Day 8: Bomber’s Campsite to Templeton’s Crossing
After breakfast we trek along the Kienzle track for 90 minutes until we join the main track between Mt Bellamy and the Kokoda Gap at 2,245 meters AMSL. Along this section we cross the highest point of our trek at 2,320 metres AMSL and continue our trek down to the Kokoda Gap.
The Gap was first discovered by Sir William McGregor, Lieutenant Governor of British New Guinea from 1888 to 1898. McGregor led the first successful expedition of British New Guinea in 1896. On 1st September he reached the summit of Mt Scratchley to the west and observed:
Some half-score of miles (about 16 kilometres) east of Mt. Victoria, there is a depression in the Owen Stanley Range, the bottom of which appears to be a narrow glen, and at an altitude of probably 5,000 or 6,000 feet (about 1500 to 1800 metres). One seemed to be able to see along this glen in a southerly or south-easterly direction for twelve to fifteen miles (19-24 kilometres). The mountains on either side of it rise several thousand feet higher.[i]
The Kokoda Gap at 2,190 meters AMSL is significant for two reasons. The first is that there is a spectacular view back down the Yodda Valley towards Kokoda. The second is because an anonymous armchair general from his faraway Melbourne headquarters ordered the troops conducting a fighting withdrawal from Isurava to ‘blow the gap’. He had obviously studied the battle of Thermopylae where a small force of 7,000 Greeks defended a narrow pass against an invading Persian army of 100,000 in 490 BC. Trouble was the name ‘Kokoda Gap’ on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Ranges and the ‘Kagi Gap’ on the southern side were identified as features by pilots flying between Port Moresby and Kokoda. The gap in the range is approximately 11 km wide and our diggers just didn’t have enough dynamite in their backpacks to ‘blow it’! This was typical of the ignorant crap they had to put up with during the campaign.
We take a break at the Gap and take in the view down the Yodda Valley to Kokoda and beyond. The track along the ridges to the west was allocated to the 39th Militia Battalion. The parallel track along the ridges to the east was allocated to the 53rd Militia Battalion. Both units belonged to the Australian 30th Infantry Brigade headquartered in Port Moresby.
We then have a 40 minute trek down to Crossing 1 where we take a break for afternoon tea.
Your briefing here marks the commencement of the Templeton’s Crossing campaign fought between here and the crossing at Eora Creek further to the North between 12 and 29 October 1942. It was to be most bitter and gruesome campaign.
After the creek crossing there is a good climb for about 45 minutes to the Boili Mail Exchange Point where mailbags from Port Moresby and Popondetta were exchanged between mail carriers. We then have a 30-minute trek down to our campsite at Templeton’s Crossing at 1,760 meters AMSL. This is the point where the original track taken by the 39th Battalion converges with the track which was cut down from Myola Ridge via the Kokoda Gap and Crossing 1 after Lake Myola was discovered.
Captain Kienzle named the crossing after his mate, Captain Sam Templeton who was killed forward of Kokoda in the first contact with the advancing Japanese on 26 July 1942.
[ii] Retreat From Kokoda. Raymond Paull. Heinemann. Melbourne. 1958
[iii] Diary of Sir Rupert Magarey. Australian War Memorial. 54 481/12/20. p.6
[iv] Recollections of a Regimental Medical Officer. Major Steward. P112
[v] South-West Pacific Area-First Year, Kokoda to Wau. Dudley McCarthy p. 214 Retreat from Kokoda. Raymond Paul. P.176
[vi] Kokoda. Paul Ham p 204