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Battle Honour 1st RNSWL


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Sattleberg

The Other Side of the Hill

Sattleberg is a small village some 10 kilometres from the coast in New Guinea. It and the approaches to it were heavily fortified by the Japanese. Its capture was regarded as essential to clearing the Japanese from what was then Australian territory.

In late 1943, C Squadron 1st Australian Tank Battalion (Royal New South Wales Lancers) (Australian Imperial Force) consisted of:

18 Matildas, 5 Jeeps and Trailers, 1 Fitters (Bren Gun) carrier and a "slave" (battery charging) carrier.

Senior Postings were:

  Officer Commanding: Major S. Hordern
  Second in Command: Captain R.J.F. Downes
  Liaison Officer: Captain J.K. Hart
  Admin Troop Commander: Lieutenant J.M. Ryan
  Reconnaissance Officer: Lieutenant H.C. Curtayne
  Squadron Sergeant Major: Warrant Officer Class 2: N. Faull
  1 Troop Commander: Lieutant D. Skinner
  2 Troop Commander: Lieutant J.A. Sellars
  3 Troop Commander: Lieutant C.J. Watson
  4 Troop Commander: Lieutant S.E. Johnston
  5 Troop Commander: Lieutant J.L. O'Donnell

Lt R. Spry (Engineers) , Maj S. Hordern, Capt J.K.Hart, LtCol R.I, Ainslie 2/48 Bn   Matilda Tank attacking at Sattleberg with hatches closed. Wounded man and men on foot are from 2/48 Bn

It was November 1943. C Squadron less three troops was to support the 26th Brigade who were to take over the drive to capture Sattelberg. Briefly, the situation in the area was as follows: 20th Brigade, which was to be relieved by 26th Brigade, was holding positions in the vicinity of Jivevaneng village; 2/17th Battalion was forward and the Japs had established a troublesome road block between this battalion and 2/13th Battalion, virtually cutting off the former. This block was eliminated before the 20th Brigade was relieved, opening the road to Jivcvaneng where the squadron planned to establish a forward base. Operation Order No. 1 issued by the 26th Brigade on 9 November was received; it gave the plan for the attack on Sattelberg to be made on 17 November. The intention was to open the Sattelberg Road west to a certain track junction on the western side of Sattelberg Hill; in Phase 1 certain high features were to be seized, and Phase 2 was to be preparation and exploitation to Sattelberg by:

  Right - 2/24th Infantry Battalion;
  Centre - 2/48th Battalion, with tanks and one platoon of 2/13th Field Company Engineers;
  Left - 2/23rd Infantry Battalion

The supporting troops were to be:
  C Squadron less three troops
  23rd Battery, 2/12th Field Regiment Artillery
  11th Battery, 2/6th Field Regiment Artillery [Later altered to 2/12th less one battery]
  2/13th Field Company Engineers (one platoon to assist the movement of tanks with bulldozer and cable)
  B Company, 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion
  2/4th Commando Squadron
  28th Supply Depot
  2/11th Field Ambulance

The 2/24th on the right were to advance from Jivcvaneng through the jungle north-west across the Siki River, their first objective being a high feature cast and north of Sattelberg. The 2/23rd on the left would advance from Kumawa along the tracks running north-east and north-west and establish contact with the 2/48th. In the centre the 2/48th, with tank support, was to push along the Sattelberg Road.

About 10 November the squadron began building up supplies at Jivevaneng. The narrow track, referred to as Sattelberg Road, rising steeply to 1,000 metres at Sattelberg, site of a former mission station, ran for its entire length through dense jungle and contained many sharp grades, hairpin curves and precipitous drops. Frequent and sudden downpours often caused washaways and landslides and turned the track into a sea of mud that was impassable to vehicles. The surface, alternately soaked with rain and baked by the tropical sun, was sometimes hard and glassy, with some very soft patches, mostly on corners and in spots where the road narrowed and overhanging vegetation blocked out the sun. The jeep drivers of C Squadron (Troopers F. J. Ryan, J. Thurbon, G. Monckton, J. Harrison and J. Stewart) were a reliable and hard-working team and with their jeeps and trailers they overcame all difficulties of terrain and weather that they met, often operating in most dangerous conditions, and successfully transported all the necessary supplies under the direction of Lieutenant J. M. Ryan. The Administrative Troop Sergeant, Keith Bartlett, and the R.A.P. Corporal, Roy Grieve, took up residence at Jivevaneng.

Meanwhile, there had commenced the task of moving the tanks. Nine of them were moved by barge from Pola and landed at Launch jetty, a small inlet near Heldsbach Plantation. Squadron fighting headquarters and 5 Troop (O'Donnell) began the journey of about five kilometres to Jivevaneng at 23:00 on 9 November. There were many doubts in the minds of even the more experienced members of the unit that the tanks would get through to Jivevaneng; however, a troop leader who was so indiscreet as to voice such doubts to the squadron leader was rebuffed in typical Hordernian style: "They'll get there if we have to carry the - things on our backs." It was a bright moonlit night after a day of little rain and the track was mostly hard and glassy. A bulldozer section of Major R. 0. K. T. Moodie's 2/13th Field Company (Engineers) moved with the tanks to assist them over soft patches and at difficult corners, and the noise of the Matildas was covered by the artillery. All went well until the tanks cornmenced to climb the steeper grades where they could obtain no traction on the glassy surface. With tracks spinning the tanks were slipping and sliding over the road which in some places ran along a razorback ridge with deep ravines on either side. Towing lines were frequently used from the bulldozer and from tank to tank to help hold the track and ease the tanks around difficult corners. However, at Graves Corner the two leading tanks got badly bogged in heavy clay and despite hours of frantic effort and hard work by tank crews and sappers were not extricated until morning. Tempers were not eased by derisive and sarcastic comments hurled by sleepy infantrymen who stumbled out of foxholes as the tanks passed.

By 11 November all nine tanks were at the forward base in the Jivevaneng area; to be precise, the tank force consisted of fighting headquarters and 5 Troop complete, two tanks of 1 Troop (Skinner) and one tank of 2 Troop, the last mentioned being in replacement of 1 Troop's "Cambewarra" which had broken down on the way. The men quickly settled in and made themselves as comfortable as possible with the meagre materials to hand, each constructing some kind of shelter in an effort to obtain protection from the torrential showers that would fall without warning. From their position they could look directly across the jungle valley to the towering heights of Sattelberg which in a direct line was only about 3,000 metres away. They could hear the scream of shells over their heads and watch them burst on the slopes of the enemy stronghold, while they also had a grandstand view of the air strikes and witnessed many spectacular displays. Once they saw a large force of Jap bombers, engaged in a dropping mission, intercepted by Lightnings; though outnumbered the Lightnings drove the bombers off their targets and out to sea. One Lightning staged a thrilling dogfight with two Zeros but the battle drifted out of sight before either scored a hit.

Every afternoon about 16:00 the enemy would op 75mm guns and mortars, seeking targets along the track in the squadron's vicinity. Though "plastered" the squadron sustained no damage.

A very good model of the ground over which the to be made was built at the 2/48th Battalion's headquarters all phases and aspects of the plan were discussed. Later a concrete model was constructed on the site of the original model as a permanent memorial. Some training with it was done and during the whole of the time efforts were taken to continue to conceal the presence of the tanks from the enemy.

At 06:00 on 17 November the drive to the heights of Sattelberg commenced. Lieutenant John O'Donnell's 5 Troop, with O'Donnell, Sergeant Ron Dudgeon and Corporal Max Tomlins as crew commanders, moved out to support the forward company, C Company of the 2/48th Battalion, in the initial advance along the axis of the Sattelberg track in accordance with the prearranged plan. Major Hordern and Lieutenant Emmott (reconnaissance officer) were dismounted and in communication with the tanks and infantry by walkie-talkie wireless sets. Communication with the squadron's forward base was maintained by wireless through the squadron leader's tank as rear link. Engineer assistance to the movement of the tanks, should it be needed, was available in the form of Lieutenant Bert Spry's platoon of the 2/13th Field Company, which assistance proved to be a factor that contributed largely to the success of the Matildas in the operations in this and other areas; no task was too difficult nor too dangerous for the engineers.

The track ran for the most part along a high ridge, sometimes a razorback, through very dense bamboo and thick secondary growth; visibility was very limited due to the thick jungle. The weather was fine and the going relatively good. Under the conditions, the only possible formation was line ahead with the howitzer tank leading, followed at 20 metre intervals by the other tanks, each of which had one section of protecting infantry to mop up and secure ground, followed again by the assault platoon and the remainder of C Company. This was the formation proposed by Hordern and worked out in training.

It was considered by divisional headquarters that the appearance of the tanks on November 17 was a complete surprise to the enemy, due to the precautions that had been taken at all times to conceal their presence. However, it appeared that the japs quickly recovered from their surprise for opposition was met immediately forward of the 2/48th's foremost defended localities. They stood their ground tenaciously and fought back strongly with 37 mm. guns, heavy and light machine guns, mortars and grenades from surprisingly strong bunkers sited in great depth along the track, all with strong overhead cover. Visibility was extremely limited and the rate of progress exceedingly slow. Tank crews were practically blinded because of the dense vegetation, but the method of indicating targets by the squadron leader and reconnaissance officer was proving more effective than had been foreseen. The attacking force moved cautiously along the track with the tanks beating up the adjoining jungle and blasting enemy positions with high explosive. By noon only about a quarter of a mile had been gained and the tanks had had to replenish ammunition once. Approaching a more open hill feature which dominated a long stretch of the track the infantry were pinned down by heavy concentrations of fire from several directions. The tanks put down heavy high explosive fire but the infantry were again stopped after gaining only 20 metres. The tanks then moved forward without protection while the infantry moved in from the left flank where they were somewhat masked by the tanks. Unfortunately, on negotiating a sharp curve the leading tank (O'Donnell's) ran over an unexploded 25 pounder shell which blew up and broke a track of the tank, thereby blocking the road which was too narrow to permit the other tanks to pass. By now the infantry had gained a foothold on the forward slopes and dislodged the Japs from a number of bunkers and foxholes before being again stopped. The Japs counterattacked and a small group broke through the bamboo right alongside the second tank which they proceeded to attack with grenades before being cut down by the 7.92 mm Besa guns. The tanks now brought down heavy concentrations of high explosive on the enemy, after which the infantry again attacked, gaining 50 metres but being forced back to their original positions. At this stage Corporal Tomlins reported that his 7.92 mm Besa had worked back or had been blown back into the turret still firing and that three of the crew including himself were wounded. The corporal and one other, Trooper D. R. Calthorpe, were evacuated under fire and replaced by two from the troop sergeant's crew; this was because the sergeant's tank was not in a position to cover the disabled tank which was in enemy territory. Dusk was approaching when a strong attack by the infantry enabled the establishment of a perimeter around this tank (O'Donnell's) and the crew were evacuated. A withdrawal was then made and positions taken up for the night, leaving the disabled tank in enemy territory.

Only 5 Troop had been committed on this day, the remaining six tanks being held in reserve at Jivevaneng. In their first experience of actual warfare tank crews had fired ammunition at an extravagant rate, expending 120 howitzer rounds, 234 2pounder high explosive and 12,000 7.92 mm Besa rounds. They had been without food since 05:30 and closed down in terrific heat, exploding the theory that crews could not operate while closed down for long periods under tropical conditions. Jap casualties had been heavy and a most pleasing feature was that the Australian infantry casualties were negligible compared with what might have been expected if the operation had been conducted without the tanks.

The advance was resumed early next morning after patrols had reported that the enemy had made a withdrawal and had not interfered with the disabled tank, apparently in the belief that it was permanently knocked out. In the lead now was a composite troop of two 2 pounder tanks of 1 Troop and the howitzer tank of another troop. Almost immediately progress was held up by heavy concentrations of fire from Coconut Ridge. The opposition was the heaviest met so far and included high explosive fire from 75 and 37 mm. guns, juki ("Woodpecker") machine guns and light machine guns which pinned down the infantry for some hours. After several attempts the tanks, by skilful driving and grim determination on the part of the crews and Major Hordern, overcame difficulties of terrain which would have been considered insurmountable back in Australia and smashed a track through to enemy positions on Coconut Ridge; they then proceeded to knock out position after position. The damaged tank had been repaired by this time and, with its infantry escort, arrived to take part in the fighting. When opposition had been eliminated, inspection showed the tanks had done deadly work. The ridge was honeycombed with strong bunkers and foxholes now filled with Jap dead and their weapons; one heavy gun (possibly a 75 mm.) and two or three 37 mm. guns had been accounted for.

The push along the road was resumed and opposition again encountered after 200 metres. The Japs allowed two tanks to pass and opened fire on the infantry with heavy machine guns from well concealed positions on the right of the road. The second tank then moved back about 40 metres and engaged pockets of the enemy which were very soon in no position to take any further interest in the proceedings. A call was then received from Lieutenant Curtayne in the leading tank, which was unprotected, saying the japs were advancing on him from the left flank where a steep bank prevented him from bringing fire to bear on them. The second tank again moved into position and soon smashed up the impending attack causing heavy casualties. Intense fire from a hill on the left suddenly pinned down the infantry and the second tank was ordered to push about 80 metres through the dense jungle and engage the enemy position. The growth was so thick that the crew were completely blinded and were guided by the reliable Lieutenant Emmott. A small clearing was reached where the tank was engaged with heavy small arms fire and grenades. The crew commander could still see nothing and set about clearing the surrounding jungle with high explosive. One machine gun was knocked out but our infantry were still under heavy fire from positions invisible to the crew. Major Hordern who was, as usual, in the "hottest" spot, then moved under fire to an abandoned bunker between the tanks and the supporting infantry and took over the directing of the tank's fire by walkie talkie; he also directed the tank to manoeuvre to crush a troublesome bunker which it could not engage with fire. These tactics proved successful and the position was occupied, the enemy survivors fading into the jungle and leaving many dead behind them. During this time Curtayne's tank had moved a short distance along the road when it was suddenly fired on by a 37 mm. gun which, despite the fact that it was in a good, concealed position, succeeded in getting in only one shot before it and its crew were blown to bits by the tank's fire. Dusk was approaching and the infantry began digging in for the night so the tanks returned to Coconut Ridge where A and D Companies of the 2/48th had established a perimeter. There the tank crews were pleased to find three additional tanks under Lieutenants jack Sellars and Don Skinner, making seven tanks now forward. Following a stern direction by Hordern, the crews had been more economical with ammunition on this second day, the expenditure being 18 howitzer rounds, 144 2 pounder rounds and 8,750 7.92 mm Besa rounds.

On the third day, 19 November, the drive continued, now approaching a long steep ridge known as the "2,400 feature", with the enemy still resisting very stubbornly. Their positions were sited on high ground, well off but commanding the track, and difficult to approach. These strong posts were similar to those previously encountered, mostly very solid bunkers, constructed of coconut trees with dirt, rocks and sometimes concrete, that would have been a major obstacle to the infantry but were easy for the tanks. However, visibility was still very limited because of dense vegetation and the enemy's positions were difficult to locate. One tank slipped off the narrow track over a steep bank, coining to a halt at a very acute angle. Under great discomfort the crew had to remain inside the tank for the next hour because of accurate sniper fire. The other tanks moved on until heavy fire stopped the infantry. Then the tanks moved forward again and silenced two machine gun positions but when the howitzer tank was moving back in reverse the bank at the side of the road collapsed under it and it went sliding down the side of the hill. The engineers' bulldozer had by this time put the other tank back on the track and it was ready for action again. It joined the other tanks but it was found that they could not successfully engage the hill feature from which most of the fire was coming. Another tank was sent forward and attempted to get on to the feature itself but the grade was too steep and slippery. An additional company of infantry was just getting into position to assault this feature when the japs put in a determined counterattack. Leaving only enough men in the tanks to work the guns the balance of the crews loaded magazines for the infantry who were using ammunition at an amazing rate. The attack was beaten off with heavy casualties to the enemy and some to the 2/48th. An unsuccessful attempt was then made by the engineers to burn the japs out by means of two fougasses made of 250 litre drums of an inflammable mixture. The advance was held up by intense fire until 16:30 when "D" Company launched an allout attack and went in with the bayonet shouting their famous battle cry, "Ho ho". The sight of the Australians charging with cold steel was too much for the Japs who promptly retired into the jungle, leaving many dead, as well as weapons and equipment. During the day's operations about twenty machine gun bunkers and several 37-mm. guns had been accounted for; the latter had evidently been brought forward in an effort to counter the tanks. Luckily, the japs seemed to have no armour-piercing ammunition for these guns, one of which temporarily disabled a tank with a hit on a track adjuster.

Relations between tank and infantry personnel had become very good. Admittedly Hordern had had some difficulties with infantry leaders who wanted to use the tanks in roles for which they were not suited, but all ranks of C Squadron rated the men of the 2/48th as peerless soldiers and good comrades. Morale in the squadron was high; health was good, there had been no malaria and all were happy about the Matildas which had proved to be powerful and successful weapons and undoubtedly saved the infantry many casualties while allowing a steady progress to he maintained, although this had been somewhat impeded by the difficulties of terrain. The performance of the tanks had iimazed even their own crews; constant maintenance in back areas, plus the diligent care and attention willingly given, sometimes under fire, by Captain Peter Woods's L.A.D. section was paying dividends.

The move forward was resumed on 20 November the enemy was found to be taking his first definite anti-tank measures. i he leading tank ran over and exploded a mine which blew a one metre hole in the ground but did no damage to the tank. A party of Japs hidden in the dense growth alongside the track then tried to pull a bundle of mines strung on a line under the same tank but were cut down by the following tank and their suicide effort went for nothing. Progress was stopped by a well sited and effective anti-tank ditch which was covered by fire from all angles. A reconnaissance party under Hordern went out to inspect the obstacle and was immediately pinned down by heavy fire; it was some time before they were able to sneak out one by one. Skinner's howitzer tank then attempted to by-pass the ditch and push off the track up the slopes of the 2,400 feature on the south side of the track. This hill overlooked both the track running north from Kumawa, which was one of the axes of advance of the 2/23rd Battalion, and the Sattelberg Road. Unfortunately, after going about 30 metres the tank was stopped by a deep dry watercourse, but from this position it was able to engage the enemy. Two other howitzer tanks - the "rear link" tank and the tank that had been disabled in the first day's fighting were brought forward and eventually succeeded in getting on to the feature, an effort that required considerable skill and courage on the part of the drivers. Then, with their supporting infantry hugging the ground, they destroyed bunker after bunker at ranges of from 10 to 30 metres, assisted by Skinner's tank and a 2 pounder tank that had taken up a position on the track. It was probably the hardest fight by tanks and infantry up to that date in that area. The Japs fought for every centimetre of ground, only withdrawing their surviving remnants at dusk, leaving behind them many dead, as well as equipment and weapons which included one 75 mm. and several 37 mm. guns, and numerous heavy and light machine guns. A perimeter for the night was hurriedly formed on the 2,400 feature where the infantry took up positions and dug in. Despite strongly worded protests by Major Hordern the six tanks were left outside the perimeter with only the crews and one infantry section for protection. The enemy initiated several counter-attacks and some nuisance raids on the infantry positions during the night and, while they fortunately left the tank party alone, the tank personnel present spent an anxious night.

During the action of the 2/48th and the tanks on the 2,400 feature, the 2/23rd Battalion, moving north along the track from Kumawa, was at one stage held up for some time by a juki machine gun in a bunker. To the surprise of the attackers the bunker suddenly disappeared in a shattering explosion and a sheet of flame an over-ranged shot from a howitzer tank near the Sattelberg Road had landed squarely on it.

Next morning, 21 November, patrols of the 2/48th pushed out some distance before meeting opposition. Engineers had filled in the anti-tank ditch but when the tanks caught up the enemy had again withdrawn. Contact was made with the 2/23rd, and the tanks, with engineer assistance, left the track and eliminated a strong pocket of Japs that had been holding up that battalion.

For a short time the Japs continued to fight hard; then resistance faded out and the japs retired. During the day the most forward troops reached a position half a mile south-west of the village of Sattelberg. No further opposition was encountered despite extensive patrolling until 14:00 on 22 November, at a spot where a landslide or washaway had thrown a section of the track into a ravine, or maybe the Japs themselves had blown it up. Engineers commenced work on it and uncovered a large number of mines only two metres in front of the leading tank. Despite the engineers' work the track surface was soft, heavy and too "clayey" for the tanks to pass. At this stage Sattelberg was almost directly above the forward company and tanks and only about 1,000 metres away in a direct line. In fact, it was possible to see about 40 japs moving about there, but nothing stirred after about 30 rounds of high explosive from a howitzer were fired at them. The weather had been passably good; there had been the usual tropical downpours but they had not seriously affected the "going" for the tanks, though the natural difficulties of terrain and vegetation had been enough to give the drivers nightmares. Frequently, and particularly at night, enemy heavy guns shelled the track and adjoining areas seeking the tank positions. Many shells fell close but the squadron had no casualties; the infantry were not so fortunate.

On the next day, 23 November, it was found that the track ahead had completely disappeared in a landslide and the tanks could move no farther on it. Progress came to a halt. The tanks sheltered on the left side of the track, screened from Sattelberg by a high hill, and the 2/48th's command post was established on the opposite side of the track in a small gully and only about 15 metres away. For about two days there was an absence of activity on this front, other than patrolling which located a strong Jap force entrenched on a spur 500 metres south-west of Sattelberg. The most forward. Australian troops were now about half a away from the village.

About this time occurred the most tragic incident of the operation. An enemy 75 mm. gun firing over open sights found the forward positions and one of its shells fell right on the 2/48th's command post. Six of the infantry, including the second-in-command and the adjutant, were killed or mortally wounded and a number of others wounded. Later this gun shelled the position again, without doing any damage, and was eventually found dismantled and buried near Sattelberg.

During the period of little activity on the 2/48th's front heavy firing was frequently heard in the jungle close by and to the left rear of the tanks' positions, where the 2/23rd was operating in conditions of very poor visibility and difficult terrain. They were opposed by a strong force of Japs and had had heavy casualties, one patrol having been completely wiped out in an ambush. It was decided to try to move some tanks to assist them and after Lieutenant Emmott had reconnoitred a route the engineers commenced corduroying a track. Four hundred metres of this was completed before the enemy awakened to what was going on and stopped further work by moving in several jukis and light machine guns and covering the track with fire.

At 8 a.m. on November 25 a composite troop under Lieutenant Jack Sellars moved on to the new track, named Spry Street after the engineer lieutenant. No opposition was met, the enemy having apparently pulled out on the approach of the tanks. When the track petered out the tanks continued on bashing their way through the jungle and up the slopes of the 3,200 feature on the left of the Sattelberg mountain. Going was slow over most difficult ground which was thickly covered with large trees, some of which were veritable giants. The troop reached the scene of the ambush and found eight of the patrol dead and one who had been left for dead by the Japs, while four were missing. All the dead and the wounded man had been stripped of everything and it was obvious from the condition of the bodies that the Japs had used their boots or rifle butts on them.

News was received that a patrol under Sergeant "Diver" Derrick, 2/48th Battalion, had reached the top of the hill at Sattelberg, after heavy fighting, to find that the enemy had evacuated it. On November 24 a depleted platoon under Sergeant Derrick had moved to outflank the Jap positions that had been troubling the 2/23rd. By the morning of the 25th this platoon had fought its way to a position within 150 metres of the summit after crawling hundreds of metres under fire down a ravine and up the other side. They clawed their way upwards on the precipitous slope under a hail of machine gun fire from bunkers and foxholes, while the Japs in these positions rolled grenades down upon them. Pinned down for more than two hours they received orders to withdraw as daylight was fading. Derrick pleaded for permission to try again. Then, in the action that won him his Victoria Cross he charged up the slope through a murderous fire that miraculously left him unscathed, subduing post after post with grenades and returning downhill to replenish his supply before going on to knock out more. Derrick eliminated ten posts before the survivors, by now completely demoralised, broke and ran. The position was consolidated and support received in time to repulse a strong counter-attack and at 21:00 on 25 November, the force occupied Sattelberg village, the enemy retreating towards Wareo. To Sergeant Derrick went the honour of hoisting the flag of victory at Sattelberg.

On the following morning the engineers cut a road to the top of the 3,200 feature and Sellars's three tanks moved up it. There they sat in comparative idleness for a month supporting the 2/23rd in a holding role.

The role of the tanks in this phase was now finished. It was known that the country between Sattelberg and Wareo, which was now the Japs' line of retreat, was impassable to tanks, so the squadron said its farewells to its comrades of the 2/48th and watched them move out down the almost sheer sides of the mountain, loaded with ammunition and equipment, tired and dirty, wet through, for it was pouring, but uncomplaining and cheerful, singing as the disappeared into the jungle.

PV Vernon Royal New South Wales Lancers 18851985 Parramatta 1985

  The Other Side of the Hill

This document is part of a diary captured at Sattelberg on 28 November 1943, and translated from Japanese to English by the 9th Division Intelligence Unit Australian Imperial Force.

1 October 1943

To Sattelberg. Heigh Ho.

2 October 1943

For the purpose of attacking American Amy we left the mountain early in the morning. On the way found "A" Company who were in action. Constructed a position 300 meters from the enemy. Spent the night on the alert.

4 October 1943

Because of change in enemy positions we climbed the mountain again. The enemy is around the area and their shells are chopping all around us.

5 October 1943

Dug an LMG post this morning.

6 October 1943

Leaving the platoon leader and a few men and an officer, patrol went to Kumawa for the first time. The enemy was sighted at 30-40 metres. They were Americans wearing green clothes. Returned to Hai by detouring Sattelberg heights in the afternoon. Guarded position all night.

7 October 1943

The HQAA N83 Platoon went to Kumawa. Platoon leader and three men wounded.

8 October 1943

Due to last nights rain I feel ill with fever.

9 October 1943

The position in front of 3 platoons was captured. Our Coy went to re-capture it but 1 cannot go. Makaiara was killed, 2 section leaders wounded.

12 October 1943

Many wounded pass in from the front line.

13 October 1943 Our rations are only potatoes. There were bananas and pineapples but 1 only got a taste of them as they were hard to get. In front of us there is shelling, MGs and gunfire. Bombing is expected. My only wish is to defeat the enemy and get their good food. However with our casualties from the enemy shells how am 1 going to survive? Many men are falling by the wayside from malaria. The news that we heard in Korea that we would be riding in automobiles and bicycles was just a dream. With these bad roads and mountains to encounter what could be worse? (NB - if he could only see the highways now) Oh we are in a bad plight, seven more wounded, but even if 1 am killed my spirit will fight against the enemy. There is go -mg to be a general attack on 15th and 16'h. 1 would like to be in that.

14 October 1943

Went to front line with Ako. It was terrible. The enemy shells dropped incessantly (NB - 25 pounders from 2/6th and 2/12th Artillery of 9 Div). The sight of eight men blown to pieces was awful.

15 October 1943

Went to find Ako. He was dead. The 79th Regiment arrived to join our 80th Regiment. About 250 grams rice to each man, also a hand grenade. Was shelled by trench mortar.

16 October 1943

Hear a company is breaking through our lines. Potatoes gone, also the rice.

18 October 1943

What shall I eat tonight? What has happened to the general attack? Received orders to attack tomorrow.

19 October 1943

Left position, wanted on left flank to attack. They were unsuccessful, returning to the position at 1100 hours. Saw terrible sight of our dead in the trenches. The bloody Yanks smoked the tobacco which was a gift from the Emperor.

20 October 1943

Heard that a man was killed in the way up to the Mission (NB - Sattelberg Mission). Just on awakening one is quieted by the pangs of hunger and the shells. Cooked remains of food with candle. The enemy have captured Coconut Ridge, we have to suffer oppression from them. It is just the opposite to China.

21 October 1943

Talked with Hito about home. It is 2.5 years since left.

25 October 1943

The men who went to get potatoes got 2 cows. Ate them - if we only had salt.

26 October 1943

Received the morning with shell fire. Today only the gristly parts of the meat remain and it is disagreeable to the mouth as well as the stomach.

28 October 1943

Today we cooked some grass and the remains of the cow. Got some bean paste from the platoon leader. A month has passed since the enemy landed at Aindt Point (NB - probably Scarlet Beach of Finschhafen) and even though the force was small there was a general attack of 15th with no results. Had many casualties. We have been facing the Americans for 20 days now and although they have not attacked they always bombed and shelled us. To answer we have to conceal our positions by cooking in ravines. Heard the 79th had a fierce attack on the 15th with fair results but casualties were terrific. The artillery ran out of ammo. However we have to battle with the men in hand without reinforcements. Heard that HQ has decided on a general attack next month. The story came from the Coy Commander that the men are not Americans but Australians, who have fought the Germans and Italians in the Middle East. Their strength is estimated at 30,000. Ours is 10% of that. (NB - actually only opposed by the 26th Brigade, 9h Div)

3 November 1943

A message says that Matsuoko is to take charge of the Cabinet. New aircraft carrier loaded with 1,000 planes was sunk heading for the Solomons. Heard the Kayodo Division is on their way to New Guinea.

4 November 1943

RHQ went to Sattelberg heights then round to Hai. Heard we must hold Sattleberg all the year. The 16th Div may replace the 20th. Potatoes are scarce. Shells are dropping around our position.

14 November 1943

Our planes bombed enemy positions (NB - "Daisycutter Charlie's" nightly visit). We were very surprised, received a terrific artillery pounding in reply.

15 November 1943

300 grams rice and packets of compressed food. This must last until the 17th.

16 November 1943

Last night I ate all my rations. Today I have nothing. Suta Heights were captured and we had to retreat. Said prayers tonight. I think I will go back soon.

18 November 1943

Platoon leader killed, several hundreds wounded, one of whom was Ako's brother. Was to go in our raiding party. He was wounded by shrapnel and I have to take his place.

END OF DIARY
(Diarist presumed Killed in Action)

Location Map

 

New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated August 2017
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)405 482 814, Facsimile +61 (0)2 4733 3951 E-mail: enquiries@lancers.org.au
For Regimental enquiries call: +61 (0)2 9635 7822