This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 4387).


William Courtenay flew from Port Moresby in New Guinea, to Morotai in the Moluccas Islands, from where the convoy for the invasion of Tarakan departed. He went via Finschhafen, the Schouten Islands and Noemfor Island, in Geelvink Bay off the north-west coast of New Guinea. The film shows several take offs and landings, the aircraft overflying the Owen Stanley Mountains, an active volcano island (off Wewak, northern New Guinea), stopping off at Biak until finally landing at Moratoi. At one of the stops, a group of four US Army Nurse Corps (?) women are seen brushing their hair, applying make-up and smoking, while joking for the camera.

The fleet assembles at Morotai. From onboard ship, the fleet is seen preparing for departure. The convoy under way and at sea. A sailor takes a sexton reading; another signals with flags.

Dawn off Tarakan 1 May. Ships and LCVPs manoeuvre off shore. In the distance, a great plume of smoke billows upwards from a burning oil tank ashore, as the naval bombardment is seen to strike the beach area around Lingkas.

[This bracketed sequence is in black and white and relatively poorly exposed: Several large clouds of black smoke obscure the land as more oil tanks burn. Large explosions ashore. A signal rocket is fired. Landing craft come ashore. Activity at the water's edge and wrecked trees inland with soldiers standing amongst them. Sign reading 'Beach HQ'. Soldiers moving up. LCT 584 is seen grounded in the shallows. A floating pontoon is manoeuvered ashore from the stranded vessel to allow equipment to disembark. An Australian tank moves up inland. A burning oil tank continues to pour smoke, as the cameraman leaves the shore passing the beached LCT 584. Offshore, the camera surveys some of the remaining beach obstacles which the Australian engineers were unable to demolish on 1 May. A pontoon pier. Men going ashore along the pipeline used for carrying oil].

Brief pan of Australian soldiers ashore. Low angle shot as cameraman crouches down, together with civilians and soldiers (presumably under fire?). Smoke pours from a burning oil well situated behind abandoned and damaged buildings. Villagers file past camera. Villagers in a group speaking with a US soldier - a member of the group waves a Chinese Nationalist flag .

A marker flag is raised on the beach. Australian troops coming ashore. A view out towards LCIs and LSTs grounded offshore and of Australian troops wading through shallows to reach the shore. CU signs in Japanese. A signal flare goes up. Villagers streaming away from the fighting, as clouds of oily black smoke rise up behind.

Views from on board a ship showing fire and explosions on shore. A US motor torpedo boat comes alongside.

On shore again, Australian troops raise the Union Flag on a makeshift pole (in the style of Mount Suribachi/Iwo Jima). CU of various soldiers around the flag.

Vehicles and equipment moving away from the beach area. Wrecked oil storage tanks. Smoke from guns firing is seen rising in the distance. Villagers amongst the wreckage of their village. Bare-chested Australian troops manhandling munitions ashore.

Scenes just offshore clearly showing the underwater obstacles still remaining and fires along the shoreline.

A body wrapped in a US flag lies on a small craft moored to a jetty. Australians loading and firing a 25 pounder gun.

Scenes of the damaged shoreline with smoke rising. Beached LSTs (LST 697 and LST 584) with pontoons attached. Soldiers ashore seated amidst the wreckage. A US soldier peers into a Japanese bunker. Men at rest (including William Courtenay). A pan along the shoreline showing numerous craft and ships. Men in camp with maps and wireless operator.

Brigadier D A Whitehead (Commander of 26th Brigade) speaks with fellow officers (possibly Press?), including US ones, around a map. William Courtenay addresses the camera. Informal troop activity. Several dead soldiers lie on stretchers covered in blankets. Dead villagers on stretchers. A multitude of signs on posts and trees indicating locations of various units. CUs of a large group of Australian soldiers who joke for the camera. Villagers pose for the camera (several with children). One man salutes, another is heavily bandaged. The camera pans across tank crews outside their vehicles (Courtenay is seen amongst them). 25 pounder Howitzers in action; bare-chested gunners load and fire. CU of gunners. Local men march semi-formally along a road (a guerilla group?). More 25 pounders in action. People and vehicles on the move, as smoke billows up on the horizon.

The camera on board a moving vehicle surveys the countryside. Canvas water reservoirs/surface tanks by the roadside provide water for a bowser. A jeep passes containing two wounded Australians. Both are carried from the jeep to a temporary dressing station (?). A view across the hills with smoke rising in the distance.

Signpost 'Kekiri - Kekanan'. Heavy earth-moving vehicles advancing along a road - one with writing on it 'RAAF 2761'. A soldier stands guard over a body wrapped in the US flag.

A brief sequence at sea and then a location just offshore at low tide, showing mud and obstacle posts (no shipping). A pan of the shoreline shows buildings with smoke rising behind.

A pan of temporary graves in a semi-formal cemetery. A local with a stick to assist him, poses for the camera. A very brief shot of black US troops (?) with equipment. A constant flow of refugees move along a dirt road, some stop and smile for the camera. A large crowd of locals/refugees - mostly women and children - stand around. A jeep carrying wounded on stretchers, stacked two high, passes.

Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, G.O.C. I Australian Corps, boards a Catalina Flying Boat from a small craft. Scenes in the air from the cockpit show bomb damage on the island below. The aircraft lands at Tarakan airstrip. Various parked aircraft are seen at the edge of the runway. A dirt road with vehicles moving along it and damaged trees either side are seen. The film ends with a sunset. (The sequence showing Morshead onwards was shot at a later date, according to Courtenay's notes).

Amateur colour film shot by British journalist ( Sunday Times, Sunday Chronicle, Daily Graphic) William Courtenay showing the preparations, landings and scenes ashore Tarakan Island, Dutch East Borneo, 'Operation Oboe One', 1 May 1945 with 26th Brigade of 9th Australian Division.


The Australian 26th Brigade Group, 9th Infantry Division were landed on Tarakan by Amphibious Group Six USN.

See MGH 4388 and MGH 4384 for scenes on Labuan; MGH 4389 for Balikpapan.




Technical Data

Running Time:
38 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1443 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Courtenay, William