When we left Imita Ridge to go back as a fighting patrol to find the extent of the Japanese lines on the left flank we were hungry with only six days of emergency rations. Anyway, we kept going and a bit later in the day we got pretty close to Ioribaiwa. I was Section Commander of No. 2 Section and Lieut Bill Dullard was Section Commander of No. 1.
We were going up the side of Ioribaiwa, on a small track, toward where the Japanese were. We came to a branch track, getting close to the top. The branch track went off to the left and Bill Dullard said to me, “Bede, which way do you want to go, to the left?” I said, “It doesn’t worry me, whichever you like.” He said, “I’ll go to the left,” and I said, “I’ll go straight ahead,” which I did.
I took my Section straight ahead. Sgt Bob Taylor was with me and Jimmy Evans from Crookwell. Jim was one of the party. We didn’t have to go far until we came across the track which we knew led to the Spotter’s Hut. There was a small yellow sig wire which we knew was Japanese signal wire. So we cut it and threw the ends back into the bush. I also knew that it was probably a touchy thing to do because before long some Japanese would be wandering along wondering what happened to their sig wire.
So we took up a pretty good ambush position. Jimmy Evans was the only one who crossed the track, which I didn’t exactly give him permission to do but he crossed. Bill Dullard had gone to the left and we heard some firing to the left and not long after four Japanese came from my right along the track. They were just coming along, didn’t seem to be concerned too much about what was going on.
Anyway we opened fire on them and at the same time the Japanese in their position started to rally and they started to fire, some in our direction. Not too sure how many Japanese we might have killed who came towards us but they were hit by a pretty fair amount of fire. I called out to Jimmy Evans to come back, which he did.
Then the Japanese where aiming a lot of fire where my Section was. Earlier Capt Atkinson said that the signal to withdraw was a whistle blast. I didn’t query that at the time. There was a bit more firing to our left where Bill Dullard’s Section had gone. The Japanese were concentrating on where we were and I never heard a whistle blast, so I sent the fellow in the rear of the Section to see if he could find out what was going on. He wasn’t away long and he staggered back up the track and said ‘They’re gone!’ Exactly what he said, ‘They’re gone!’ So I got my Section out and it took us a good half an hour to catch up with them.
They were in a dry creek. So I told Capt Atkinson I didn’t think much of his signal to withdraw in the heat of battle, a little old whistle blast. We were pretty weak from lack of food, anyhow we kept going. We were going back to where we came from on Imita and our forward scouts were fired on. It was Australian fire. So we all took cover. I realised it would be a forward post of the 2/25th Bn. As soon as we had a bit of movement they’d open fire. Luckily no machine guns, only rifles. I sang out ‘We’re Australians!’ They still continued with spasmodic fire. So I yelled out to them ‘We’re Australians, you silly bastards!’ As soon as the word ‘bastard’ got through to them they woke up that there were Australian’s out there. So one fellow jumped out onto the track and I jumped out onto the track and waved to him.
When we met up everybody shook hands and one fellow Emmett Franch said to them “Thank goodness you mob are rotten shots, you never hit one of us!”, and rubbed it into them a bit. Anyway when we met up with the main body they were happy to see us. It was about 4.30 in the afternoon. They gave us dixies of tea and some army biscuits in water and a bit of powdered milk but my stomach had shrunken I could only eat about a third of what I was given. I could still drink my tea but couldn’t eat much. They hadn’t eaten that long before and there were still some empty bully beef tins lying around and some of the fellows even scooped a bit of the fat out with their finger and ate that even though the flies might have been at it. We stayed with them and joined up with our 3rd Bn next morning very early, which we were happy to do.
The patrol was successful, but Bill Dullard was killed. At that stage he was missing and three other soldiers in his section were also killed. So the patrol lost 4 Killed in Action. Other Units had sent out other patrols too but I’m not sure how far they penetrated onto Ioribaiwa. After we rejoined the 3rd Bn late that afternoon, an artillery gun of the 14th Field Regiment a 25 pounder opened up to fire on Ioribaiwa Ridge. And as the round went overhead I thought that was music to my ears and the fellows all thought the same thing. One of the greatest sounds I have ever heard in my life in addition you could hear the ‘crump’ of the exploding shell.
When we were fighting Capt Atkinson would have been down the ridge a little bit. The whistle they used had been used in the First World War. It wasn’t a referees whistle, it was a long thin whistle and where you might have been able hear it a bit in trench warfare you certainly couldn’t hear it up in jungle activity. Atkinson was where a patrol commander should have been but when Bill Dullard was missing on the left flank he never seemed to worry too much about investigating about whether he could be recovered.
A Lance Corporal brought the rest of No. 1 Section back, six of them. He got back to Atkinson before we did. They were lower down than we were. A Corporal had come back earlier and apparently told them that Bill Dullard had been hit, then he went back to join them and he was killed himself.
Up to that date, 19th of September, earlier on Ioribaiwa we had two soldiers killed with the Japanese artillery and another couple wounded and three soldiers killed when the Japanese attacked D Company and probably another three or four wounded. That would have been back on 15th September.
So we occupied Imita until the end of September, only a few more days. Then the 25th Brigade moved forward first and discovered the Japanese had left Ioribaiwa. We went forward and the 3rd Bn led the advance of the fight forward from Ioribaiwa under Colonel Cameron.