THOSE GUNS - DOVE BAY - 1945 (an article from Cavalry News No 13 1972/73)
No one who was a member of FARIDA FORCE will forget or forgive THOSE GUNS.
We were never quite sure how many there were. The estimated calibre varied according to how close the projectile landed, and what you happened to be doing at the time. Was it 2, 5 or 7 seconds from the sound of the discharge in the hills until the "woomph" nearby? Plenty of time if you were sitting on the edge of a foxhole, even if it was half full of water. But what if you were in the House of Furphies, or washing in the surf? In the former, one could always go straight down, messy, but safe. In the latter - well - race for the beach and be caught naked and ashamed in the shallows, or tuck your knees up round your tummy and try to sink?
"Helmets, steel, troops for the use of, will be carried at all times in the surf". The decision of where to wear the tin had will be left to the individual soldier. Just what happens when a shell or mortar bomb explodes in the water a few feet away was never tested. Medical authorities might regard it as a health hazard.
Known by many names - "B" for Betty (?), "G" for George and "M" for Mary - They fired but seldom; but one never knew when, and the threat was always there.
They were never captured.
Soon after the regiment moved from Dove Bay in June 1945, the enemy gunners annoyed General Stevens more than somewhat by dropping some shells into the ANGAU compound at Moem. The carrier boys went on leave. The Machine Gunners were instructed to "get that gun". A raiding force, led by Captain J M Bellair, was formed of two platoons of Machine Gunners, and one from 35th Battalion (The 8th Brigade, under the command of Brigadier MA Fergusson , had taken over the area). After a difficult climb through tangled undergrowth, a dawn attack came up against a very alert enemy, in a well-sited position. The force called for artillery support. They leant on a Barrage of 540 shells, but the defenders, estimated at 60 to 100, were determined to retain their guns and their gardens.
Now, nearly 30 years later, some of the guns are located. The Assistant District Commissioner of Wewak, his staff, and some of the local residents have completed the task for us. They have taken into custody:-
1. A 75mm gun, located in the foothills to the rear of Brandi Plantation. This gun was not in an emplacement and appeared to have been abandoned while being moved. (On 21 July 1945 a three platoon force from 35th Battalion, led by Major FP Serong, destroyed a large 75mm ammunition dump, and later found the site from which the gun had been removed.) It is being restored for public display at Wewak.
2. A 105mm gun, fairly extensively damaged, probably by a direct hit by bomb. RAAF records report that a gun in this area was located on the day of the landing and bombed next morning.
3. A 105mm, located some 5,000 yards south of Mandi Beach. In fair condition, some restoration work needed on the wheels, and an attempt will be made to get this one out of the jungle. Photographs taken late in 1972 show a shell in position, still "ready to go" "M" for Mary, reputed to be an 81mm mortar, probably accompanied her masters as they retired. No trace of it has been found in the area.
It would appear that No. 3, the 105 mm, was our friend "B" for - er - Betty. ....author not named
YET ANOTHER SMALL ARTICLE IN REGARDS THOSE GUNS? (from Cavalry News 1976)
Jim Earl has forwarded an interesting letter to us that he recently received from Ray Worcester. Ray runs a large Trading Post at Wewak. This is the follow-up to the information contained in "To the Green Fields Beyond" relative to the Dove Bay operations. Also included were several excellent photographs of the guns, one in colour, one of Ray W standing behind one of the 105's as recently as 15th September, 1975 (I wonder where those photos ended up in 1976? Can anyone help out here?),
In the letter Ray says...."Have marked positions of both Jap 105's which I recovered from the ridges overlooking the Dove Bay landing area. The 105 shown in your book was very well dug into a ridge, which led up and away from Mandi Village, i.e. South; almost at right angles to Dove Bay Beach. It was covered with a dense growth of very tall timber, well concealed by foliage of dense timber. This gun was badly damaged, fair sized crater close to it. Locals say the Aussies went up after the war finished, and blew it up. I think they would have done a much better job than just trail damage if this were so.
There was a fair quantity of 105 and 75 ammo around this gun area, though I could not find the 75 gun, and there was also a lot of 81mm Mortar ammo. The 75 ammo was not ack ack stuff. The ammo trailer was also close by and was recovered along with the guns..........