Monthly Archives: September 2012

50 Man Patrol to Ioribaiwa Ridge

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.

Ioribaiwa Ridge. Then onto Imita Ridge.

Our wedding anniversary, we were married at St John’s on the 16th September 1944.

When we bought the 2/14th and 2/16th back onto Ioribaiwa Ridge on the afternoon of the 11th September we all dug in, our orders were from Col Cameron. There were only the remnants of the 2/14th and 2/16th and the 3rd Bn. There was some talk of the Pioneers being there somewhere, the 2/1st Bn, and the 2/6th Independent Company, some of them where wondering about somewhere.  The main bodies were the remnants of the 2/14th and 2/16th Bns and 3rd Bn.  The Platoon I had, 10 Pl of B company, linked up with the remnants of the 2/14th and 2/16th who had become a composite unit as they called them. According to history they were 380 strong, at the time Col Cameron told me they were 320.  Anyway, I asked some of the fellows where the 2/27th Bn was and they were very cranky, they said, ‘They have taken to the bush!’  That’s the words they used so anyhow we had to dig in using our bayonets to dig and our steel helmets to remove the soil.  We had no other means to dig in.

Anyhow we dug in.  Col Cameron said at that time there were around 2000 Japanese at the creek below where we were on Ioribaiwa. I am not too sure what the figures were but they were the words he used.  We dug in. I linked up with the remnants of the 2/14th and 2/16th, about 80 metres away. It wasn’t just a few feet or yards away, it was a fair distance because we didn’t have many troops to cover the area on Ioribaiwa.  The Track was just slightly to my left.  The Track went through the centre of the 2/14th and 16th positions.  There were other tracks that could be used. The Track was on a slight spur that they had occupied.

At that stage the 21st Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Porter, Brigadier Potts had been relieved a couple of days earlier.  However that was the 12th, 13th and on the afternoon of the 14th of September the 25th Brigade came up, a fresh Brigade.  Our orders were to stay there dead or alive.  Before the 25th came up we had already been shelled by the Japanese and on the 12th and 13th the 3rd Bn had their first casualties from Japanese artillery and mortar fire from down further on the creek but that was over to my right flank, further over.

Where 10 Pl was we were on a fairly open area.  There was some heavy timber behind but we were on an open area as were the 2/14th and 2/16th.  Up behind where I was on the edge of the trees was a 3rd Bn 3 inch mortar.  This is before the 14th of September.  I went up to the mortar fellows because I knew once they opened fire the Japanese would send over counter mortar fire to try and get the mortar and we were underneath that line of fire.  When I went up to talk to them I discovered they had no sights for their mortar and they only had 12 high explosive mortar bombs.  12, 10 pound projectiles.  So I said to them get rid of them as quick as they could and do it pretty well straight away. One mortar man said, “Where are the Japanese?” I said they are just down the creek a bit.  About 1200 yards away at that stage.  One fellow lined up the barrel and another organised the bombs to be dropped down.  So they fired rapid fire to get rid of the 12 bombs and they picked up their mechanism, base-plate, barrel and tripod and off.  Needless to say, within a few minutes Japanese shells came right over the 10 Platoon positions but weren’t dropping short.  If they had they would have got some of our fellows.  Luckily they went into the timber and they fired there for some time.

On the afternoon of 14th September we were told that the 25th Brigade was on the move, that is the 2/25th, 2/31st and 2/33rd commanded by Brigadier Eather.  Way back in 1939 Brigadier Eather, as Colonel Eather, had commanded the 3rd Battalion in the Militia.  According to one of the old 3rd Battalion Militia fellows Olly Candish, Eather’s nickname was ‘Chloroform Charlie.’ On the afternoon of 14th September some of the elements of the 25th Brigade were coming up. The 2/31st Bn went to the left flank towards what we knew as the Spotter’s Hut, the 2/33rd went to the right flank and the 2/25th stayed just below Ioribaiwa at the back in reserve. We learned not long after, when the 2/31st went toward the Spotters Hut they ran into pretty stiff Japanese opposition. The 2/33rd got a bit lost but some of them were able to link up with D Company of the 3rd Battalion.  But they also had some casualties.  That was on the 14th, on the 15th the Japanese penetrated a 3rd Bn position on the right flank and some fellows were killed or wounded.

On the morning of the 16th about 10 o’clock Col Cameron said to me “We’ve got orders to get out. We’ve got to get back to Imita Ridge.” He said, “It is pretty rough because everyone was determined to deny the Japanese Ioribaiwa Ridge.”  We were determined to die as earlier it was a do or die order.  Anyway we got ready and by about 11.30 all the 3rd Bn was ready to move and we moved back in an orderly manner to Imita Ridge. Once we got back to Imita we were allotted defensive positions there and the 3rd Bn one was just close to the actual Kokoda Track.  We were under the Command there of the 25th Brigade and we dug in on Imita and it was a pretty safe place to wander around and so on, which the fellows did and we settled down there.  That was the 16th when we withdrew there.

It was about the 19th when Col Cameron called for 50 volunteers to go forward and find the Japanese and fight them on Ioribaiwa, on the left slightly towards the Spotter’s Hut direction and to find the extent of their line.  So he called for 50 volunteers. Myself and Sgt Bob Taylor, 12 Platoon B Company, went up with another eight. Each rifle company was allotted 10 soldiers. We went up with eight other volunteers so we put our names down.  A little while later Bob and I thought, ‘Who is going to be the Officers?’  We went back again and we learnt that there was Lt *** and another was going to be his second in command, so we immediately said to the Adjutant, “We are not going. Right, we are going to strike our names of the list and we are pretty sure the rest of B Company will too.”  I don’t know about the other companies.  But B Company struck our names off the list. We were back in our little pit and a couple of hours later Col Cameron sent a runner down for us and Bob and I went back and he said “What gives?”,  and we said “We don’t like the Officers, Sir.”  So he said, “If I change them will you volunteer again?”  “It all depends who they are going to be.”  So he said, “Capt Atkinson and Lt Bill Dullard.” So we immediately signed on again, that is the B Company fellows.

It was to be a five day patrol, and to travel as light as possible and some expert said instead of taking 5 normal tins of bully beef and biscuits and so on, that 5 days of emergency rations would do but the emergency rations are pretty light. Anyhow Bob and I managed to carry a couple of tins of bully and some biscuits and when we set off it wasn’t too bad going but we had to take a pretty deviated route so the Japanese wouldn’t pick us up. So the first day wasn’t too bad but the second day we were getting pretty hungry and on the morning of the third day we were going along and we went through a bit of plantation. Bob found a little pineapple about 5 inches high. We were pretty hungry.  So Bob chopped the top and the bottom off with his bayonet, split it down the middle and we ate it, skin and all.  It was pretty sour but it was good.

Onto Ioribaiwa Ridge

On the 7th of September our 3rd Battalion was on Ioribaiwa Ridge. We were still trying to come to terms with the rough tough going but at this stage we were told what was happening, that the Japanese were advancing and driving the Australians back along the Track.  In the afternoon, we received orders to go to the Spotter’s Hut on the left flank, just B Company. So away we went. The Spotter’s Hut was about 2 to 3 hours march from Ioribaiwa on the left flank.  We had with us two signalmen who had a cable for our communications with Battalion Headquarters so away we went but the cable ran out about an hour and a half’s march from where we left Ioribaiwa.  We left the two signalmen at this creek B Company continued onto the Spotter’s Hut. The Spotter’s Hut was a reasonably large, well built native structure.  A typical structure for that area.  In the middle of the floor was about a four foot diameter stone circle where they would light their fire. So at the Spotter’s Hut we took up defensive positions without digging in.  The next day, early in the piece, somehow or other we received rations, a fair number of rations. That went along ok until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when one of the signalman staggered up the track and said to the Company Commander, B Company had to report back to Battalion HQ on Ioribaiwa.  We had arrived the previous afternoon and now, the next day, on the afternoon of the 8th we received orders to head back.  The Adjutant Capt Jack Jeffery had introduced Bob Taylor and me to Colonel Cameron before we left Ioribaiwa. He was bringing either the 39th or the 53rd out.  He had been given Command of the 3rd Bn and we met him before we went up to the Spotter’s Hut, just a brief introduction.  When the Company Commander received word we had to report back to the Battalion, his words were, “We’ve got to get out, back to Ioribaiwa.”  And immediately he took his Batman and another Platoon Commander went with him with his Batman and away they went.  And I said to Sgt Bob Taylor of 12 Platoon, I was 10 Platoon, “Bob we’ll be getting out but the place has got to be left in an orderly manner. The latrines have to be filled in, surplus rations to be destroyed.”

In the meantime the Platoon Commander of 11 Platoon was coming down the track, it looked as though he was heading off too.  Bob and I stood in front of him and said “Where are you going, Doug?” He said, “We’ve got to get out.” We said to this Lieutenant, “You’re the only Officer left and you’re staying!”  He took the hint and went back to his Platoon.  By the time we straightened things up and destroyed surplus rations, in some instances it was just puncturing bully beef tins with a bayonet, it was close on dusk and we were ready to move off.  Cpl Barry Flint of 10 Pl had a torch, still with batteries in it, so away we went through the jungle and Barry had to flash his torch every now and then and it was getting darker and darker. Anyway, we came to a ridge and I knew there was a creek at the bottom, about two feet deep water and fairly wide so we decided to stay in the jungle rather than attempt to cross the creek.  So first light next morning we took off again and when we arrived back at Ioribaiwa, we were met by the Adjutant and Colonel Cameron and this Company Commander. Bob Taylor and myself were at the head of the column of B Company.  When we halted, Colonel Cameron said “How come your Company CO was here so many hours before his troops?” Bob and I hadn’t practised but we both in unison said  “He shot through, Sir.” Colonel Cameron’s words were, “He did, did he!” That was all he said.  That Company Commander who shot through on us was sent out of the Battalion and we received another Company Commander, Capt Stan Atkinson.  We knew he wasn’t such a popular bloke but he was our Company Commander.

We were allotted a defensive position on Ioribaiwa Ridge. That was the morning of the 9th.  About midday on the 10th B and A Companies were ordered forward to help extricate the remnants of the 21st Brigade.  We went forward about two and a half hours along the Kokoda Track and then Colonel Cameron said “Halt and take up a defensive position.”  We didn’t dig in, just were protected behind trees.  10 Pl was on the left-hand side of the track and Bob Taylor’s 12 Pl was on the right-hand side of the track. We took up an ambush position and 12 platoon was in reserve just a little further back and waited for the remnants of the 14th and 16th to come through.  Odd soldiers, some walking wounded, were coming through then the main body of the 14th and 16th started to come through. We said to some of the early ones, the fit looking fellows, “What gives?”  and they said “Nothing to worry about, she’s all right, everything’s all right.” Bob and I said to each other, “If everything is alright, why are they coming back?”  So we still took up our positions and one fellow even gave me two sticky grenades for use against light armoured vehicles, trucks and whatever.  The poor fellow hadn’t walked on much further and I threw them into the jungle because they were absolutely useless as far as I was concerned.  By about 3 o’clock we were ordered to return to Ioribaiwa Ridge.  When we got back to Ioribaiwa it was starting to get on in the day.  B Company’s positions were allotted close to where the remnants of the 2/14th and 2/16th were.  My Platoon ended up with the composite unit. Colonel Cameron said that they were 320 strong.  We were also told to dig in and there was no retreat from Ioribaiwa.  We would stay there dead or alive.  The Japanese had to be denied Ioribaiwa Ridge.

4 September 1942

Arrived back at camp at 6pm from unloading ships to be told that we are moving up to the Owen Stanley Ranges, to go onto the Kokoda Track, tomorrow morning.  We had to dispose of surplus equipment and collect more ammunition.  We primed our grenades and I added a grenade discharger to my kit and collected the base plates I needed.