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Army November 12, 2009
IT WAS an adventurous training
activity that held special meaning
for soldiers from 51FNQR, when
they were rewarded for excel-
lence in performance of their duties
with the chance to trek up the famous
The battalion has a strong histori-
cal link to the exploits of the 31/51 Bn
at Porton Plantation in World War II,
and the requirement to carry all personal
equipment and give battlefield presenta-
tions along the way made the experience
all the more real.
Cairns RSL, a staunch supporter of
the battalion, funded the activity, which
was run by Kokoda Trek Experiences.
51FNQR's team comprised a patrol-
man from Cairns' A Coy, a patrolman
with advanced medical qualifications
from the Torres Straits' C Coy, a team
leader from Operational Support Coy,
and myself, Cpl Leanne Morrison, a
clerk from Weipa's B Coy.
The anxiety about the trip melted
away once we arrived in Port Moresby,
and seeing the Bomana War Cemetery
made everything feel more real than a
story in a military history book.
The names on the headstones at the
Memorial of the Missing were those of
soldiers I had read about: Pte Kingsbury,
VC; Lt Butch Bisset; Cpl McCallum,
DCM; and Capt Sam Templeton.
We joined seven civilians in tack-
ling the eight-day trek along the Kokoda
Track. The others in our party had por-
ters to carry their gear. We carried our
The first day was easy -- nobody
struggled, no equipment broke and I
became confident in our whole team.
Our guide, Merv Haines, a 7RAR
Vietnam veteran who leads tour groups
along the track several times a year, was
meticulous in leading the group. He had
already put us through a 10-week prepa-
From Itima Ridge, we could see the
rectangular pits the Australians had dug
with their helmets, spoons and empty
bully beef tins during the campaign.
When the rain set in at Ioribaiwa, we
competed with other trekking groups for
shelter in a grass hut.
Pushing on to Ofi Creek, we had to
swim through freezing water and dry
our clothes by the camp fire. At Nauro,
a whole village greeted us with food and
songs, making us very welcome.
After passing collections of old gre-
nades, rounds and helmets, we eventu-
ally arrived at Brigade Hill, where I gave
a small speech in the rain on a battle
where 62 Australian soldiers were killed
almost 67 years ago to the day.
Knowing some of the history and
mentally matching some of the battles to
the ground made the trek more reward-
ing. Even on the hardest days, smiles
featured in every photograph and nobody
complained, especially knowing the sol-
diers who fought in this area had to carry
30kg packs plus rifles and dodge bullets
along the same terrain.
Meeting the oldest remaining Fuzzy
Wuzzy Angel at the village of Naduri
was a highlight. Ovuru Ndiki, 103, sup-
ported the Australians in WWII and told
stories of cheating death at the hands of
the Japanese. He brought the history of
the Kokoda campaign to life for us.
We moved into the highlands, trekking
through an ancient, dripping-wet, moss-
covered rainforest to Diggers Camp, at
2000m altitude. Up at Myola, we saw the
spot where the biscuit bombers dropped
rations. It looked the same as in the black-
and-white footage taken 67 years ago and
we found an old ration tin.
Back at Digger's Camp, with dry
clothes, a sleeping bag and a grass hut
to shelter in, you could still feel the cold
and wetness of the highlands, providing
only a sense of what it might have been
like to fight in the campaign.
I was safe in a hut and there were
no Japanese soldiers planning ambush-
es. I didn't have to worry about food,
ammo or the condition of weapons. The
Australian soldiers who fought along the
Kokoda Track were ill-equipped, sitting
in waterlogged pits in the rain, anticipat-
ing Japanese attacks at any moment.
To endure the cold and fight so well
would have required impressive strength.
Further down the track, past Eora
Creek, we visited Lt Bisset's memorial
before reaching Isurava, where we had
a dusk service at the memorial, looking
over the cloud-covered valley to Kokoda.
A taste of the Kokoda Track brought the military
history books to life for Cpl Leanne Morris and
her colleagues from 51FNQR.
In the cold light of day
A story or two: Cpl Leanne
Morris meets the oldest Fuzzy
Wuzzy Angel, 103-year-old
Ovuru Ndiki (above).
Photo by WO2 Michael Patman
Digging in: Pte James Coate
tries a fighting pit for size at the
side of the Kokoda Track.
Photo by Cpl Leanne Morris
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