Military History

This Week in History | Week 17

By The Cove April 20, 2020

20 - 26 April


20 April 1941 | ANZAC Corps withdraws to the Thermopylae Line

The Greek campaign ended in disaster for the Allies. Unable to hold out against numerically stronger and better organised German forces, the Allies were forced to evacuate their troops from Greece in late April 1941.


21 April 1918 | Baron von Richthofen (The Red Baron) is shot down in France

Manfred von Richthofen, most famously konwn as the "Red Baron", was a fighter pilot with the German Air Force during World War I. He is considered the ace-of-aces of the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories. The Red Baron received a fatal wound just after 11:00 am on 21 April 1918 while flying over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme River. Initially, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF) was credited with shooting down the Red Baron, but it is now generally agreed that the bullet which hit Richthofen was fired from the ground. It is suggested that Sergeant Cedric Popkin was the person most likely to have killed Baron von Richthofen, using a Vickers gun. Sergeant Popkin was an anti-aircraft (AA) machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company


22 April 1951 | Battle of Kapyong

On the night of 22 April 1951, Chinese forces launched a major offensive against United Nations forces defending the South Korean capital, Seoul, and positions further east. On the following morning, the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade (including the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment) was ordered to the valley of the Kapyong River about 60 kilometres north-east of Seoul, where South Korean forces were being driven back.

During a night of fierce fighting, and throughout the daylight hours of 24 April, the Australians and a Canadian battalion - supported by a New Zealand artillery regiment -  stalled the Chinese advance before eventually withdrawing after dark. At a cost of 32 fatalities, 59 wounded and three missing (taken prisoner), the Australians had helped stall the Chinese 60th Division though inflicting heavy casualties, which totalled more than 500 fatalities. For their contribution to this action, 3 RAR was awarded a US Presidential Citation. (AWM)


23 April 1942 | "Kanga Force" formed for guerilla ops in New Guinea

Kanga Force was the name given to a composite ad hoc formation of the Australian Army that served in New Guinea during World War II. Commanded by Major Norman Fleay, it was formed on 23 April 1942. Made up of elements from the 1st and 2/5th Independent Companies and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR), Kanga Force conducted a number of small scale raids and reconnaissance operations around Lae and Salamaua before it was disbanded and the individual units became part of the Australian 3rd Division in 1943.

Additional Resource: PDF | Second World War Official Histories- Volume V - South–West Pacific Area - First Year: Kokoda to Wau (1st edition, 1959) - Chapter 3 'Kanga Force' (AWM)


24 April 1918 | Second battle of Villers-Bretonneux

On 24 April 1918, British troops were defending Villers-Bretonneux. The Germans attacked at dawn and, with the aid of 13 tanks which they were using for the first time, they captured the town. A British counter-attack commenced at 10 pm the same day led by Australians to the north and south. The Australian brigades enveloped Villers-Bretonneux and attempted to join forces to the east of the town. They were unable to join up in the dark and many Germans managed to escape. After dawn, the gap was gradually closed and Australians entered the town from the east and British from the north and west. Villers-Bretonneux was cleared of enemy troops on 25 April 1918, the third anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. This action marked the effective end of the German offensive that had commenced so successfully more than a month earlier.

Additional Resource: Website | The Sir John Monash Centre


25 April 1915 | Gallipoli Landings

Early on the morning of 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey. The British Army landed at Cape Helles while troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed north of Gaba Tepe (Kabatepe) headland, on a beach later called 'Anzac Cove'. French troops landed in a feint at Kum Kale on the Dardanelles Asian shore before moving to the Helles sector on Gallipoli.

The Gallipoli Campaign was the land-based element of a broad strategy to defeat the Ottoman Empire. A British-French fleet had made several attempts to breach Ottoman defences in the Dardanelles but had suffered a decisive defeat on 18 March 1915.

The Allies realised that naval forces alone were unlikely to force a surrender. They hoped that infantry would destroy the shore-based defences. This would bring a victory that would allow Allied navy ships to pass through the Dardanelles straits and attack Constantinople (current day Istanbul) and knock the Ottoman Turks out of the war. Success depended on a quick victory, but this did not occur.

Ferocious Turkish resistance resulted in protracted trench warfare through the forbidding scrubby slopes and ravines. Fighting in the landings and early battles resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.

Additional Resource: Book List | Gallipoli Campaign from the questia research website. 



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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