The Principles of War Podcast
Militia Battalions on the Kokoda Track

95 – A militia Battalion on the Kokoda Track

This is the second episode in our Kokoda Track series looking at the performance of the 53rd Battalion.  The 53rd, a militia Battalion, had some incredibly brave men.  Virtually untrained, poorly equipped, with inexperienced leaders, they fought a battle-hardened enemy in some of the worst terrain in the world. 

Here are the helps to help appreciate yourself to the ground, the terrain and the troop locations during the battle of Isurava on the Kokoda Track.

This episode looks at just 4 weeks in the history of the Battalion, from when they started up the track, during their contact with the Japanese, and through till the time they were ordered to leave the battlefield.  There is much to learn from their experience.

We are looking for lessons in the raising and training of troops, which thankfully is something that Australia has not had to do very often.   How does a nation take civilians and militia in and prepare them for combat?

These troops were fighting in the Jungle.  We learned from Freddy Spencer Chapman, the author of the Jungle is Neutral when we looked at the Birth of Australian Special Forces.  It is neutral in that the jungle hates everyone equally.  

The story starts with 30th Brigade ordering the 53rd Battalion to move up to Isurava, initially with 1 company, and then the rest of the battalion, commencing on the 10th of August.

We discuss the planning for the move up to Isurava as 53rd Battalion is ordered to support the 39th Battalion.  At this early stage of the campaign, 53rd Battalion struggles to find enough equipment to move out onto the Kokoda Track.  The track is imposing terrain, especially when troops are also infected with malaria.  LT Ron Plater shares his recollections of what it is like to cross the Owen Stanley ranges.

We discuss the work of Doc Vernon and his role at ANGAU, the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit.  

The 2/14th, leaves Port Moresby, the first of the AIF units, in an effort to support the 39th.  

SGT Keith Irwin discusses what it was like to travel on the Kokoda track.

BRIG Porter takes command of Maroubra Force with orders to deny ‘The Gap’ to the enemy.  It actually doesn’t exist and despite ‘The Gap’ not existing, no commander had sighted it, verified it’s importance or defined it’s location.  At this point of the battle, Maroubra Force has less than one Battalion’s worth of soldiers.

The 53rd Battalion was armed with the .303 SMLE, some Thompson guns and the Bren Guns.  How did the Brends make it up to Isurava?

These are just the show notes for the podcast, please listen to the podcast on your favourite podcast player.

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