Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Warsoclosetohome; Seven Months before the Gallipoli Campaign, a Small Expeditionary Force Had Engaged in Australia's First Combat at German New Guinea. in Part 3 of Our Centenary Milestones Series, We Look at the Battle of Bita Paka, in Which Australia Lost Its First Soldiers to the Great War

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Warsoclosetohome; Seven Months before the Gallipoli Campaign, a Small Expeditionary Force Had Engaged in Australia's First Combat at German New Guinea. in Part 3 of Our Centenary Milestones Series, We Look at the Battle of Bita Paka, in Which Australia Lost Its First Soldiers to the Great War

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Ongley

AS THE Australian Imperial Force set about recruiting troops in August 1914 to send to Europe in support of the British, there was a more immediate concern about the threat of German naval power on its own doorstep.

Since the 1880s, Germany had annexed territory in New Guinea and surrounding islands such as New Britain, and had established a series of wireless and telegraph stations that allowed German ships both freedom of movement and the ability to communicate rapidly over long distances.

On August 10, highly regarded Boer War veteran Colonel William Holmes was appointed to command the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), whose mission would be to seize German New Guinea and destroy the wireless stations.

To say Col Holmes did not have much time to pull this force together would be an understatement.

In eight days, he had recruited, equipped and embarked a 1000-strong infantry battalion, 500 naval reservists and ex-seamen, and a 500-strong citizen battalion from north Queensland (who were later sent home when it was decided they were not fit for battle). Most of the force consisted of untrained men who had rushed to enlist at the outbreak of war.

On August 18, HMAT Berrima departed Sydney's Cockatoo Island, where it had been dry-docked for an urgent refit to install weaponry and allow it the capacity to hold 1500 men.

The Berrima would be given almost the entire might of the Royal Australian Navy fleet for protection, led by flagship HMAS Australia, because it was believed the German East Asia cruiser squadron was operating around Rabaul, New Guinea, at the time.

The ships assembled for the mission later gathered in Port Moresby harbour.

And so it was that 100 years ago today, in the early hours of September 11, two landing parties of 25 men came ashore - one at Herbertshohe, and the other led by Lieutenant Rowland Bowen off Kabakaul Bay, about 35km east of Rabaul. …

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