"The Mighty 12th"

National Service Battalion Holsworthy


Twelfth National Service Training Battalion – Its History

By Chaplain G M McAdam

9th November, 1950 was the date of the raising of the 12 N S Trg Bn, though the first trainees did not march in until 6th August, 1951, at 1630hrs.

The unit was raised as the direct result of the Commonwealth Government’s decision to institute National Service for all young men of Australia of 18 years of age. The Bn primarily trains for Artillery and Armour.

The unit was first commanded by Major E.G. McDonald from 18 December 1950 – 6 April 1951. He became 2IC of the Bn when it was increased to four Coys. Lt Col D. L. B. Goslett, M.C., E.D., commanded from 6 April 1951 – 1 May 1953. He was succeeded by Lt Col A. R. Brown, 1 May 1953 – 17 October, 1953. When Col Brown became C.O. of 1 Field Regiment after only a brief period with 12 NS Trg Bn he was succeeded by Lt Col E. L. Cook on 12 Oct 1953.


Dates and strengths of intakes (to 2nd Intake 1954) have been:

Intake 1/51 – 6th August – 11th November                 Total Strength              989

Intake 1/52 - 2nd January – 8th April                                                                1159

Intake 2/52 – 22nd April – 28th July                                                                 1133

Intake 3/52 – 12th August – 17th November                                                   1142

Intake 1/53 – 6th January – 13th April                                                             1130

Intake 2/53 – 28th April -  3rd August                                                             1119

Intake 3/53 – 18th August – 23rd November                                                   1147

Intake 1/54 – 6th January – 13th April                                                             1133

Intake 2/54 – 27th April – 2nd August                                                             1110


The initial member of the Bn was Capt R. McNamara who was appointed Quartermaster and instructed on 2nd November 1950 to establish and commence to organise 12 N S Trg Bn. Within a few days he was joined by Staff Sgt McGuinness and Cpl Heaslip, both of whom wedre still with the Bn when Capt McNamara marched out to HQ 2 Div in June 1954.

It was at first planned that the organisation would consist of two Coys, one of Armour and one of Artillery, under a Major as C.O.

The location of the Bn was originally at Moorebank where stores were received and where personnel who were to staff the Bn began to march in. These personnel, however, were constantly being drafted to school for NS Instructors such as those at the School of Infantry (Seymour Vic.), the School of Armour (Puckapunyal, Vic.) and the school of Artillery (North Head, N.S.W.)

Soon after Maj. E. G. McDonald’s appointment to command the Bn, in January 1951, the whole scheme for National Service began to take more definite shape and it became obvious that the original plan for only two coys would be inadequatehe plans were changed to allow for Four Coys – one of Armour, two of Artillery and one composite one made up of other Corps and Services and a new Bn (13 NS Trg Bn) was raised at Ingleburn.

Following the enlargement of the Battalion, Lt Col D. L. B. Goslett, M.C., E.D., was appointed Commanding Officer, Major McDonald remaining as 2 I/C until 23rd June 1952 when he became DAQMG Nthn Command. With still further expansion of National Service an additional Battalion for NSW was planned and in June, 1951, all non-Artillery and non-Armour Corps and Services were unlinked from 12 Bn for the raising of 19 N S Trg Bn at Moorebank.

With only six weeks to the march in of the first trainees the decision was made to move 12 Bn to Singleton, north of Newcastle, and 19 Bn to Old Holsworthy. With very few personnel available, the move to Singleton was a most strenuous time, the moving of stores alone ( in Dept Supply trucks) took a fortnight. Cadre courses for other personnel were organised at Singleton while the remainder worked feverishly to get tents and marquees erected for the trainees.

On 5th August, 1951, a Bn Parade was held, the Bn flag was presented and unfurled and a special order from Lt Gen Bridgeford was read by the C.O.  The following day the first NS men arrived ay 1630 hrs and the unit diary for 8th August records “the last NS man for the intake arrived and the strength of 12 NS Trg Bn this day is 23 Officers, 228 OR’s (ARA), 979 National Service Trainees” The entry for the following day simply says, “Visit by the Commander of 2 NS training brigade, Brigadier Gooch. An exceedingly windy day. Trouble experienced by companies in keeping their tents from blowing down. In the period that the Bn was at Singleton rifle shooting was done at Greta, the men camping under two-man tents and being fed from Wiles Cookers.”

Amongst may interesting diary entries, one for 14th September 1951, records the beginning of a notable side of the Bn’s activity. The entry reads, “ A cheque for £561/3/0 was handed to Legacy as a result of the Legacy Week’s effort.

This draws attention to 12 Bn’s splendid record for philanthropy.


Prior to the first gift to Legacy, £100 had been given to comforts for Korean troops and it was followed by a donation to Prince Alfred Hospital. The end of the year saw £313 given to a War Widows’ fund. Intakes 2 and 3/52 saw £2000 given to Legacy. A little later £175 was given to a United Nations appeal. Intake 3/53 saw £1200 given to Legacy while Intake 1/54 saw another £1125 given plus £200 to the North Coast Flood Relief and gifts to the Spastic Children’s Fund and Westminster Abbey Restoration fund. Blood to the Red Cross Blood Bank has been generously given. Intakes 2 and 3/52 provided 480 donors, 1/53-436, 2/53- 363, 3/53- 328 and 1/54- 605.

While 12 Bn was at Singleton splendid work was done on several occasions in fighting bush fires.

Another “first” of what was to become a regular feature was the Brigade Gymkhana held on 20th October, 1951, at which 12 Bn won the athletic events, being beaten only by ½ mark for the aggregate. The following Gymkhana was won outright by 12Bn.

With the march out of the first intake the Bn moved to New Holsworthy to the site of the old Remount Depot.

Royal Tour: The 12 NSTrg Bn played its part in the memorable Royal tour. Many members of the Royal Household Guards were provided, including the Officer of the Guard. In addition, one driver was supplied for the Royal Car Coy. The Bn helped line the streets on the occasion of the Royal progress through Sydney on both 3rd February and 18th February.

On the first occasion much pride was felt when Her Majesty noticed the Bn mascot “DUKE” and drew the Duke of Edinburgh’s attention to the handsome pony.

“DUKE” (his registered name actually is “Rowley Park Don Juan”) is a highly pedigreed black Timor pony who joined the Bn on 9th December, 1953. One of Brigadier Gooch’s last acts as he farewelled the Bn 28th February, 1954 on retiring from 2 NS Trg Brigade, was to promote “DUKE” to be a Lance Corporal.

The Bn policy of tree planting and grassing has made this an outstanding training area.

Another policy of making a special feature of Visitors’ Days has made a real contribution to the understanding of National Service by the general public. All proceeds from Visitors’ Days go to the Battalion’s charitable fund and have made a valuable contribution toward the total of £6,595 that has been distributed up to date from the eight Intakes.