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Battles of Milne Bay and Kokoda and the Beachheads – Canberra


Reputed to be the first defeat of a Japanese amphibious landing in the Second World War, Milne Bay was one of the key actions of the Papuan campaign. In August 1942 Japanese troops began landing on Milne Bay’s northern shore and advanced towards the Allied airfields that were their objective. The Japanese sought to seize the area as a base from which to provide aerial and naval support to the troops advancing on Port Moresby across the Owen Stanely range and for attacks on northern Australia and Port Moresby. After landing they had to march 11 kilometres to their first objective having also underestimated the number of Australian and United States troops in the area. There was some heavy fighting, but the Japanese could not overcome the combination of infantry and airpower.  The survivors were evacuated by ship over several nights or tried to make their way overland to the base at Buna.  More than 370 Australians were killed or wounded while the Japanese suffered almost 1500 casualties.

75th Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay - Friday 25 August

Commencing at approximately 4.55 pm AEDT, the Australian War Memorial will commemorate those lost in the Battle of Milne Bay with its moving Last Post Ceremony, held in the Memorial’s Commemorative courtyard.

The ceremony will begin with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a lament, played by a piper. Visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection.  The story behind Milne Bay will be told and the Ode is then recited by men and women of the Australian Defence Force. The ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post.

The Last Post Ceremony is an increasingly popular public event. The Memorial is unable to reserve space for groups so, to ensure you are able to secure a spot to view the ceremony, we recommend early arrival.

To enable anyone in Australia or overseas to view the Last Post ceremony, it is broadcast live daily on the Memorial’s website as well as on the Memorial's dedicated Last Post Ceremony YouTube channel and Facebook, from approximately 4.55 pm AEST. The ceremony is a memorable occasion, engaging visitors and offering them the opportunity to remember those Australians who have lost their lives in war and to reflect on their service and sacrifice.

Further information can be found here.

Kokoda and the Beachheads
Service 75th anniversary of Kokoda and the Beachheads commemorations
Date 2 Novermber 2017
Venue Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Attendance By invitation to eligible veteran nominations
Nominations Close on 23 June 2017


The Kokoda Track links Owers’ Corner, some 40 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby with the village of Wairopi on the northern edge of the Owen Stanley ranges.  From Wairopi the Track runs to Awala from where it becomes a network of paths passing through tropical lowlands to the coastal swamps and the settlements of Buna, Gona and Sanananda on Papua’s north coast.  The first encounter between Japanese and Australians took place on 23 July 1942 at Awala, from where began a fighting withdrawal that carried the Australians back to Imita Ridge – some 50 kilometres from Port Moresby – on 17 September 1942.  By 2 November 1942 the Australians had retaken Kokoda.  The last action fought along the Track took place between Oivi and Gorari and ended on 11 November 1942, after which the Australians reached Wairopi unopposed.  

The fight to drive the Japanese from their beachhead strongholds at Buna, Gona and Sanananda is known collectively as the beachhead battles.  Australian troops assaulted Gona in November 1942.  It took more than two weeks of fighting to destroy the Japanese garrison.  At Buna in December 1942 and January 1943 United States and Australian troops took two weeks to prevail over a strong network of defences.  The final beachhead battle was fought at Sanananda in January 1943.  Again United States and Australian troops faced a difficult task against a strongly held position, finally breaking Japanese resistance after ten days fighting.  More than 2800 Australians were killed, wounded or evacuated with illness during the beachhead battles.


A veteran nomination form (PDF 122 KB)  and veteran medical information form (PDF 165 KB) are required to be completed for the commemoration nomination process. Nominees will be required to undergo a medical assessment to confirm suitability for travel to Canberra. DVA will arrange for return travel and accommodation for veterans and an accompanying carer from the home location.

A letter to be provided to General Practitioners  is also available to assist with the medical clearance process.

Nominations should be emailed or posted to DVA to be received by the specified closing date.

Contact Information

Department Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
Telephone: (02) 6289 6057

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