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  • Australia Army 6 New Guinea Offensives: Chapter The Fall of Lae
  • Chapter The Fall of Lae
  • He had just been through the Bankruptcy Courts and surely would not have been able to make good on Marrickville model 1884 rifle apparently generous promise.
  • Dr Marcus Bunyan
  • James Start Harrison () « Philanthropists and Philanthropy
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    When the mortar fire ceased the leading platoon attacked the River Ambush position, but the Japanese had moved forward during the bombardment, the mortar smoke was behind them, and they had little difficulty in repulsing the attack.

    The badly led and often beaten fighting units of the 51st Divisiontogether with portions of other fighting units, had carried out a creditable defence of Lae in face of the onslaughts of two of the finest divisions on the Allied side.

    Apart from shortages, the ration scale as laid down was inadequate for an operation which lasted as long as the Lae one. The surprised South Australians were unable to make any impression on the Japanese defenders. Fierce fighting ensued on both sides of the plantation as the trapped enemy fought back savagely.

    If the Japanese were using the kunda bridge route as their main line of withdrawal, Wootten realised that he would have to reinforce the lightly equipped Independent Company.

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    Childs, who was wounded in both legs, and Walker, wounded in an arm and a leg, had been unable to rise from the ground. At 11 a. Matching his section against this Japanese section Corporal Shervey rushed straight at the machine-gun, firing his Owen with such effect that three of the Japanese including the gunner were killed.

    Twenty-five per cent of automatic weapons and about 80 rifles had been lost in the crossing and ammunition and al equipment had been damaged. The airfield had not been used since just before the landing, the hangars were wrecked and about forty damaged planes were mute witnesses to the power of the Allied air force.

    Request suspension further bombing Lae till called for. By 10 a.

    During the day Wootten let his troops know that the enemy might be attempting to evacuate Lae by tracks to the north and North-east. Under their covering fire, the first platoon now led by Sergeant Bell 86 advanced again through the open.

    Reconnaissance patrols before dawn on the 9th reported that there was no suitable crossing for 1, yards from the mouth.

    The artillery ceased fire at 2. The attack was repulsed and two men were killed, including the leading platoon commander, Lieutenant Richards. Much equipment was found, including mm anti-aircraft guns, mm anti-tank guns, heavy machine-guns, mm mortars and a large quantity of ammunition and stores, some still in grease packing.

    Day was then killed by a grenade and Sergeant McCallum 83 took over. The battalion had.

    Australia Army 6 New Guinea Offensives: Chapter The Fall of Lae

    Evans believed that, if he could have only two small landing craft to move his troops in bounds along the coast and so avoid the slogging march along the coastal flats, the advance would be expedited.

    Both divisions knew by their experience since the 8th when the Japanese commander had apparently issued his evacuation order that there were at least strong rearguards prepared to make bitter stands east and west of Lae.

    At this stage many native rumours were flooding into the Independent Company that Boana was an advanced base from which the Japanese were moving north in twenties and thirties.

    It was now apparent that the two divisions had over-estimated the of Japanese opposing them. This, of course, was not an entirely just picture, but the SBG could doubtless have been hurried forward earlier. So the 6th passed at Nadzab in a swirl of black dust.

    Concluding that the airfield would not be the difficult proposition he had anticipated he had ordered Windeyer to capture the south end of it.

    Wootten, however, had to reserve his few small craft for the movement of supplies for both brigades.

    The enemy suffered about 30 casualties, some caused by the artillery. He considered that artillery was being pushed forward to do a job which could have been done with mortars.

    Both divisions were now in Lae but the artillery continued shelling ahead of the 9th driving back the patrols of the 7th. One patrol lost its two forward scouts killed by an unseen enemy when trying to encircle the village.

    At first it cut tracks through kunai and jungle to a track junction about 1, yards west of the crossing, where it found three abandoned Japanese machine-guns. In the swampy triangle formed by the western bank of the Busu and the small creek Colonel Norman issued his orders at 6 a.

    On both the 5th and 6th Japanese aircraft bombed Red Beach, the Aluki Track and the amphibian craft plying between the beaches, but this did little to hinder the movement of stores.

    Advancing up the east bank of the Busu, Hart saw four Japanese moving up the west bank and sent two sections hurrying north to meet them, if they tried to cross the kunda bridge.

    It was an incredible crossing. Patrols led by Lieutenants Buckley and Gatward then investigated the Chinatown bridge and the village of Butibum respectively.

    Largely because of the quick thinking of Sergeant MacGregor 31 who occupied the only slight rise from which the beach was fully visible, the enemy attack was beaten off. They met fierce resistance but gradually pushed the enemy back.

    The 24th Brigade was ordered to overcome all opposition between Wagan and Malahang Anchorage and advance to the Bumbu. The first log was too short and the second on being launched swung round, tearing away the pylon and part of the bank.

    The Australians fired on them, killing their officer and dispersing the others. Torrent killed six of the enemy including an officer, but heavy fire prevented the platoon advancing.

    The remainder of the section were swept off their feet and scattered along the near bank of the river.

    Although exposed to the enemy the gallant MacGregor refused to budge, even after he was mortally wounded, until the Japanese had been repulsed.

    These were rescued with difficulty and all attempts to bridge the river were abandoned for the night. On the east side of Lae too portions of the 51st Division were used to stem the Australian advance. While the battalion occupied the anchorage another patrol went along the coastal track.

    Chase stores all day — no result except more folding boats, so will attempt kedging again. North of the anchorage the other three companies were astride the road by dusk.

    As it was imperative to re-establish communications with brigade. Seventy yards down the third stream a aller crossed and tied a cable to the other side. A brigadier is not an ideal. In this case the reports from the Chinese appeared credible. Finally the Brigadier, armed with a pistol, acted as leading scout, and the troops followed in column of route behind.

    At dusk the two companies had captured the village and road to the west and dug in south of the road and track junction.

    Soon after 10 a. Enemy force in front of this brigade destroyed. Throwing off all his equipment except for his RAP haversack Corporal Scott dashed into the clearing. The flooded river was flowing at 13 knots, much faster than at its mouth, and was divided into three channels 65 feet, 95 feet, and 40 feet wide, and varying in depth from one to seven feet.

    Catchlove was organising his company on the outskirts of New Yanga ready for an attack, when unexpected and heavy firing came from the direction of a hut. Another patrol exchanged shots with the enemy near the River Ambush. It was not until the enemy had dug in on the far bank that Hart was given orders to cross.

    At last light a patrol which reached the bridge west of Cox Road Camp, saw only one Japanese but many s of recent occupation.

    In the right-hand platoon Private Clark had rescued and tended three men as well as Groundwater. The bomber then crashed squarely into two more trees. Against the Southern Ambush the leading platoon commander had arranged for the MMGs to fire a short burst when in position whereupon he would fire his Owen as a al for.

    Captain F. When crossing a creek the leader of the middle patrol, Lance-Corporal Littler, 38 was wounded. For the first time each company had walkie-talkie sets which enabled them to keep in touch with one another during their advance.

    For the next two hours the men of the supporting platoon dashed across singly to the company, now commanded by Lieutenant Thomas.

    The troops and their leaders were understandably becoming exasperated. While Finlay and six men were tightening the rope, a mortar bomb fell among them inflicting six casualties, including Finlay, wounded.

    Movement south by 26 Brigade will impede movement north enemy parties between River Bumbu and River Busu but not prevent. Orders for 8th September were that the two forward brigades should cross the Busu.

    For a few seconds the whole area was lit by an intense glare. The cut grass is burned on the strip. There was a surprise in store for about 60 escaping Japanese. Anti-aircraft guns were also carried on these first flights from Port Moresby.

    Jaggar was an excellent swimmer and managed to get Haly across, but two men were swirled away and disappeared.

    He therefore went forward to urge the leading company to hasten. Other attempts to cross by towing boats containing equipment along the rope, and by crossing hand over hand along the rope, were abandoned because of enemy fire.

    On the far bank Hannah was the first man across, and soon other bedraggled men were struggling up the western bank behind him to form the bridgehead.

    Still no of the enemy. He therefore warned Brigadier Dougherty to prepare the 21st Brigade for movement by air from Port Moresby to Nadzab on the morning of the 15th ready for a possible role in the Boana area. Fifteen were killed outright, 44 died of injuries, and 92 were injured but survived.

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    Having reached the Bumbu, the 9th Division might have entered Lae on the 15th. In this one-sided action the Australians had no casualties.

    Leonard had been a champion axeman, and it was almost as though he had been armed with an axe, not an Owen gun, so complete and so close was the circle of bodies. The 9th Division had received a brief though in some cases a savage introduction to jungle warfare.

    South of the Pioneers, across the river, Colonel Smith decided that Wampit Force would prevent the enemy crossing from Markham Point by attacking simultaneously the River and Southern Ambushes.

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    Hart sent back the captured equipment, continued his advance and camped near Musom 2 in company with a Papuan section. Between this time and last light on the 6th this courageous and determined NCO inspired his men to resist six attacks by the frantic enemy who found they could not use the track which the tiny Australian force was holding so grimly.

    Wootten was unwilling that this battalion, until recently his divisional reserve, should be committed so soon.

    This would permit some reorganisation before the troops went over the top. He managed it OK. I had to send a patrol down the beach and back so we have that honour — doubtful one — as there were no Japs.

    The Japanese infiltrated the forward positions of the battalion soon after midnight on the 12th—13th. When the 9th met no opposition on 15th September and the 7th was delayed by some of the most bitter fighting of their advance, the result seemed to be all over bar the shouting.

    Waist deep, with tall tangled kunai and mangroves growing above, and heavily outed, Brooks and his men attacked the enemy positions on several small islands. Gatward had reached Butibum some time before Lewin, and by The battalion was ready to advance at 1 p. At dawn on the 15th the leading troops of the 9th Division were about a mile and a quarter from Lae while those of the 7th Division were about.

    Returning he got another magazine, went forward again, fired it from a lying-down position and silenced the machine-gun post.

    Connor and Corporal Torrent 63 went ahead of the platoon and attacked three foxholes.

    When the leading platoon Lieutenant Howes 93 reported that the going was becoming rougher, Gow reluctantly forsook the higher ground and swung down towards the Markham Valley Road through a re-entrant.

    So thick was the undergrowth that the Australians found concealed Japanese foxholes within their own lines. The platoon made the attempt at 9.

    Chapter The Fall of Lae

    Patrols had been unable to find anything better upstream within our right boundary and the bar could not be considered. As dusk came, a hold-fast was dug on the island in the Busu to facilitate swinging a boat across on the pendulum principle.

    Like Vasey, Wootten now faced a double task: capture Lae, and prevent the Japanese from escaping. The total of Japanese in the Lae—Salamaua area early in September was about 11, Casualties inflicted by the two Australian divisions were at least 2, In return the Japanese had inflicted casualties on the 9th Division, including 77 killed, wounded and 73 missing.

    With the possibility of a stalemate developing, McRae sent in a third company to in the assault, but the Japanese apparently guessed or heard the moves being made to encircle them and decided to withdraw.

    Seeing that an enemy machine-gun slightly to one flank was inflicting casualties Bell moved ahead of his men and coolly attacked and destroyed it.

    During this time Privates Kelliher and Bickle were lying in a dip.

    About yards ahead Corporal May 13 saw an enemy machine-gun post yards inland from the beach which was doing most of the firing along the bar. Jackson had carefully concealed his men and surprise was complete. Men are a bit nervous again and went pretty steadily. For many of the troops this campaign was one long carry.

    In both leading platoons there were several men who owed their subsequent recovery, if not their lives, to these men. Soon this section also was pinned down. It seemed likely that Lae would not be defended. Orders to that effect had already been issued before receipt your message.

    McCallum and the surviving engineer finally swam back, McCallum reaching the east bank one mile downstream. The Japanese now did what the Australians had done to them ly and allowed some of the section across before opening fire. Not only was it used by the Japanese, as indicated by footprints, but troops crossing there would be so strung out, on a front of one or two men, as to render them most vulnerable to enemy fire.

    He had just been through the Bankruptcy Courts and surely would not have been able to make good on Marrickville model 1884 rifle apparently generous promise.

    So, in the afternoon, the battalion waded to the island, keeping as well concealed as possible, although an alert enemy on the western bank could not have failed to observe the preparations. Another report about Japanese moving north along the west bank of the Busu came from Private Mannion, 67 who, although wounded and marooned west of the kunda bridge on the 13th, had swum the river at its junction with the Sankwep and told of seeing Japanese on the opposite track.

    Time could not be wasted, for weather over the Owen Stanleys usually made flying unsafe in the afternoon.

    In the main and westernmost channel the river was moving between 10 and 12 knots and was 5 to 6 feet deep.

    On the 8th transports landed but Vasey was annoyed because the planes were not arriving in the proper sequence. Answer in clear Yes or No urgently.

    Warrant Officer Dalziel 82 tried to drag him out but was killed when success seemed near.

    During its advance the battalion encountered no Japanese, but was uncomfortably short of water, an ironical fact when the men thought of the flooded river which had been holding them up for so long. Between 11 a.

    The hope of crossing unopposed had now vanished. The platoon advanced for about 50 yards feeling very exposed in an avenue between cocoa trees. Therefore for successful conduct of operations LCTs with re-supply must repeat must discharge on forward beaches as required. Under cover of his fire his platoon found a more favourable position and was able to destroy the pocket of resistance.

    Eather ordered the two forward battalions to meet at the bridge on the eastern fringe of the plantation. My policy and desire is to hit the enemy as hard and as often as possible. Where the battalion hit the west bank there was a bend in the river, and it was this unexpected help from nature which probably prevented the battalion from being swept out to sea.

    At last light 13 September enemy had withdrawn from Dump area.

    They bombarded New Yanga with mortars and many of the shells fired by the two batteries of pounders at the Burep landed on New Yanga.

    Prevent your troops engaging my troops. Canned heat issued to some battalions on the 10th helped to make the frugal meals more appetising and at least enabled the men to have a hot dish.

    Captain Seddon promptly obtained fire fighting equipment and called medical assistance and ambulances which raced the injured to hospitals. Wootten thought that the Malahang airfield would probably be occupied by the enemy in an attempt to keep open his evacuation routes.

    Soon after dawn timber-cutting parties began searching for bigger logs to bridge the second stream, but although two foot logs were felled and dragged to the river they were not long enough. Buckley found that dense kunai fringed both banks of the Bumbu but there were no obstacles across the river as a native had reported.

    Finlay decided to continue the crossing at this point and Lieutenant Inkster 72 swam across with a light rope pulling a heavier one which he attached to a tree. Corporal Groundwater then led his section through dense jungle farther to the right.

    Lieut-Colonel W. That afternoon Dougherty ordered Lieut-Colonel R. Guided by Warrant Officer Bird Angau the battalion set off towards Camp Diddy, which it reached the following afternoon.

    As his men, in a long line and without hesitation, stepped into the swirling water the other companies moved one after another to the start-line at two-minute intervals. Fire was withheld until the most favourable moment and then it literally mowed down the enemy and 64 dead Japanese were later counted.

    C-in-C considers it desirable you send one to Musom to block that route. The strongest swimmers without clothes might be able to reach the other bank if they were not dashed against protruding rocks but naked they would not be much use against any Japanese awaiting them.

    It took a cold and calculated form of courage for the West Australians to walk into the raging Busu on 9th Septemberparticularly because, as in every unit, there were some men who could not swim.

    This reduced movement to a snail-like pace of about yards an hour and prevented the battalion from quite reaching the Busu on 8th September. Francis seized the Bren from his mortally wounded gunner and relieved some of the enemy pressure before he too was wounded.

    Paratroops, sappers, pioneers and natives all cutting grass flat out. Cotton sent orders to Cullen to attack forthwith across the track to assist the other companies.

    Half an hour later 8. There were anxious thoughts about crossing the Busu. As this patrol, the first to enter Lae, arrived at Voco Point. Wading seemed out of the question.

    Corporal Brockhurst 39 then led out five men to bring in Littler. An hour later at 3 p. At Effective use of grenades drove the enemy back another 40 yards and there the Japanese and Australians were again both pinned down.

    After five days of frustration, however, the 26th Brigade was at last able to cross the Busu when the sappers finished bridging the third channel at first light on the 14th.

    Hart attempted to aid his beleaguered men by sending out patrols to cross upstream or downstream, but they were unsuccessful. The men were swept off their feet by the fierce current, which snatched weapons from some of them, but most were swirled towards the west bank where they grasped overhanging boughs and kunai.

    At one point, right on the beach line, Private Leonard 33 was lying, shot through the head, completely encircled by bodies of dead Japanese. Up from its mouth it was between and yards wide and flowing in several channels. Using a tractor, which had arrived before the heavy rains made the jeep track from the Burep impassable, working parties hauled logs to the bank and manhandled them to the sandbank.

    Both Australian divisions had fought with their usual grim determination, but they had been handicapped by the same weather which had aided the escape of the Japanese from Salamaua. The men advanced through dense undergrowth. Supported by fire from one platoon Finlay sent the other two across; they suffered 12 casualties in doing so.

    Sick Japs along track kept holding things up and we expected to run into something at any moment.

    The 20th Brigade had been ferried across the Busu at its mouth the night with the intention of taking over the Old and New Yanga areas from the 24th Brigade.

    It seems certain that nearly all of these came from Lae. The strength of the infantry regiments at that time was: 66th; nd; th; part of 80th; part of thAt the same time Dudley advanced west for yards until shortage of ammunition stopped him. He overtook the leading company in his jeep, and, finding the pace too slow, ordered Robertson to withdraw his flanking patrols and push on.

    The SBG was retained by a tail line although the raft collapsed in midstream. Evans did his best to replace the lost weapons and sent up supplies of ammunition to the east bank where Buring was organising dumps ready to be sent across and attempting to establish telephone communication with Norman.

    Not only had they. Soon after first light the leading platoon used log frames to traverse the minefields but it was caught in heavy cross fire from the enemy who had heavily reinforced the position.

    At the edge of the jungle the platoon was fired on and King was wounded. Denness withdrew for the mortar shoot and Captain Davies 84 company prepared to capitalise on the twelve 3-inch and ten 2-inch bombs fired.

    His battalion commanders — R. By midday the battalion had occupied Old Munum. Land maintenance impossible. One transport plane overruns end of strip and smashes a wheel on the stumps. The two northern companies moved slowly through difficult country cut by small streams. Patrolling for the next two days was therefore directed towards finding whether it would be possible to break the enemy lines near the river, but torrential rain and poor visibility prevented any worthwhile progress.

    As the men hacked their way through the bush with machetes, often up to their waists in water and mud, they could hear the noise of battle to the north and west. Unless the quantity of food is increased the men will not be able to carry on under existing conditions.

    More important, some documents and maps were captured. As reports received of small parties enemy moving north from Lae considered possible enemy withdrawing in which case desired advance this morning to R.

    Butibum Bumbu with view crossing river. Work begins at — an all-in go. When both these sections met heavy fire Burns sent his third section Corporal Duckham 98 in on the left flank and ading the track which cut the Markham Valley Road.

    At planes start landing and continue until — about 40 planes come in. Had quick advance been possible troops would have been endangered as not practicable warn forward troops after receipt your message.

    The first three transport planes land at hours before the strip is quite completely cut, and nearly run down many of the motley throng.

    Meeting heavy and sustained fire after 30 yards the platoon suffered six casualties including Scott, wounded, and was pinned down on the edge of the clearing. On 11th September, for the third day running, aircraft were unable to land at Nadzab, and thus the 25th Brigade still lacked its third battalion and the advance proper could not begin.

    Herring now asked Vasey what assistance could best be rendered by Wampit Force. The stubborn Japanese were gradually pushed back. In common with his colleagues in the 7th Division, the commander — Brigadier Eather — was no stranger to jungle warfare, having led the brigade in the Papuan campaign.

    Of these, 13 were drowned, and the remainder were saved by the bar where the water was only 3 feet deep. The 7th had suffered casualties killed and wounded.

    Then the rain came again and fell heavily throughout the night. Experience at Salamaua has proved its efficiency. Two days journey. The whole reason for his action was that he wanted the brigade to be first onto the beach.

    On the coast the 24th Brigade continued to advance against stubborn opposition. Wootten was urging Evans on faster, and Evans felt that the services of one of his battalions was being denied him and the others were doing all humanly possible in the face of a stubborn enemy and a turbulent Nature.

    Unfortunately the SBG missed the far bank by three feet, the nose twisted and the girder was washed away and lost.

    During the afternoon while both companies were slowly inching forward it became evident that Macrae had overrun an important headquarters. The old Brig jumped out and started urging the troops to hurry along. Rome was not built in a day. With great dash and determination the platoon overran these islands and almost annihilated the Japanese perched on them.

    Along the entire divisional front these pill-boxes and the positions at Malahang were the only ones found occupied that day. With his whole platoon pinned down Howes requested assistance on his left flank where the opposition was heaviest.

    When one of the Bren gunners became a casualty Private Armitage, 89 who had only recently ed the battalion, took over the Bren and kept it in action. Swamps and darkness prevented Lyon on the north and Hannah on the south from advancing to the small creek west of the Busu.

    Wagan also was unoccupied. The commander of this brigade, Brigadier Whitehead, was a former regular soldier whose restless and critical mind had led him to leave the army soon after World War I, in which he had commanded a machine-gun company.

    That night the rain poured down, soaking men and equipment, filling weapon-pits, and forcing the troops to perch like bedraggled fowls on logs or anything else above ground level. The platoon commander waited on the al from the MMGs who waited for the al from the platoon commander; and so time went on, the impetus petered out, and the attack was postponed.

    Half an hour before the starting time the artillery was used for the first time when. Vasey sending battalion to block Boana route. Late at night arrangements were made to carry gallons of water to the battalion next morning. Later in the afternoon Eather hoisted an Australian flag over the devastated township.

    Darkness and heavy rain rendered difficult the task of reassembling and exploiting. When the log again swung round after. Thus Norman had established his bridgehead before first light on the 10th.

    As Staples led his men into the river at first light he was dragged in by the current and whirled out of sight, but finally managed to clamber out or yards downstream; while lying exhausted on the left bank he was wounded by a sniper. One of them, led by Lieutenant D.

    Largely due to the reports of Lance-Corporal Egan, who climbed a tree in full view of the enemy, Hulse was able to repulse this enemy force surrounding him on three sides.

    It was only because the hard-working small craft made three trips a night from Red Beach that supplies, though inadequate, were kept up to the forward brigades. In a desperate endeavour to hold their position the Japanese used mortars, and snipers were active.

    At the same time he must have some troops to attempt the severing of the enemy line of withdrawal to Boana. All activity on the 9th centred upon crossing the Busu. As Cotton had only three rifle companies because of the disaster to the fourth one at Port Moresby, Eather directed Lang to lend a company to Cotton.

    Eather considered that the advance was not speedy enough. The enemy fighting units which escaped from the Lae trap were mainly those already battered by the bitter and deliberately prolonged fighting of the Salamaua campaign.

    As they struggled back towards Lae they were intercepted about 2 p. Consider impossible prevent enemy evacuating as cannot block the many unknown native paths nor prevent bypassing of our posts where established on tracks in jungle.

    Ammunition continued to explode and the fires to blaze for an hour, while the remainder of the battalion emplaned, according to schedule.

    Actually Lang, a doughty veteran, did still have his Headquarters Company under command, and it was patrolling along the northern bank of the Markham in the Taxi area towards the mouth, intending to set up a road-block along the track north of the mouth.

    Macrae sent these to Gow who noted that one map of the Markham Valley and Lae showed markings which appeared to be enemy positions.

    Meanwhile General Wootten had been urging his other troops west. At midday the enemy fiercely attacked the left flank, using the beach as their line of advance and causing casualties with grenades.

    This desperate situation for the seven men would have been worse but for the cool courage of Private Jaggar 58 who attacked and destroyed two enemy machine-gun nests and a mortar post, killing several Japanese and capturing much equipment. Air missions were not asked for by 7 Aust Div.

    In mopping-up operations near the airfield the company killed 15 Japanese and captured one prisoner. It was difficult for artillery or aircraft to bombard accurately such a Japanese position which. Consequently, most of the enemy fire was directed there, and by the time they began firing on the lines of men it was too late as they were almost hidden beneath the high western bank.

    Swollen by heavy rains the Busu was a formidable obstacle. The first arrivals must barely have had time to come ashore before being sent to the battle fronts. Thanks for Wootten had intended that zero hour would be when flares were dropped by aircraft to denote the last air strike.

    Later in the morning the engineers began preparations to cross by swinging one of the two recently-arrived folding boats from the hold-fast on the pendulum. Reconnaissance parties from the sapper platoons led by Lieutenants Rushton 59 and Kermode, 60 who had been working continuously on.

    The battalion was not encouraged by what it saw even though no Japanese were seen on the opposite bank. Thereafter the small group was forced to crouch all day by the western bank.

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    During the morning both these companies met and dispersed enemy standing patrols, and at 2. After this brief and severe clash the platoon withdrew and re-formed, and it was found that several men were missing. The hold-fast line then failed, and the boat, held only by the 3-inch rope attached to the bow, was brought ashore some distance downstream.

    Anxious to wipe out the remaining Japanese, McRae at 1 p. Wills, his senior Intelligence officer, called him out to tell him about the captured Japanese evacuation order.

    He therefore ordered Whitehead and Evans to seize bridgehe over the Busu not later than first light on the 10th. Owing to the island and a slight bend, there appeared to be a drift in the current towards the far bank, very little further downstream.

    The road was under hot fire and it was very dangerous to try to cross it. The Japanese attacks were heralded by bugle calls and shouts thus warning the Australians where and when to expect them.

    Elated at its success the battalion set out to capture Malahang Mission. On the 11th his sentries allowed a Japanese accompanied by two natives to cross the bridge from the west bank and then sent police boys to catch them.

    As early as 7th August, General Herring had conferred with General Wootten about moving the 4th Brigade to take over the beach-head areas after the landing. While Captain H. Hayes moved off at 3.

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    A large tree when felled might reach across the main stream, which flowed along the near bank, to an island in the centre whence the second stream could be waded. As the division advanced the enemy hit back with his many guns stationed around Lae.

    As the enemy guns inflicted about 50 casualties on the 14th, mainly among the American amphibian engineers along the coast, 65 it would be reasonable to assume.

    Dr Marcus Bunyan

    Just then the artillery of the 9th Division began to shell Lae from its new positions along the Busu as well as its old ones along the Burep. The Japanese commanders made certain that the fighting units of the 51st Division and the th Regiment arrived in Lae in time for its defence.

    Like every member of his division. By this time Wootten was receiving reports from his formations that they were passing through abandoned enemy positions. By dusk on the 15th the 9th Division had halted just before its objectives along the Bumbu, which was the boundary of Lae, while the forward troops of the 7th were at Cox Road Camp, about five miles from Lae.

    Murphy reported that he had five Chinese who said that about 60 Japanese called at their village the night and inquired about tracks to Boana, Sio and Madang.

    A quarter of an hour before midday the leading company occupied Kamkamun and began to look for suitable crossing places over the Bumbu.

    As the company found it almost impossible to encircle this position, Norman ordered its withdrawal. Three LCVs took over the ferrying. Under such constant pressure the Japanese began to draw back. Several different methods of crossing were tried during the afternoon. With two divisions converging on the one objective from opposite directions, and with no limit of advance set by higher command for either division, it was remarkable that there were so few accidents.

    Davies formed up his company and at 4. Fortunately Childs had been able to use his hands to make detailed notes of enemy dispositions and to shoot with a pistol a prowling Japanese who attempted to strangle him.

    Whitehead then instructed McRae to send a company to cross there. The logs were dragged across the two streams while the SBG was handrailed. Lieutenant Nielson then led a patrol through the dense overgrown plantation seeking a suitable route, while the remainder of the battalion prepared to move forward.

    All others broached by heavy surf and badly damaged. Determined to maintain the pressure on the retreating enemy Cotton sent two infantry companies Captains Weale and H. Mainly on the northern side of the road the companies fought a very heavy engagement watched by General Vasey who liked nothing better than to leave his headquarters and watch the fight from the front line.

    An XVIII Army report captured later shows that the strength of the 51st Division and attached units at Kiari late in October when the retreat thither had ended was 6, of whom 1, were sick.

    Air force standing by to do it.

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    Opposing the advance of the 9th Australian Division east of Lae was a medley of units comprising mainly the th Regiment, less a company of the 11 Battalion at Markham Point. Also, the far bank rose abruptly giving protection to anything below.

    Another Chinese stated that a submarine called nightly at Lae to evacuate generals and bring in fresh troops. The battalion had surprised the enemy who had not considered it possible for a crossing to be made except along the bar at the mouth.

    Up at daylight and off again. It appeared an odds-on bet that the 9th would reach Lae first.

    The enemy decision to evacuate Salamaua from 6th September was caused not only by a realisation that Salamaua was doomed but by the urgent necessity to reinforce Lae where there were only about 2, troops comprising mostly base units, such as hospitals, engineers, fixed artillery and anti-aircraft.

    The attacking companies helped to bring the Japanese casualties inflicted by the 25th Brigade to about On the northern flank another platoon commander, Lieutenant Scotchmer, was wounded, but by 1. Have approved this strike unless you say no. The river rose and carried away the steel cable and the ferry ceased for six hours.

    Before dawn an LCV and an LCM landed stores on the beach south of Singaua Plantation where the 26th and 24th Brigades, each now with only two battalions, picked up supplies before moving west.

    Two prisoners were captured, one of whom stated that Markham Point had been evacuated; during the night a large amount of motor-boat activity was heard between Markham Point and Taxi by Wampit Force and the Pioneers.

    With four men dead and one wounded Lawrie waited until after dark before moving east to his battalion, which he did half an hour before midnight.

    The fate of Lae might well have been different had Z-day been delayed. After finishing strafing the aircraft dropped dozens of anti-personnel parachute bombs along the track. Colonel Marson at 1. Close air support can only be given in coastal jungle when forward troops become static.

    The first attempt with the empty boat was successful, but when it was being pulled back from the far shore it swamped. While patrols reconnoitred for better crossing places Gillespie realised that bridging and ropes would be necessary.

    Sergeant Hill killed three Japanese as the platoon cleared the ridge and wiped out one machine-gun post. As it was, the much smaller but flooded Busu was holding up one division while adverse weather had delayed a build up of supplies for another for three days. Dudley promptly attacked and drove the foremost enemy troops back about 40 yards through dense undergrowth.

    alman Mitchell. Careful control by the forward commanders and the good sense of the troops themselves were responsible. In the marshalling park several men noticed that the bomber seemed to be flying very low, when suddenly the port wing apparently touched a branch of a tree.

    The engineers persevered with the folding boat but eventually it sank. Great credit therefore is due to the 3rd and 5th Australian Divisions for their dogged part in the Salamaua operations which had facilitated the capture of Lae.

    Although the major Japanese bases of Lae and Salamaua, which had threatened Port Moresby and Australia for eighteen months, had been captured, together with a huge amount of equipment and stores, many Japanese soldiers, displaying great fortitude, had escaped to fight again.

    Most Australian soldiers who fought in the South-West Pacific would agree that they would rather face an aroused enemy than an angry Nature. On the main front west of Red Beach the 26th Brigade was about to receive its baptism of Japanese fire.

    All brigades had protested when the ration scale had been outlined at Milne Bay. They were told, however, that it was the scale used by the 7th Division in its operations in New Guinea. Towards evening two Japanese were seen on the other side. Had the flooded Busu not delayed the 9th Division for such a period the enemy would in all probability not have escaped.

    To Vasey this exciting news meant that the enemy might have begun evacuating Lae six days ago. Desire point out that owing inevitable time lag of information position forward troops advancing in dense jungle plus long notice requested by air force for preparation strikes bombing and strafing must be kept well back when infantry advancing as rate of advance not predictable.

    The heavy rain which had made the Busu River such an obstacle for the 9th Division, and had aided the Japanese fighting for Salamaua by flooding the river in front of the 5th Division, now made the Nadzab airfield unserviceable and prevented any aircraft landing on the 10th.

    There must have been more than the usual fog of war, panic and confusion in Lae as the exhausted units from the Salamaua fighting arrived.

    The platoon then advanced, mopping up snipers, as well as fowls destined for the cooking pot. Vasey tried every available channel to inform Wootten but it was not until 2. On the 10th Admiral Barbey had agreed that he could transport another brigade, and now, on 5th September, the commander of the 4th Brigade, Brigadier C.

    North-west of Lae the Nadzab area was a hive of Allied activity. Two loud explosions immediately occurred, parts of the plane flew in all directions, and burning petrol was sprayed over a large area.

    Smith therefore received orders from Herring stressing the importance of preventing the enemy escaping across the river. The company arrived about dusk and felled the tree but it did not span the river. The wounded man was hit again in the foot by a bullet as Scott picked him up and carried him out of the clearing to the cover of the trees.

    A clash of temperaments between Wootten and Evans was now becoming evident. Targets on this day included the Lae and Malahang airfields.

    One group made a desperate attempt to escape round the left flank. The typical nauseating stench of an area occupied by the Japanese army pervaded Lae as it had Salamaua six days before. Trying to silence the machine-guns Corporal Kendrick 88 went forward towards them firing, but before he could reach them he was mortally wounded.

    Richards was lying out in front down the forward slope of a small rise and was doing his best to observe the enemy machine-guns and direct fire at them. Robertson tried a mortar, but because he was so close to the bridge he found that even more dangerous than the gun.

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    By The achievements of Crouchley, Trenoworth and Swift were all the more meritorious because the torrential rain had caused the Busu to rise another foot. Soon some well-beaten enemy tracks were crossed and the general air of tenseness reflected the knowledge that trouble might break at any moment.

    The 12th September was as frustrating as the 11th. Respectfully recommend you send liaison officers here.

    Despite these supply difficulties Wootten ordered the 26th Brigade to cross the river and advance on a two-battalion front, one towards Kam-kamun and Malahang Mission and the other through the sawmill to the north end of the Malahang airfield and Malahang Mission.

    Lawrie alone killed ten Japanese before the mauled enemy remnants infiltrated past his position towards the west. Deciding to deal with the machine-gun post himself, Cullen mounted a Bren on the shoulder of one of his men — the undergrowth was too thick for him to use the bipod — and, although he was wounded in the attempt, managed to wipe out the post.

    In the left-hand platoon Private Rowe, in an open clearing, had been badly wounded in the throat soon after the fight began and was.

    By this stage Brigadier Eather was confident that the Japanese were pulling out and urged greater speed. With Wootten urging him on from behind, Whitehead said that more attention should have been paid to his early request for an SBG, when he could have crossed without opposition.

    Cox held his fire until the Japanese began to cross. I regard the air arm as one of our most potent weapons and desire to use it to the fullest. The river was falling and the log bridge across the first stream was built again during the morning. The pity was that, if allowed to, the platoon could have crossed without opposition on the 10th and 11th and possibly early on the 12th.

    Lae was a shambles. When he returned he found that Connor had been killed and he then assumed command of the platoon. All along the Bumbu River the two brigades were delighted by the bombardment and strafing of Lae by Fortresses, Mitchells, Bostons, Lightnings, Beaufighters and even Boomerangs.

    Patrols forward to Yalu in the afternoon confirmed an aerial report that there were now no Japanese in the area, although there were s of their presence about two days ly. Bad weather over the Owen Stanleys prevented any more flying from Port Moresby.

    Robertson called for artillery support but Lieutenant Stokes, the forward artillery officer, protested that the Australians were too close to the Japanese and that artillery fire would be dangerous.

    Several injured men with their clothes and equipment on fire got through the blaze themselves and were given first aid. He then grabbed a Bren gun from a wounded gunner and dashed forward firing until the magazine was emptied. Then along the track and into the middle of us came a jeep crowded with Brigade HQ.

    Passed me and up to the leading platoon. Fortune and Nature, however, favoured a valiant defender despite the equally valiant striving of the attackers. The battalion recrossed the river during the afternoon. While Colonel Scott was establishing his headquarters in the Mission church, Lieutenant Denness found three damaged mm guns in a village yards to the North-east.

    Brigadier Evans was a keen and able citizen soldier, and a Melbourne architect. The leading section under Corporal Richards 96 fanned out in an extended line.

    Unfortunately we advanced too quickly — due to no opposition — and the Yanks came over and strafed us. He advanced alone, hurling a grenade and firing his Owen, and wiped out the post, thus saving many Australian lives.

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    About 8. Davies then brought up the other two platoons on the flanks.

    The companies had set out in orderly manner, but the river swept them into mixed groups along the bank. Added to the frustration of being forced to halt for so long the troops in this area were hungry. He therefore intended that both brigades would bypass the airfield and strike for the Bumbu, thus cutting all ro and tracks to enemy defences between the Busu and the Bumbu.

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    Those who reached the far bank first turned to help their comrades, formed human chains out into the river, and held out branches and weapons to be grasped.

    Soon after midnight on the 6th—7th September 5 LCVs and 3 LCMs landed stores from Red Beach at Apo Fishing Village to alleviate the severe ration and ammunition shortage among forward troops and, by shortening the supply lines, to enable the advance to gather momentum. Patrols to find routes for the three company attacks set out soon after first light.

    On the right flank the 26th Brigade met no opposition. Under fire from another enemy position Kelliher then carried the wounded Richards to safety.

    A message was therefore fired to the stranded party in a hand grenade fired from a rifle cup discharger telling them to try to return under cover of darkness.

    Again heavy rain fell during the night until dawn, making marching very difficult. During their laborious and painful crawl through enemy lines from the evening of the 4th their wounds had become flyblown.

    After dusk the men destroyed the captured enemy equipment including two LMGs, one mortar and one rifle or threw it into the river, and then tried to swim across.

    A of men were hit when making such crossings. In near darkness the platoon returned to look for any wounded. When Garnsey began to advance, his platoon ran into heavy machine-gun fire.

    A few minutes later Japanese voices were heard ahead. As in the Salamaua campaign Nakano again broke up the organisation of his fighting units by sending companies of the same unit in different directions. Against stiff opposition the company made only slight progress before being stopped; it dug in for the night in a plantation drain with one platoon about 50 yards from the Markham Valley Road.

    Butibum was found unoccupied at It met some resistance but killed eight enemy stragglers. Farther to the east the. From information which the two men had gathered it seemed to Colonel Smith that the River Ambush might not now be occupied by the enemy. Rumours from Chinese and natives, so familiar to Australians who campaigned in New Guinea, were often inventions, sometimes efforts to please their questioners, and sometimes not without a shred of truth.

    Thirty men had been carried towards the sea and did not make the crossing. His two platoons killed 20 Japanese during this advance, including two who committed suicide by clasping grenades to their chests.

    As usual, the Australian medical orderlies and stretcher bearers were not far behind the attack. Before this heavy fire cut the frail bridge to ribbons seven men, including the badly wounded Lance-Corporal Haly, 57 were marooned on the far side; others, including Trevaldwyn, were knocked off the bridge into the river and three men were killed.

    At Nadzab the aerial build-up continued; planes arrived on the 13th and on the 14th. Torrent advanced to the track junction which the remaining enemy had abandoned, thus enabling the advance to continue.

    Having made these arrangements Wootten replied at 2 p. Among the captured documents was an almost complete list of a medley of 47 enemy units in the Lae—Salamaua area.

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    Thirlwell reported that he was in contact with about 80 enemy withdrawing to the west along the coast. Obviously such a crossing could not be made without cost, but for the achieved, the cost was small. It was inevitable that there should be some confusion on the far bank.

    It had been the lot of the 25th Brigade to fight in difficult country, first in the mountains of Syria and then in the Owen Stanleys and round Buna. There were many individual acts of gallantry during the crossing. Opposing the advance of the 7th Australian Division down the Markham Valley were the remnants of the three ill-starred regiments of the 51st Division reinforced by the 51st Engineer Regiment and some naval troops.

    It was already difficult to tell enemy casualties from their own in the swamp and with the light fading, but several were brought back. At a Cub plane with Colonel Woodbury lands.

    During the day 59 transport planes arrived at Nadzab. Imperative cut retreat.

    When at 5. In one hut was a wireless set, and other equipment captured included a machine-gun and a bullet-proof vest. Meanwhile, the two pinned platoons were doing their best to wipe out the opposition ahead.

    The platoon had lost six killed or drowned and several wounded. At the crossro and at Wagan the enemy had abandoned machine-gun positions of about platoon strength and near by the battalion found a damaged mm gun.

    These orders reached Norman at Norman decided against this advice and ordered a crossing higher up for reasons later described in a broadcast talk: My personal reconnaissance indicated the best approach to be directly across from the island.

    He was appointed to command the brigade near the end of the El Alamein operations. It was not until Smith visited Vasey and asked for his aid that air and artillery support were arranged. Cullen led his company in a dashing attack to drive the Japanese from their point of vantage.

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    A quarter of an hour later the leading company was fired on from the. Hannah, meanwhile, was meeting no opposition in his advance down the west bank of the creek and at 2. In spite of the weather and hunger the two forward brigades pressed on with their task on the 10th.

    South of the Markham, meanwhile, Wampit Force was attempting to pinpoint enemy positions at Markham Point, mainly round the area of the Southern, Central and River Ambushes. The CRE arrives. In Lae itself patrols from both divisions were coming closer to one another.

    Despite enemy mortar and small arms fire from the western bank during the afternoon, which caused seven casualties, the engineers launched the folding boat at 7 p.

    The other men crossed after being swept down the river. Through mud and slush the advance continued on the 7th. One of these, commanded by Lieutenant Henderson E. McPherson 2 ESBkept shuttling troops across for 48 hours although it had its rudder shot away and had to improvise another.

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