This aerial photograph shows the location of Green Sniper’s Pimple.
The precipitous mountain country around it dramatically illustrates the difficulties the Australians faced in scaling it to defeat the Japanese in their dugouts at the top.

Green Sniper’s Pimple on Shaggy Ridge.The only way for the Australians to reach the entrenched Japanese was on a track wide enough for only one man at a time and with sheer drops of hundreds of metres either side.

Two fierce battles marked the Ramu Valley campaign – the battle for John’s Knoll and the battle for Shaggy Ridge. While the name Kokoda stands as an epitaph to the courage, sacrifice and fighting spirit of Australians in war, men of the 2/33rd Battalion who helped forge the Kokoda legend and went on to fight in the Ramu Valley and Valley of the Surinam urged Australians to always remember Kokoda, but also to never forget the battle for Shaggy Ridge, described as “another place like hell on earth”.

The 2/33rd and the 25th Brigade played an important supporting role in securing victory in this battle, which started in December, 1943.

The victory was achieved against seemingly impossible odds. Shaggy Ridge is a razorback spur four miles long (6.1kms) with several rocky outcrops that were heavily defended by more than 3,000 Japanese in underground bunkers, impervious to air attacks.The main outcrop was Green Sniper’s Pimple, more than 5,600 feet high (1,700 metres). Another prominent outcrop was Kankiryo Saddle where the Japanese had their control headquarters. Green Sniper’s Pimple seemed unassailable. The only way to reach the Japanese was up steep tracks, wide enough for only one man at a time with sheer drops of hundreds of metres either side. The precipitous terrain prevented the Japanese from being outflanked.

After nearly a month of artillery barrages, air bombings and fierce ground fighting around the base of Shaggy Ridge it was decided the only way to defeat the Japanese was with a single-file frontal attack.

This involved a near suicide advance, climbing and fighting their way to the top under a hail of mortar and gunfire and with grenades raining down on them.

The final battle took place in January 1944, after the 2/27th Battalion managed to establish a foothold on the southern slopes. Shaggy Ridge was named after its commander, Lieutenant Bob “Shaggy” Clampett.

It was one of the most courageous victories of the war and allowed the Australians to advance across Shaggy Ridge and meet up with Australian and American forces moving along the coast to capture Madang. The victory at Shaggy Ridge cost 46 Australians killed and 147 wounded. More than 500 Japanese were killed.

The assault on The Knoll in the Surinam Valley, part of the lead-up fighting to the Shaggy Ridge battle, resulted in the battalion’s second most tragic day of the war after the Liberator disaster. The fateful day was October 13 when 38 men of 16 Platoon, D Company, were ordered to attack up the steep side of the knoll with little
or no cover.

Men of other platoons watched in horror as eight or nine Japanese suddenly appeared at the top. They fired a volley of shots then threw a shower of grenades. It was all over in seconds. Only nine of the 38 who began the assault escaped being wounded. The others were seen to stop, stagger then fall, rolling back down the
steep grassy slope.

In the disastrous attack on October 13, two D Company men were killed and 31 wounded. The assault also cost C Company one dead and two wounded and B Company one wounded. The total of 37 was the worst battle casualties the battalion suffered in a single day.

One of those mortally wounded was the ever-popular Sergeant John Beck, the Battalion’s first casualty during the German air attack on their camp at Tidworth in England in 1940. He was wounded three more times, in Syria and on the Kokoda Trail.

The Ramu Valley campaign cost the battalion 12 killed. Nine more died of wounds and 74 were wounded. More than 200 were evacuated with disease, mainly malaria and scrub typhus that were a huge concern, not only in the Ramu Valley but also for all troops in Papua, New Guinea and Borneo. The seriousness of the effect of disease on the fighting strength of an army is well demonstrated by the casualties during the first and second

Best mates, QX48116 Pte W. Harris, of Mooloolah, Queensland, (left) and SX20529 Pte F.M. Heinz of Prospect, South Australia, (right) were moving forward to relieve in the front line at Guy’s Post when this photograph was taken on November 8, 1943. Twelve days later Harris watched Heinz trip over a communications wire and fall down the precipitous side of Shaggy Ridge, breaking his neck. He died on the way to the Aid Station. Ray Gibson narrowly escaped death after he tripped and fell over the side of Shaggy Ridge. It happened when Ray offered to carry a heavy Bren Gun for a smaller mate who was struggling under the weight. Ray tripped over a log across the track and fell about 20 feet. “Luckily I came to rest against a sapling that stopped me falling about 1,000 feet”, Ray recalled. After that he was nicknamed “Sure foot”.

Papua-New Guinea campaigns when the losses of men through disease outnumbered battle casualties by more than eight to one. In all 2,208 men were treated or hospitalised during the two campaigns with various tropical illnesses, mainly malaria and scrub typhus. Both were a constant threat for the troops on the Ramu Valley where men had to fight the conditions, as well as the Japanese. Marching along the valley floor was relatively easy compared to their previous arduous climbing and fighting in jungle country, but the men had to endure extreme heat. Daytime temperatures often averaged 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Centigrade). Scrub typhus posed the greatest danger. Often fatal, it was caused by a tiny parasite that feeds on dirty and damp clothing, inevitable for soldiers fighting in the tropics. The parasite was especially virile in kunai grass, a prominent feature in the Ramu Valley.

In the space of 10 weeks up to the middle of December, 1943, the 2/33rd Battalion lost nine officers and 178 other ranks to disease. Some rejoined the battalion, but many didn’t, being too ill. The battalion’s war diary shows 41 men were taken out of action in the week ending October 15, 1943, the days immediately before and after the assault on The Knoll.

One to fall victim to disease that week was C Company’s highly popular Sergeant Bill Sweeney, a 2/33rd “UK original”. He had survived dozens of battles in Syria, Lebanon, Kokoda, Gona-Buna and the Markham Valley, but didn’t survive scrub typhus. He died just three days after reporting ill. Two others who fell ill with scrub typhus that week also died. One of the 41 who didn’t, but almost died getting malaria and scrub typhus at the same time was Liberator crash survivor and champion footballer Lance Corporal Henry “Harry” Flynn, in peactime a barber from Glen Innes, NSW.

The story of Henry “Harry” Flynn (right) is typical of hundreds of men who fell victim
to disease. He survived the Liberator crash, then survived malaria and scrub typhus at the same time. Despite being seriously ill he stayed in action for three days until evacuated on the day of the assault on The Knoll. Disease put 40 other battalion men out of action the same week. Three died. It took Flynn a year to recover.

It wasn’t uncommon for men, reluctant to leave their mates, to stay on duty for days on end with their body temperatures well above the danger level of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Centigrade). Ray Gibson did it for a time when he fell ill on the Kokoda Trail. NX89316 Henry “Harry” Flynn did it on the Ramu Valley campaign.

Despite feeling unwell Harry set out from Kaigulan at first light on October 10 with 14 Platoon C Company, heading for the Surinam Valley under the command of Lieutenant Ray Whitfield, one of the heroes of the Liberator crash rescues and who had led the platoon in the bayonet charge at Lane’s Bridge on the road to Lae. However, Flynn quickly became worse. By the end of the third day of the patrol, October 12, he had cold shivers, a high fever and was so weak in the legs he could barely walk. Now seriously ill he was evacuated by field ambulance the following day, October 13, the day of the The Knoll disaster. Flynn spent nearly a year recovering in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. After that he was placed on light duties, ending his war as a combat infantryman. Back in civilian life after discharge in 1945 he eventually returned to playing representative rugby league and became Deputy.

Mayor of Glen Innes. His early death at the age of 57 was attributed in part to his war illness. As always, war provides humour as well as tragedy. Towards the end of the Ramu Valley campaign the battalion set up a camp beside the Mene River to help protect the nearby Dumpu airstrip, the major supply point for all troops in the area.

For the first time in weeks the unit had utterly and completely relaxed, bathing in the river and removing boots and kit just as if they were on a training bivouac. On the first night the men were relaxing, discussing the good and bad of the campaign, when a huge storm hit, the worst the battalion ever experienced. Twice lightning struck rifles, melting them to piles of steel. A tributary stream running through the camp rose and broke its banks sending men to higher ground, but then realising much personal gear, including 60 pairs of boots, was being washed away.

William Crooks takes up the story: “All through that night along the banks of the creek whilst the storm raged and the creek became higher, men were flashing torches and shouting such distress cries as: ‘Hey, my bloody boots are floating away.’ “This ‘boot flotation parade’ was perhaps the funniest thing the unit ever witnessed.

“Next morning, fine, clear and crisp, dozens of bootless men could be seen searching as far as the Ramu River for their boots or other kit. But they had long gone, either sunk or floating towards the mouth of the Ramu 120 miles northwest.” The men without boots were virtually grounded for a few days until new pairs arrived. The HMAS Kanimbla brought the battalion home on February 10, 1944, again to a resounding welcome. It then returned to the Atherton Tablelands for re-building and further intensive training

16 Platoon, D Company, attack on The Knoll at Surinam, New Guinea, 13 October, 1943. A sketch by Terry Cook from a field sketch drawn by Bill Crooks who was one of the mortarmen seen at the bottom right.
The battalion suffered 37 battle casualties, its worst in a single day for the entire war.

Lieutenant Dave Tudehope, in the top bunk, with some of the other casualties from the D Company attack on Surinam in the M.D.S. at Kumbarum.

On the march up the Ramu Valley, October, 1943. The marches were treacherous not always because of the Japanese but due to a “hidden” enemy, tiny parasites that caused the often fatal scrub typhus. The kunai grass through which the soldiers are walking was the main breeding ground for the parasites.