Bita Paka, Australia’s first WW1 engagement

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Following a request from the British Government, the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) was formed on 11 August 1914. Its purpose was to seize Germany’s Pacific territories to Australia’s north and their all-important wireless stations.  The AN&MEF was raised separately from the Australian Imperial Force, and comprised a 1,500 strong infantry battalion and 500 naval reservists and ex-sailors who were also to serve as infantry. On 11 September 1914 shore parties landed unopposed at Rabaul and nearby Kabakaul and Herbertshöhe.  A patrol of 25 Australian naval reservists pushed inland from Kabakaul to the wireless station at Bita Paka. There they were engaged by a composite force of German reservists and Melanesian police and troops. In this action Australia suffered six dead and four wounded, and took possession of the wireless station. It was the first Australian action of the First World War. Those Australians killed at Bita Paka were among more than 60,000 killed in the four-year long conflict. 

Bita Paka Allied Military Cemetery. A central memorial with cross on top on a green lawn with honour rolls to the left and right.

Bita Paka Allied Military Cemetery, dedicated to the memory of Australian soldiers who fought and died around Kokopo and Rabaul. (RAN)

On 11 September 2014, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State, attended the commemorations held on the shores at Rabaul to commemorate and remember Australians first engagement of the First World War, the first loss of Australian lives, and a victory that had far-reaching consequences for Australia and the Pacific over the years and decades that followed.

During the Centenary of Anzac, we also mark a century of service and sacrifice, encompassing all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australians have been involved.  The Centenary will be the most significant period of commemoration in our nation’s history and the Government is committed to providing opportunities for all Australians to participate.