War in PNG – Anzac Day 2019

AtoZ2019WThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. 

No, I haven’t forgotten my alphabetical order, but today is Anzac Day in Australia so I’ve jumped over V to post W today.

Lest we forget

The meaning of war in the tropics

Comes home when you live there.

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The Battle of Milne Bay Memorial at Alotau.

The pounding rain, the heavy clouds

The dense jungle obscuring villages.

No wonder some men were overtaken by fear

As the leaves closed in on them

(do read this link and the comments especially)

This poem by David Campbell captures it also –

An extract from Men in Green:

Their eyes were bright, their looks were dull

Their skin had turned to clay

Nature had met them in the night

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Stained glass memorial in the Catholic church at Alotau. Photo P Cass 2012

And stalked them in the day.

And I think still of men in green

On the Soputa track

With fifteen spitting tommy-guns

To keep a jungle back.

Soon after my arrival in Milne Bay

Planes were searching through the clouds

For a crashed aircraft missing on a mountain of dense jungle

This sound on Anzac Day evoked a sense of war and danger

Bringing it home to me in a real way, not theoretical.

The Battle of Milne Bay should rank with Kokoka or Gallipoli

The first land defeat of the Japanese during the war

Needs to gain more prominence

A Victoria Cross won not far from our home

By Corporal John French from Crows Nest, Queensland.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

The allied airfield at Gurney was adjacent to Gili Gili Plantation

Where my husband worked before our marriage

An old street sign found there is a proud heirloom

A reminder of some ANZAC

For whom it was a little bit of home.

 

 

 

French and so many other men who gave their lives

Are buried in Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby

A site where we took our visitors.

Kokoka Track memorial

Owers’ Corner

Another historic location for us to visit was Owers’ Corner

Near Sogeri, on the Moresby side of the Kokoda Track.

Last week I talked about my husband’s early days in Popondetta

Less than a decade from the war

It had been near the northern end of Kokoda

So many men would have succumbed without their own courage

Or that of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who supported them.

My uncle was an Army cook in PNG and I inherited his photographs. They do say an Army marches on its stomach.

 

 

Lest we forget

I have written two posts about Anzac Day as part of previous A to Z challenges:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux

V is for our Valiant Indigenous Anzacs.

 

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Anniversary of Battle of Milne Bay

This week is the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay.  Far less known to the average Aussie than Kokoda in the annals of our military history, it was a vitally important victory against the Japanese Forces.

This is the approximate location at which the Japanese landed: very difficult to get a good photo when bouncing along in a banana boat.

This is the approximate location at which the Japanese landed: very difficult to get a good photo when bouncing along in a banana boat.

You can read what I wrote about it for last Remembrance Day, not long after we returned from visiting Milne Bay, as well as the memorial stained glass windows in the Catholic church.

This excellent link provides an interactive map of the battle field, and progress of the battle itself.

Facebook fans might be interested in liking the Milne Bay Memorial Library and Research Centre.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

Lest We Forget: the Battle of Milne Bay

As you know we’ve just returned from Papua New Guinea, and in particular Milne Bay where we spent most of our time. We had lived there for a couple of years after our marriage but Mr Cassmob had also spent his teenage years in the district, when home from boarding school, and he regards it as his “place”.

It always shocks me how little known Milne Bay is within the history of World War II, while Kokoda gains a much higher profile. Despite contradictory stories, it was in the Battle of Milne Bay that the Japanese suffered their first land defeat, proving they were not invincible. Following the rapid domino effect of their overthrow of the Asian countries such as Singapore, this battle gave hope that their forces could be defeated. While there is now no indication that the Japanese forces intended to invade Australia, there’s little doubt that an enemy force ensconced in Papua or New Guinea would have been cause for grave concern and fears for Australia’s security. This year has been the 70th anniversary of the battle.

The Battle of Milne Bay was a relatively short but difficult campaign exacerbated by challenging terrain, heat and the hazards of malaria. It raged up and down the northern coastline of Milne Bay exactly where we were visiting last week and where we had lived in the 70s. The major air base was on Gili Gili Plantation where my husband worked briefly in the late 60s (see the story of his discovery of a wartime artefact here).

Rather than give you chapter and verse I’m going to show you the images of the War Memorial near Alotau and also the information plaques which tell the story of the battle. You might also be interested in the images on my Tropical Territory blog which show the stained glass windows in the Catholic Church in Alotau, honouring those lost in the battle.

The map shows the range of the battlegrounds. Alotau, the provincial headquarters, where we’ve just been, is slightly to the left of the arrow.

The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 70 years ago.

The Australians gained great support from the local people who risked much to help them.

Lest we forget

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

In Memoriam: Crows Nest Memorial to those who gave their lives in World Wars I and II. The memorial includes the names of Cpl French VC and my grandfather’s cousin, James Gavin.