A highly controversial parade involving General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Army, took place at Port Moresby a few days prior to the opening of the great Lae offensive in September,1943. He is seen here inspecting members of the 2/33rd Battalion accompanied by the Battalion’s Commandng Officer Lt. Col. Cotton, followed by Major-General Vasey, G.O.C. 7th Division, and Brigadier Eather, Commander 25th Brigade (partly obscured by the C.O.). During the parade some soldiers booed General Blamey for remarks attributed to him earlier about Australian soldiers running like “rabbits” from the Japanese at the start of the Kokoda campaign. Blamey claimed his remarks had been quoted out of context. Many, including senior officers, didn’t accept his explanation. The booing annoyed and embarassed the C.O., Lt. Col Cotton who reprimanded those involved. Sadly, 60 of the men on parade were killed or mortally injured in the Liberator crash a few days later. Another 90 were injured. Some of the soildiers seen in the photograph were among those who were killed in the crash.

General Sir Thomas Blamey talking to Captain David Mitchell at his DC3 prior to the cancelled take off for the Lae offensive September 6, 1943. Other 2/33rd men in the photograph were Doug Hancock, left, Jim Laing partly hidden behind the General and “Gunner” McMurray seated behind. The battalion was to have been airlifted out of Port Moresby to Tsili Tsili and Nadzab early on September 6 but heavy fog over the Owen Stanley ranges caused the airlift to be delayed until the following day September 7, a day that turned out to be the most fateful in the battalion’s history.

Major-General George Vasey G.O.C. 7th Division, a highly popular leader, was deeply moved by the Liberator crash. An astute tactician he played vital roles in the success of 7th Division troops in Papua, New Guinea and Borneo. He often stopped his Jeep to talk to men going to and returning from battlefronts. On one occasion a 2/33rd soldier returning from the frontline spotted the familiar figure passing in his Jeep and called out: “How are you going old horse?” Vasey called back: “Pulling as hard as I can for you boys.” Vasey was tragically killed in a plane crash near Cairns in 1945.

The Regimental Quartermaster, VX 12008 Captain Tom Archer, and members of his staff had a vital job to do in preparing for the airlift and the attack on Lae. They are seen here at the Rigo Road Camp, Port Moresby, September, 1943. Captain Archer, is second from the left kneeling, with R.Q.M.S. Frank “Father” Allshorn on his left.

Dakota DC3 “biscuit bombers” lined up at Port Moresby on September 7, 1943, ready to airlift soldiers of the 2/33rd Battalion to Tsili Tsili and then Nadzab for the assault on Lae. The airlift was to have taken place on September 6 but heavy fog over the Owen Stanley Ranges caused it to be delayed until the following day.