In 2017 we commemorate the anniversaries of two important Australian battles which took place in both World Wars.
Seventy-five years ago, Australians fought and ultimately won the Battle of Kokoda. After retreating along the Kokoda Track from July, by September 17 they made their stand at Imita Ridge. They were determined to stop the Japanese taking Port Moresby, which was only some 55 kilometres away. Re-supplied, and with the artillery at Owen's Corner, Australians fought back.
By November, the Australian War Memorial says: “The Kokoda Trail fighting was some of the most desperate and vicious encountered by Australian troops in the Second World War. Although the successful capture of Port Moresby was never going to be precursor to an invasion of Australia, victory on the Kokoda Trail did ensure that Allied bases in northern Australia, vital in the coming counter-offensive against the Japanese, would not be seriously threatened by air attack. Approximately 625 Australians were killed along the Kokoda Trail and over 1600 were wounded. Casualties due to sickness exceeded 4000.”
The 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, which included men from Crookwell and district, were heavily involved in the Battles of Kokoda.
A mere 25 years earlier, another great Australian victory took place at the Battle of Beersheba, on October 31, 1917. By April 25, 1919 after two-and-a-half years, the news of loved ones dead or wounded was sent.
1917 would become the worst year of the war for more than 40 families and have a devastating effect on Crookwell and the surrounding districts. Of the 86 men that were killed or died of their wounds – nearly half, 41 souls – were lost in 1917.
One who died was Crookwell man Lance Corporal William Bradbury. Bradbury took part in the last great wartime cavalry charge at the Battle of Beersheba in what was then Palestine, and now is part of Israel.
Bradbury was in the 12th Light Horse Regiment that, together with the 4th, was given the task of capturing the town of Beersheba before nightfall on October 31, 1917. They needed to capture the water wells, and surprise and daring was needed. Bradbury was killed on that day.
On December 8, 1917, the Sydney Sun published ‘Killed in Action’ and listed was William Bradbury, Crookwell (previously reported wounded). The Sydney Morning Herald on December 10 gives a date, October 31, 2017; that famous Australian cavalry charge in which 31 light horsemen were killed and 36 were wounded.