The action at Bita Paka, 11 September 1914

22 July 2014

Following a request from the British government, the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) was formed on 6 August 1914. Its sole purpose was to destroy German wireless stations, operating in the Caroline Islands at Nauru and New Britain, which were communicating with the German East Asian Cruiser squadron operating in Pacific waters. The ANMEF was raised separately from the Australian Imperial Force, and comprised 1,500 militia infantry and 500 naval reservists and ex-sailors. On 11 September 1914 shore parties landed unopposed at Rabaul and nearby Kabakaul, where a patrol of 25 Australian naval reservists pushed inland to the wireless station at Bita Paka. There they were engaged by a composite force of German reservists and Melanesian police. In this action Australia suffered six dead and five 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 the first of more than 60,000 killed in the four-year conflict.


Members of the Australian Navy & Military Expeditionary Force bringing Captain Brian Colden Antill Pockley, the medical officer, on board HMAT Berrima. Pockley had gone out to rescue Able Seaman Williams, who had been wounded by enemy fire. Both men died later that day.

Able Seaman William Williams, Royal Australian Naval Reserve, killed at Bita Paka on 11 September 1914.

Captain Brian Pockley, Australian Army Medical Corps, killed at Bita Paka on 11 September 1914.

German New Guinea local troops at drill, being trained by German Reservists, shortly before the arrival of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF).

Further reading:

Michael Kelly, “First to Fight: At the battle of Bita Paka the AN & MEF was the First Australian Combat”, Wartime, no. 67 2014