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.