BY BARBARA SHORT
Back in 1975 one of the Sydney newspapers said the medal had been hard earned during the capture of Wewak Hill. I spent 1971-74 at Brandi High School near Wewak, and felt sure it must have been on Mission Hill, Wewak, as I had seen the old Japanese guns there. In fact I took a Japanese visitor there to see them and she took photos that later appeared in a Japanese newspaper.
But Noel’s son-in-law, Barry McGregor, who has been helping me research my book, felt that the newspaper report was wrong, which left me determined to find out exactly where Feature 1410 was located.
I was able to refer to a small book, Return to Wewak, that I had picked up during my stay at Wewak. It had been compiled by Kerry Leen in 1970 for the 25th anniversary of the official cessation of hostilities between the Japanese and the Australians on 13 September 1945, at Cape Wom, Wewak.
Here’s what it said about Feature 1410:
A little south of Dagua near Tokoku Pass the Japanese had their main lines of communication to their inland forces- bitter fighting occurred in this spot, but the 2/3rd Battalion fought right into the headquarters of Lieut General Nakai, commanding the 20th Division, which was near Woginara Mission.
Flame throwers were used in the area for the first time. It was in fighting around Dagua that Lieut. Albert Chowne, MM was killed (25th March 1945) leading a charge on Feature 1410 afterwards known as "Chowne's Knoll". He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, for this action.
In the fighting for Tokoku Pass, Woginara Mission and Dagua itself, there was heavy artillery and Beaufort bombing support. Tokoko Pass was taken on the 3rd April by the 2/2nd Battalion.
Woginara Mission area where Lieut General Nakai had his HQ was taken by the 2/3rd Battalion the previous day, and Dagua had been taken by the 2/2nd Battalion on the 31st March. Supplies were brought from Aitape to But and preparations were made for the assault on Wewak. Divisional H.Q. was set up at But.
In preparing for a further attack on Jap Knoll on the 1410 Feature, Lt Park on 1st April stealthily climbed an almost vertical cliff and reached a point within 10 yards of the enemy. This scouting expedition took the whole day and provided Park with a detailed knowledge of the enemy’s position.
When he returned he planned an attack for the next day. Thus on 2nd April aircraft attacked the enemy’s position, then the artillery and mortars bombarded it. A party moved to a nearby knoll where they could keep the enemy under mortar and small arms fire during the attack.
At 1130, 10 and 11 Platoons led by Lt Park climbed up a 60ft cliff to a forming-up place and thence charged with fixed bayonets. At a crucial moment Sgt Findlayson dashed forward and overran two forward pits. Although wounded he remained in the lead and was first to reach the main objective. The skill and courage of Park and Findlayson were the main causes of the success of the action.
Two men were killed, 10 wounded and 26 enemy were killed. A Coy (2/2nd) took over the advance, and the next day, 3 April at 1530, it attacked and took Tokoku Pass. Max Findlayson was awarded the Military Medal MM. and Noel Park was awarded the DSO. We believe that at 24 years of age, Noel was the youngest person in the Army to receive that award in WW2. The medal was presented at Government House Sydney in 1948.
Feature 1410 cost many lives:
The stalemate on Feature 1410 was broken in a spectacular fashion by B Coy, but particularly by the courageous and resourceful work of Lt Noel Park who was awarded the DSO, a rare honour for a Lieutenant” [Wick, Purple over Green]
Back in September 1974, during the school holidays, some Brandi High School girls and I walked up to Woginara village and spent the night there. It was a very quiet and peaceful place with great views over the Torricelli Ranges.
I realise now that we actually crossed the Tokoku Pass and were very close to Feature 1410 and I am proud of the incredible bravery shown by my mother’s cousin, Noel Park, and all the rest of the Australian forces, back in April 1945.
From studying the map in Long’s book on page 320, I can see that Feature 1410 is on the ridge just to the north west of Woginara, and is marked 437m on my later Army map.
I was wondering if any readers can tell me if this is “Feature 1410” on the right hand side on the horizon, in the photo below. I took this photo on the top of the Tokoku Pass in 1974.
Upper photo: Dagua area, New Guinea, 4 April 1945. A native food line, carrying stores for forward troops and escorted by 2/3 Infantry Battalion troops, commencing the long and tedious climb over 1410 feature to the Mabam River [Robert John Buchanan, Australian War Museum]