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PLAQUE NO. 136 ... BITA PAKA

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Australiaís early contribution to the Allied cause in the First World War (4 August 1914 to 11 November 1918) was the formation of the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) with 1000 soldiers and 500 sailors. The six month objectives of the AN&MEF were the capture of German possessions in the Pacific (see map), including the radio stations and coal supplies supporting the German Navy.

The  AN&MEF was recruited principally from Sydney (Army) and Melbourne (Navy), then hurriedly trained at Palm Island near Townsville before sailing for New Britain.

At dawn on 11 September 1914, almost 100 men, mainly naval personnel, landed at Kabakaul and Kokopo (see map) to capture an inland German radio station, thought to be near Bita Paka. A numerically superior German force stopped the Australian Kabakaul force advancing through the dense jungle, however, after reinforcement the Australians took the radio station that evening.

The Germans by then greatly outnumbered withdrew to headquarters at Toma, leaving Rabaul undefended. This enabled the AN&MEF to force the surrender of the whole area on 17 September 1914.

After this regionally significant victory, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and Europe became the nation's focus.

 
At the battle of Bita Paka, six Australians were killed and four were wounded; one German soldier and 30 Nationals were killed and 11 were wounded.  

 Williamsís sculpture    (left side plaque)

 

 Williams was born in 1885 and lived at 36 Beavers Road, Northcote, Melbourne and from 1911 he worked at the Melbourne City Council Electricity Supply Depot in Spencer Street. Williams became Australiaís first casualty of the war when he was mortally wounded on 11 September whilst scouting forward of the advance party at Bita Paka.  Captain Pockley tended Williamsís wound and gave his distinctive Red Cross armband to protect the man carrying Williams back to HMAS Berrima.


Pockley's Sculpture                (right side plaque)

Pockley was born in Sydney in 1890, he was an outstanding scholar and all round athlete at Shore Public School.  Fresh from Sydney University Medical Faculty, he entered the fledgling Army Medical Corps. Pockley gave his armband for Williams's protection, increasing his own risk to enemy fire. He was mortally wounded soon after Williams. Pockleyís sacrifice upheld the highest traditions of both his profession and the Army Medical Corps.    Pockley and Williams died aboard the HMAS Berrima on 11 September and they lie together in Bita Paka War Cemetery.

 



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