Earlier today I dragged out the very first profile I wrote in 2004, interested to see what has changed and what remains the same.
The need for respite remains as high or even higher than 2004, except now we are meeting the need more effectively with the programs at Auricht.
The Kokoda campaign is now, rightly, much better known. Peter Brune’s book has been followed by dozens of histories, biographies, movies, documentaries and TV series.
The mysteries of the track, the doubt that I would be fit enough have been replaced by a sense of familiarity and a strong desire to experience the pleasant fatigue at the end of a 10 hour day.
Port Moresby was as scary as I had been told, but Isurava and Brigade Hill were more moving and special than I had expected.
The “interesting bunch of people” have become close friends and companions on many journeys. The porters and locals have become facebook friends and familiar contacts, even if they are still in doubt about my identity.
So why finish now – 70th anniversary, 10 crossings, finally got a photo of the blue butterfly at Hoi, Mission Ridge and Kagi at last, cumulative effects of years of tropical bugs, knees going, need to go to other places?
It’s just time.
On this day in 1942 at Isurava the 39th Battalion were exhausted. They had faced repeated Japanese probing attacks for weeks, they were poorly equipped and had spent too long manning weapon pits in pouring rain. But there were signs of hope. Their new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner, had arrived and was instilling some much-needed confidence and organisation into the 39th. And at 5pm the first of the relieving 2/14th AIF troops walked into their camp. Within a day the Japanese were to launch a powerful assault on the Australians.
Meanwhile the 2/27th were still at Sogeri near the start of the Track. They had been held back in case the Japanese forces won the battle at Milne Bay and attacked Port Moresby from the sea. They received word on this day to prepare to move, and some headquarters personnel headed up to check out the Kokoda Track.
The AWM has a website containing an animated history of Kokoda which is very easy to follow from an historical point of view and it provides useful info for current trekkers. The address is http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/
It was also the day on which the 2/27th left their camp at the Brisbane Racecourse and boarded the SS Zebulon Pike and departed for Port Moresby.
On this day 70 years, ago two platoons of the 39th battalion who had just been sent over the Owen Stanley Ranges fought the Japanese in the first major contact of the campaign. They met at a place called Oivi (we will pass through Oivi on September 12 on our way to the Beaches). A young private, Sidney Moffatt was the first soldier killed in the campaign. Around 5 O’Clock on the next day the leader of this small group of untrained militia, Captain Sam Templeton, was killed. Both groups of trekkers will stop at Templeton’s Crossing on Eora Creek which was named after Captain Templeton.