Private Ronald Phipps, 7th Australian Infantry Battalion

Posted on 4 May 2021

Ronald “Ron” Phipps was born on 17 November 1924 in Taroom, Central Queensland, the son of Walter and Rosanna Phipps.

He grew up in Taroom with siblings Tom, Colin, Lloyd and Dawson and attended Taroom state school.

Ron was a quiet lad who loved football and regularly played for the local team. When Australia became involved in the Second World War, he was eager to enlist. His father tried to stop him from enlisting, buying him a Whippet car as a bribe.

However, he would not be deterred and enlisted shortly after turning 18. Soon afterwards, he marched out to a training base at Dubbo.

In February 1944, Private Phipps joined the 7th Battalion, formerly known as the North West Murray Borderers; its members came from the area where Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia meet. The battalion been formally moved into the Australian Infantry Forces in 1942 in preparation for overseas service.

In late April 1944 Phipps embarked on the troopship Duntroon, bound for the war in the Pacific.

The 23rd Brigade, of which the 7th Battalion was part, had been attached to the Second Corps, tasked with launching a renewed offensive on Bougainville.

The 7th Battalion was primarily responsible for defending the airfield at Mono Island from possible Japanese attack. Some members of the battalion sought to enliven their existence by acting as crews on US Navy PT boats, carrying out raids on New Britain and New Ireland.

The difficult conditions on the Pacific islands took their toll on Phipps’s health. In November he was admitted to a field ambulance with an unknown malady, rejoining his unit in mid-December. He was again admitted in late February 1945, this time staying out of action until early April.

Shortly after Phipps returned to his unit, the 7th Battalion was transferred to Torokina on Bougainville Island, where the Japanese garrison was holding out.

In June, the 7th Battalion moved up the Numa Numa Trail to Pearl Ridge in the central sector of the island and began aggressive patrols to dominate the Japanese in their area of operations. 

By the end of July, the men of B Company prepared to dislodge an enemy force situated on a V-shaped spur, armed with automatic weapons. With artillery and mortar support, Private Phipps and his company advanced and occupied forward enemy positions, meeting heavy machine-gun fire during the assault, and then encountering heavy opposition at extensive positions along the spur.

They suffered three deaths: Private SG Lowe, Private DW McTaggert, and Private Ronald Phipps.

Ron was 20 years old.

His remains lie buried in Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery under the inscription chosen by his grieving family: “Lovingly remembered”.

Duncan Beard, Editor, Military History Section

Image: Bougainville. 1945-04-27. Temporary war cemetery, Toko. Battle casualties from the action in south Bougainville which will later be interred in the Torokina cemetery.