Pauline, Alice, Zorana, Paul, Ben and Peter flew from Port Moresby to Kokoda mid-morning today. All but Pauline have now gone to join the Tribute trekkers to head to the Northern Beaches, except Chris Adey and Lyall who have flown back to Port Moresby with Pauline. Those three are not going to the Beaches – Chris and Lyall will, I believe, return home in the next few days (please note this is not due to injury or illness; this was the plan all along), while Pauline hopes to visit some people and places in and around Port Moresby before joining the rest of the Retreat trekkers at Kokoda on Friday, along with Brian Schumacher who leaves Adelaide tomorrow.
Confused? Yeah me too!
On Saturday a group of K12s and other trekkers travelled to Black Rock near Peterborough to meet Eric Sambell, a veteran of Kokoda. Eric was part of the 2/27th AIF Battalion and fought in the Egypt, Syria, Kokoda, Gona, Shaggy Ridge and Borneo campaigns. Eric is one of a very small number of surviving 2/27th veterans. We were able to spent a few hours with Eric as he told of his time in the AIF, concentrating on the battles at Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill. Eric was a Bren Gunner and he was part of the group lost in the jungle for 2 weeks after the retreat from Brigade Hill. His memory of detail was razor sharp and he expressed a keen interest in our trip. We will be working on a brief video of our time with Eric for those who were unable to be there.
Eric has asked us to visit the graves of some of his mates in Bomana War cemetery. We hope to be able to make another trip up to Kate’s farm after K12 to catch up with Eric and show him photos of our visit.
Why Kokoda? It has been a goal of mine since I first became aware as a teenager of the sacrifices made by the soldiers of Australia who believed our nation was worth dying for and so many did pay that ultimate price.
My Father actually fought in the later years of the war in Papua New Guinea and surrounding Islands. He didn’t talk of this time and rarely attended Anzac Services or marches. I had little understanding of his involvement and really didn’t look into things until after his passing in 1992. I am slowly piecing together his movements and understanding the way things were back then in 1939- 1945.
My Journey to Kokoda is special to me as it will crystallize in my mind and the mind’s of my children who always want to attend the Anzac Day services, the great price paid by our men and women so long ago for the freedom we all now enjoy.
During the tough times along the track I will endure and succeed because I will think of those who’ve gone before me and those families we have raised money for at Auricht House.
I look forward to sharing the memories of the track with anyone who listens.
You can support Lyall’s fundraising efforts by visiting his sponsorship site at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/lyall_willis