Eora Creek runs north, roughly parallel to the Kokoda Track, from the central ridge of the Owen Stanley Mountains, near Myola, to join the Mabare River east of Kokoda. The trail crosses the creek at two points: at Templeton’s Crossing and just north of the village of Eora Creek. In the vicinity of Eora Creek village the creek runs through a deep gorge – terrain described by the Official Historian as offering the “most favourable conditions for defence” along the whole length of the trail.
Eora Creek village was the site of a rearguard position between 31 August and 1 September during the retreat of Australian forces along the Kokoda Trail, occupied in succession by the 39th, 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions.
During the Australian advance back along the track, Eora Creek was the scene of bitter fighting when the 16th Brigade sought to overcome a strong Japanese defensive position established on heights that dominated the village and creek crossing. The 2/1st Battalion first contacted the Japanese forward of the Eora Creek village on 21 October but the main engagement did not begin until the leading troops of the battalion entered it the next morning.
Heavy Japanese fire stalled the Australian advance behind the bare ridge on which the village stood and it was not until the small hours of 23 October, under the cover of darkness, that the 2/1st Battalion was able to cross the creek. In succeeding days, up-hill frontal attacks made little progress against the Japanese positions rapidly sapping the 2/1st Battalion’s strength. Meanwhile, the 2/3rd Battalion had been seeking a way around the Japanese flanks. This move proved decisive. The battalion closed on the western flank of the Japanese position on 27 October and the next afternoon launched an attack downhill into it. The surviving defenders fled into the jungle. Ninety-nine Australians were killed in the battle of Eora Creek and another 192 were wounded. Pursuit of the retreating Japanese began on 29 October.
Templeton’s Crossing was named by Captain Bert Kienzle in remembrance of Captain Sam Templeton of the 39th Battalion, who was killed near Oivi on 26 July 1942. During their withdrawal along the trail, the Japanese conducted a determined defence of the Templeton’s Crossing area. The 2/33rd Battalion first made contact with these positions forward of Templeton’s Crossing about midday on 12 October 1942. For the next two and a half days the battalion sought to attack and then outflank the Japanese positions, but made no progress. The 2/25th Battalion, advancing on the Templeton’s Crossing area along a subsidiary track, had also encountered Japanese positions and had likewise been unable to force its way through. On the morning of 15 October the 3rd Battalion moved in a wide arc around the right flank of the 2/33rd with the aim of attacking the Japanese from their flank, but their positions were found abandoned. The same day, the 2/25th was also able to break through the enemy force holding them. The three Australian battalions converged on Templeton’s Crossing, but the Japanese had withdrawn.
The next day, seeking to consolidate their hold on Templeton’s Crossing, the three Australian battalion commanders decided the 3rd would press on several hundred metres up the track. In doing so, it encountered another Japanese rearguard position. Attacks on 17 October captured some of the position, but the Australians were harried by counter-attacks throughout the night and the next day. Further offensive action by the Australians was hampered by two companies of the 3rd Battalion becoming lost in the jungle, and a break down in communication between the 3rd and the 2/25th. A stalemate ensued during which the 16th Brigade began to relieve the tired 25th.
The trail above Templeton’s Crossing was finally cleared by an attack mounted by the 2/2nd Battalion on 20 October. The 2/2nd concentrated its efforts on the right flank of the Australian positions (the Japanese left flank), with two companies attacking at right angles to the trail, and another two at roughly 45 degrees. Like much of the fighting along the Kokoda Trail, it was an affair of small groups of Australians tackling Japanese machine-guns with small arms and grenades. By nightfall, however, the four companies occupied two positions astride the trail, with the Japanese sandwiched between them. It was planned to renew the attack on the morning of 21 October with the assistance of a company of the 2/1st Battalion, but patrols at first light discovered the Japanese had escaped through the jungle and fallen back on Eora Creek.