The Battle of Mission Ridge
...After the battle of Brigade Hill, which was a very sticky affair where huge numbers of Japs split up every Australian unit that was engaged. People took off because they were isolated. I came upon a group of people walking in single-file in these little native pads through a native garden... And suddenly came the whisper, “Is there an officer in the ranks?" And I went forward, and he said, “I’m a sergeant from the artillery,” he said, “I’m lost...Will you take over sir?
So, I thought for a moment, and I said a prayer, and I veered around; and sure enough, after about an hour-and-a-half’s walking we came on the track. But now the track’s going this way and that way, of course, and you think: “I think Moresby’s down there, but I’m not sure.” And I stopped the fellows and I walked down the track for a little way. And within about a hundred yards I saw a cigarette glowing, and I thought, “Oh oh.” I went a little bit closer and I heard, “What a bugger of a bloody war.” I said, “Well he’s no Jap, so I’ll join him” So I went down and he said, “You’re lucky, sir. We’re the tail-end of the 2/14th. We were told to stay here. We’re leaving in another 20 minutes.
Douglas McClean, 39th Battalion and 2/8th Battalion. Watch his full story.
After the retreat from Eora and Templeton's Crossing and the evacuation of the Myola supply camp, fresh troops were sent to reinforce Maroubra Force.
The commanding officer of 21st Brigade, Brigadier Potts, received orders to stop retreating and make a stand. They found an excellent defensive position on a hill south of Efogi.
Unlike most of the Kokoda Track, from this position, they had a good view of approaching Japanese. The track opened into large open areas, making it perfect to enlist air support from the US Army Air Force. The Japanese lost 30 men in the bombing that followed.
Brigadier Potts split his force into three. He positioned his men, numbering almost 1,400, back along the track at Efogi, Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill.
To give the 2/16th and 2/14th Battalions a chance to rest, he sent the fresh 2/27th Battalion to the front line. The 2/16th and 2/14th had been fighting almost constantly since their stand at Isurava.
Most of the Japanese troops who had been fighting since July remained between Eora village and Templeton's Crossing. But Colonel Kusunose's group, numbering around 1,570 men, moved forward to scout the Australian position.
Kusonose placed his artillery north of Mission Ridge to pin the Australians located there. He sent men to block the track at Brigade Hill. This was the same tactic they used at Isurava and Eora, when they became lost in the jungle. This time, they recruited Papuan guides to prevent this happening again.
At dawn on 7 September, the Japanese attack started. Despite their artillery support, they were unable to make any ground. The Australians also had support from their own artillery.
In the early evening, Colonel Kusunose moved his men around to the Australian rear. This gave him the vantage point he needed to see their positions around Brigade Hill, and Kusunose focused his attention there.
The battle-weary Australians launched their counterattack amid heavy rain, but it failed. As did another counterattack from Pott's headquarters. The Australians north of the position were cut off from communications from Commander Potts. Potts ordered a withdrawal back south towards Isurava. Some Australians made their way around the Japanese to join the main forces, others spent weeks in the jungle.
While the Japanese and Australians suffered similar casualties, the real loss for the Australians was the decimation of Maroubra Force. Scattered and disorganised, they withdrew to Menari. They had to leave their dead, but grabbed all equipment and weapons.
The trek for separated troops proved difficult. To avoid the Japanese, they travelled in the relentless rain along treacherous paths, parallel to the main track. They had numerous wounded and limited rations. It took the 2/27th three weeks to catch up with the remainder of Maroubra Force.
Discover more about the next location on the Kokoda Track, Ioribaiwa and Imita Ridge.