Friday 11 September 1914 – We Lost 59

Simpson Harbour, Rabaul

Simpson Harbour, Rabaul

At dawn the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Forces of 1,000 soldiers and 500 sailors arrives off Rabaul and demand the German colony’s surrender while a small force of 25 reservists land at Kabakaul and Kokopo, New Guinea with orders to capture an inland German radio station, thought to be near Bita Paka.  A numerically superior German force stops the Australian Kabakaul force advancing through the dense jungle, however, after being reinforced the Australians take the radio station this evening. The Germans by now greatly outnumbered withdraw to their headquarters at Toma, leaving Rabaul undefended.

Today’s losses include:

  • The first Australian to be killed in action
  • A battalion commanding officer
  • Son of clergy
  • The first son of multiple families that will lose two or three sons in the war

 Today’s highlighted casualty is

The first Australian to be killed in action in the Great War is Able Seaman William Williams (Royal Australian Navy).  Before the war he worked in the Melbourne City Council’s Electricity Supply Department.  He is shot in the stomach at about 09:30 while advancing through dense jungle in New Guinea on the way to the German radio station and dies later this evening.  Total Australian casualties are seven killed and five wounded in this action though the Germans will later claim that two of the Australians have been killed by friendly fire.

  • The commanding officer of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Guy Cunninghame Knight dies of wounds at age 47. He is a veteran of the South African War. The man who will succeed him in command of the battalion will be killed in three days.
  • Among those killed on New Guinea is Captain Brian Colden Antill Pockley (Australian Army Medical Corps) who is killed at age 24. His brother will be killed in March 1918.
  • Corporal James Carey Pike (Lancaster Regiment) is killed at age 33. His brother will be killed in February 1916 and they are sons of the Reverend James Kirk Pike Vicar of St Barnabas Mossley Hill.
  • Private Bernard Rodgers (Seaforth Highlanders) will die on service in India at age 27. His brother will be killed in February 1916.
  • Sapper Robert Hamilton Boyle (Royal Engineers) becomes the first of three brothers who are killed in a nine month period when he is killed at age 29.