School Groups

Days
8
From
$3,695

Our Adventure Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge was voted as the most outstanding youth leadership program at the Clubs NSW Annual Awards Dinner in 2017.

More than 450 young Australians from all walks of life have graduated from this program over the past decade.  According to the judges of the award this program is without peer in the development of personal leadership qualities based on the enduring values of Kokoda.

Other organisations who have used our programs for leadership development are Kings School, Parramatta; Riverina Anglican College, Wagga Wagga; combined schools from the Hills District in Sydney; Penrith Panthers on the Prowl; Canberra PCYC and Lomandra School, Campbelltown.

Our leadership programs for schools are based on lessons learned from our own experience as graduates of the army Officer Cadet School, the Royal Military College and the Australian Command and Staff College.  We draw upon the experiences of our Adventure Kokoda trek leaders who have a combined total of 130 years professional military service that includes combat experience in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

During our 10-day treks students are disconnected from the travails of social media and reconnect with themselves, their fellow trekkers, the environment, the culture of the Koiari and Orokaiva villagers along the trail, and the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.

We de-clutter the theory of leadership and get back to basics in a physically challenging isolated foreign environment where risk is real, personal commitment is required and teamwork is essential. And no matter how hard the going gets we are constantly able to reflect on the difficulties our young troops had in fighting their way across the trail against all the odds in 1942.

We stress that the relevance of the Kokoda pilgrimage is not about the glorification of war - it's about the commemoration of sacrifice.  It's also a realistic demonstration of the ability of the human spirit to conquer adversity.

But most of all It's about Australian leadership!

Our leaders in 1942 were not the inheritors of family and military title along the lines of the British Officer Training School at Sandhurst or the descendants of American military dynasties that started with the War of Independence and progressed through wars against the Indians, the Mexicans and finally themselves in the Civil War - and manifested at the West Point Military College as Captain Yankee Doodle the 3rd - or 4th and so on.
 
Our Australian military leaders were from a different stock in 1942.  When the clarion call to arms was sounded they came off the land, they came out of the public service, they left their jobs in banks, insurance companies and local businesses to enlist.
 
Our army was not big enough to have an elite officer corps - so many of our battlefield commanders emerged as a result of their performance in the field of battle.  And they emerged because they earned the respect of their mates as a result of their personal courage, their ability to think under duress, their loyalty to their commanders and their compassion for those they led.
 
Military Leadership in those days wasn't rocket science. In fact it was defined as:
 

'the art of influencing and directing men to achieve an assigned goal in such a way as to obtain their obedience, confidence, respect and loyal co-operation'.

Essential military leadership characteristics include:

  • Loyalty:
    faithfulness to country, corps and unit, and to your seniors and subordinates.
     
  • Sense of Honour
    (Integrity): Uprightness of character and soundness of moral principles, absolute truthfulness and honesty; fairness and impartiality in exercising command.

  • Sense of Responsibility:
    Consistent endeavour to discharge the responsibilities accepted as an officer.
     
  • Knowledge:
    Acquired information, including professional knowledge and an understanding of your men.
     
  • Courage:
    A mental quality that recognises fear of danger or criticism, but enables a man to proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness.
     
  • Initiative:
    Seeing what has to be done, and commencing a course of action, even in the absence of orders.
     
  • Decisiveness:
    Ability to reach decisions promptly and to announce them in a clear, forceful manner.
     
  • Tact: 
    The ability to deal with others without creating offence, and show respect for individuals
    .
  • Dependability:
    The certainty of the proper performance of duty.
     
  • Endurance:  The mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to stand pain, fatigue, distress and hardship.
     
  • Enthusiasm:
    The display of sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duty.
     
  • Unselfishness:
    Avoidance of providing for one's comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.
     
  • Bearing:
    Creating a favourable impression in carriage, appearance and personal conduct at all times.
     

The Aims of Military Leadership are:

  • Primary Aim: Accomplishment of the mission.
  • Secondary Aim: Welfare of the men.

Military Leadership Principles are guides for the proper exercise of command:

  • Be technically and tactically proficient.
  • Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
  • Know your men and lookout for their welfare.
  • Keep your men informed.
  • Set the example by deeds, not words.
  • Ensure that the task is understood, supervised and accomplished.
  • Train your men as a team.
  • Make sound and timely decisions.
  • Develop a sense of responsibility amongs subordinates.
  • Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities.
  • Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
  • Make the primary mission the combat efficiency of your command.

Military Leadership Techniques are actions given by the leader.  Each technique should:

  • Be guided by the leadership principles.
  • Exhibit the characteristics of a leader.
  • Be consistent with the situation.
  • Contribute towards achieving the goal.

Combat Efficiency was described as the ability of the unit to accomplish an assigned mission in the shortest possible time with the minimum loss of life and waste of material.

Indications of Military Leadership are:
  • Morale:
    an attitude of confidence in the mind of an individual when he identifies himself with a group, accepts group goals and works hard to achieve them.
     
  • Discipline:
    the prompt obedience to orders and, in the absence of orders, the initiation of appropriate action.
     
  • Esprit De Corps:
    the loyalty to, pride in, and enthusiasm for a unit shown by the members of that unit.
     
  • Proficiency:
    the technical, tactical and physical ability to do a job well.

Some 50 years on the gender of our language has changed but the principles and techniques remain the same.

By day 5 . . .

After five of the hardest days our young trekkers will ever have experienced we take time out to reflect on what we have learned about ourselves, our fellow trekkers, our PNG guides and carriers, the villagers we have met and the history we have learned thus far.
 
By this stage they have an empathetic understanding of the writings of Sir Daniel Aarons, author of 'Amateur Solder' where he wrote:
 

'The years I spent in war were the happiest I ever spent.  I shared a task with men of every type and every social station and was admitted to a fellowship so rare as to almost justify the beastliness that made it possible.  There is this to be said of war: you live simply if at all, and you do it in the company of men at their very best, spurred to a passionate unselfishness by a common purpose which at all other times is lacking'.

Around the campfire our trek leaders will discuss the '3+1 Rules of Survival' and various theories of leadership based on our own experiences: the army 'Group' theory based on the premise that he or she who wears the rank is not necessarily the leader; 'Command' leadership relevant to combat situations; 'Situational Leadership' which is the ability to shift behaviour according to the demands of the situation.  We discuss the characteristics of effective team leadership which encompasses the natural mix of decisive action people, thinkers and carers. 

By this stage the group are no longer strangers and are beginning to develop strong bonds of friendship.  They now have an appreciation of the term 'Esprit de Corps' which wartime historian, Dudley McCarthy, attributed to another young group of strangers, the 39th Militia Battalion:

'Although possessing no permanent site, having neither roof nor walls, no unchanging form, it yet becomes home for those who serve in it.  Away from it, each of its members can revert to being homeless individuals, lost uncertain, without proper identity.  Because of this it calls to life in a man, rounded into fullness through shared battle, suffering and death, each other will always feel some sense of brotherhood for each other man of his battalion.  Through this thing the strong lift the weak to efforts and achievements beyond their own strength and their conscious wills, and the dependence of the weak gives greater strength and endurance to the strong.  For every individual human part of this battalion who is killed, this thing changes something in those who survive and calls to life something new that never was there before'.

Students then retire to think about a leader who has inspired them in their lives thus far - a parent, a teacher, a coach, a friend.  Later in the day they return to the group and tell us about that person and the values they have and the qualities they exhibit that inspires them as a role model.

We then share a view on leadership from an old mentor:

‘From long experience I have learned the importance of knowing the capacities of my people.  I view each person as an individual with strong and weak points.  I have considered opinion about the strengths and limitations of each person and the responsibilities each will probably be able to handle best.  In a general way I know when it will be safe to let a person ‘have his or her lead’ and when to ‘tighten the reins’.  I consider it is part of my job to provide conditions that will allow my people to perform at their best.

‘I have learned to watch for signs that a person may be reaching breaking point, particularly during prolonged periods of stress.  When I sense a person to be reaching breaking point I arrange for their relief as tactfully as possible.

‘I follow the practice of pushing decision making as far down the organization as it should reasonably go.  For example, I give most of the problems that come to my desk to people who I think should handle them.  Usually I do not comment on these problems in advance even though I usually have my ideas on how they should work.

‘I try to avoid making commitments that involve my people without their knowledge.  I recognize it is tempting to promise people they will get everything they ask for.  Instead I take note and promise that their request will be looked into, and that they will get it unless a good reason exists.

‘I have learned to be especially careful in one aspect of my actions.  I have found that people are highly sensitive to anything a boss says or does.  I have found that even the most vague speculations about possible actions can cause my entire organization to shift into high gear. Accordingly, I learned long ago not to throw off any chance remarks which might be construed to be subtle directives.

‘Despite my calculated reserve I am constantly tempted to tell employees how things should be done.  I have a reputation for getting to the root of problems and, of course, I like seeing things done according to my own preferences.  However, I am convinced that much of my effectiveness depends upon resisting this temptation. I have found that this restraint has resulted in my people getting high satisfaction from their own jobs.  I believe that this is also why I have developed a reputation for always having my people ‘behind me’.

‘I have learned to use my people as a team.  I encourage ideas and suggestions from everyone concerned, not only by saying so, but also by making sure that those who ‘stick their necks out’ do not feel threatened by their or others’; comments.

‘I insist that my people clear their ideas with each other before coming to me.  I recognize that most problems will involve the activities of more than one branch or section.

‘I am concerned about the development of my entire organization and I make effort in this direction.  I make it a specific responsibility of supervisors to bring on their employees.  I encourage supervisors, for example, to invite selected employees to conferences where the latter can make a contribution or learn something relevant to their own work.

‘I believe that written directions or memoranda are most useful when they summarize or record concepts that have already been discussed.

‘I have found that the idea within which employees can act on their own initiative needs defining.  I therefore keep in touch with my people so that I can show them where they are in over their heads.  I don’t hesitate to tell them when they have failed – I do so plainly but in a way which stresses how such mistakes can be avoided in the future and how they can profit from them.’

 

What's included

  • Meals
  • All transportation
  • All accommodation
  • All trek fees
  • Mosquito-proof tents

Dates & Availability for School Groups

Date
Status Price  
30 Jun - 9 Jul 2018
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Reg Yates Taking Bookings $4,795 $4,395 $4,495 $3,695 $4,445
7 Jul - 16 Jul 2018
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Rod Foster Taking Bookings $4,795 $4,395 $4,495 $3,695 $4,445
6 Aug - 17 Aug 2018
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Private group only Private group
22 Sep - 2 Oct 2018
Kokoda to Owers Corner
Chad Sherrin Private group only Private group
29 Sep - 10 Oct 2018
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Private group only Private group
29 Jun - 8 Jul 2019
Kokoda to Owers Corner
Reg Yates Taking Bookings $4,795 $4,395 $4,495 $3,695 $4,445
8 Jul - 17 Jul 2019
Kokoda to Owers Corner
Rod Foster Taking Bookings $4,795 $4,395 $4,495 $3,695 $4,445
5 Aug - 16 Aug 2019
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Private group only Private group
28 Sep - 9 Sep 2019
Owers Corner to Kokoda
Private group only Private group
6 Jul - 15 Jul 2020
Kokoda to Owers Corner
Rod Foster Taking Bookings $4,795 $4,395 $4,495 $3,695 $4,445

Load all dates

Photos from the School Groups

FAQs about this trek

Some claim that 'there are many tracks to the Kokoda Trail' - this is code for them using eco-shortcuts that allows them to cut costs by getting groups across in shorter periods of time.

Much of the wartime trail is much as it was in 1942 because fewer trekkers use it today. 

Those interested in the authentic history of the Kokoda campaign trek via the original wartime trail over the Kagi Gap to Lake Myola.  Those who wish to explore the mystic charm of the Lake Myola area should allow for an additional day otherwise all they will get is a quick glance at it. 

The map below shows a popular eco-shortcut via Naduri village - neither the track itself nor the village existed during the Kokoda campaign.

 

 

 

Yes he does. 

The VHF radio net along the Kokoda Trail has improved however there is only one channel and it is sometimes difficult to break into the chatter.  The system does not have a base station with a 24/7 listening watch which could be critical in an emergency.

Professional operators are equipped with satellite phones for use in emergencies.

Trek Operators who do not have a satellite phone with an active account fall into the 'dodgy' category - unfortunately they exist and the only protection trekkers have is the old caveat emptor of 'Let the buyer beware'.

 

Kokoda Day

The day they raised the Australian flag at Kokoda

Australia was unprepared for the war in the Pacific in 1942.  Our faith in ‘great and powerful friends’ coming to our aid in the event of Japan entering the war was shattered with the sinking of HMAS Prince of Wales and HMAS Repulse near Singapore on 10 December 1941 and the secret deal struck by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt for American aid to be directed to the European theatre of operations at the expense of the South West Pacific.

The defence of Australia and its mandated territory of New Guinea was dependent on untrained militia forces and a small band of New Guinea Rifles as our experienced AIF units were returning from Europe to meet the new threat.

Resources were so scarce in New Guinea that young males were forcibly recruited to support the war effort.  Many of these men from remote mountain villagers had no idea of the war and were conscripted against their will.  They were told that men from Japan were the enemy.  For many of these men other villagers living in remote tribal lands were also considered ‘enemy’.  One can only imagine the fear and uncertainty they felt as they were forcibly marched away from their families and clans.

They were designated as Carriers but were to become known as ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ because of their selfless sacrifice in assisting wounded and sick diggers during the various campaigns.

They carried vital war supplies on their bare shoulders in endless lines over hostile and inhospitable terrain.  Modern day trekkers are in awe of their efforts.  Without this vital link in the chain of our war effort Japan would have been successful in the conquest of New Guinea.

Today, 71 years after the Pacific War, they are the only link in the chain not to have received any official recognition.  Many claim they were not properly paid.  None were ever issued with a medal.  No day has been set aside to commemorate their service or sacrifice.

It is difficult to understand why successive Australian governments have ignored this important omission.

The recent upsurge in interest in the Kokoda campaign by Australian trekkers indicates there is a strong desire for our wartime links with Papua New Guinea to be recognised.  This can be achieved by providing them with an incentive to visit, or revisit the country.

The proclamation of a ‘Kokoda Day’ dedicated to the wartime carriers would provide this incentive.

This paper recommends that November 3rd be officially proclaimed as a day of commemoration for the carriers.  This is the day the Australian flag was raised at Kokoda – a ceremony that would never have been possible without the support of the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.

An earlier proposal was approved by the PNG Government National Executive Council however the name was changed to ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angel Day’ in the process.  This decision defeated the purpose of the announcement as most Australians do not know anything about ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ until they have visited Papua New Guinea. 

In marketing terms the name ‘Kokoda’ is priceless whereas the term ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angel’ only has emotional appeal to those who have already trekked.

Objective

To seek the support of the National Executive Council to proclaim 3rd November as ‘Kokoda Day’ to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Papua New Guinea wartime carriers.

Background

The PNG Carriers who supported Australian troops during the Pacific have never been properly recognized.  Some were never paid and none ever received a medal for their service.

According to our official history of the war in the Pacific by Dudley McCarthy (Australia in the War 1939-1945, p116) the Australian New Guinea Army Unit (ANGAU) was authorised by the Australian government to provide for:

‘the conscription of whatever native labour might be required by the Services..’

Rates of pay were to be determined and the Senior Military Officer or District Officer was empowered:

‘to have the natives so employed to enter into a contract with the Australian Government.’

It has been estimated that some 10,000 PNG nationals served as Carriers in support of the Australians during the Kokoda campaign in 1942.

A further 42,000 are estimated to have been indentured to support Australian troops in the Milne Bay and the Buna/Gona campaigns.  They were paid 10 shillings per month.

According to wartime journalist, Osmar White[i]:

‘ANGAU contrived a maximum mobilization and use of native labour.  At the critical period, its method of conscription was even more arbitrary than German recruiting in the early days.  In some villages every able-bodied male over the approximate age of sixteen years was rounded up, transported to the clearing centres, and thence drafted to whatever type of work had priority in the immediate emergency.  Brutal disciplinary measures had often to be taken in the field; but when the first and worst crises of invasion were surmounted, ANGAU did what ti could to conserve the life and health of its native levies and to maintain the viability of native communities depleted of 40 or 50 per cent of their able-bodied men.  Under military rule, the labourers’ health was more carefully considered and their diet in general better than under private employers before the war.  ANGAU was fully aware of the value of native labour and co-operation to the Allied effort.

What is not understood by many is that male villagers indentured for work as Carriers faced two potential enemies – the invading Japanese and traditional clans whose customary land was foreign to them.

During the period 1944 to 1957 approximately 2 million pounds was paid by the Australian Government in compensation for property damage to PNG nationals by the Australian Government.  In 1975 PNG gained independence and the PNG Government assumed all legal obligations for compensation of its veteran community.

Unfortunately the PNG Carriers were excluded from benefits under legislation for compensation of PNG nationals who served in the Defence Force.  In 1980 they were also deemed to be ineligible for the PNG War Gratuity Scheme for ex-Servicemen.

In 1981 the Australian Government paid $3.25 million to the PNG Government under the Defence (PNG) Retirement Act as a final payment for compensation for Carriers.  In 1986 the PNG Government introduced payments of PNGK1,000 for each surviving Carrier.  The payments ceased in 1989 and many Carriers claim to have not received any money.

During the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign the issue of payment and compensation for many of the Carriers who claim they were never paid was raised with the Keating Government.

On 21 April 1992 The Australian newspaper reported that returned servicemen in PNG had called on the Australian Government to pay hundreds of local war veterans who helped Australian troops during the Kokoda campaign.  According to the report:

“The President of the PNG Returned Services League, Mr Wally Lussick, said Australia had sent about $3.5 million to PNG to help compensate local war veterans in the early 1980s, but much of the money had gone to the wrong people and a large group of carriers missed out.

“Mr Lussick said much of the money went to those press-ganged into being carriers for the Japanese and many people who took no part in the war received payments.

“The visit to PNG later this week by the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, for Anzac Day services to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kokoda battles would provide a good opportunity for Australia to make a commitment to the surviving carriers, he said.”

In the PNG Post-Courier of 24 April 1992, the Prime Minister of PNG, Sir Rabbie Namaliu called on Australia ‘to help compensate WW2 carriers and stretcher bearers”.  He raised the issue with Prime Minister Paul Keating at the time.  According to the Post-Courier:

“Most of the carriers and ex-servicemen received compensation payments from Australia in the mid-1980s, but many legitimate veterans from the Southern Kokoda Trail near Port Moresby, missed out.

“PNG authorities estimate up to 200 surviving carriers are still waiting for some kind of payment from Australia for their wartime labour and service.

“Mr Namaliu said the Government was considering making an approach to Australia to identify and pay those carriers who have gone unrewarded for half a century.”

On 5 May 1992 the Bulletin with Newsweek reported:

“Keating says compensation cases will be dealt with on their merits and all worthy claims examined; but no concrete sum for individuals has been discussed.  The difficulty of maintaining a list of the original carriers is underlined by how few speak English.  Family members of dead carriers are calling for posthumous compensation – after all, they took part in a battle that Keating described this week “as more important to Australians than any other battlefield in Europe or Africa.”

Whilst Prime Minister Keating was genuine in his desire to resolve the issue it is clear that his bureaucracy put it in the ‘too hard basket’ at the time.

The argument that ‘it would be inappropriate for the Australian Government to consider taking any further action on this matter in the absence of a detailed proposal from the Papua New Guinea Government’ was a cop-out.

The increasing numbers of Australians trekking Kokoda (Federal and State politicians, prominent media personalities, successful business people and a number of private schools)- and reconnecting with the ‘sons of the fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ will be enthusiastic supporters of a day dedicated to their memory. 

Remembrance Day – Papua New Guinea

Remembrance Day commemorates Papua New Guinean servicemen who sacrificed their lives in World War 11 and Bougainville.  It occurs on 23 July which commemorates the day in 1942 when the Papuan Infantry Battalion first fought against Japanese soldiers near the Kumusi River in Oro Province.  Remembrance Day is a public holiday.

In 2008 Governor-General Paulias Matane paid tribute to these soldiers and added:

"Also we must remember those who provided intelligence reports, coastwatchers and the fuzzy wuzzy angels. All these fallen heroes contributed in a significant way to the strategic defence of our land then and today."

Kokoda Day

Whilst Remembrance Day commemorates the service of uniformed Papua New Guinean servicemen who served, and those who sacrificed their lives in action during the Pacific War and the Bougainville crisis, Kokoda Day would be dedicated to the service of the Wartime Carriers.

Kokoda Day would not be a national holiday.  It would be a day of commemoration which could include:

  • a morning service in schools (thus providing an opportunity to educate Papua New Guinean students on the achievements and sacrifices of their grandfathers);
  • a flag raising re-enactment at Kokoda; and
  • a service at Remembrance Park in Port Moresby.

Why 3 November?

The Kokoda campaign began with a full scale attack on the Australian 39th Militia Battalion on 29 July 1942.  The campaign lasted three months as the Australians were pushed back to last line of defence on Imita Ridge.  The Australians rallied at this point and pushed the Japanese back across the track.  Kokoda was recaptured on 2nd November 1942 and the Australian flag was raised at a service the following day.

The flag raising ceremony symbolised the turning of the tide in the Pacific War.  It also symbolises the service and sacrifice made by Carriers in all campaigns throughout PNG.

This victory would not have been possible without the vital support of the PNG Carriers across the track.  In addition to their contribution to the war effort hundreds of Australian soldiers owe their lives to the selfless sacrifice of the Carriers who guided and carried them to safety over inhospitable jungle terrain in the most adverse of circumstances.

Tourism Benefits for Kokoda (Oro Province)

The proclamation of Kokoda Day would provide an incentive for Australians to travel to Papua New Guinea for the commemoration services.

Following is a monthly comparison of Australians trekking Kokoda in July and November since 2008:

YEAR

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

2008

1368

802

765

412

83

2009

1017

507

733

305

107

2010

662

450

509

310

103

2011

671

356

354

339

128

2012

770

532

631

480

176


The proclamation would effectively extend the trekking season into November by providing an incentive for Australians to visit PNG.  There are many Australians who are not physically able to trek Kokoda however they would visit the village if there was a strong reason for them to do so.

Commemorative activities would not be limited to a single day in Kokoda.  It could include short treks up to the Isurava Memorial, across to Abuari and down the Eastern side of the range which was defended by the 53rd Militia Battalion.  It would also provide them with an opportunity to extend their stay and visit Tufi Resort and the beachheads at Buna and Gona thus bringing increased tourism benefits to this region.

In addition to the re-enactment of the raising of the flag Kokoda Day would provide an opportunity for local clans to showcase their Orokaiva culture with sing-sings, traditional dances, markets and craft displays. 

In Port Moresby a service could be held at Remembrance Park in the morning and a beating of the retreat at Bomana War Cemetery in the evening.

Digger Tributes to PNG Wartime Carriers

In a report on the medical aspects of the fighting withdrawal in the face of overwhelming Japanese forces after the Battle for Isurava was lost, Colonel Kingsley Norris, Assistant Director Medical Services with the 7th Division praised the work of the Australian medics.  No living casualty, claimed Norris, was abandoned to the enemy and overall 750 wounded and sick were shepherded down the track to safety.  Norris was also full of praise for the ‘walking wounded’.  They had, in Norris’ words, to be treated with ‘absolute ruthlessness’ and not provided with stretchers:

‘Those alone who were quite unable to struggle or stagger along were carried.  There was practically never a complaint nor any resentment … One casualty with a two inch gap in a fractured patella, splintered by a banana leaf, walked for six days …’

Captain ‘Blue Steward, Regimental Officer, 2/16th Battalion:

“… they never forgot their patients, carrying them as gently as they could, avoiding the jolts and jars of the many ups and downs.  The last stretcher was carried out by the Regimental Aid Post boys, two volunteers, Padre Fred and myself.  Till then we never knew the effort needed, nor fully appreciated the work the carriers were doing.  Their bare, splayed feet gave them a better grip than our cleated boots could claim on the slippery rocks and mud.

“Some of the bearers disliked the tight, flat canvas surfaces of the regulation army stretchers, off which a man might slide or be tipped.  They felt safer with the deeper beds of their own bush made stretchers – two blankets doubled round two long poles cut from the jungle.  Each time we watched them hoist the stretchers from the ground to their shoulders for another stint, we saw their strong leg, arm and back muscles rippling under their glossy black skins.  Manly and dignified, they felt proud of their responsibility to the wounded, and rarely faltered.  When they laid their charges down for the night they sought level ground on which to build a rough shelter of light poses and leaves.  With four men each side of a stretcher, they took it in turns to sleep and to watch, giving each wounded man whatever food, drink or comfort there might be.

Laurie Howson, 39th Battalion:

“The days go on.  You are trying to survive, shirt torn, arse out of your pants, whiskers a mile long, hungry and a continuous line of stretchers with wounded carried by ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzies’ doing a marvellous job.  Some days you carry your boots because there’s no skin on your feet.  But when I look around at some of the others – hell!  They look crook!  Then I have seen the time when you dig a number of holes in the ground and bury your dead.  Nothing would be said, but you think ‘maybe it will be my turn next.”

Conclusion

The Australian army would have been defeated in the Kokoda campaign if they had not received vital logistic support from the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.  Hundreds would have died of their wounds and tropical illnesses if they had not been carried off the track.

These wartime Carriers have never been officially recognised.  The Australian government specifically excluded them from benefits under legislation for compensation of PNG nationals who served in the Defence Force.  In 1980 they were also deemed to be ineligible for the PNG War Gratuity Scheme for ex-Servicemen.

The service of the wartime carriers and the sacrifices they made towards the allied victories in Papua New Guinea should be honoured and enshrined in a special day dedicated to their memory.

The most appropriate day is November 3 as the Australian flag would never have been raised on the Kokoda plateau if it had not been for their service.

Recommendation

‘Kokoda Day’ be proclaimed on 3rd November each year to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the New Guinea Wartime Carriers.

AWM Photo of the raising of the Australian Flag on the Kokoda plateau on 3 November 1942 

[i] Parliament of a Thousand Tribes, The Cataclysm. P.129-130

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The difference is the dialogue we have within the group during and after our presentations.

We have a combined total of 130 years professional military experience - our trek leaders have served in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are able to relate discuss the ground and conditions to the strategic situation of the time and the various principles that apply to the different phases of war.

They have also experienced the emotional aspects of perhaps never seeing their families again - and they understand mateship because they have experienced it under combat condtions.

As a result they are able to provide informed debate surrounding some of the decisions made by commanders in the heat of the campaign and relate many of the personal stories of veterans they have previously served with.

This is not stuff you can learn from a book - it comes from personal experience in the army and makes for interesting and lively dialogue.

According to Major General Gordon Maitland, a distinguished military historian there are three types of military historians:

  • Journalist historians, who show little respect for the facts in order to tell a good story
  • Academic historians, who have the time and facilities to unearth new and valuable information, but mainly at the political and strategic levels
  • Soldier historians, who are the only ones one can trust at the tactical level, for they have been taught to understand the key factor – ground'.

Adventure Kokoda engages 'soldier historians'! who meet Major General Maitland's criteria of understanding key tactical factors and are able to incorporate them into interesting and entertaining battlefield presentations.

The Kokoda Trail - Official Naming Rights 

A paper by Major Charlie Lynn OL
13 September 2011
 

  • Ownership of the naming rights for the Kokoda Trail is a keenly contested point of debate in Australia. 

  •  Do they belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between Owers Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?  

  • Or to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian Battalions who were awarded the official battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’?  

  • Or to the custodians of political correctness in the Australian Government who dislike the name ‘trail’ because it's not Australian?
     

Background

Over the past decade almost 40,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.  Most trekkers are motivated by the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign and this has led to a range of books and television stories on the subject.  It has also led to some extensive debate about the official name of the trail.

Contemporary debate over the name evolved after former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating kissed the ground at Kokoda on the 50th anniversary of the campaign in April 1992.  This was accompanied by much ‘talkback’ noise about ‘trail’ being an American term and ‘track’ being the language of the Australian bush (ignoring the fact that our bush is criss-crossed with fire-trails).  This suited Keating’s agenda for an Australian republic at the time.

The debate suited those in the Australian commentariat who harboured a strong anti-American bias over their engagement in Iraq around the time of the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.  As most of the commentariat had never served in the regular armed forces they could be excused for not appreciating the esprit de corps associated with a battle honour.  This, however, does not excuse them for ambushing a name that doesn’t reflect their political bias.

‘Kokoda Track’ has since emerged as the politically correct term in Australia in spite of the fact that the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ was awarded to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign.  It is also in defiance of the Papua New Guinea government who gazetted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ in 1972.

Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee

Immediately after the war against Japan the Australian Government established a Battles Nomenclature Committee to define the battles of the Pacific.

According to research conducted by Peter Provis[1] at the Australian War Memorial the committee conferred with official historians ‘including Dudley McCarthy.  He reported:

‘The Battles Nomenclature Committee used the ‘Battle of the Owen Stanley’s’ in a provisional list of battles, actions and engagements of the war in the South West Pacific Area produced in May 1947.  For the preparation of the final list, Warren Perry, Assistant Director, wrote that the geographic boundaries required further work with ‘very detailed research into the original day to day records of the various campaigns’.  The Committee may have deemed that the ‘Battle of the Owen Stanley’s covered a too broader area to describe the Kokoda campaign, suggesting that fighting occurred across the entire range. In June 1949 the provisional list of battles used ‘Kokoda Trail’.

‘The final report, completed and published in 1958, listed the ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the name of the battle, which included the actions Isurava, Ioribaiwa, Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing 11 and Oivi-Gorari as well as the following engagements: Kokoda-Deniki, Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing 1 and Efogi-Menari.’

Kokoda Trail Battle Honour

The Battle Honour ‘Kokoda Trail has been emblazoned on the colours of the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign for the past 57 years.

Battle Honours or colours symbolise the spirit of a regiment for they carry the names of battles that commemorate the gallant deeds performed from the time it was raised.  This association of Colours with heroic deeds means they are regarded with veneration.  In a sense, they are the epitome of the history of the regiment[2].

39th Battalion Regimental Flag with Battle Honours

The full history of a regiment is contained in written records, but these are not portable in a convenient form.  On the other hand the Colours, emblazoned with distinction for long and honourable service, are something in the nature of a silken history, the sight of which creates a feeling of pride in soldiers and ex-soldiers.[3]

This is a significance that commentators and bureaucrats who have never worn the uniform will never fully comprehend.

The Australian War Memorial (AWM)

The Australian War Memorial is the official custodian of our military history.  The Memorial has honoured the battle honour of the 10 Australian battalions by naming the Second World War Galleries ‘Kokoda Trail’.

According to the Memorial’s website the ‘Kokoda Trail Campaign’ was fought over ‘a path that linked Owers Corner, approximately 40 km north-east of Port Moresby, and the small village of Wairopi, on the northern side of the Owen Stanley mountain range. From Wairopi, a crossing point on the Kumusi River, the Trail was connected to the settlements of Buna, Gona and Sanananda on the north coast.  Its name was derived from the village of Kokoda that stood on the southern side of the main range and was the site of the only airfield between Port Moresby and the north coast[4].

For trekkers the Kokoda Trail lies between Owers Corner and Kokoda.

In response to the debate over the official name of the Kokoda Trail, Australian War Memorial historian, Garth Pratten surveyed the Memorial’s collection of published histories of all the major units involved in the Owen Stanley and Beachhead campaigns in 1997.  Pratten found that of the 28 published histories 19 used ‘Kokoda Trail and 9 used ‘Kokoda Track’ - a majority of 2:1 in favour of ‘Trail’.[5]

Pratten noted that ‘these histories were usually written, edited, or published by men who had participated in the campaign’.[6]

It is ironic that 75 years on we now have city-based academics, commentators and bureaucrats who have never worn the uniform deem themselves to be more of an authority on the issue than those who saw active service in the Kokoda campaign.

The Returned Services League of Australia (RSL)

The RSL is the largest ex-service representative body in Australia. They accepted ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the official title after the battle honour was awarded in 1958. 

A motion by the NSW Branch of the league to have the Kokoda Trail renamed ‘Kokoda Track’ was defeated at the RSL National Congress held in Dubbo on 14-15 September 2010.[7]

Australian Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA)

The Australian Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Environment who have responsibility for the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea refuse to acknowledge the correct title of the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ and the right of the PNG Government to name their own geographic features.

According to the DVA website[8] ‘the Australian official historian of the Papua New Guinea campaign, Mr Dudley McCarthy, studied this issue more than any other historian.  He corresponded with and spoke to many Kokoda veterans, and the fact that he chose 'Track' carriers considerable authority’[9].

If this is true then why do unit histories of the battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign refer to the Kokoda Trail on a ratio of 2:1?

And why did McCarthy take poetic license to caption the map he used on page 114 of his official history ‘Kokoda Track’ when the name on the map clearly identifies the route as ‘Kokoda Trail’?

Dudley McCarthy was a most credible historian however there were many others such as Osmar White and Raymond Paull who had a different view.

The Department of Veterans Affairs believe that McCarthy ‘was certainly influenced by veterans, including senior officers such as Brigadier JE Lloyd, 16th Brigade Commander, who said 'we on the track referred to it as the Track not trail[10]'.

They are obviously unaware that Lieutenant-General Sir Sydney Rowell, former Commander of New Guinea Force during the Kokoda campaign, refers to ‘Kokoda Trail’ in his forward to Raymond Paull’s book, Retreat from Kokoda in 1953[11].  Major General ‘Tubby’ Allan, Commander of the 7th Division and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner, Commanding Officer of the 39th Battalion at Isurava also refer to ‘Kokoda Trail’.

Captain Bert Kienzle, a plantation owner from Kokoda who trekked across the trail more than any other soldier before, during and after the campaign also has a different view to Brigadier Lloyd. In an address to 40 members of the 39th Battalion on the Kokoda plateau in 1972 Kienzle referred to the track Vs trail debate[12]:

‘We, who fought and saved this nation, PNG, from defeat by a ruthless and determined enemy knew it as the Kokoda Trail not track. . . so I appeal to you and all of those who helped us defend this great country to revere and keep naming it the Kokoda Trail in memory of those great men who fought over it.  Lest we forget.’

Departmental officials will go to extraordinary lengths to justify their refusal to accept the official title of the Battle Honour. They have advised that:

‘On 6 March 2008, at a joint press conference in Port Moresby with the then Prime Minister, The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, the word ‘Track’ was used nine times and there was not mention of the word ‘Trail’. Both Prime Ministers and the reporters asking questions all used the word ‘Track’.

‘In the Australians at War Film Archive, there are 614 references to Kokoda Track and 462 references to Kokoda Trail by the veterans interviewed.’

This could hardly be classified as ‘qualitative’ research and indicates that they have far too much time on their hands!

The Department is obviously not averse to using sleight-of-hand ‘amendments’ to their own references to support their opposition to the name ‘Kokoda Trail’.  Spot the difference below:

 

Department of Veterans Affairs Website[13]
 

Department of Veterans Affairs
letter to  Charlie Lynn date 23 February 2011

‘There has been a considerable debate about whether the difficult path that crossed the Owen Stanley Range should be called the "Kokoda Trail" or the "Kokoda Track". Both "Trail" and "Track" have been in common use since the war. "Trail" is probably of American origin but has been used in many Australian history books and was adopted by the Australian Army as an official "Battle Honour". "Track" is from the language of the Australian bush. It is commonly used by veterans, and is used in the volumes of Australia's official history. Both terms are correct, but "Trail" appears to be used more widely.’

‘There has been a considerable debate about whether the difficult path that crossed the Owen Stanley Range should be called the "Kokoda Trail" or the "Kokoda Track". Both "Trail" and "Track" have been in common use since the war. "Trail" is probably of American origin but has been used in many Australian history books and was adopted by the Australian Army as an official "Battle Honour". "Track" is from the language of the Australian bush. It is commonly used by veterans, and is used in the volumes of Australia's official history. Both terms are correct, but "Track" appears to be used more widely.’


What a difference a simple word transition can make!

Papua New Guinea

Although the Kokoda Trail is situated within the geographic borders of the sovereign nation of Papua New Guinea their views on the official name have been ignored by Australian academics and armchair historians. Indeed there is no known record of their views ever being canvassed.

Papua New Guinea Geographical Place Names Committee

During the establishment of self-government in PNG in 1972, PNG government officials from the Department of Lands decided to examine the name of the mail route between Owers Corner and Kokoda with a view to formalising an official name for it.  They determined that the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ would be proclaimed.  One can assume they would have been influenced by the name of the Battle Honour which had been awarded to their Papuan Infantry Battalion in 1958.

Chief Minister Michael Somare assumed office on 23 June 1972 when the nation achieved self-government as part of the process to independence in 1975.  Somare accepted the recommendation of the Place Names Committee and the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ was gazetted four months later on 12 October 1972 (PNG Government Gazette No. 88 of 12 October 1972, page 1362, column 2. Notice 1972/28 of the PNG Place Names Committee refers).

In a breathtaking display of patronising arrogance bureaucrats in the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs recently advised that 'the notice included in the PNG Government Gazette of 12 October 1972 was a declaration of the Australian Administration of Papua and New Guinea and not a declaration of the PNG Government!'[14].  They conveniently ignored the fact that the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ has been on the PNG Government statute books since they obtained independence 40 years ago!

Another patronising historian went further when he declared ‘this was a bureaucratic decision, made under the Australian administration, and therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect the view of the people of PNG’[15].  No references were listed to support his fallacy.

Papua New Guinea Publications

The ‘view of the people of PNG’ is reflected in their own publications.

The Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea compiled by Peter Ryan in 1972 refers to the ‘Kokoda Trail’.  Ryan served with intelligence behind enemy lines in New Guinea during the war.  He was decorated with a Military Medal and mentioned in despatches.  Ryan was later a Director of Melbourne University Press.  His book, ‘Fear Drive My Feet’ has been described as ‘the finest Australian memoir of the war’[16].

Wartime journalist, Osmar White, reported directly from the Kokoda Trail in 1942.  Books on his experiences in PNG include Green Armour, Parliament of a Thousand Tribes and Time Now Time Before.  These books, along with the ‘Handbook of Papua New Guinea’; ‘Port Moresby, Yesterday and Today’; and ‘Papua New Guinea’ were all published well before the PNG Government gazetted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’.

Professor John Dademo Waiko, a former Member of the PNG National Parliament, academic and respected historian published a ‘Short History of Papua New Guinea in 1993. Professor Waiko is from Oro Province which contains a large section of the Kokoda Trail.

PNG publications which refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ include:

  • Handbook of Papua New Guinea published in 1954’[17].
  • Parliament of a Thousand Tribes. Osmar White. Heinmann: London. 1963. P.125
  • Port Moresby: Yesterday and Today. Ian Stuart. Pacific Publications. 1970. P. 362
  • Papua New Guinea. Peter Hastings. Angus and Robertson. 1971. P. 53
  • Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea. Peter Ryan. Melbourne University Press. 1972. P. 147
  • PNG Fact Book. Jackson Rannells and Elesallah Matatier. 1990[18]
  • A Short History of Papua New Guinea. Professor John Dademo Waiko. Oxford University Press. 1993. P271
  • Sogeri: The School that helped shape a nation. Lance Taylor. Research Publications. 2002. P337

PNG military history books relating the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles which also refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ include:

  • Green Shadows: A War History of the Papuan Infantry Battalion. G.M.Byrnes. 1989. P. 12
  • The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles 1939-1943 – A History. Ian Downs. Pacific Press. 1999. P. 164
  • To Find a Path. The Life and Times of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment. James Sinclair. Boolarong Publications. 1990. P. 143
  • The Architect of Kokoda: Bert Kienzle – the Man who made the Kokoda Trail. Robyn Kienzle. Hachette Australia. 2011. P.311

Stuart Hawthorne, author of the most definitive history of the Kokoda Trail[19] (a 30 year research project) recently wrote on the Australian War Memorial blog:

‘Exploration and development of the early parts of the overland route near Port Moresby began about 130 years ago. In this light, the campaign constitutes a very small part of the track’s history (about a third of one percent) yet the importance ascribed to the WW2 period often assumes a considerably high significance.  Of course the Kokoda campaign is very important in Australia on many levels but notwithstanding this, I often wonder whether the presumption that our Australian perspective displaces all others and borders on the arrogant’.

These publications span a 70 year period and make a mockery of the statement that the decision of the PNG Government Place Names Committee ‘doesn’t necessarily reflect the view of the people of PNG’.

Official Maps

The Royal Australian Survey Corps published a series of 1:100 000 topographical maps in 1974 (Port Moresby – Efogi – Kokoda). The source data for the maps were wartime aerial photographs, sketch maps and survey patrols.  The maps identify the original mail route across the Owen Stanley Ranges which are clearly marked ‘Kokoda Trail’.

The PNG National Mapping Bureau published a ‘Longitudinal Cross Section of the Kokoda Trail’ in 1991.  The map was derived from the Department of Works and Supply, Drawing Number A1/100897 dated May 1982 with field verification by 8 Field Survey Squadron in June 1991 and May 1992.

The PNG Department of Lands and Physical Planning produced a 1:200 000 ‘Kokoda Trail Area Map’ of Oro and Central Provinces.

There are no known maps published by the PNG National Mapping Bureau which contain the name ‘Kokoda Track’.

Australian Military History Publications[20]

The following books include the unit histories of the three battalions (2/14th, 2/16th/2/27th) of the 21st Brigade who fought at Isurava, Brigade Hill and Imita Ridge – all refer to ‘Kokoda Trail’. Other distinguished historians including Professor David Horner, Colonel E.G. Keogh and Raymond Paull, refer to the ‘Kokoda Trail’ in the following publications:

  • Khaki and Green. Published for the Australian Military Forces by the Australian War Memorial in 1943[21] P.157
  • Jungle Warfare. Published for the Australian Military Forces by the Australian War Memorial in 1944[22] P. 70
  • Green Armour. Osmar White. Angus and Robertson. 1945. P. 187
  • The Coastwatchers by Eric Felt published in 1946[23].
  • The History of the 2/14th Battalion. W.B. Russell MA B.Ed. 1948
  • Blamey. John Hetherington. Cheshire Press. 1954. P174
  • Retreat from Kokoda by Raymond Paull published by William Heinemann. 1958. P. 314
  • A Thousand Men at War: The Story of the 2/16th Battalion. Malcolm Uren. Trojan Press. 1959. P. 119
  • The Brown and Blue Diamond at War: The Story of the 2/27th Battalion. John Burns MM. 2/27th Battalion Association. 1960. P. 105
  • The South West Pacific 1941-45. Colonel E.G. Keogh MBE ED[24]. 1965. P.169
  • Crisis of Command. David Horner. Australian National University Press. 1978.
  • War Dance: The Story of the 2/3rd Battalion. Ken Clift. P.M. Fowler. 1980. P. 286
  • New Guinea 1942-44. Timothy Hall. Methuen Australia. 1981. P.101
  • High Command. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1982. P. 549
  • Recollections of a Regimental Medical Officer. H. D. Steward. Melbourne University Press. 1983. P. 167
  • The First at War: The Story of the 2/1st Battalion. EC Givney. Macarthur Press. 1987. P. 261
  • The Odd Couple: Blamey and MacArthur at War. Jack Gallaway. University of Queensland Press. 1990. P.266
  • Blood and Iron: The Battle for Kokoda 1942. Lex McAulay. Hutchinson Australia. 1991. P. 23
  • A Young Man’s War: 37th/52nd Battalion. Ron Blair. 37/52 Battalion Association. 1992. P. 106
  • Forever Forward: The History of the 2/31st Battalion.  John Laffin. Australian Military History Publication. 1994. P.329
  • Damien Parer’s War. Neil McDonald. Thomas C. Lothian. 1994. P. 365
  • Salvos with the Forces. Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hull. The Salvation Army. 1995. P. 154
  • Inside the War Cabinet. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1996 P. 137
  • Blamey. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 1998. P. 674
  • The Kokoda Trail: A History. Stuart Hawthorne. Central Queensland University Press. 2003
  • Kokoda Commander. Stuart Braga. Oxford University Press. 2004. P. 368
  • Strategic Command. David Horner. Allen and Unwin. 2005. P. 441
  • The Silent 7th: History of the 7th Australian Division. Mark Johnston. Allen and Unwin. 2005. P. 271
  • All the Bull’s Men: 2/2nd Commando Squadron. Cyril Ayris. 2/2 Commando Association. 2006. P. 384
  • Wartime: Kokoda Then and Now. Official Magazine of the Australian War Memorial. P. 11
  • Hell’s Battlefield: The Australians in New Guinea in WW2. Phillip Bradley. Allen and Unwin. 2012. P. 494
  • Kokoda Secret. Susan Ramage. Eora Press. 2014. P. 101
  • To Kokoda (Australian Army Campaign Series-14). Nicholas Anderson. Big Sky Publishing. 2014. P. 234

Kokoda Trail Signage

All signage between Owers Corner and Kokoda referred to ‘Kokoda Trail’ prior to the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 2002.  The Department of Veterans Affairs, which refuses to recognise the battle honour or the PNG gazetted name, Kokoda Trail, built a significant memorial at the Isurava battlesite.  The historical value of the memorial was besmirched with their insistence that the politically correct name ‘Kokoda Track’ be inscribed into it.  The memorial was opened by Prime Ministers’ John Howard and Sir Michael Somare, on 26 August 2002.  The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs who oversaw the project was later sacked by the Government over his handling of road constructions at Gallipoli.  He should have been sacked earlier over his arrogant management of the Isurava project which created issues that continue to fester 15 years later!

Sign at McDonald's Corner: 1942

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1991

   PNG Department of Lands Sign at Kokoda 1993

PNG Department of Lands Sign at Owers Corner 2004

WW1 Remembrance Trail on the Western Front[25]

In 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs was allocated $10 million to develop a Remembrance Trail on the Western Front in France and Belgium for the Centenary of Anzac commemoration period.

See http://www.dva.gov.au/commemorations-memorials-and-war-graves/memorials/australian-remembrance-trail-along-western-front

The use of the word ‘trail’ in this context creates an interesting paradox for both the Department and the commentariat.  There was not a whimper about the ‘Americanisation’ of our WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium.  Why did DVA use ‘trail ‘when they could have just as easily used ‘track’ to identify it as Australian?  And why did the commentariat not try to mobilise public opinion against that ‘American’ word that does not reflect their interpretation of the ‘language of the Australian bush’?

The decision makes a mockery of their refusal to acknowledge the official name of the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

Conclusion

It is not surprising that there were so many variations amongst troops and war correspondents in the terms describing the track/trail/path/dala/front/road between Owers Corner and Kokoda because it didn’t have a name.  However the four books produced in the 1940s (Jungle Warfare, Khaki and Green, Green Armour, the Coastwatchers and History of the 2/14th Battalion) indicate that ‘Kokoda Trail was the adopted term well before the Battles Nomenclature Committee was established.  It is therefore easy to understand why the committee adopted the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ for the battle honour.

Subsequent to the awarding of the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ more history books were produced on the Kokoda campaign in the lead-up to self-government in Papua New Guinea.  These include the Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea, Blamey, Retreat from Kokoda, a Thousand Men at War, The Brown and Blue Diamond at War and South-West Pacific. All refer to the Kokoda Trail which would have influenced the deliberations of the Papua New Guinea Place Names Committee in choosing ‘Kokoda Trail’ as the official geographic name.

The name ‘Kokoda Trail’ is now officially recognised by:

  1. The Government of Papua New Guinea
  2. The RSL of Australia[26]
  3. The Australian War Memorial Second World War Galleries

It is not recognised by DVA or Department of Environment - post 1992 - who stubbornly refuse to accept the decision of the Australian Battles Nomenclature Committee or the traditional owners of the land, the Papua New Guinea Government.

Their decision to now use the politically correct term ‘Kokoda Track’ in preference to the official name ‘Kokoda Trail’ is a patronising breach of international protocol towards Papua New Guinea - our closest neighbour, former mandated territory, fellow Commonwealth member and wartime ally.

It is also highly discriminatory against them.  If it is OK for the Australian Government to use ‘trail’ in France and Belgium then surely it should be OK to use it in Papua New Guinea – after all they do own the land!

Recommendation

The Australian Government should now put up or shut up.  If they don’t like the name ‘Kokoda Trail’ they should:

  1. make a submission to the PNG Government to have them change their gazetted name ‘Kokoda Trail’ to Australia’s politically correct version;
  2. reconvene a Battles Nomenclature Committee to redefine the battle honour from ‘Kokoda Trail’ to ‘Kokoda Track’ or
  3. change the name of the WW1 ‘Remembrance Trail’ in France and Belgium to ‘Remembrance Track’ .

Until then they should respect the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ and PNGs sovereign right to name their own geographic features.

Em Tasol

Charlie Lynn OL

[1] ‘Track’ or ‘Trail’? The Kokoda Debate. Peter Provis. Australian War Memorial. 27 July 2009

[2] Looking Forward Looking Back: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Army. Christopher Jobson. Big Sky Publishing. 2009. P 50

[3] Ibid P.50

[4] Australian War Memorial Website https://www.awm.gov.au/military-event/E291/

[5] Australian War Memorial – Blog Article – The Kokoda ‘Track or Trail’? Karl James. 27 July 2009. P 4

[6] Ibid. P. 4

[7] RSL National Congress Resolution 6.1.2 refers

[8] DVA website: http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/about-the-kokoda-track

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Retreat from Kokoda. Raymond Paull. Heinemann Publishers. 1953. Forward P. xv

[12] The Architect of Kokoda. Robyn Kienzle. Hachette Australia. 2011 P

[13] Dept of Veterans Affairs Website: https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/kokoda

[14] Department of Veterans Affairs letter to Charlie Lyn (sic) dated 23 February 2011 advising why they would not use the official title ‘Kokoda Trail.

[15] Kokoda Spirit. Patrick Lindsay. Hardie Grant Books. 2009. P. 243

[16] Peter Ryan’s Fear Drive My Feet remains Australia’s finest war memoir. The Australian. 27 June 2015

[17] Handbook of Papua and New Guinea. Sydney and Melbourne Publishing, 1954. P103

[18] PNG Fact Book. Jackson Rannells and Elesallah Matatier. Oxford University Press. 1990. P. 260

[19] Stuart Hawthorne, ‘The Kokoda Trail – A History’ Central Queensland University Press, 2003

[20] These books are from my own library - according to Australian War Memorial historian, Garth Pratten, there are many more.

[21] Khaki and Green. Halstead Press. Published in 1943. P157

[22] Jungle Warfare. Australian War Memorial Canberra. 1944 P.70

[23] The Coastwatchers by Eric Feldt. The Oxford University Press. P190

[24] Greyflower Productions 1965 P. 177

 

Meet the Trek Leaders

Major Charlie Lynn OL

In 2015 Charlie was inducted as an Officer of the Logohu by the Government of Papua New Guinea in their New Years Honours and Awards list 'for service to the bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia and especially in the development of the Kokoda Trail and its honoured place in the history of both nations' over the past 25 years.'  

Major Chad Sherrin MM

Chad is a decorated Vietnam veteran - he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in action. Chad first joined the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (8 RAR) as a tracking dog handler.  He was promoted through the ranks to Sergeant while serving with 8 RAR and served with the Battalion in Malaysia and South Vietnam.

Lieutenant Colonel Rowan Tracey LLB BA

Rowan is a pioneer of the Kokoda Trail.  He first trekked it 30 years ago when he served with the PNG Defence Force.  He is fluent in the local language 'Tok Pisin'.  Rowan is a military historian and is acknowledged as the most eminent authority on the strategy and tactics of the Kokoda campaign.

Captain Reg Yates

Over the past 34 years Captain Reg Yates has explored most of the WW11 battlesites in PNG. He is fluent in Tok Pisin and is well respected by village elders along the Kokoda Trail.

 

Commodore Simon Hart CSC MSc MA

Simon joined the Australian Navy a Cadet Midshipmen in 1973 and carved out an outstanding career spanning 33 years.  He specialised in maritime surface ship operations and spent the majority of his career at sea.

Sergeant Rod Foster

Rod is currently serving as a Sergeant in the Royal Australian Artillery at Kapooka.  He has served in the Sinai Peninsula and Iraq and has a deep understanding of the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.  He is also a competitive ultra-marathon athlete.

John Nalder

Prior to John joining Adventure Kokoda he used to wrestle crocodiles with Steve Irwin.  John is a qualified para-medic and expert bushman.  He has a deep emotional commitment to Kokoda and the veterans he has met over the years.  He is a keen student of the Kokoda campaign.

Peter Davis

Peter served in the Army Reserve for 7 years and has two grandfathers who served in both World Wars - one being a highly decorated soldier.  Peter recently graduated with a MPhil in Military History with the Australian Defence Force Academy and is now studying for his PhD.

Bernie Rowell

Bernie is a Kokoda tragic.  He first trekked with Kokoda to honour his father who served in New Guinea during the war.  He has since trekked it 43 times.  Bernie has transposed his success in business to his passion for leading treks across the Kokoda Trail. 

Dave Sherry

Dave began exploring Australia as soon as he was old enough to escape Sydney.  He was born in the city but his heart was in the bush.  There are few places in Australia that Dave hasn’t trekked on foot or explored in off-road vehicles.  He even took to the sea as a crew member on the Tall Ship HMAS Bounty during the Bicentenary in 1988.

 

Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison is an unassuming young Australian.  He first trekked with Adventure Kokoda almost a decade ago and developed a strong desire to learn more about the campaign and the people he met along the trail.  Peter is a professional boxer and former NSW Welterweight  Champion. 

 

Tracie Watson

Tracie is the General Manager and engine room of Adventure Kokoda - she is on-call 24/7 and will look after your every need and concern from the moment you book your trek until you arrive back in Australia.

Why Trek with Adventure Kokoda

Our primary goal is to lead you safely across the Kokoda Trail and ensure you have an unforgettable wartime historical and cultural experience.

Charlie has led more than 90 expeditions across the Kokoda Trail over the past 26 years.

He previously served in the Australian Army for 21 years. During this time he saw active service in Vietnam; was assigned to the joint Australian, New Zealand and British (ANZUK) Force in Singapore/ Malaysia from 1970-72, and as an exchange instructor in Airborne Logistics with the United States Army from 1977-78. He is a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College.

Why choose Adventure Kokoda?

Why is Kokoda so important?Dive into the History