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.

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