Australian History: The Battle of Sattelberg in the Huon Peninsula Campaign
Introduction – The Battle of Sattelberg
The Kokoda Track, known for its historical significance during the Second World War, offers trekkers a unique opportunity to explore the challenging terrain that witnessed intense battles. One such pivotal event linked to the Kokoda Campaign is the Battle of Sattelberg, a critical engagement that unfolded in November 1943. This article will delve into the details of this significant battle, exploring its connection to the broader Kokoda Track experience.
Sattelberg Mission Station and the Strategic Landscape
The Sattelberg Mission Station, situated inland from Finschhafen along the Sattelberg Road, became a focal point in the Huon Peninsula Campaign. The region’s high ground provided a strategic advantage, making it a key target for both Australian and Japanese forces. The battle unfolded in the thick jungle, consisting mainly of steep ridges and challenging terrain.
The 26th Brigade’s Advance
On 22nd November 1943, the 26th Brigade, consisting mainly of Australian troops, initiated the first stage of their attack upon Sattelberg. The advance, marked by a dawn attack, aimed to secure the ridge as a start line for subsequent operations. The brigade faced heavy resistance from well-entrenched Japanese positions, suffering a number of casualties as they moved through approximately 8 kilometres of challenging landscape.
Derrick’s Honour: Raising the Australian Flag
Amid the fierce battle, Lieutenant Colonel Derrick was given the honor of raising the Australian flag over the mission station, signifying a crucial moment in the campaign. The symbolism of the Australian flag fluttering above Sattelberg underscored the determination and sacrifice of the troops involved in the struggle.
Matilda Tanks and the Assault on Sattelberg
The 26th Brigade, supported by Matilda tanks, pushed forward despite encountering significant opposition. The tanks played a crucial role in turning the tide of the battle, providing cover as the Australian troops pressed on toward their objective. The assault on Sattelberg involved close combat, with infantry units using mortars and grenades to dislodge Japanese defenders.
Heavy Casualties and the Cost of Victory
The capture of Sattelberg, while a significant achievement, came at a high cost. Both Australian and Japanese forces suffered heavy casualties during the intense fighting. The battle, marked by its ferocity, highlighted the challenges faced by troops navigating the treacherous terrain in pursuit of strategic objectives.
The Aftermath and Legacy
The Battle of Sattelberg secured a start line forward of Jivevaneng, marking a turning point in the Huon Peninsula Campaign. The bravery and sacrifice of the troops involved earned the 26th Brigade a battle honor, showcasing the significance of their contribution to the overall war effort.
The events at the Battle of Sattelberg are an integral part of the Kokoda Campaign’s broader narrative. As trekkers hike along the Kokoda Track, they traverse landscapes that once witnessed the determination and valor of Australian troops. The legacy of Sattelberg, engraved in the history of the Second World War, adds a profound layer of meaning to the trekking experience, underscoring the resilience and sacrifice of those who fought in the Papua New Guinea region.