27 DEC 1943: Australia’s 7th Division captures ‘The Pimple’, Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea. The four-month battle for Shaggy Ridge culminated with the capture of this Japanese position on the ridge’s summit. Shaggy Ridge is a six-and-a-half kilometre long razor-backed ridge that is the highest feature in the Finisterre Mountains in north-eastern New Guinea.
The ridge rises between the valleys of the Mene and Faria Rivers and ends at Kankiryo Saddle – a bridge of land separating the Faria Vallyey from the Mindjim River Valley. In 1943 Shaggy Ridge was the site of the main Japanese defensive position blocking access from the Ramu Valley to the track and road network that joined it with the north coast.
Operations by the 7th Australian Division in September and October 1943 had caused the Japanese to withdraw from the Ramu Valley and the lower features of the Finsterres and consolidate their defences around Shaggy Ridge. The ridge was named after Captain Robert “Shaggy Bob” Clampett of the 2/27th Battalion whose company was the first to reconnoitre its approaches.
Initially, orders from II Australian Corps for 7th Division to limit its operations to a scale that could be maintained by the limited supplies available prevented action being taken to capture Shaggy Ridge, but by late December sufficient supplies were available to conduct a limited operation to secure a foothold on the southern end of the ridge around a knoll called the Pimple.
B Company of the 2/16th Battalion attacked just after 9am, following an intensive aerial and artillery bombardment of the Japanese positions.
Clambering up the precipitous slopes, still supported by artillery fire, the Australians quickly captured the Pimple and pushed on for another 100 metres to capture the next knoll along the ridge. B Company was subsequently relieved by D Company, which renewed the attack the next day and captured the next two knolls along the ridge, the last being named McCaughey’s Knoll after the commander of the leading platoon.
The Japanese counter-attacked that afternoon but were beaten off and thereafter were content to shell the Australian’s newly-won position with a mountain gun.