Military History

This week in History | Week 1

By The Cove December 19, 2019

30 December to 05 January


1 January 1901: First Australian casualties of the Boer War

Two companies of the Queensland Mounted Infantry Regiment, along with British and Canadian troops, attacked a Boer laager at Sunnyside on the western border of Orange Free State. The Queenslanders suffered the first casualties of any Australian colony in the Boer War. The Queensland Mounted Infantry Regiment is an anticeedent to today's modern armoured calvary regiment, the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) which is based in Brisbane as part of the 7th Combat Brigade.

1 January 1951: Battle of Uijonbu, Korea

The Battle of Uijeongbu (also known as the Battle of Uijongbu) was fought between 1–4 January 1951, at Uijeongbu in South Korea. It took place as the United Nations (UN) Command retreated south under pressure from the third Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) offensive after China entered the Korean War.  

The 3rd Battalion of The Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) had been defending the approaches north of Seoul, as part of the withdrawal of the United Nations forces and was tasked with slowing the Chinese advance to allow the withdrawal of the United States 8th Army. 

The fighting at and around Uijeongbu allowed the US 8th Army to withdraw and Seoul to be evacuated. PVA casualties were at least seven killed and an unknown number wounded, while Australian casualties were at nine wounded. The 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highland Regiment was the last UN unit out of Seoul, while 3 RAR were the last troops across the railway bridge across the Han River.

3 RAR is the most decorated battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment and has recently transitioned from a light-role battalion to a mechanised infantry battalion. 3 RAR is based in Townsville as part of the Army's 3rd Combat Brigade.


02 January 1943: The capture of the Government Station at Buna in northern Papua.

Between November 1942 and January 1943 the Australian Army was engaged in bitter fighting around the villages of Buna and Gona on the north coast of Papua. The 18th Australian Brigade, command by Brigadier George Wootten, and a squadron of tanks from the 2/6th Australian Armoured Regiment were moved up from Milne Bay in mid-December to reinforce the Americans attacking Buna. By this time, Buna village had been captured but the Japanese remained well-entrenched around the airfields and the government station. The 18th Brigade's first attack was launched in the airfield area by the 2/9th and 2/10th Battalions on the morning of 18 December. Despite the support of the tanks, the fighting was slow and vicious, with the Japanese bunkers having to be destroyed one by one. By 23rd December this phase of the operations had achieved its objective of clearing the area between the airfields and the coast, and it was now time to tackle the core of Japanese resistance - the positions around the western end of the old strip.

The 2/10th Battalion made a series of attacks along the old strip between 24 and 29 December but few gains were made. The four tanks that initially accompanied the battalion were quickly destroyed, leaving the infantry to tackle the bunkers with only the most minimal artillery support. Brigadier Wootten's impatience to make progress meant the 2/10th was bustled into poorly planned and co-ordinated attacks and heavy casualties were the result. When more tanks began arriving on 29 December another attack was rushed through, with the same disastrous results.

Victory at Buna only came with a pause in operations to allow proper planning, the reinforcement of the tanks, and the replacement of the tired and depleted 2/10th by the fresh 2/12th Battalion. They attacked on the morning of 1 January and, with the tanks and infantry co-operating closely, destroyed the bulk of the Japanese positions before nightfall. The destruction of isolated points of resistance continued the next day. In the meantime, American troops had also been attacking east from Buna village and secured the Buna Government Station, and effected a junction with the force moving west form the old strip on 2 January. The battle for Buna cost the Allied forces 2,870 casualties; the 18th Brigade had lost 863, including 306 killed.

For more on this battle, read The Bloody Beachheads – The Battles of Gona, Buna and Sanananda, November 1942 – January 1943 by James Brien who was an Australian War Memorial summer scholar in 2013.


3 January 1941: Battle of Bardia, Libya

The Battle of Bardia was fought between 3-5 January 1941, as part of Operation Compass, the first British military operation of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. It was the first battle of the war in which an Australian Army formation took part, the first to be commanded by an Australian general and the first to be planned by an Australian staff.

On the morning of 3 January 1941, troops of the 16th Brigade of the 6th Australian Division attacked and broke through the western face of the defensive perimeter, while the 2/6th Battalion mounted a diversion in the south. Troops of the 17th Australian Brigade joined the fighting later in the morning to clear the southern portion of the Italian defences, while the 16th Brigade advanced towards Bardia itself. Bardia was captured late in the afternoon of 4 January, but Italian resistance in the southern portion of the perimeter, which had been particularly determined, did not cease until the morning of 5 January; the diversionary force had encountered the toughest fighting of all. The attack had cost the 6th Division 130 men killed and 326 wounded but netted them approximately 40,000 Italian prisoners and large quantities of arms, rations and equipment.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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