Capture of Rabaul from the Germans in 1914
Extracts from Masked Eden
The following are extracts from Masked Eden which give more detail of the circumstances surrounding the capture of Rabaul from the Germans.
Marjorie [Martin] told Stan [McCosker] about her brother Fred. He had volunteered for service in the Pacific in August 1914. The regiment of citizen forces to which he belonged was sent to Thursday Island. Volunteers were called for to proceed to New Guinea. Fred had been one of 500 who left on the troop ship ‘Kanowna’. He was to have been part of the expeditionary force. However, about half way to New Britain and after being joined by the battle-cruiser ‘Australia’ the firemen on board the ‘Kanowna’ struck work. The whole fleet was delayed for several hours but as the dispute was not settled, the ‘Kanowna’ returned to Queensland.
As they [Stan and Marjorie McCosker] drove along beside the waters of Blanche Bay, Win [Martin] kept exclaiming at the beautiful scenery. A world traveller, she thought this one of the most beautiful drives in the world. It reminded her of that famously lovely road from Colombo to Kandy. The area around the blue Lagoon especially delighted her, as it did most Europeans.
The road to Londip ran through Kokopo and then on towards Bita Paka. It was along this stretch of road that the Australian Army suffered its first casualties in the Great War. The wireless station was situated at Bita Paka. With the outbreak of hostilities between the British Empire and Germany, this wireless station – in German hands – posed a threat to the Allies.
On 11 September 1914 a large Australian fleet entered St George’s Channel.
It was considered important to seize the wireless plant as quickly as possible, and for that reason two parties, consisting of twenty-five men each, were landed at daybreak in order to locate it, one of them being landed at Kokopo and the other at Kabakaul, Having proceeded some distance inland, continually harassed by snipers, Lieut Bowen’s party suddenly struck determined opposition from a trench across the road.3
After some hours, and after some stiff fighting, the German forces surrendered. The wireless station was taken that evening. Two Australian officers and four men were killed, one officer and three men wounded. Thirty to forty native New Guinea troops were killed or wounded. Rabaul was captured without opposition the next day and on the following day, there was a short ceremonial parade after which a proclamation was read out. A few days after that the German New Guinea Protectorate was formally handed over to the British.
In New Guinea, the Great War was quickly over.
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