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Commemorating the controversial battle of Porton plantation

The Battle of PortonREG YATES

AFTER PNG Attitude published my ‘PNG Adventurous Training Guide' recently, I received an invitation from James Warar, headman of Porton Plantation in Bougainville, to let interested people know about the commemoration of a controversial World War II battle at the plantation.

The 31/51st Battalion of the Australian Military Force attacked Imperial Japanese soldiers defending the plantation from 8-11 June 1945. The commemoration will be held on Saturday 10 June 2017 at Porton.

But the Australian assault made several mistakes and the attack did not go according to plan.

The errors included not carrying out reconnaissance to determine the enemy's strength and not consulting with 26th Battalion AMF which had successfully attacked Soraken Peninsula earlier and built up valuable experience.

Furthermore, the military planners did not heed the words of the Officer Commanding 42nd Landing Craft Company about the possibility of landing craft getting stuck on the fringing coral reef.

Here was suspicion that the attack was rushed to impress Australian General Blamey, who was visiting the area.

The result was that the attack failed, with 27 Australians were killed-in-action and 69 wounded. The Porton Plantation battle was the only Australian defeat on Bougainville in 1944-45.

Wikipedia notes:

4_Field_Regiment_firing_on_Porton“The battle was a victory for the Japanese and it proved instrumental in helping them to regain the initiative in the northern sector of Bougainville.

“As a result, shortly afterwards the Australian forces on Bougainville changed the focus of their operations to the southern sector of the island where they were able to advance along the coastal plain towards the main Japanese position at Buin.

“Since the end of the war, there has been considerable criticism of the planning undertaken by the Australians prior to the operation, and it has been argued that the operation failed due to poor intelligence and lack of resources and was ultimately unnecessary.”

Further down the west coast, a little further south between Buoi Plantation and Ratsua, Imperial Japanese troops defended their Base 5 which was attacked by 8th Battalion AMF on 24 July 1945 after a bombardment of 900 artillery shells and mortar bombs.

Frank Partridge VCPrivate Frank Partridge, although wounded, rushed forward and retrieved a Bren gun with which he attacked a Japanese bunker allowing his platoon to capture the position.

Partridge was awarded the Victoria Cross for this action, the only militia soldier to receive the VC during World War II. With sly humour, the position was renamed Part Ridge in his honour.

People interested in making the trip should contact Lesley Palmer at <lesleypalmer262@yahoo.com> who will contact James Warar.

James will arrange accommodation and transport and swimming and canoeing.

The story of the battle will be told and landmarks pointed out. Lunch will be provided with costs shared among visitors.

Comments

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Des Martin

As predicted by the CO 42 Assault Landing Craft Company (ALCC) the barges got stuck on a sandy reef a few hundred metres off shore and the Japs were able to inflict many casualties on the incoming troops.

Rumour at the time was that the assault was put on as a show for General Blamey. He was due to visit 6 Div'n in the Aitape-Wewak area where I was serving but his visit was cancelled as it was considered too dangerous because of Jap activity throughout the area at the time.

My old unit 43 ALCC attached to 6 Div'n infantry units assaulted Japanese positions at Brandi Plantation in May 1945 firing mortars from the barges as we approached the landing position. But that's another story which went belly up.

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