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Royal New Zealand Air Force

south bougainville campaign

south bougainville campaign

The advance to southern Bougainville was the responsibility of the 3rd Australian Division. The operation was to be carried out in several stages, allowing time for the development of road communications and the establishment of forward bases at the conclusion of each stage. December was spent in reconnaissances and patrols, gaining information about the enemy's strength and dispositions. On the 18th two companies of the 15th Battalion crossed the Jaba River at its mouth, and another company landed four miles farther down the coast. By the next night the forward company had established a patrol base within a mile of the Tavera River. Ten days later the river was crossed, and the patrol base moved forward towards the Adele River.

The information gained by the patrols enabled the 29th Brigade early in the new year to launch the first stage of the offensive, which was to be carried as far as the Puriata River. Mawaraka and Motupena Point, at the southern extremity of Empress Augusta Bay, were occupied against light opposition on 17 and 19 January. Patrols on the coastal track southward from Motupena Point did not encounter any enemy, and on 2 February company was landed by barge at Toko, near the mouth of the Puriata, where it established itself against minor opposition.

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Inland, where the advance was along the line of the main trail leading south from the Jaba River, enemy resistance was more severe and slower progress was made.

The drive southward along the main trail was assisted by thrusts inland from Mawaraka and Toko, which took the enemy in the rear. The capture of Darara on 23 February, by a force operating from Toko, gave the Australians command of the chief ford across the Puriata, and thereafter Japanese communications were limited to crossings farther upstream.

Having reached the Puriata, the Australians prepared for the next stage of their advance, which was to carry them first to the Hongorai and then to the Hari River. Two columns crossed the Puriata early in March. One crossed at the chief ford and established itself in depth on the main track to Buin with its forward company in the neighbourhood of Tokinatu. The other, further inland, crossed at Makapeka and advanced towards the Horinu area.

Both columns met stiffening opposition, and at the end of the month the whole advance was held up by a determined enemy counter-offensive which was intended to push them back across the Puriata and reoccupy the Toko area. The counter-offensive failed after several days of bitter fighting, and after regrouping their forces the Australians continued their advance in the latter half of April.

By the 27th the inland column had reached the Hongorai in the region of Rumiki and had cleared the enemy from a lateral trail which gave communication with the other column on the main road at Tokinatu. On 17 April the main road force resumed its advance, and on 7 May it reached the Hongorai ford.

The inland force, fighting its way south along a track which became known as the Commando Road, crossed the Hongorai on 17 May. The Buin Road force crossed it lower down, on both sides of the main ford, on the 20th. Three days later the road was cleared of the enemy for 3000 yards beyond the ford. On 28 May a new lateral track between the two forces was secured, and this greatly eased the problem of supplying the Commando Road column.

The Australians continued to advance until the end of June, fighting every inch of the way along Commando Road and the Buin Road, and by the 30th they had reached the Mivo River. From there they sent patrols westward to reconnoitre the next stage, which was to take them to the Silibai.

During July forward movement was prevented by torrential rains, which flooded the rivers and destroyed or damaged most of the bridges that had been built on the Buin Road. The disruption of the line of communications made impossible the assembly of page 294 stores and supplies in the forward area, and the projected date for the next phase of the advance had to be postponed until 21 August. Such was the position when, on 15 August, it was announced that Japan had accepted the Allies' terms of surrender.