Operation Cobber Day 3
Joyce Bay was full of ships. American attack transports, smaller landing craft shuttling troops to the beaches from the ships. Minesweepers and destroyers combing the waters for submarines and Australian auxiliary ships unloading supplies right onto the beach. Yet it was the majestic Royal Navy battleship Revenge that dominated above all. Her 15 inch guns kept ward over the transports and at the same time roared defiance to the IJN to venture into Joyce Bay. Having escorted her cares into Port Moresby she was then tasked to use her mighty guns to support the 1st Australian Division’s push into Port Moresby scheduled for the morning of April 8th. An hour before dawn her four twin turrets swung to port and the first 15 inch shells started to scream into the Japanese lines mere seconds later. For merchant mariner and Digger alike it was simultaneously the most spectacular and yet frightening sight they had seen. The sailors and soldiers still on the transports could hear the shells screaming over their heads as loud as a freight train, the soldiers already on the ground heard the massive explosions they made on impact and those closest to the front line felt the shock waves as not only the Revenge but her consorts too dealt fire and misery to the Japanese marines holding Port Moresby.
As dawn broke smoke, dark billowing smoke covered the area of bombardment. As the 1st and 9th Australian Brigades limbered up to the fight explosions were heard in the main town area and the area immediately surrounding the port. Further explosions were also observed much closer to their positions as the 1st Jungle RAA Regiment joined the Division’s artillery in providing fire support from the nearby village of Vabukori. The attack order came in as the heavies from the mainland were finishing their bombing run. Amid the cordite fumes Australian infantry advanced into the lines of the Japanese 89th and 53rd Naval Guards. Chattering machine gun fire met their approach and soon men were dying on the main road into Port Moresby. 3 inch mortar support was required to blast away machine gun nests while the General Grants of the 2/5 lent their 75mm’s to blasting concrete emplacements apart. For two hours the Australians toiled against a fanaticism yet unseen by Australian forces who had fought the Afrika Korps in the desert. Slowly but surely a small wedge was being driven between both Japanese units and small pockets of Australian infantry were establishing strong points of their own in trenches formerly occupied by the Japanese marines. The Japanese seemed to lack artillery support of their own and this along with the days of aerial bombardment meant that the defence was somewhat disjointed. By late afternoon the 1st Australian had managed a slender foothold in Port Moresby as the first line of defence was broken. The 28th Infantry Brigade and the M-10’s of the 632nd Bn held in reserve would support the assault on the 9th April.