of units was to take place with regular artillery batteries to commence numbering from 100 with ‘A’ Field Battery to be known as 100 ‘A’ Field Bty and on 24 Nov 1954 4 Locating Battery was re-designated 104 Locating Battery (remaining under the command of 1st Field Regiment).

31 Locating Bty

 To cater for the influx of personal into the CMF, caused by the National Service Scheme, 31 Locating Battery was raised at Georges Height in Sydney NSW, on 10 June 1952. This battery would have a regular army cadre staff recruited from 4 Observation Troop and was raised as an independent battery of 75 all ranks with Maj. C. E. H. Rich as BC [See Annex A Locating Charts  31 Locating Bty]

 131 Divisional Locating Battery

 On the 24 November 1954, 31 Locating Battery was re-designated 131st Locating Battery (131 Loc Bty). In 1957 it moved to a new training depot at Pymble NSW, (a northern suburb of Sydney) and remained a CMF unit with the responsibility of Survey and Sound Ranging. 1958 saw the retirement of Major Rich. In 1960, the introduction of the “Pentropic Division” caused many changes within 131 Loc Bty. The Bty became 131 Divisional Locating Battery with responsibility for Sound Ranging and Flash Spotting. These skills were later transferred to 20th Locating Regiment and replaced with Radar and Transport Sections. The Battery became an integrated ARA /CMF unit with 60% CMF and 40% ARA. It was located at two separate locations, the Survey Section operated out of Pittwater Road, Manly NSW, while the Battery Headquarters, Radar and Transport operated from North Fort, (North Head, Manly NSW). In the early 1960’s a Light Aid Detachment (LAD) from R.A.E.M.E was attached and these “Honorary Locators” were to become an integral and valuable asset to Locating. 1960 also marked the end of National Service, which would impact heavily on the Locating units with the loss of manpower, The Battery Commander at this time was Major Eric Nowill,  Lt Donaldson with Sgt. Norm. McManus commanded the survey section & Sergeants George Addison and “Harry” Webster staffed the radar section. The survey section became very active over the next few years and conducted a number of extensive survey schemes. These schemes included survey of Artillery Ranges at Holsworthy, Tianjara (near Nowra) and Singleton (north of Sydney) in NSW, together with the Naval Firing Range at Jervis Bay and the Ammunition Depot at St. Mary’s in NSW. They also performed their customary role in support of exercises conducted by 1st Field Regiment and the newly formed 4th Field Regiment

20th Locating Regiment RAA 1954-1960

  The era of 20th Locating Regiment began in early 1954 when it was raised to fulfill the requirement for a Corps Locating unit. It was decided that it would an ideal time to raise such a unit because of the large number of personnel available from the National Service scheme. The initial manning of this unit included what could be described as our “first modern-day Locators”, with the majority of Officers & NCO’s WW2 veterans,  experienced in Survey, Sound Ranging and Flash Spotting. 20th Locating Regiment was initially stationed at Victoria Barracks, Sydney but then moved to Moore Park Barracks, Sydney. The unit was unusual in that it had no rank-and-file members until 1956 when the intial manning was:

  • Commanding Officer                          Lt. Col. B. Doig
  • 2I/c                                                        Maj. G.Y.D. Scarlett
  • BC (“P” Bty)                                          Maj. J.R. Stoddart
  • BC (“Q”Bty)                                           Maj. E.N. Robinson
  • Cadre.                                                   Capt. C.L. Grigg (Adjutant and Quartermaster)                                                                                                                                         WO1 Jacques (Corps Arty SM on HQ RAA 1 Corps)                 WO2 G. (Rusty) Priest

 The manning for 20th Locating  Regtiment was unique in that when it achieved full strength of 350 in early 1957, the rank and file consisted of over 90% National Servicemen. They had been targeted for their higher level of education as they could cope with the mathematical requirements of the various disciplines. In 1957  there was a change of command for 20th Locating Regtiment:

  • CO Col. G.Y.D. Scarlett
  • 2IC J. R. Stoddart
  • Adjutant D.G. Bishop

See Annex A for Organization chart 20 Locating Regiment.

Counter Bombardment Staff Troop RAA 1954 –1960

 As part of the early post‑WW2 organisation, the Counter Bombardment Staff Troop RAA was raised at the same time as 20th Locating Regiment at Victoria Barracks, Sydney. It was a CMF unit, commanded by Lt. Col. Mooney who was an experienced CB Officer from WW2. The unit was attached to and administered by HQ.RAA.1 Corps. As the name implies the unit was small but had sufficient numbers to facilitate a 24-hour manning of 3 Teams, with a Major commanding each team and  the lowest rank being a Bombardier. All “ORs” were highly trained and rewarded for skills by receiving the Arty Surveyors Pay Groupings. The unit had two primary roles, firstly to collect, collate and disseminate information relating to enemy guns and mortars in the Theatre of Operation in which it was deployed. The secondary role was to perform in an advisory function to the CRA.

130 Corps Locating Battery   RAA 1960 – 1966

 On 1 July 1960, with the end of National Service, 20th Locating Regiment was disbanded/re-designated 130 Corps Locating Bty RAA , moved to Padstow training depot NSW and was commanded by Maj. E.N. Robinson. The new battery organisation was:

  1. BHQ
  2. A Troop – Survey
  3. B Troop – Sound Ranging (No 5 recorder). 
  4. C Troop – Radar (3 Mark 7 Radar)                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Attached Attached to 130 Corps Bty this was a troop of RA Sigs designated as 130  Locating Sig Tp (RA Sigs).                                                                                                               

 In the 1960s saw command changes in 130 Corps Locating Battery:


  • Maj. E.N. Robinson    – 1 July 1960               – 17 August 1960
  • Maj. W.H. Bowie         – 18 August 1960        – 26 October 1960
  • Maj. R.Q. Stanham     – 29 October 1960       – 15 August 1962
  • Maj. G.S. Lane             – 16 August 1962        – 30 June 1964
  • Maj. J.H.B. Johnson   – 1 July 1964               – 4 September 1965
  • Maj. K.K. Bryant           -9 September 1965      – 30 December 1965


  • WO2 G.E. Priest         – 1 Jul 1960                 – 16 December 1965
  • WO2 G.J Macauley    – 17 December            – 1 January 1966

The establishment strength of 130 Corps Locating Battery was 6 Officers and 133 Ors. In 1964 there was an important milestone for locators with the attachment of a CMF RAEME workshop to 130 Corps Locating Bty.

130 Gun Locating Battery 1966 – 1975

On the 1st January 1966, 130 Corps Locating Battery was re-designated 130 Gun Locating Battery and RAEME Workshops was renamed 133 Div Loc Workshops but remained at Padstow attached to 130 Gun Locating Bty and the RA Sig Troop ceased attachment and became part of 8 Sig Regt.

Battery Commanders of 130 Gun Loc Bty were:

  • Maj. K.K. Bryant          – 1 January 66                         – 30 June 1970
  • Capt. G. A. Wearne     – 1 July 1970                           – 31 July 1972
  • Maj. I. Scott                 – 1 August 1972                       – December 1974
  • Maj. B. W. Sonter         -December 1974                     – 30 June 1975


  • WO2 G.J. Macauley    -1January 1966                       – June 1967
  • WO2 K. M. Cossart    – June 1967                             – May 1970
  • WO2 I. T. Mills            – June 1970

Establishment strength of unit was 6 Officers and 114 OR’s.

In 1972 the recorded posted strength was 6 Officers and 55 OR’s and 130 Gun Loc Bty new establishment was then:

  • BHQ
  • A Troop
  • B Troop
  • C Troop

 Each Troop comprised a Sound Ranging base with an integral Survey Section with Sound Ranging Set No 5. In 1967 C Troop would cease to exist as the Sound Ranging equipment was refurbished and handed to 131 Div Loc Bty to commence training a new Sound Ranging Section. Members of 130 Bty would assist in the training of the regular army personnel to form a new C troop and this new troop would be posted to Detachment 131 Div Loc Bty in 1968.  

 131 Divisional Locating Battery entered a new phase when in 1965 the Menzie’s Government, announced the reintroduction 2 years military conscription to sustain Australia’s support for the South Vietnam Government. The conscription scheme required all males aged 20 to register for a selection ballot by birth date(Lottery) and 800,000 registered. The first intake commenced 30 June 1965 and ended  7 December 1972 . During this period, 64,000 served with the Army of which 15,381 served in Vietnam. Of the 463 Locators who  served with the Detachment 131 Div. Loc. Bty. in South Vietnam,  it is estimated that the unit’s composition was generally 70% NS and 30% ARA.

  131 Div. Loc. Bty. was placed on standby in June 1965 and ordered to raise its strength to wartime establishment. To achieve this, the unit received an influx of recruits from the School of Artillery, who had completed Survey, Radar and Artillery Intelligence courses. A great majority of these soldiers were National Servicemen and at the same time a number of senior NCOs were recruited from the Gun Battery’s  to fill the vacant establishment strength.

 In November 1965 131 Div. Loc. Bty. became an all-ARA unit and moved to Kokoda Lines, Holsworthy NSW and co-located with 1st Field  Regiment RAA. The unit was notified that it would contribute one troop to the newly formed Australian Army Task Force.  In April 1966 a detachment (Detachment 131 Divisional Locating Battery) was sent to South Vietnam and remained there until May 1971. Members of this detachment were awarded the Unit Gallantry Citation for their service at the Battle of Coral/Balmoral SVN

 On 16 April 1968, 131st Divisional Locating Battery ceased to be an independent Battery and was placed under command of 19 Composite Regiment. On the 4 August 1969 19 Composite Regiment was re-designated 8 Medium Regiment with 131st Divisional Locating Battery under Command. The manning for 131 was also dramatically changed as those preparing to go overseas were normally absent on courses or leave.

The end of compulsory National Service had a dramatic impact on the regular Army and especially units like 131 Div. Loc. Bty. Initially the length of service for a “Nasho’ was reduced from 2 years to 18 months and in late 1973 it was no longer compulsory. National Service ballots ceased and those in the Army at the time were offered the opportunity to continue their service or take immediate discharge and virtually overnight, the unit strength went from over 100 to about 20 all ranks.                        

 On the 16 December 1973, the parent unit amalgamated with 12 Field Regiment to form 8/12 Medium Regiment and together with 131 Div. Loc. Bty. moved 100 meters to the more spacious and modern Finschhafen Lines, Holsworthy NSW and commenced rebuilding.

 131 Div. Loc. Bty. raised a ‘light’ meteorology section (met sect) to provide met support to the Sound Ranging Troop and the Gun Regiments. At this time, a party of Artillery Meteorologists stationed at the School of Artillery provided limited met support to courses conducted at the School of Artillery and local gun regiments. In January 1973 Sgt Johnny Mottershead and Gnr Harry Lynas were posted as the first meteorologists in 131 Div. Loc. Bty. and the Met Section was formed in 1974/75

 In January 1978, 131 Div Loc Bty moved under the command of 1 Divisional Field Force Group and thereby became an independent Battery. In January 1981 131 Div. Loc. Bty.  moved from Holsworthy to Gillopoli Barracks, Enoggera Queensland and the  half-Met Section was detached from 131 Div. Loc. Bty. to support courses at the School of Artillery.

1st Reconnaissance, Intelligence, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment

1 RISTA Regt (inc 131 Div Loc Bty)

  1 RISTA Regiment was formed as a trial unit on 1 Jul 1995 by amalgamation of 131 Div. Loc. Bty. and 1 Div. Int. Coy.  The aim of this trial unit was to evaluate and report on operational concepts of capability at the tactical level of related and similar trades and in particular the merging of artillery intelligence and general intelligence

 It was a tactical level asset, providing combat information and targeting support to the lst Division and other formations and units as appropriate. It comprised a Target Acquisition Squadron, A Squadron (formerly 131 Divisional Locating Battery), a Human Intelligence Squadron, B Squadron (formerly lst Division Intelligence Company) and a Headquarters Squadron (which contained a headquarter elements from both units as well as RAEME, quartermaster, signals, medical and clerical support elements). The regiment could support up to two formations and offered a diverse range of capabilities at both strategic and tactical levels.

 It provided support to formations or units through Operational Readiness Teams (ORT). The composition of the ORT was dependent upon the task and collection requirements of the supported formation and could include any combination of the capabilities embodied within the Regiment. Within the ORT was a Combat Information Centre (CIC); this was the command and processing element, which usually was collocated with the supported headquarters.

 Within the CIC was the Target Acquisition Centre (TAC) who interfaced directly with the supported headquarters Fire Support Coordination Centre (FSCC to provide the specialist target acquisition support previously provided by the Artillery Intelligence Office).

The Regiment was Capable of the following tasks:

  • Ground surveillance using ground surveillance radars and thermal imagery.
  • Tactical target acquisition includes locating enemy guns, mortars and rockets using weapon locating radars and sound ranging equipment.
  •  Meteorological and survey support to artillery units.
  •  Tactical electronic warfare interface. 
  • Interrogation.
  • Psychological operations. 
  • Counterintelligence and field intelligence.
  •  Intelligence support includes artillery intelligence.
  •  Military geographical information.
  •  Imagery interpretation.
  •  Enhanced combat information and target acquisition support through improved fusion and dissemination of information and data.

 The CIC was also responsible for the collection of intelligence from specialist units such as Regional Force Surveillance Units, the Special Air Service Regiment and 2nd Cavalry Regiment and these units usually provided liaison officers support to the CIC.

1 RISTA Regiment was commanded by

  • CO – Lieutenant Colonel Rick Modderman, 
  • Regimental Sergeant Major – WO1 Alex Croot,
  •  WO1 Damien Carroll  
  •  Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM) – ‘A’ Squadron was – WO2 Paul (Pop) Standen.

 Prior to the trial, 131 Div Loc Bty had no organic Surveillance Equipment nor Troops. Select
members of the Bty were detached to 1 INT Coy, where they were taught the craft of
Surveillance, utilising the GSRs and TI equipment. During the trial, Surveillance Troop was
manned by a mix of AUST INT and RAA soldiers. At the completion of the trial the
Surveillance equipment and Troop remained as part of 131 Loc Bty and the manning was all
RAA Locators. This proved to be significant only a few years later, when Surveillance
Troops were deployed to East Timor.

 1 RISTA Regiment was disbanded with effect on the 1st July 1997.


 The unit was regrouped under its new titles 131 Locating Battery RAA (131 Loc Bty) and l Int. Coy, both direct command units of the DJFHQ (L). 131 Loc Bty’s core capabilities were retained, and elements of the unit were incorporated into the embedding trial conducted within 7 TF for the 6 RAR motorised infantry battalion. Since the RISTA trials,  131 Loc Bty entered a transitional period where roles were reviewed and the future direction of the Bty determined. The Bty’s. commitment to East Timor played a significant part in defining the future of it’s role.

East Timor 131 Loc. Bty. was committed to providing a 15-man Surveillance Troop for each six‑month Battalion rotation during the transition from INTERFET to UNTAET. Within the 131 Loc. Bty. Surveillance Troop, there was a 2-man HQ element situated in the fort at BALIBO, consisting of a CAPT and W02, who advised the Battalion HQ of the Surveillance Detachments’ capabilities and requirements. The other 13 personnel within the troop consisted of an ADMIN/RECON Sgt and two, six-man detachments comprising a Bdr, LBdr and four Gnrs. These soldiers resided in tent lines at the Battalion Echelon which was used as a Forward Operating Base.

 The ability of 131 Loc. Bty.  Locators to think ‘on the go’ and adapt to new and ever-changing situations in East Timor was a key strength of the  Surveillance Troop rotations. Importantly,  the operations provided the JNCOs and Gnrs with the opportunity to improve their basic soldiering skills markedly, whilst enjoying the rare experience of being deployed on operations. The knowledge gained from these surveillance rotations ensured that the Battery maintained a sufficient focus on ‘peacetime’ training and possible future deployments.

131 Loc Bty RAA

  • Battery Commanders                                      BSMs
  • Maj P.R Swinsburg                 1997-1998       WO1 D.M Carroll.                  1997-1998
  • Maj C.D Gee                           1999-2001       WO1 M.H Gowling                1999- 2002
  • Maj D. Pearce                         2001-2002       WO1 R. Van Oppen               2002

 After a short but noteworthy history under the designation 131 Locating Battery RAA, a further name change occurred on the 10 June 2002 to 131 Surveillance and Target Acquisition Battery RAA, reflecting it’s changing role.

20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment Royal Australian Artillery

Maj.General Tim Ford AO [OC Det 131 Div Loc Bty South Vietnam 1970] & Lt.Col. Phil Swinsburg CO 20th STA Regiment 2007

 On 09 October 2005, 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment was re-raised to the Order of Battle as the Australian Army wanted to employ the Uncrewed Aerial Surveillance capability and it was decided to expand 131 Surveillance and Target Acquisition Battery into a Regiment. Interestingly, although the Regiment was only just formed, it already had troops on operations in Iraq.  The AN/TPQ-36 Weapon Locating Radar was initially deployed to support the Al Muthanna Task Group – 2 in Southern Iraq in early 2005.  Later in that year, the Radar Troop was reinforced with a Skylark Small UAS section. By Jan. 2006, the first posting to 20th STA Regiment had occurred and the Regiment then consisted of RHQ, 131 STA Bty, 132 UAV Bty and a Combat Service Support (CSS) Bty.

  As operations in Iraq continued it was clear there was a great desire for more capable UAS.  A service contract with Boeing and later InSitu Pacific Limited was entered into whereby the contractor provided the ScanEagle equipment, maintenance and some operators and the Regiment provided the command and most of the operators.  By late 2006, the commitment to Iraq had increased to a Battery and this deployment pattern continued for the several years. 131 STA Battery was deployed to Iraq to support Overwatch Battle Group (West) – 2 in Tallil.  The Battery consisted of a BHQ providing Intelligence, Surveilllance, Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition support to the battle group, comprising a Weapon Locating Radar Section, a ScanEagle UAS Troop and a Skylark Small UAS Section.

 In early 2007, 20th STA Regiment deployed a small Battery group to provide ScanEagle UAS support to the Reconstruction Task Force in Tarin Kot Afghanistan.

 20 STA Regiment continued to provide support to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, effectively raised two small Battery’s every six months and by the end of 2013  20th Regiment had deployed 15 Battery’s – three to Iraq and twelve to Afghanistan and was awarded the Battle Honor streamer “Iraq 2003-2011”

 In 2011 it was decided to cease the Artillery Meteorology and Survey and Weapon Locating Radar capabilities and the Regiment was ordered to concentrate entirely on expanding UAS capabilities.

 On 09 October 2019 20th STA Regiment was re-named the 20th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, in a move that saw all RAA units remove their function from their unit title and revert to basic RAA designations.  Coincident with the renaming , the Battery’s were designated 131 Battery and 132 Battery and became identical in organisation, equipment and function.

 After many years of service as part of the Army’s Forces Command, 20th Regiment RAA was transferred on 30 November 2022 to the Army Aviation Command and re-allocated to the 16th Aviation Brigade. This is part of the of the overall planned improvement of UAS capability within the Australian Army and currently 20th Regiment is planning to further expand with the re-raising of 133 Battery in 2024 or 2025. (Ref 7). Coincidentally the  re-raising of 133 Battery may coincide with the planned commemoration of “100 years of Locating”, 1st July 2025.

Fittingly, 20th Regiment’s  motto is “Seek to Strike”.

ANNEX A. Charts


  1. AAO 580/1925 of 05 Dec 25, Amdt No 1 to Tables of Composition, Organization and Distribution of the Australian Military Forces 1925-26. KG.RAAHC
  2. Tracks of the Dragon. Keith Ayliffe BEM and John Posener. Ch 8                                                                                                                                                                   Note: Note : Future reference of this book will be TOD.KA.JP. Ch or Pg Numbers.
  3. AA087/1937 [Army Posting Document]
  4. KA.JP.Ch 9
  5. KA.JP.CH.11
  6. The making of modern Korea by Buzo,Adrian London: Routledge p 71
  7. No 129 1960 p57 f7
  8. https://cove.army.gov.au/article/what-artillery-surveillance-and-target-acquisition
  9. Information on 20th Regiment RAA Maj R. Hamsey OAM. President LSTAAinc.
  10. Confirmation letter Century of Locating 1925 -2025 from RAARHC. Origin Date of RAA Locating Artillery Decision Brief RAARC-1(1)
Locating Surveillance and Target Acquisition Association