Home' Army News : February 14th 2013 Contents defencebank.com.au
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Army February 14, 2013
LEST WE FORGET
SEVENTY years on, Australians
have been urged to reflect on those
who paid the ultimate sacrifice in
the battle against Japanese forces
at Wau. The important piece of his-
tory has stood in the shadow of
the great tales of Kokoda for too
long, according to Veterans’ Affairs
Minister Warren Snowdon.
“Massively outnumbered by the
Japanese, it was only two com-
panies of brave souls that stood
to protect the settlement of Wau.
Positioned inland from Japanese
bases at Salamaua and Lae, Wau
was highly valued for its extremely
important airstrip,” Mr Snowdon
“They fought bravely, muster-
ing every ounce of courage they
had until reinforcements arrived.
Luckily, the unpredictable PNG
weather cleared and the Australians
launched a counter attack, pushing
the Japanese out of the area, ena-
bling the planned Allied offensive on
Lae and Salamaua to proceed.
“Unfortunately in the years since
World War II, the Battle of Wau
has often been overshadowed by
other great Australian feats in PNG,
namely the defeat of the Japanese
at Milne Bay, on the Kokoda Track
and at the beachheads of Buna,
Gona and Sanananda.
“These great battles have been
etched into the Australian psyche
alongside other widely known bat-
tles from the WWII. Whilst Wau
may be a lesser known part of our
wartime history it does not reduce
its importance and the level of rec-
ognition and admiration these men
deserve. Their service and sacrifice
will never be forgotten.”
At this time Maj Duffy gave covering
fire and Capt Sherlock’s group withdrew
to a defensive position on a knoll above
the river. They were subjected to mortar
and machine gun fire all night.
In the morning the Japanese attacked
from the front and flank, advancing shoul-
der-to-shoulder supported by fire from the
rear. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the
Japanese and they managed to withdraw to
cross the Bulolo River.
The company was forced to fragment
and a group with Capt Sherlock found
a fallen log over the river to cross but
Japanese machine guns opened up. Capt
Sherlock rushed up the bank, killing one
gunner, but the second gunner killed him.
More casualties were sustained.
On January 29, weather cleared and 60
flights landed at Wau under Japanese mor-
tar and small-arms fire.
Massive battles were fought between
the Japanese and 2/5 and 2/7 Bns, and by
January 31 the Japanese were retreating.
If the Japanese had arrived a few hours
earlier or the weather had not cleared, the
Japanese would have had Wau. Without the
stalling action by Capt Sherlock’s group
the war in New Guinea would have been
extended by possibly another year.
Of the 2500 Japanese who made it to the
Wau valley less than half made it out.
During the three-month Kokoda cam-
paign about 600 Australian were killed.
During the three-week Wau campaign more
than 100 diggers died.
Soldiers said Capt Sherlock should have
been awarded a Victoria Cross. Instead he
was awarded a Mention in Despatches.
Of the 2500
entered the Wau
valley, less than
half made it out.
In the battle,
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