There seems to be a bit of talk about old Shaggy Ridge which I must say is a beauty, and he has a few scars on it at the moment from Mortar and Arty [artillery] bombs. It is as steep as hell on both sides and is only flat for a couple of feet on top …
Lieutenant Robert 'Shaggy' Clampett, 2/27th Battalion, after which 'Shaggy Ridge' is named. Read more about his experience.
The Allies halted the Japanese forces' advance with fierce fighting in Papua in 1942 and early 1943, securing:
In 1943, they began offensive actions.
General Douglas MacArthur ordered advances around the coast of the Huon Peninsula and inland, along the Markham and Ramu Valleys. The Australians faced a series of positions occupied by the Japanese on the inland route from Dumpu to Madang. In 1943, Shaggy Ridge was the main Japanese defensive position, blocking access from the Ramu Valley to the north coast.
Shaggy Ridge was an imposing ridge line. A 6.5km 'razor backed' spur, 1,497 m high. During the campaign, the ridge was often blanketed in thick fog, greatly reducing visibility. Tropical deluges of rain complicated actions, as did the tropical illnesses suffered by 96% of troops.
There was only a single track along the ridge line. In places it was 'only wide enough for one man to cross, with sheer drops on either side'. The Australians named its rocky outcrops:
- the 'Green Pinnacle'
- 'The Pimple'
- 'Green Sniper's Pimple'
- 'McCaughey's Knoll'
Somebody gave a shrill blood-curdling yell that startled even us, and was partly responsible for some of the enemy running headlong down the ridge in panic. Unable to stop at the edge of the cliff, they plunged to their doom hundreds of feet below.
- Corporal John 'Bluey' Whitechurch. Read more about this experience.
The Japanese had established strong, defensive positions along the ridge. It took weeks of successive attacks for the Allies to take Shaggy Ridge, which fell to the men of the 18th Brigade in late January 1944. It was, however, a costly victory.
Sergeant Geoffrey Lowe reflected that, 'Tobruk was a picnic' when compared with the Battalion’s experience on Shaggy Ridge.
The Allies lost 46 killed and 147 wounded. There were more than 500 Japanese casualties, including 244 deaths.
Find out what happened at the Battle of Shaggy Ridge and what the outcome meant for the Allies.