Military History

This Week In History | Week 8

By The Cove February 19, 2020

17 - 23 February
17 February 1970: Battle of Long Hai, South Vietnam.

On 10 February 1970, the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment  took part in Operation Hammersley, a reconnaissance operation in the Long Hải area. On 18 February, the Battalion captured a large bunker complex after the Vietnamese Communist defenders withdrew following air raids. The operation continued until 9 March, with the battalion carrying out patrols and conducting ambushes in order to engage Communist troops. These operations were successful, and 8 RAR was awarded the South Vietnamese Government's Meritorious Unit Commendation, including Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation for its role in the operation.


18 February 1902: In the Australian Army's first overseas deployment, the 1st Australian Commonwealth Horse Battalion sailed for South Africa 

The Australian Commonwealth Horse (ACH) was a mounted infantry unit of the Australian Army formed for service during the Second Boer War in South Africa in 1902 and was the first expeditionary military unit established by the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia following Federation in 1901.


19 February 1942: First Japanese raid on Darwin

On 19 February 1942, Japanese aircraft carriers despatched 240 aircraft to bomb Darwin and knock out the RAAF base there in order to ensure their planned Timor landing the following day would not be interrupted. The commander was Mitsuo Fuchida, the same man whose planes had destroyed the American fleet at Pearl Harbour just months earlier. Now it was Darwin's turn.

Darwin was caught unprepared and isolated. Bombs rained down on the city and the harbour where 45 Allied ships were berthed. A second raid happened at midday. The attacks shattered Darwin's air force base, ten ships were sunk, and the city and its port were thrown into chaos. Darwin's wharf and post office suffered direct hits and there was heavy loss of life. The Darwin area suffered 62 further raids in 1942 and 1943, but the first was the worst.

This audio was recorded by Frederick Simpson two days after the attack. In the recording, Darwin resident Mr Rudman gives a blow-by-blow account of what the raids felt like.


20 February 1942: Battle of Timor

The Battle of Timor occurred in Portuguese Timor and Dutch Timor during the Second World War. Japanese forces invaded the island on 20 February 1942 and were resisted by a small, under-equipped force of Allied military personnel. Known as Sparrow Force, the soldiers were predominantly from Australia, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands East Indies. Following a brief but stout resistance, the Japanese succeeded in forcing the surrender of the bulk of the Allied force after three days of fighting, although several hundred Australian commandos continued to wage an unconventional raiding campaign. They were resupplied by aircraft and vessels, based mostly in Darwin, Australia, which was about 650 km (400 mi) to the southeast, across the Timor Sea. During the subsequent fighting, the Japanese suffered heavy casualties, but they were eventually able to contain the Australians.





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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