Sometimes after a blog article is posted, additional information becomes available that will add to the story without changing its premise. What follows are three such additions regarding the first man killed on mainland New Guinea in World War Two, the burdens of infantrymen throughout history, and the basic structure – or War Establishment – of an Australian Field Artillery Regiment, again in the Second World War.
In The First Casualty – Kevin Parer, I noted that the death of Parer, a civilian pilot, at Salamaua, New Guinea in late January, 1942, was the first fatality as a result of enemy action on the mainland outside of Rabaul, New Britain.
Since that post, I discovered that an employee of Parer’s, Pilot William Ernest Clark, was awarded a George Medal for bravery for his actions on that day, some 18 months later. Clark and Parer were about to take off in two aircraft of Parer’s air transport company, Clark flying a Fox Moth, and Parer a De Havilland Dragon, when the Japanese staged a surprise attack on the Salamaua aerodrome. Parer ran to his aircraft as the first wave of enemy machine-gunned the airstrip. He intended to take off and seek shelter in cloud cover in order to save his plane from destruction on the ground, however eh was not quick enough. As he entered the cockpit, he was fatally wounded, and his aircraft burst into flames. Clark had initially sought shelter from the destruction, but upon seeing his boss’s aircraft on fire, he ran across the open aerodrome in full view of the enemy aircraft who were still strafing the facilities, and removed Parer’s body from the cockpit of his Dragon. In doing so, Clark sustained serious burns on his hands and was “slightly wounded by machine-gun bullets,” though it is not recorded where he sustained those wounds on his body. Clark recovered from his wounds and at the time his George Medal was awarded in mid 1943, was working for an unnamed Australian airline.
In addition to the present content of Fully Loaded: The Burdens of Infantrymen throughout History, it might be of interest to know that Union soldiers in the U.S. Civil War carried between 23 and 27 kilograms of personal equipment, which included their personal weapon (rifle and bayonet) plus a standard 60 rounds of ammunition, and a haversack containing a blanket, shelter half, three days of rations, a canteen, and selected personal items.
In World War two in the Pacific, members of the 2/7th Australian Independent Company in mid November 1942, during a seven-day reconnaissance and acclimatisation trek [no contact with the enemy was made], carried roughly 23kg of equipment, though it is not known if this included the weight of weapons and ammunition.
The War Establishment of an Australian Field Artillery Regiment was roughly and concisely explained in The Structure of Australian WW2 Field Artillery Regiments. In contrast, an early-war (1941) Militia Field Artillery Brigade (Mechanised)* was structured as follows:
Headquarters plus three batteries, each of four Quick-firing 18-pounders and one battery of four x 4.5-inch howitzers.[Priority at this time was being given to arming the A.I.F. Field Regiments with the 25-pounder howitzer, which would become the main gun of all such regiments. The militia had to initially make do with WW1-era field pieces].
Brigade Headquarters consisted of: 3 Officers and 31 Other Ranks, the latter which included 1 Warrant Officer and 6 Staff Sergeants & Sergeants).
Batteries: 20 Officers, 332 O.R.s (incl. 4 W.O.s, 40 Staff Sgts & Sgts).
Total: 23 Officers, 363 O.R.s.
Attached personnel were 1 Officer (R.M.O. – A.A.M.C.); Training Cadre 4 Officers, 18 O.R.s (incl. 5 Staff Sgts. & Sgts).
The Headquarters NCOs included: a master-tailor (later struck from the W.E.), sergeant clerk, pay sergeant, sergeant cook, and a sergeant surveyor.
* It might be noted that this was the Training Establishment.