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Royal New Zealand Air Force

the australians take over

the australians take over

During October, November and December, American Army units were gradually withdrawn from the Solomons-Bismarcks theatre for operations in the Philippines and their place was taken by Australians. On New Britain the 36th Battalion Group of the 6th Australian Brigade relieved the American regiment at Cape Hoskins on the north coast. A month later the rest of the 6th Brigade landed at Jacquinot Bay on the south coast, where there was an excellent harbour which had been abandoned by the page 274 Japanese. Towards the end of November advanced headquarters of the 5th Australian Division was established at Jacquinot Bay. The 6th Brigade handed over to the 13th, which had recently come from Northern Australia, and began to advance eastward round the coast. By February 1945 Australian units were at Open Bay on the north coast and Wide Bay on the south, with patrols operating between the two across the base of the Gazelle Peninsula, to which all the Japanese forces on the island had withdrawn.

On Bougainville advanced elements of the 3rd Australian Division arrived early in November and began to establish camps and supply dumps. Control of land operations was taken over from the Americans on 22 November by Lieutenant-General S. G. Savige, commanding the 2nd Australian Army Corps. Of the troops at his disposal, the 7th, 15th, and 29th Infantry Brigades, constituting the 3rd Division, were established on Bougainville, as was the 11th Brigade of the 5th Division. The 23rd Brigade was used as garrison troops at Emirau, Green Island, Treasury and Munda. As the Australian troops moved in the Americans moved out, and the last of their Army units left Bougainville on 15 December.

At the time of handing over command the Americans held the Torokina perimeter, and had also established an outpost in the region of Doiabie, some 10 miles inland on the Numa Numa trail. Another outpost was held at the mouth of the Jaba River, 20 miles down the coast from Torokina, and a regular weekly patrol was carried out to Cape Moltke, a similar distance up the coast to the north-west. Contact with the enemy was limited to clashes between opposing patrols.

Aircraft of No. 5 Squadron, RAAF, flew into Torokina on 11 November for tactical reconnaissance and army co-operation duties. The unit was followed by others, and by the end of the month the RAAF forces on Bougainville comprised:

No. 84 (Army Co-operation) Wing (Group Captain W. L. Hely, AFC, RAAF).

No. 5 (Tactical Reconnaissance) Squadron, equipped with Australian-made Wirraways and Boomerangs.

No. 10 Local Air Supply Unit, equipped with Australian-made Beauforts, used for dropping supplies and equipment to front-line troops. At first it was called Communication Flight and equipped with Ansons and Beauforts. Later, its name was changed and unit was re-equipped with Beaufighters.

No. 17 Air Observers' post, equipped with Austers, used similarly to No. 5 Squadron; also for artillery spotting and evacuation of wounded from forward air stations.

No. 39 Operational Base Unit.

In the following months Australian Wirraways, Boomerangs, Beauforts and Ansons were to become as familiar to the New page 275 Zealanders as had been the American Mitchells, Corsairs, Dauntlesses and Avengers.

On 8 December all squadrons of the 1st Marine Air Wing ceased operations preparatory to moving to the Philippines. Thereafter, although the overall command of the area remained for several months with COMAIRNORSOLS, flying operations from Bougainville were carried out solely by the RAAF and the RNZAF.