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In Action

In Action

For the New Zealand troops of the 3rd Division, fighting in the Pacific consisted chiefly of assault landings from landing craft and patrol battles in the jungle; at all times the troops were subject to air attacks. The Japanese made full use of the poor visibility in the jungle to infiltrate small groups of men behind our lines and across our communications, where they did much damage by sniping and occasional ambushes. At night no movement was possible and the men lay alert in their trenches, often half full of rain water. The jungle at night was alive with noises, any of which might be made by an insect, a bird, or a Japanese soldier, so that the New Zealanders fired at any unusual movement or sound.

The chaplain faced many problems. His own life was often in considerable danger; one or two chaplains carried revolvers, though there is no record of their use at any time. He had to combat the appalling and enervating humidity of the climate, the difficulty and dangers of movement, and the scanty supply of welfare and medical provisions.

Many spoke of the good work done by the chaplains in action, especially that of Padres D. L. Francis,6 J. R. Nairn,7 and J. S. H. Perkins8. In the fierce fighting at Falamai Beach, on Mono Island, Padre O. T. Baragwanath9 set a splendid example and received mention in despatches. Another chaplain, Padre G. D. Falloon,10 was with the 35th Battalion when it went into action on Vella page 121 Lavella, and for his work in that campaign he was awarded the Military Cross and also mentioned in despatches. The citation to this award pays tribute to his ‘complete disregard of his own safety in order to succour the sick, wounded, and fighting soldier. In spite of the presence of the enemy he carried heavy loads of comforts, unescorted, to the forward troops under the worst possible jungle conditions, and his part in holding the morale of the men cannot be assessed too highly. He personally assisted and supervised the bringing in of all killed in action, overcoming almost insurmountable difficulties…. His fearlessness and presence in the front line was an inspiration to all….’

The Pacific chaplains had to face long, weary months in training areas, subject to difficult conditions in climate and country. They had many administrative problems and, after a short period in action, had also to share the general disappointment when their division was disbanded. In addition, they faced many hardships and dangers only to find that their own countrymen sometimes considered the Pacific campaign of little importance or interest when compared with the 2nd Division's work in the Middle East.