Bitapaka (Bita Paka) is connected by the Bita Paka Road to the east of Kokopo and southeast of Rabaul. Today located in East
New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
World War I
During the German administration, a radio station was built at this location. On September 11, 1914 a party from the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) under the command of Lieutenant Rowland Bowen with a party of 25 Naval reservists 2 officers and 15 support personnel advanced in the jungle along the road towards Bita Paka.
Bowen's force ambushed three German reservists and 20 Melanesian soldiers. When the ANMEF force opened fire, the natives instantly fled. One German was shot in the hand and captured, and the other two captured with a map of the area. Advancing further, Lt. Bowen's force was fired on by concealed German and Melanesian troops and sustained their first fatality, Able Seaman William G. V. "Billy" William.
Afterwards, Lt. Bowen called for reinforcements including 59 more men from HMAS Warrego and HMAS Yarra under Lt. G. A. Hill. Advancing, the force encountered an enemy trench and while attempting to outflank it, Bowen was wounded by a sniper, and Hill placed in command. Meanwhile HMAS Berrima landed Australian infantry commanded by Lt. Commander Charles B. Elwell with a machine gun and medial section, which joined the force by 1pm.
Advancing, the Germans had placed a large pipe mine across the road, but it was detected and removed by the Australians. The Allies launched a flanking attack on another German defensive trench, charging with fixed bayonets. Leading the charge with his sword drawn, Elwell was killed and five others wounded before the occupants of the trench surrendered.
Using the prisoners as interpreters, the Allied force attempted to have the defenders in two other trenches surrender, but instead they opened fire and counterattacked and fighting continued. By 7pm the Allies had reached the German radio station and found it abandoned, the mast dismantled but the equipment intact. The remaining defenders had withdrawn further inland to Toma. During the Battle at Bita Paka, one German and about 30 Melanesians were killed, and one German and 10 Melanesians wounded; 19 Germans and 56 Melanesians were captured. Six Australians were killed and five wounded. The dead were buried at Bita Paka, their graves forming what would later become the Bita Paka War Cemetery.
Bitapaka War Cemetery (Rabaul War Cemetery)
Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Includes Autralian graves from World War I, memorial to AE-1 and the tablets of the unknown listing Second World War uknowns.
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October 23, 2019