Military History

This Week In History | Week 16

By The Cove April 5, 2020


13 - 19 April
 
13 April 1916 | 9th Light Horse Regiment in the Sinai

On 13 April 1916, a squadron of the 9th Light Horse Regiment captured the Turkish outpost at Jifjafa, in the Sinai, about 60 kilometres from the Suez Canal.

The raid was commanded by Major William Henry Scott, the second-in-command of the 9th Light Horse Regiment (9th LHR). The attack started at 0900 when one troop moved to a position one mile (1.6 km) north-west of the well. Another troop moved around to the southwest of the well. A third troop positioned itself to the south of the well, while the fourth troop carried out a frontal assault, supported by a machine-gun section, from their present position.

As the assault began, a Turkish sentry saw the advancing Australians and withdrew back to the well. The rest of the well's defenders evacuated the position; some headed for the hills and others south-east away from the well. Those that headed to the hills were cut off by the troop positioned there, and a brief skirmish took place during which six Turkish soldiers were killed, and five wounded.

The encounter, the first engagement for the Light Horse in the Sinai, demonstrated their potential for fighting in the Middle East.

 

13 April 1944 | The Battle of Bogadjim, New Guinea

On 13 April 1944, during the Battle of Bogadjim, the Australian Army 57th / 60th Infantry Battalion defeated the Japanese in the area of Stephansort and Bogadjim. The battle was one of many during the 18th Brigade's advance towards Madang along the Bogadjim road. By late April 1944, the No. 5 Base Supply Depot was established to store supplies in support of operations further up the coast.

 
17 April 1917 | Second battle of Gaza

The first attack on the Turkish coastal stronghold at Gaza, by two British divisions and mounted troops from the Desert Column on 23 March 1917, failed. On 17 April 1917, a second attack was launched on the Turks which had used the intervening period to improve their positions. This time the frontal attack was supported by gas shells and eight Mark I tanks. Both were dismal failures and the Turks repulsed the assault, inflicting over 6,000 casualties on the attackers. Gaza would remain in Turkish hands until Australian Light Horsemen break throught the Turkish defences at Beersheba on 31 October 1917.

 
17 April 1918 | Battle of Kemmel

The 4th Australian Light Horse, 9th Battalion and 10th Battalion were involved in the defence of the Kemmelberg, a height commanding the area between Armentières and Ypres, during the German spring offensive of 1918. This was one of many smaller engagements that made up the  Battle of the Lys (also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres).

Additional Resource: Book | Australian Army Campaigns : Battle of Lys April 1918 by Colin Mattey.

 

17 April 1945 | Battle of the Hongorai River, Bougainville

The Battle of the Hongorai River was part of the wider Bougainville Campaign fought in the southern sector of Bougainville Island. Coming after the Battle of Slater's Knoll, in which a strong Japanese counterattack was defeated, the battle occurred in two distinct periods between 17 April and 22 May 1945, as elements of the Australian 15th Brigade advanced south along the Buin Road.

Additional Resource: Book | The Hard Slog: Australians in the Bougainville Campaign, 1944–45 by Karl James

 

18 April 1941 | The Defence of Tempe (or Pinios) Gorge, Greece

Tempe Gorge, on the eastern coast of Greece, was the site of a rearguard action fought by Australian and New Zealand troops on 18 April 1941. The gorge is formed where the Pinios River, on its way to the sea, cuts through the coastal mountain range to the south-east of Mount Olympus. Its name is derived from the village of Tempe that stands at its western end. In 1941, both a railway and road used the gorge to cross inland from the coast and connect with the town of Larissa. Larissa was a vital junction at which several other roads and railways converged and through which British and Commonwealth forces retreating from northern Greece had to pass. In order to protect Larissa long enough for this to occur, the 16th Australian Brigade (minus the 2/1st Battalion, but with the 21st New Zealand Battalion under its command) was deployed to prevent German movement through the gorge. The defenders took up positions on the slopes to the south - the New Zealanders overlooking the gorge itself and the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Battalions covering the western end where it opened onto a plain known as the Vale of Tempe.

The Germans launched a two pronged attack on the morning of 18 April. Troops from the 2nd Armoured Division attacked along the gorge from the east, while two regiments of the 6th Mountain Division that had moved through the mountains attacked from the north towards the Vale of Tempe. By midday, the New Zealanders had been forced to yield the gorge to Germans and withdrew in scattered parties, either across the hills to the south or through the 2/2nd Battalion's positions. A lull in the fighting occurred for a few hours before the Germans renewed their attack on the 2/2nd mid-afternoon. Attacks from across the river were beaten off but the resolute drive of the German armour down the road, combined with a German outflanking movement to the west that was assisted by the premature withdrawal of part of the 2/3rd Battalion, brought about the collapse of the 2/2nd's position. After 6 pm its withdrew in parties of varying sizes across the hills to the south, with German troops in close pursuit; the battalion never fought as a whole again for the rest of the campaign.

In the hours after the capture of Tempe Gorge, the 2/3rd Battalion, a company of the 2/2nd, and an assorted group of other Australian and New Zealand troops fought as a mobile rearguard down the road towards Larissa, sometimes engaging the German tanks at almost point-blank range. By dawn this force had been scattered and outflanked, but the main withdrawal through Larissa had been completed without incident. (AWM)

Additional Resource: Article: "The Battle of Pinios Gorge" (PDF). Australian Army Journal. VIII 

 

 


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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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