RAN at Kabakaul in New Britain

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RAN at Kabakaul in New Britain

Post by Admin on Sun 16 Sep 2012, 04:59

An interesting story of the RAN from Ian Pfennigwerth

Les Sheehan
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RAN at Kabakaul in New Britain
As you work your busy way through today I hope that you can find a few moments thinking of the members of the RAN and RANR who were landed on the jetty at Kabakaul in New Britain from the cruisers and destroyers of the Australian Fleet at dawn 98 years ago. Their task was to find the German radio station somewhere in the vicinity and to capture it. They did not know where it was not how well defended it might be. Resistance was expected, although they themselves were only lightly armed: if they ran into difficulties they had no way of communicating the fact and seeking assistance except by runner. There must have been a few nervous gulps as they chambered live rounds in their pistols and rifles that morning and set off down a likely-looking road, fringed with dense jungle, into the growing heat of a tropical day. The Royal Australian Navy was about to fight its first battle with Imperial Germany, not at sea but on land.

The action that developed at Bita Paka called for initiative and improvisation, as German defences were identified, snipers encountered and casualties taken by the landing party. Reinforcements were summoned and bluff and determination carried the day, but not before five Australians had died. The final phase took place as dusk was falling. Australia’s first military action under the new Commonwealth flag was a victory, and one of considerable strategic consequences for Australia and Germany. Lieutenant Thomas Bond RANR won Australias first DSO on that day, and Able Seaman Billy Williams RANR of Northcote in Victoria, sadly, was the first Australian to lose his life in WW1.

You might also reflect on why it is the RAN and naval veterans organisations don't commemorate the anniversary of this battle with its sacrifice and heroism. It founded a tradition and set a standard of devotion to duty which successive generations of Australian Navy people have upheld in all corners of the globe, and do so to this day.

And finally, if you have the opportunity, you might share the story with another Australian: we all should know and be proud of the achievement of those officers and sailors from the Australian Fleet who set off into the unknown from Kabakaul at dawn 98 years ago today to do battle for their country.

Lest we forget,

Ian Pfennigwerth
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