COMMEMORATION: Battle of Milne Bay veteran David 'Bruce' Robertson with Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies (left) and Warrant Officer Robert Swanwick.
COMMEMORATION: Battle of Milne Bay veteran David 'Bruce' Robertson with Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies (left) and Warrant Officer Robert Swanwick. CPL Dan Pinhorn

Veterans reflect on pivotal battle's 75th anniversary

THE pivotal roles that the RAAF, army and navy played 75 years ago to defeat Japanese forces during the Battle of Milne Bay was commemorated at the Australian War Memorial on August 25.

Veterans, ADF personnel and their families as well as official guests attended a Last Post Ceremony at the AWM to mark the WWII anniversary.

CAF AIRMSHL Leo Davies said it was an honour to meet with veterans from who served, and pay tribute to their great service and sacrifice.

 

Milne Bay Veterans (L-R) Edwin Bousen, William Hansen, David 'Bruce' Robertson, Alexander Jenkins, Gregor McGregor, Eric Elms, and Reginald Young.
Milne Bay Veterans (L-R) Edwin Bousen, William Hansen, David 'Bruce' Robertson, Alexander Jenkins, Gregor McGregor, Eric Elms, and Reginald Young. CPL Dan Pinhorn

"Today for us, for the Air Force in particular, this is recognition of what 75 and 76 Squadron did during the Second World War," AIRMSHL Davies said.

"The battle was not just the air force, but the air force played such an important role, it is very easy for us to make the connection.

"These types of events for me (Last Post Ceremony), and many of us around here, the veterans who we talk to, it is in many respects the same feeling that we have for our veterans who are fighting over the skies of Iraq right now.

"So the outcome we seek is exactly the same - young folk in the air force can relate to our veterans here today - the connection is very easy."

Seven veterans of the battle attended the service, along with Minister for Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan, CDF ACM Mark Binskin, CA LTGEN Angus Campbell, Navy CDRE Brenton Smyth (representing the CN) and AWM director Dr Brendan Nelson.

A feature of the battle was the close co-operation between the army and the RAAF. United throughout the battle, the RAAF and army had a decisive victory, marking the first real defeat of the Japanese on land in the war.

 

Arthur John (Nat) Gould.
Arthur John (Nat) Gould.

Hudson bombers from RAAF No. 6 Squadron provided reconnaissance and bomber support, No. 75 Squadron provided Kittyhawks, and the flying squadrons were supported by No. 37 Radar Station and No. 8 Fire Control Unit during the battle.

The Australian Army deployed its 7th and 18th Infantry Brigades.

LTGEN Campbell said the battle was very significant action for Australian forces.

"The battle was the first allied land victory against the Japanese in the Second World War," LTGEN Campbell said.

"The Royal Australian Air Force was pivotal in the success of the battle, providing air cover and air power against Japanese capability and protecting Australian troops.

"It is important to be here to recognise the surviving veterans and to also acknowledge and remember those who died in that battle.

"More generally we should remember those who served in the Second World War in which 40,000 Australians died.

"To honour that sacrifice and to recognise the freedoms that generation gave us is a very, very important thing to do."

The navy also contributed, conducting a naval survey of the bay in Laurabada, which was manned by navy personnel, while RAN warships, including HMAS Arunta, escorted the transport vessels delivering earth-moving equipment, food, ammunition, aviation fuel and other essential supplies.



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