imita ridge

Australian Connections to the Kokoda Track: The Battle at Imita Ridge


The Kokoda Track, a historical trail in Papua New Guinea, stands as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of Australian forces during the Kokoda Campaign in September 1942. Among the significant events along this challenging path, the Battle at Imita Ridge holds a pivotal place. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of the Australian forces’ withdrawal to Imita Ridge, the intense fighting around Ioribaiwa, and the strategic significance of this region.

Background: Kokoda Campaign

Before we explore the events at Imita Ridge, it’s crucial to understand the broader context of the Kokoda Campaign. In early September 1942, the Japanese forces aimed to advance towards Port Moresby, a strategic location in Papua New Guinea. The rugged Kokoda Track became the battleground, where Australian forces, particularly the 21st and 25th Brigades, fiercely contested the Japanese advance.

The Retreat to Ioribaiwa Ridge

As the Japanese forces pushed forward, the Australians, under the command of Brigadier Ken Eather, faced a challenging decision. On 14th September 1942, after intense fighting around Ioribaiwa, Eather requested permission to withdraw to Imita Ridge. The withdrawal aimed to establish a more defensible position and regroup for the ongoing conflict.

Fighting Around Ioribaiwa

The days leading to the withdrawal were marked by intense battles around Ioribaiwa Ridge. The Australian battalions fought valiantly, and casualties were significant, with 49 killed and 121 wounded. The Japanese forces, determined to advance towards Port Moresby, faced stiff resistance, showcasing the tenacity of the Australian troops.

Withdrawal to Imita Ridge: 16th September 1942

On 16th September 1942, Brigadier Eather’s forces began their withdrawal to Imita Ridge. This strategic move aimed to consolidate the Australian defense along the Kokoda Track. The withdrawal was not a sign of defeat but a tactical decision to strengthen their position and continue the resistance against the advancing Japanese forces.

Strategic Significance of Imita Ridge

Imita Ridge offered a natural defensive position for the Australian forces. Positioned along the Kokoda Track, it provided a crucial vantage point for the defense against the Japanese attack. The decision to withdraw to Imita Ridge allowed the Australian forces to regroup, reinforce their supply lines, and prepare for the next phase of the campaign.

Artillery and Flank Defense

The Australian forces, now stationed along Imita Ridge, strategically positioned artillery to counter any Japanese attack. The rugged terrain and natural cover offered by the ridge allowed for effective flanking maneuvers. The Australian right, centre, and left were fortified, creating a formidable defensive line.

Patrols and Casualties

Patrols were essential to maintaining control along the Kokoda Track and Imita Ridge. Both sides engaged in reconnaissance missions, testing each other’s defenses. The challenging conditions, coupled with the ever-present threat of Japanese attacks, resulted in casualties. On Imita Ridge, 120 wounded soldiers bore witness to the harsh realities of war.

Australian Forces’ Resolve

Despite the challenges, the Australian forces stationed along Imita Ridge displayed remarkable resilience. The withdrawal to this defensive position, combined with effective use of artillery and strategic patrols, showcased the determination to protect Port Moresby and deny the Japanese a significant advantage.

The Larger Context: Kokoda Trail and Papua New Guinea

The history of the Kokoda Trail is intertwined with the broader narrative of Papua New Guinea’s wartime experience. The region, with its challenging terrain and dense jungles, became a battleground that tested the mettle of both Australian and Japanese forces.


The events at Imita Ridge form a crucial chapter in the history of the Kokoda Campaign. The withdrawal to this strategic position allowed the Australian forces to regroup, fortify their defenses, and continue the resistance against the Japanese advance. As trekkers embark on the challenging journey along the Kokoda Track, they walk in the footsteps of those who fought valiantly on Imita Ridge, contributing to the rich history of Australia’s wartime legacy.

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