BATTLE FOR DENIKI- 12 August 1942
In the second week of August 1942 the 39th Battalion strengthened all its Company’s in the locality of Deniki. The Australian force now consisted of 33 officers and 443 other ranks of the 39th Battalion; eight Australians and 35 native troops of the PIB; and two officers and 12 native members of the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) for a total of 533 troops.
At this time Major Allan Cameron; (after the death of Lieutenant Colonel Owen had taken command), conducted offensive controls to retake the village and Kokoda airstrip. This perilous attack against an unknown enemy numbers was later was found to number at least one thousand was carried out using three companies of the 39th Battalion.
8 August the three companies left Deniki separately via different routes. Only Captain Noel Symington's A Company succeeded in reaching Kokoda and successfully re-took the Kokoda village, finding it practically unoccupied. They had used a lesser-known track to the west of the main Kokoda track the village predominantly unopposed.
Soon after leaving the Deniki position, Captain Bidstrup’s D Company encountered enemy troops to the East of Kokoda in the area of Pirivi. This caused heavy fighting, which continued throughout the day with the Japanese repeatedly reinforcing their position. As darkness fell D Company began what became known as a fighting withdrawal to Deniki.
C Company whom followed the main Kokoda track back towards Kokoda was ambushed by a large Japanese force and was initially pinned down. Captain Dean, Commanding Officer of C Company, was killed during this ambush. C Company continued to push forward and their initial attacks over ran the Japanese forward positions; however, the Japanese blocking forces were widespread and the frontal assault via this route was unsuccessful. During the day C Company repeatedly attempted to withdraw back to Deniki, due to sustained Japanese attacks they were unable to do so until the cover of night fell.
The next day, two Papuan policemen arrived at Deniki to inform Major Cameron that A Company had occupied Kokoda and they were under attack and were awaiting reinforcements and supplies.
Major Cameron contacted Port Moresby and was told that reinforcements via air would not be available until the following day due to inclement weather conditions.
An attempt was made by to reinforce A Company by air, however it failed when the aircraft bringing the reinforcements in were unable to establish if the Kokoda airstrip was in friendly hands and subsequently flew back to Port Moresby without landing.
This day, the Japanese repeatedly attacked A Company. The battles continued into the night and in the darkness the Japanese were able to infiltrate the Australian perimeter, this ensured that intense hand-to-hand fighting continued until the dawn. Late afternoon of the 9th August, the Australians had consumed all of their food and had very little ammunition left. After dark, A Company silently withdrew to the west and returned to the Battalion position at Deniki.