Following the capture of Lae the battalion marched the 18 miles (28kms) back to Nadzab on September 29 where it rested for a few days. It was then flown to Kaiapit for the start of the Ramu Valley campaign in north-western New Guinea.

Soon after leaving Kaiapit the newly-formed D Company joined the battalion after one of the most remarkably forced marches of the war. The loss of 150 in their ranks, and the decimation of D Company in the Liberator crash made it impossible to reform for the Lae assault. A company of the 2/3rd Pioneers took D Company’s place.

Back in Port Moresby after the crash Captain Kevin Power undertook what he thought would be a difficult task of finding volunteers for a new D Company. Since Allied Command had prepared plans for all infantry units in the area he had only non-infanteers and left-out-of-service men to call. He was convinced the mission would fail and was astonished when far more volunteers than needed came forward, all knowing the 2/33rd was a company short, and facing a long period in action.

Power was able to hand-pick the best of the volunteers. With the help of Middle East veterans left out of battle for various reasons volunteers without infantry training were given a week’s intensive course at Pom Pom camp, which included instructions on how to fire mortars.

Captain Jack Balfour-Ogilvy was also heavily involved in the recruiting by spreading the word that the 2/33rd needed men. The newly-formed D Company was flown by “biscuit bombers” to Kaiapit and then set off on a forced march in full battle equipment to catch up with the 2/33rd, which was chasing the Japanese up the Ramu Valley.

The company marched an incredible 62 miles (103 kms) in two-and-a-half days to overtake the battalion but then passed straight through to carry out a forward patrol. When the battalion caught up with the new D Company recruits they found most in bare feet.

They had worn out their original issue boots in the heavy training and forced march. The four months of the Ramu Valley campaign after the fall of Lae principally involved patrol actions in the valley and nearby Finisterre Ranges, which proved to be as physically demanding as the Owen Stanleys, with climbs of up to 5,000 feet, through dense jungle and often in thick, slimy mud.

The Ramu Valley was in stark contrast to the jungles they had been fi ghting in earlier. The valley is like a giant corridor 115 miles (185kms) long and overlooked by towering mountains.

Unlike the Owen Stanley Ranges and the Markham Valley, a vast area of the Ramu Valley was covered with tall kunai grass with only occasional tongues of rain forest or jungle. Kunai, the breeding ground for scrub typhus, often grew to shoulder height and provided ideal cover for the enemy. The men had to make many treacherous river crossings. The Ramu River and its tributaries were always fast fl owing because of the constant torrent of water coming down from the surrounding rain drenched mountains. Safety ropes strung between the banks were often needed. Many soldiers drowned making similar crossings during the Papua New Guinea campaign. One tragic incident involved the 9th Division in its push towards Lae. The men of one of its companies formed a human “chain” in an attempt to cross a flooded river. Forty eight men were swept downstream when the “chain” broke. Thirteen of them drowned.

Shaving was a daily routine during training, but not al-ways possible when in action. This soldier NX4831 Private Robert Steele looked happy with his month-old beard.

Crossing a fast flowing creek in the Ramu Valley. Safety ropes were nearly always essential to help safeguard against drownngs if men lost their footing. Some streams flowed gently but many were torrents with water rushing down from surrounding mountains. A number of soldiers were drowned crossing rivers in Papua and New Guinea.

12 Platoon getting a brief for a local patrol at Nadzab after Lae, September, 1943. Sergeant Jack “Barger” Evans, Lieutenant Jack Scott and the three front section leaders, left to right, Norm Birrell, Neville Breakwell and Wally Asprey.

Corporal Les Skiffington heading for Guy’s Post. Skiffington and William Crooks, mannng an Ack-Ack gun, fired the battalion’s first shots of the war at a German bomber, Tidworth, England, in 1941.

The soldiers shown here were photographed on their way to Guy’s Post to relieve men of the 21st Battalion.

NX27560 Pte. C.G. Williams, of Randwick, NSW.

NX171941 Pte. F.J. Jory, of Manly, NSW.

SX18816 Pte. A.A. Mayne of Port Adelaide, South Australia.

On watch at Guy’s Post overlooking the Faria River and Valley of the Surinam. It was a key defensive position because it gave elevated observation of Japanese troop movements over a large area. The Japanese made many attempts to take it back, but failed.

SX17529 Private A.W. Rathjen, of Mannerum,South Australia, on his way to relieve 21st Battalion soldiers at Guy’s Post.

NX54807 Corporal Norm Rose with a Japanese shell. The Japa-nese used small portable mountain guns to great advantage during jungle fighting although both sides used heavy artillery whenever possible.

In late 1943 the Army started providing improved field ration packs, seen here laid out at Guy’s Post. Each pack contained three meals. The food was tastier than previously and the packs fitted far more comfortably on their belt attachments. Examining the packs (left to right) were : Corporal “Chesty” Barrett (18 Pl), Jack Callaghan (“ I” Set). Col Smith (18 Pl), Dickie Fletcher (Sigs) and Harry Pilkington (18Pl).

Field Marshall Sir Thomas Blamey and G.O.C. Seventh Division, Major General G.A Vasey, at Dumpu in the Ramu Valley after the successful recapture of Lae. Vasey was highly popular with the troops, Blamey much less so.