‘Infantryman’s calvary where the agony of exertion, the gnawing sweat, the craving the depressed shuddering evenings were made diminish by depletion’s forgiving medication. Doubtlessly no war was battled under more awful conditions than these. Clearly no war has requested to a greater extent a man in guts. Indeed, even Gallipoli or Crete or the desert.’ – Osmar White Wartime; writer, composing from the track in 1942
When I originally trekked Kokoda with a nearby guide in March 1991 I was struck by the way that there was no data on the area of spots, for example, Brigade Hill, Butcher’s Ridge, Templeton’s Crossing, Eora Creek, Imita Ridge, Kokoda Gap. Isurava, Deniki, Kokoda, and so forth. As far back as I was a little kid I could recall a huge number of veterans walking behind fight praises decorated with these names. I in this way expected to discover these spots and have the capacity to explore around the situations with some kind of data booklet or guide.
I expected to see the leftovers of the means up the notorious ‘brilliant staircase’; to feel the torment of climbing ‘Jap’s Ladder’; to consider how our diggers felt in their weapon pits on the forward inclines of Butcher’s Ridge as they held on to meet a huge number of over the top Japanese warriors; to pursue the strides of Private Bruce Kingsbury as he drove a counter assault against the Japs at Isurava; to remain on the ground shielded by Charlie McCallum as he stood valiantly between the Japs and his men to secure their getaway.
I needed to see where Captain Butch Bissett was machine gunned; where Ben Buckler drove his game changing watch; where Captain Claude Nye and Captain Brett (Lefty) Langridge drove their pivotal charge at Brigade Hill; where Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Honner held his renowned procession at Menari with ‘Those Ragged Bloody Heroes’ of the 39th Battalion; where Corporal John Metson and Sergeant Lindsay Bear slithered on every one of the fours along the track rejecting all ideas for help since they had mates ‘a ton more awful off than us’!
I would have liked to meet ‘fluffy wuzzy blessed messengers’ who spared many diggers via conveying them over probably the most ungracious landscape on earth and state ‘thank you’ to their families in the towns.
Lamentably I was to be harshly baffled in light of the fact that there was not a solitary signpost, landmark or dedication along the whole track separated from a couple of plaques set by regimental affiliations and a little plinth raised by a Japanese officer at Launumu – the framing up spot for the Japanese assault against the Australians on Butcher’s Ridge and Brigade Hill on 6 September 1942.
I was additionally hindered by the way that my PNG direct thought nothing about the war history of the crusade and there were no maps or signs to help with distinguishing significant segments of the track or any of the fight destinations.
I was additionally struck by the way that we had ignored the individuals who relinquished such a great amount for us in Papua New Guinea – the unbelievable ‘fluffy wuzzy heavenly attendants’. I discovered that none have been issued with an award for their administration and some case to have never been paid. When I got some information about the war on the track he clarified that they had lived in harmony for ages then one day the Australians and the Japanese came, had a major battle in their patios, caused a great deal of harm in their towns, at that point left! Our endeavors to address this dishonorable disregard has been fruitless to date anyway we have been heartned to get the help of the RSL of Australia – and we will endure!
The towns along the track are poor and dependent on a fundamental subsistence economy. They develop sustenance to send to business sectors in Port Moresby and utilize the returns to help town life which incorporates building network schools, acquiring simple school supplies and medication.
It appeared glaringly evident to the general population I initially driven over the track that on the off chance that we could by one way or another recognize all the fight destinations and train nearby aides, at that point youthful Australian trekkers would need to come – similarly as they have at Gallipoli over late years.
We in this way chose to plot the course of the first wartime track. Amid the way toward get-together wartime maps and contrasting them with our trek notes we found that the present track sidesteps the first ‘brilliant staircase’ and that the fight site of Isurava was around an hour’s trekking south of where everyone thought it was at the time. There are various different zones where the present track pursues an alternate course from the wartime track.
The 50th commemoration of the Kokoda crusade was an auspicious notice of the need to revere the estimations of Kokoda in our national intuitive. Executive Paul Keating was the main Australian Prime Minister ever to visit Kokoda. Who will ever overlook the picture of him tumbling to his knees and kissing the ground on the Kokoda level!
Amid our next couple of treks we talked about what ought to be done to appropriately respect the Kokoda battle and guarantee its inheritance is always remembered. Because of these discourses we arranged a rundown of recommendations to submit to the Federal Government in Canberra. This included proposals that the first brilliant staircase be inspected and remade; all the fight destinations be related to ‘instructive’ dedications being set nearby to recount to the narrative of each fight; neighborhood ‘town exhibition halls’ to be built up; life-measure bronze statues to be put along the track to portray the different moves that made spot – a battling watch at Templeton’s Crossing – a stretcher gathering leaving Eora Creek – a restorative group in real life at Myola – Bruce Kingsbury in real life at Isurava – a salvo serving a cuppa at Nauro -, etc. These would go about as frightful notices of what the soul of Kokoda is about.
We presented that the Kokoda track ought to be declared as a National Memorial Park with the point of building up a self-supporting eco-trekking industry for the Koiari and Orokaiva individuals who live along it.
The land that navigates the track between McDonald’s Corner and the town of Kokoda is liable to customary proprietorship by PNG custom and the fringes between the different landowners is frequently not clear. What is clear is that these individuals are the conventional caretakers of land that is sacrosanct to our legacy and such activities would give a motivating force to them to ensure and keep up the destinations that are currently holy to us.
Our next chance to put Kokoda on the national – and worldwide – motivation showed up in the beginning times of anticipating the Olympic Torch Relay by the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). With the declaration of the arrangement for the light to be flown into every Pacific country for four hours we set forward a recommendation that the Olympic light ought to be extended the Kokoda Trail. SOCOG declared that the transfer would be a multi day ‘festivity’. We presented that is ought to have one day put aside for ‘recognition’ (it would have taken 100 Koiari and Orokaiva sprinters 10 hours to get it over the track) and the rest of the 99 days could be for ‘festivity’!
We at that point held gatherings with ranking staff of the SOGOC Olympic Torch Relay arranging group and the Federal Minister for Sport and Recreation. Everyone communicated the view that it was a smart thought however we before long got the inclination that it was not on their plan.
As it unfolded the thought was dismissed wild by the Australian ‘Rulers of the Rings’ – Michael Knight, Graham Richardson, John Coates et al. Their first endeavor to dishonor the proposition was to dole out the undertaking to a ‘police security’ group who completed a surveillance of the track in a contracted plane and made a ‘specialist’ suggestion that it would be ‘hazardous’. We tested this choice with one more media discharge (Olympic Torch bearers at more serious danger of being shot in Sydney than robbed on Kokoda!) scrutinizing their reason over wellbeing and security concerns.
After much ‘argy bargy’ between us they at last attempted a definitive con work by declaring that the light would go to the Kokoda Trail. We at first commended the thought yet were stopped when we took a gander at the fine print and found that it would have been kept running from Owers Corner to Port Moresby. We issued one more media discharge (SOCOGs false dismissal of the Kokoda Torch Relay) trying to uncover the con however the SOCOG media machine was substantially more compelling than our rearguard activity.
As it turned out the almighty SOCOG ‘Masters of the Rings’ – viably steamrolled the proposition. They ought to have been publicly shamed – the resulting Olympic ticketing disaster uncovered their hues and demonstrated what little respect they had for the normal digger – we can in any event be guaranteed that history will won’t be as kind to them as it will be to our veterans!
What this activity demonstrated to me was the triviality of many ‘powerful’ Australians with respect to our military history. They give shallow insincere talks on suitable long periods of national criticalness yet when one puts the chomp on them to help a perfect they are abruptly detailed as ‘lost without a trace’!
There is no uncertainty that if the Kokoda crusade had been battled by the United States Army it would now be a piece of American fables. The track itself would be an altar committed to the initiative, bravery, penance, mateship and perseverance of the officers who battled along it. Names like Bruce Kingsbury, Alan Avery, Lindsay Bear, Charlie McCallum, John Metson, Claude Nye, ‘Lefty’ Langridge, Stan and Butch Bissett, Charlie Butler, etc would be legends of the screen and instilled in the intuitive of each American similarly as Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Colonel Travis and others were at the skirmish of the Alamo in 1836.
Be that as it may, it was an Australian battle and they are Australian names – and oddly enough it had turned into an ignored holy place – and they are our overlooked legends! Drawing closer the 50th anniversay of the Kokoda crusade columnist Frank Devine thought about the enormity of our troops at the clash of