Battle of Templeton's Crossing

Date from 15 October 1942
Date to 20 October 1942
Place Templeton's Crossing
Category Battle
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Templeton's Crossing was the name given to the first point where the Kokoda Trail, outward bound from Port Moresby, crossed Eora Creek. It was named in remembrance of Captain Sam Templeton of the 39th Battalion, who was killed near Oivi on 26 July 1942. During their withdrawal along the trail, the Japanese conducted a determined defence of the Templeton's Crossing area. The 2/33rd Battalion first made contact with these positions forward of Templeton's Crossing about midday on 12 October 1942. For the next two and a half days the battalion sought to attack and then outflank the Japanese positions, but made no progress. The 2/25th Battalion, advancing on the Templeton's Crossing area along a subsidiary track, had also encountered Japanese positions and had likewise been unable to force its way through. On the morning of 15 October the 3rd Battalion moved in a wide arc around the right flank of the 2/33rd with the aim of attacking the Japanese from their flank, but their positions were found abandoned. The same day, the 2/25th was also able to break through the enemy force holding them. The three Australian battalions converged on Templeton's Crossing, but the Japanese had withdrawn.

The next day, seeking to consolidate their hold on Templeton's Crossing, the three Australian battalion commanders decided the 3rd would press on several hundred metres up the track. In doing so, it encountered another Japanese rearguard position. Attacks on 17 October captured some of the position, but the Australians were harried by counter-attacks throughout the night and the next day. Further offensive action by the Australians was hampered by two companies of the 3rd Battalion becoming lost in the jungle, and a break down in communication between the 3rd and the 2/25th. A stalemate ensued during which the 16th Brigade began to relieve the tired 25th.

The trail above Templeton's Crossing was finally cleared by an attack mounted by the 2/2nd Battalion on 20 October. The 2/2nd concentrated its efforts on the right flank of the Australian positions (the Japanese left flank), with two companies attacking at right angles to the trail, and another two at roughly 45 degrees. Like much of the fighting along the Kokoda Trail, it was an affair of small groups of Australians tackling Japanese machine-guns with small arms and grenades. By nightfall, however, the four companies occupied two positions astride the trail, with the Japanese sandwiched between them. It was planned to renew the attack on the morning of 21 October with the assistance of a company of the 2/1st Battalion, but patrols at first light discovered the Japanese had escaped through the jungle and fallen back on Eora Creek.

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