Australia in Action: New Guinea, 1914 by L. C. Reeves
Extract from Australasia Triumphant by A. St. John Adcock
Conflict in the jungle and on tropical seas
When the First World War broke out Allied and German colonies all over the globe quite suddenly found themselves engaged in hostilities with those who had been peaceful neighbours. The conflicts in Africa are particularly well known, but Australia (which would send troops to fight on the Western Front, in the Dardanelles and the Middle East) had first to contend with the German force much closer to home on the island of New Guinea. This fascinating episode of tropical warfare in one of the side-show theatres of the war will enthral all students of the period. The war at sea in the southern oceans at this time is probably more familiar to readers. Royal Australian Navy destroyers and submarines were at work in the Pacific and notably the roving German raider, the battlecruiser SMS Emden, was brought to account by the Australian light cruiser, HMAS Sydney. This special Leonaur edition contains two distinct but interconnected narratives for good value.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
We were informed our force that had been sent to destroy the wireless station at Kaba Kaul met with resistance, and the evidence was soon handed to us by our mortally wounded comrades, Captain Pockley and A.B. Williams, being brought aboard the Berrima. As I looked at these poor fellows being carried up the gangway I was stirred with emotion. They were heroes, and after silently covering them with all the praise, sympathy and fine feelings I possessed, a terrible clamour for revenge seized me. To wield the bayonet and drive it home with all my might into the murderer of a non-combatant (our Dr. Pockley) was my consummate wish.
Orders were issued for the landing of the left half battalion, with naval gun’s crew and machine gun section. We speedily got ashore and commenced our march on to the wireless station. It was a treat to see the naval boys haul their gun over the uneven country—wire fencing and broken-down trees did not deter them. Their stamina was admirable. Shortly before dusk, we reached a branch of the main road leading to Lesson Point and a short cut to the wireless station. We halted here for a few minutes while our scouts were making observations and exchanging compliments with the enemy’s scouts.
I won’t forget that march. I had two hundred rounds of ammunition, a two-pound tin of jam, tin of bully, biscuits for two days, a camera and films, with a heliograph hanging round my neck to counterbalance the weight at the back. The heat was oppressive. We silently marched back to our base. I was carrying my rifle at the slope, and I thought I would give the left arm a rest; as I took the rifle away I was amazed to find the left arm remained in the same position, so I knocked it down with the rifle and circulation once more continued. Got into Herbertshohe again, and I think I had the best cup of tea I ever tasted. It was just ordinary cheap tea, but in my condition it was a ‘gift of the Gods.’
We quartered at the Post Office for the night, and I will always smile when I think of it. I took up my watch at the signal station at 10.30 p.m. About 11.30 I moved about twenty yards from the station and was standing beside a tree, when Bang! Ping! No place for an honest man with a sentry like that. I dropped on all fours and got back to my post. I was relieved at 12.30 a.m., and having made myself comfortable, soon fell asleep. I was rudely awakened by volley after volley and movements of my comrades getting on the alert.
Our N.C.O. struggled manfully into his equipment, seized his rifle and sat down. ‘Where’s my boots?’ ‘That’s my rifle.’ ‘Fall in! The Germans are here, boys?’ ‘Steady there, lads,’ came from an old South African campaigner who was quietly cuddling his rifle and lighting his pipe behind a box. ‘Get your rifles handy,’ while the groans and expressions from another old soldier rivetted my attention for a minute. A young Australian lad—a trainee—got a little excited in his haste to get his ‘fighting kit’ together, and in the dark walked not too kindly on the stomach of this old Imperial soldier, who had a great record and was number 13. His language was quite expressive of his feelings, and very decisive.
No. 13 had had other misfortunes. He fell down the hatch of the Berrima; fell over a cliff on Mount Mother, and only saved himself from certain destruction by grasping a rock; he was hauled up with a rope and was quite exhausted; he banged his head against a tree on Palm Island, which left a nasty scar. He confidentially informed me he did not expect to return from this expedition, but that it didn’t matter. He got home alright though.
It was a relief to find that the alarm was false. The enemy was not at hand, so I soon dropped off to sleep again. I was up early and having a look round, when to my dismay I saw a poor pig with an ugly gash in his shoulder, unmistakably a bayonet wound. It was quite evident the poor fellow was having a walk and came on a sentry who halted him, but not understanding our language, continued his advance, was shot at, missed, and then bayonetted. He was shot at dawn. The troops had pork for breakfast.