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  Tuaguba Hill (Ack Ack Hill)
Australian Army
23rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery
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AWM March 19, 1942

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AWM July 15, 1942

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Circa 1942
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December 29, 1943
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Justin Taylan 2007

Location
Tuaguba Hill is located at Port Moresby. This hill has a commanding view overlooking Port Moresby (Town) and Paga Hill to the west and Fairfax Harbor to the north and Ela Beach to the south. Also spelled "Tua-guba" or "Touaguba" or "Ack Ack Hill".

Construction
The Australian Army selected this location for the first heavy anti-aircraft battery to defend Port Moresby. There was no road to the summit, only a track. Army engineers and local labor transported the one ton guns and construction materials to the top of the hill over several weeks during January 1942.

3.7" Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns (H1)
Four 3.7" Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns manufactured in Maribyrnong, Victoria were installed at this site. Also a predictor were statically installed on the hill top in concrete bases, and attached with bolts to the base. Also, an enclosing revetment made from empty drums filled with coral rubble.

The battery was manned by the Australian Army, 23rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, one section. The four guns were nicknamed: "Strawberry Blonde", "The Avenger", "Leader of the Opposition" and "Dorothea" (named after one of the gun sergeant's girlfriend).

Also several Lewis machine gun pits, to protect against low flying aircraft. Later an underground bunker was also constructed at the center of the installation.

Wartime History
Only three guns were calibrated before the first major Japanese air raid against Port Moresby in mid-February. The battery was manned full time, in case of aerial attack.

On March 19, 1942 this battery reportedly fired firing 146 rounds. The hill was bombed with 60kg bombs but none of the guns sustained direct hits. Bombs impacted on one side of the hill, and came right over between the guns and down the other side and never hit the guns once.

At one point, the battery ran out of ammunition, as it was firing nearly every day at attacking Japanese bombers.

Once, a Japanese '500 pound' bomb was dropped and hit three meters from a machine gun pit. The crew was shell-shocked but unhurt, and were withdrawn from combat.

On March 21, 1942 RAAF P-40 Kittyhawks arrived to land at 7-Mile Drome, machine guns at this position accidentally fired on them, thinking they were Japanese. None of the batteries were alerted about the arrival of these friendly fighters.

The first set of barrels were worn out from firing, and sent back to Australia for evaluation.

As the first battery in action, its anti-aircraft fire contributed to the defense of Port Moresby helped to prevent more damage. In wartime news reports, the battery claimed 43 enemy aircraft. In reality, the damage to enemy bombers was far less. Japanese reports often indicate anti-aircraft fire as 'severe' during the period this battery was the only one in operation, from February - April 1942.

This battery was manned into late 1943, until the threat of air raids had sufficiently passed.

Today
The gun were long since removed. The summit of this hill was largely untouched since the war. Metal barrels used to form revetments are still present, and depressions for smaller gun pits and the concrete bunker at the center of the battery.

During 2006, a mobile phone tower was built at this location, likely overtop one of the former 3.7" gun emplacements.

References
The 'Letter' Batteries by Reg Kidd & Ray Neal details the history of this gun battery
The Coastal Gun Batteries of Port Moresby - Then & Now by John Douglas
Australians at War Film Archive interview with Eric White, 23rd AA Battalion
Thanks to John Douglas and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
May 11, 2018

 

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3.7" AA

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