BATTLE OF BRIGADE HILL- 08 September 1942
Originally known as Efogi Ridge, Brigade Hill was one of the most horrific battles of the campaign. It could be said that Brigade Hill is Australia’s Gallipoli.
On the knowledge that the fresh 2/27th battalion had reinforced the Maroubra Force, General Rowell in Port Moresby ordered Brigadier Potts to stop retreating and go on the offensive. Potts chose an excellent defensive position on a dominating hill, south of Efogi (Mission Ridge). From this position the Australians had a good view of the Japanese approach and with the extremely steep slopes in the main directions it was an excellent defensive location. It was believed the Japanese would have no option but to frontally assault the fresh Battalion that was primed and ready for battle on Mission Ridge.
The Japanese followed normal practice and ordered their troops to encircle the flanks in a silent night move. At dawn on the 8 September, the Japanese 2nd/144th Battalion raised from the jungle to the west of Brigade Hill and cut off the Kokoda track in the Australian rear area.
The Japanese occupied a gap that was between the infantry battalions that were too the north and Brigadier Potts’ Headquarters to the south. The Japanese were now able to see the Australian positions around Brigade Hill. An artillery observer with 2/144th signaled the Japanese guns to switch their bombardment from Mission Ridge to Brigade Hill.
At first light on the 08 September Lance Corporal John Gill, whom was guarding Brigadier Potts was shot by a sniper at the Brigade Headquarters latrine. Brigadier Potts was nearby at the time and the urgency of the situation became obvious. The Japanese troops had outflanked and cut-off the three infantry battalions line of withdrawal. There was now no opportunity to withdraw the wounded or receive food and ammunition.
Realising the gravity of the situation, Brigadier Potts ordered two attacks (one from each direction) in order to reclaim the track. The attacks were led one after the other by two Captains (Claude Nye and then by Brenton Langridge). The attacks were deliberate and by extended line with bayonets fixed.
The Japanese had established themselves well; they were well dug-in and using well-directed fire from rifle and machine gun they caused horrific casualties. Many who had survived the battle at Isurava, like Charlie McCallum, fell trying to reclaim the track on the saddle at Brigade Hill; others, like Captains ‘Lefty’ Langridge and Claude Nye died in futile attempts to break through to Brigade Headquarters against immeasurable odds. As darkness arrived the pressure eased just enough to withdraw Brigade Headquarters back to the village of Menari.
“I particularly think of blokes like ‘Lefty’ Langridge and Claude Nye, one with a company of the 2/16 the and the other with a company of the 2/14 th who were ordered to go around the right flank where the Japanese were, to try to force a way through them to Brigade Hill. They knew they couldn’t do it. They knew they were going to die. Langridge handed over his pay book and his dog tags to one of his mates. He was a brave soldier. So was Claude Nye. They were both killed.” (Lt Colonel Ralph Honner)