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Eli Dickson & memories of the Battle of Milne Bay

Eli  War Memories  Milne Bay (Kerry Drysdale)DISNYDER GEE | Alotau District Community

ELI Dickson was one of the witnesses to the War Crimes Tribunal that investigated the torture and killing of 59 Milne Bay people and a number of Australian soldiers in August-September 1942.

Eli's story is known to all families related to him so, if you’re ever down at the village of small Wagawaga, they'll tell you.

If I can just briefly recall, Eli was taken from the Dickson's home at small Wagawaga by Japanese troops who wanted him to show them the way to Giligili, where there was an Allied airfield.

It was in the early hours of the night when he was taken and none of his family members knew except his mother who suspected something wasn't right when he didn't return after sending him to the beach to check what the noises were.

When he didn't appear, she knew straight away that he had been taken and that her next job was to make sure all her other children were safe. She went into each of her children's rooms and turned down their lamps while whispering softly to not make any sound as the war had come and the Japanese had taken their brother.

Anyways Eli led the Japanese through the night trying to find a way to Giligili. The story is that the Australian and American soldiers lay in ambush at a certain spot which we suspect was at Kwakwala, just above Nako.

There was heavy fighting and Eli found a way to escape and return to Wagawaga sometime later. It's a bit sketchy but Eli’s children, Dirome Dickson and Oleva Dickson, know more. They're down at small Wagawaga.


Australian troops at Milne Bay in 1942  shortly after the battleExtract from the official account of the Battle of Milne Bay (Wikipedia)

Orders were passed for the 30 Kittyhawks at Gili Gili to be flown to Port Moresby in case the Japanese succeeded in breaking through to the airfield. The attack did not take place, though, and consequently early in the morning on 29 August they returned, albeit minus two aircraft which had crashed during the move.

The Japanese convoy arrived off Waga Waga at 8:15 pm on 29 August, and began landing troops and supplies. While this was taking place the warships shelled Allied positions around Gili Gili and by 11:30 pm, had completed their landing.

The shelling was not significant, however, and no casualties resulted from it. Throughout 30 August, the Australians carried out patrolling operations while the Japanese laid up in the jungle in preparation for an attack that night.

Later that night the Japanese began forming up along the track at the eastern end of No. 3 Airstrip by the sea, and at 3:00 am on 31 August they launched their attack. Advancing over open ground and illuminated by flares fired by the Australians, the first Japanese attack was repelled by heavy machine gun and mortar fire from 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions as well as the 46th Engineer General Service Regiment, and artillery fire from the Australian 2/5th Field Regiment.

One of the Japanese barges after the battleA further two banzai charges were attempted only to meet the same fate, with heavy Japanese casualties, including the Japanese commander, Hayashi. At this point, Commander Minoru Yano, who had arrived with the Japanese reinforcements on 29 August, took over from Hayashi, and after the survivors of the attack had reformed in the dead ground around Poin Creek, he led them about 200 yards north of the airstrip in an attempt to outflank the 61st Infantry Battalion's positions on Stephen's Ridge.

After running into a platoon of Australians who engaged them with Bren light machine guns, the Japanese withdrew just before dawn to the sounds of a bugle call. The Japanese troops who survived this attack were shocked by the heavy firepower the Allied forces had been able to deploy, and the assault force was left in a state of disarray.


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