When we went onto Imita on the 16th of September we took up defensive positions. Then a couple of days later we were called upon for volunteers for the patrol forward, which we did. But when we returned to Imita, the 25 pounder gun back at Uberi was firing which was great to hear, music to our ears the fellows said. But we also knew they were getting ready for the move forward and I think it was about the 27th, 28th of September one of the three battalions of the 25th Brigade went forward to move the Japanese off Ioribaiwa. When they got there they discovered the Japanese were already on the move, so the 3rd Bn set off and we got to Ioribaiwa. Must have been about the 29th of September. We weren’t able to look around much, or our B Company weren’t unfortunately, we were down below where we had been before and where the main Japanese positions were but we could see enough of the Japanese positions that they were pretty well dug.
Then we received word that the 3rd Battalion was going to lead the advance forward from Ioribaiwa. I was still Platoon Commander of 10 Platoon of B Company of the Battalion, and we were getting ready to move. We were just ready to move and there was a .303 shot fired in 10 Platoon. I went back and there was a fellow named S. He came to us from Dubbo Camp as a reinforcement about four months before. He arrived at Port Moresby as one of the reinforcements for the Battalion. And he was always whinging and moaning that he had come to us, a Militia Battalion. He said he had been trained to be a commando. He had a tattoo on his right arm, a dagger, he even had ‘Death before Dishonour’ tattooed on his arm and further down he had, of all things, ‘Mum’ tattooed on his arm. This S was a real pain in the neck. Anyhow when I got back to the end of the column, which was just about ready to move, S was there holding his left hand which was bleeding. He’d put a .303 round through his left hand and I said to him “What happened?” He said, “I was cleaning the weapon and it went off.” I said, “What, with a full magazine on and where’s your cleaning gear?” There was no cleaning gear visible. I called out for a stretcher bearer to come and attend to his hand. I wasn’t sympathetic with him at all because I knew he had purposely shot himself and had a self-inflicted wound. The stretcher bearer arrived and started to work on him. In the meantime I got his rifle, took the magazine off and threw it into the jungle. I got his rifle and belted it against a tree, wrecked it up a bit and threw it into the jungle because we couldn’t carry any spare rifles. If you had a soldier with a sub-machine gun or a Bren gun a casualty, they were always kept but a rifle was always disposed of. Anyway S wanted someone to carry his gear up to the top of the ridge where it was a bit easier going but I told him not any way, the fellows were going forward and he was going back to Port Moresby. There was no way that anybody was going to carry his bits and pieces up onto the ridge. So away we went and then the 3rd Battalion led the advance forward. I think it was C Company who was forward as vanguard.
I think the 3rd was chosen to lead as we were attached to the 25th Brigade at the time and before we left Ioribaiwa, when the 25th Brigade came up, Brigadier Eather had sent the 2/31st to the left towards the Spotter’s Hut and the 2/33rd around to the right towards Ponoon, which is at the end of Ioribaiwa. The 2/25th was kept in reserve at the back. I suppose the Brigadier thought it was the 3rd Battalion’s turn to go forward. It was probably a good job that he did because the 3rd Battalion knew what they were up to and the advance went well.
We went from Ioribaiwa through the village of Nauro and from there to the village of Menari.
But before we left Nauro Capt Atkinson said to B Company “When you get to Menari, Menari village had been badly rubbished by the Japanese.” Their hygiene was pretty poor and the existing village huts were to be burnt. He also said, this was about 6.30 in the morning, “No eating before 1 o’clock”, for some reason. Anyhow we set off for Menari and got there at about 9.30 or a bit before and then we had fires going. I spotted a clean four gallon tin so I said to two soldiers take it down to the creek and put a couple of gallons of water in it and we’ll boil the billy. There were fires going and the fellows were working very well. I had 30 fellows in the Platoon.
Anyhow we boiled the billy up. It was close to about 11 o’clock and I was giving the soldiers eight soldiers at a time to have a cup of tea so it wouldn’t disturb the work. I think it was about the second issue when Capt Atkinson came up to me and said “Sergeant Tongs, didn’t I tell you no eating before one o’clock?” I said, “This is not eating Sir, we’re just having a cup of tea.” He said, “Tip it out.” I said, “I’m not going to tip it out.” I was very adamant about that. He said to one of the other soldiers close by tip it out and the soldier shook his head. Meanwhile the rest of the Platoon were closing around in a semi-circle with a determined look on their faces, no nonsense. The billy was about 20 paces away warming up in the coals. He was walking over toward the fire and it looked as if he was going to tip the tea out or he might tip it over. Meanwhile 10 Platoon was in a semi-circle and getting closer and closer. I could see by their movements that if Capt Atkinson tipped it out he would have ended up in the fire. Some other soldier said to him ‘Have a cup of tea, Sir!’, to rub it into him and he grunted a bit and went off. But that was him and everything else proceeded smoothly.
The whole Battalion was cleaning up except C Company as they were further forward. In the afternoon at about 5 o’clock I got a message to report to Colonel Cameron and he said to me, “Bede, the Japanese have disappeared on the Track. I want you to take a reconnaissance patrol forward tomorrow morning and find them.” Capt Atkinson wasn’t there as Colonel Cameron dealt with me individually. He’d just call me away when he needed me. A Battalion runner would come and give me the message to report to Battalion Headquarters.
That was on the afternoon of 5th October. The patrol was to consist of eight men, two men to come back one full days march from Menari to report our progress. We were to leave at 0700 the next morning, the morning of the 6th.