31st Battalion (Kennedy Regiment), CMF
After the First World War the defence of the Australian mainland lay with the part-time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force (CMF), also known as the Militia. The Militia was organized to maintain the structure of the First AIF and kept the same numerical designations. Consequently, Militia units were also known by the name of their shire. Miowera was established as a training area for the 11th Brigade, which then consisted of the 31st and 51st Battalions. The 31st Battalion, CMF, had subunits based all around northern Queensland including Townsville, Ayr, Home Hill, Bowen, Proserpine, Charters Towers and Ingham. As had been the case during World War I, it was decided to raise a separate force for overseas service, this time called the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd. AIF) and once again many members of the CMF Battalions volunteered.
A meeting was called at the School of Arts in Bowen in 1934, when Bob was just 18 years old. The town's elders wanted to form a detatchment of the Militia and within a year the first Platoon consisting of 40 men was drawn up - Bob was nineteen and couldn't wait to join (Offical Number Q185256) - mainly as Bowen was a small town and boredom was rife. He was soon promoted to Corporal (photo in Townsville - early 1939) and the unit was now large enough to form 2 Platoons. The Federal Government had no money for the CMF, nor for training - their uniforms were left overs from the Boer and Firt World Wars and at rifle practice, on the salt pans outside Bowen, each man was only allowed to fire two rounds.
Bob was transferred to Townsville with the Commonwealth Bank and trained there with the local Militia - he was promoted to Sergeant just before leaving Bowen and presented with a wallet which he kept all through his deployment. When England declared war against Germany on 3rd. September 1939, Prime Minister Menzies broadcast on radio that Australia was also at war - it was a Sunday night and next morning Bob was knocking on the door of the Drill Hall to enlist (Official Number QX 6461).
31st Battalion (Kennedy Regiment), AMF
He transferred from the 31st Battalion CMF to the 31st Battalion AMF (Australian Military Force) and was sent to Miowera Camp just south of Bowen as the assistant to the assistant staff Captain. Later in 1939, at age 23 years, Bob was promoted to First Lieutenant, which set back his ambition to join the AIF as the Army was only taking men and experienced officers of Lieutenant and above.
Part of the 31st Battalion was moved to Brisbane in early 1940, where the 2/26th. Battalion was being formed and almost everyone joined - Kelsey joined the AIF on 24th. June 1940. The formation of the 2/26th Infantry Battalion began with the appointment of the first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Boyes, on the 1st. November 1940. A shortage of camp accommodation, however, prevented the battalion assembly as a unit until the 26th. November 1940, when the first of its personnel marched into Grovely Camp. The 2/26th drew its recruits from Queensland and Northern New South Wales and trained at Grovely until the Battalion relocated to Redbank Camp on the 29th. January 1941. A weekly cross country training run earned the battalion its nickname, "the Gallopers"! Robert Kelsey was promoted to Lieutenant and made a Platoon Commander in the 2/26th. Battalion AIF.