The Principles of War Podcast
Leadership and Morale at Palliers Hill

45 – Leadership and Morale on Palliers Hill

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Was Leadership and Morale the critical difference between that Japanese and the Australians troops that fought on top of Palliers Hill.

With such difficult terrain and being outnumbered, how could Palliers Hill have been a victory for 9 Platoon from the 2/14th?

We finish our look at the Considerations for the Defence of Palliers Hill

  • Mutual Support was very difficult to develop given the way that the defensive pits were laid out.
  • Use of Reserves – the force was quite small, so the reserve was going to be very small.  The Japanese commander could have considered spoiling attack, but that wasn’t an option because of the fire support
  • Counter Penetration / Counter Attack.  There appears to have been very little done with Counter Pen.
  • The Reserve.  It doesn’t appear that there was a reserve employed at Palliers by the Japanese.
  • All Round Defence.  Given the terrain, there was little requirement for all-round defence.  Had the Australians had the luxury of time, they could have manoeuvred around and exploited a covered approach.
  • Depth.  The position was quite deep and required the Australians were forced to work back through the each of the pits sequentially.
  • Security.  There was little deception, given the terrain and the time that the Japanese had to prepare their defensive position.  The movement into the defensive position had maximum security.  We know this because on the morning of the assault, when spotted by the Australians, it was unclear if the troops on Palliers Hill were enemy or friendly.
  • Fire Support.  There was no fire support for the Japanese.
  • Orchestration.  It appears that there was little orchestration.  No fire support plan, no reserves, no mutual support, no rehearsals.

Leadership and Morale factors on Palliers Hill

The 2nd/14th had been in service in the Middle East.  They also fought on the Kokoda and at Gona.  Ralph Honner took over, who had previously been CO of the 39th Battalion.  He was a great CO.  A veteran Bn, with a great leader and whilst some of the soldiers and Officers, like LT Noel Pallier where relatively new, there was still enough of the old timers to ensure that the unit had the skills and moral of a Veteran unit.  The Australian’s

The Japanese, on the other hand, were on the defensive, and their logistics were in a parlous state.  How were they thinking?  When had they last eaten a decent meal?

Combine the “Fix bayonets if you like” from LT Pallier and where the Japanese simply unable to resist the sight and sound of the Australian troops, well lead as they cleared the pits one by one?

The supply system was in a parlous state in many respects because of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, and that is the topic of our next podcast.

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