Military History

This Week in History | Week 20

By The Cove May 11, 2020

11 - 17 May 


11 May 1945 | Wewak captured

Wewak, a small town located centrally on the North coast of Papua New Guinea, was captured by the 6th Division in a combined land and amphibious operation. Its fall marked the beginning of the end of the Aitape–Wewak campaign, the last major campaign on mainland New Guinea in the Second World War.


12 May 1968 | Fire Support Base Coral attacked

The partly-constructed base, north of Saigon, was defended by Australian infantry, artillery, and air support when it was attacked by North Vietnamese troops. Eleven Australians were killed and 28 wounded before the attackers were driven back. Fifty-two enemy soldiers were killed and one was taken prisoner. This was the first in a series of actions that would become known as the Battle of Coral–Balmoral (12 May – 6 June 1968).

Additional Resource: Book | The Battle of Coral: Vietnam fire support bases Coral and Balmoral, May 1968 by Lex McAulay


14 May 1943 | Centaur sunk

The British merchant navy ship Centaur was handed over to the Australian military for conversion into a hospital ship in January 1943.  During her second voyage, the Centaur was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine near North Stradbroke Island, off the south Queensland coast.  The majority of the 332 aboard died in the attack, and only 64 survivors were discovered 36 hours later. The incident resulted in public outrage as attacking a hospital ship is considered a war crime under the 1907 Hague Convention. Protests were made by the Australian and British governments to Japan and efforts were made to discover the people responsible so they could be tried at a war crimes tribunal. In the 1970s the probable identity of the attacking submarine, I-177, became public.

15 May 1942 | Prisoners of Japanese transported to begin work on Burma–Thailand Railway

On 15 May 1942, the movement of prisoners of war (A Force) to Thailand from Singapore begins for work on the Burma–Thailand Railway. In 1942/43, the Japanese army forced about 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) — including 13,000 Australians and roughly 200,000 civilians, mostly Burmese and Malayans — to build a railway linking Thailand and Burma. About 2,800 Australians died building the railway.


15 May 1915 | Major General W.T. Bridges wounded at Gallipoli

Major General Bridges commander of the First Division, AIF became well known to his troops through his daily inspections of the firing line; during these visits he showed great disregard for his personal safety. On the morning of 15 May he was shot by a sniper in Monash Valley and both artery and femoral vein in his right thigh were severed. He was evacuated to the hospital ship Gascon but his condition was such that doctors decided against operating to remove his leg. The wound became gangrenous and he died en route to hospital in Egypt on 18 May. His body was returned to Australia and buried overlooking the Royal Military College, Duntroon.


16 May 1968 | Fire Support Base Coral attacked for a second time

An attack on the Fire Support Base Coral by a North Vietnamese Army force estimated at three battalions was repelled by APCs and soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. Five Australians were killed and 19 wounded. Thirty-four enemy bodies were found.



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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