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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: December 2013

13 - Old Vickers


July had been difficult for the Australian 58/59th Battalion. With Brigadier Hammer's other two battalions engaged in ancillary actions away from the main stage at Bobdubi Ridge, there was no relief or reinforcement for the hard-pressed 58/59th. Although the battalion's presence along Bobdubi Ridge had released the 2/3rd Independent Company for operations against the southern end of the ridge, its own lack of operational success had repercussions. It meant that the Japanese command had been able to maintain the vital supply line up the Komiatum Track to the critical defensive positions at Goodview Junction and Mount Tambu.

The failure of the 58/59th Battalion to achieve its operational goals soon led to considerable criticism. According to Starr, this criticism was mainly from 15th Brigade headquarters staff and was condoned by, if not originating from, Hammer. Starr later noted, ‘The loudly expressed opinion of the brigade command was gleefully taken up by members of the brigade staff, and the battalion signallers frequently had to listen to contemptuous remarks bandied back and forth on the one and only line.’ As Lieutenant Ted Griff observed, ‘The whole area was on a party line and all conversations were heard by signallers wearing headsets.’

Starr also considered that his own and Hammer's ways to win the war were ‘diametrically opposed’. Starr favoured preserving his force for the main task, which he believed was to get strong units across the Komia-tum Track to snare the enemy forces retreating from the 17th Brigade attack at Mubo.

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