Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 18/03/2002, pg. 5

WHEN 1000 army recruits crept from their base at Cabarlah near Toowoomba to descend the rugged escarpment on a rainy night in 1942, they didn’t know where they were going or why their families weren’t to know they had gone.

A train was awaiting them at Spring Bluff. They were being sent to New Guinea where a crucial World War II battle was about to unfold.

Yesterday Diggers gathered at Spring Bluff to remember that March 17 night they went to war without saying goodbye to loved ones.

Darling Downs Diggers from the 25th Battalion remembered fallen mates when Stan Alford, 85, raised the Australian flag in a ceremony at Spring Bluff railway station.

The 25th Battalion and two Brisbane battalions, the 9th and 61st, were part of the force that secured the Allies’ first land victory in the southwest Pacific, preventing the Japanese from establishing
a base to launch attacks on Australia.

Before leaving Australia, Sergeant Errol Jorgensen, Lieutenant Ernie Bain and Sergeant Stan Alford were detailed with their companies to lay barbed wire 40m off the coast of Caloundra as part of defences against a possible Japanese landing. Singapore had fallen and the battle of the Coral Sea had been fought when the troops landed on July 15, 1942 in the huge harbour at Milne Bay on the southern tip of New Guinea.

Mr Alford remembers that day because he was talking to a mate in the shade of a coconut tree when a coconut fell, instantly killing his companion.

Mr Bain, who was in charge of signals, set up communications for the battalion’s headquarters while regular troops worked on three shifts 24 hours a day to build airstrips for the Allied forces.

Just over a month later the Japanese invaded near Milne Bay and the troops were lined up and sent into fierce combat for 10 days.

Mr Jorgensen was injured by a Japanese grenade which exploded beside him.

Amid heavy fighting, Mr Bain laid phone lines near an airstrip to allow lookouts to help mortar teams target enemy troops. After suffering heavy casualties, the Japanese withdrew.

Copyright 2002 / Courier Mail