[Note: this post was originally published in January 2016. Ministerial press release to mark 75th anniversary of Kokoda campaign.]
Kokoda Track, The author, 2nd edition, Melbourne 2012
This little book (70 pages, a dozen photographs, two clear maps) was written by a veteran who died recently aged 100 years of age. It reminds us that, beneath the bulk statistics (40 000 killed in World War II) and orotund commemorative speeches, there were individual stories of ordinary men and women.
Walsh served in the Middle East, then four months on the Kokoda Track (he makes a good case for ‘Track’ not ‘Trail’) before coming down with malaria and spending the last couple of years of the war at a desk in Melbourne. His service career roughly parallels that of my father (Syria-home via Ceylon-Milne Bay-North Queensland-malaria-PTSD). A photograph of the grey-painted Queen Mary leaving Sydney in 1940 was of particular interest to the son of one of its passengers from those days.
Walsh avoids describing the fighting along the Kokoda Track but stresses the sterling service of Papuans (known then as ‘Fuzzy Wuzzies’), the unforgiving weather and terrain, and the teamwork necessary for men to come through under difficulties. He argues that the Papuans have received insufficient recognition for their service. One need not, with hindsight, agree that Australia was under the extremity of threat of Japanese invasion that people at the time felt; one can still be impressed by the exploits of those who were there.
Nick Walsh was interviewed on Radio Australia in 2012. Other views of Kokoda from Anthony Cooper and Tom O’Lincoln. PNG women’s memories of the war.
2 November 2017 updated