In 1942, the Japanese Army set up bases in New Guinea and launched a large force down the Kokoda track. Their plan was to attack Port Moresby. The narrow track is a jungle-enclosed pathway climbing to 2,200 metres. It is difficult, steep terrain, often rain-soaked, very cold at night with high humidity.
This was the scene of many battles against the Japanese as their force moved south. The first Allied resistance came from a Papuan infantry battalion and militia troops of the Australian 39th battalion. These troops, under-trained and poorly supplied, were pushed back.
More Australian units with support artillery, engineers, supply and medical units were thrown into the battle and the Japanese advance was stopped at Ioribaiwa. By late November, they’d been forced back to their stronghold in Buna, which along with Gona and Sananda were constantly attacked by Australian and American forces. They were back in Allied control by January 1943.
The New Guinea campaign left 1,300 Australians, 1,000 Americans and 6,000 Japanese dead. 600 of those Australians fell along the Kokoda track.
Local man, Ron Dixon fought in World War Two, in North Africa (1940-42) and in New Guinea (1942-45). He was a signaller with 2/5 Field Artillery regiment as part of 7 division.
Ron usually served in forward exposed positions, helping direct artillery fire onto enemy positions. His united supplied much fire support to many battles.
On November 2 this year, Ron was invited, with 10 other survivors of the New Guinea campaign, nine army and two air force, to attend a special 75th anniversary function at the Margaret Whitlam pavilion at the National Arboretum in Canberra.
There, he heard an excellent address by Brendan Nelson, AWM CEO, and then attended the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. There were only two men at the ceremony who had served in both North Africa and New Guinea. Ron remembers clearly his time as a soldier.
Ron was born in Sydney and came to live in Wauchope in 1981, and now, as a sprightly 96-year-old, he still plays golf twice a week. He says he has played to his age, or broken it at golf on 105 occasions.
There are only a few ex-servicemen and women alive who fought in World War Two.
Wauchope and Australia say: “Thanks, Ron, for your great sacrifice for your country.”