George, who was there
in September the heavily outnumbered Brigade withdrew, but was never
defeated, fighting day and night, denying every mile until almost
surrounded, inflicting many times its own casualties. This most
difficult of military operations in mountainous country continued for
nearly four weeks until the Japanese advance was finally halted and
turned back at Ioribaiwa.
was but one axis of withdrawal - a mountain track that defies adequate
description. Before the campaign, this route had been considered
passable only to natives or trained district officers.
an area of approximately 100 miles long, crumple and fold this into a
series of ridges, each rising higher and higher until 7,000 feet is
reached, then declining again to 3,000 feet. Cover this thickly with
jungle, short trees and tall trees tangled with great entwining savage
vines; then through the oppression of this density cut a little native
track two to three feet wide, up the ridges, over the spurs, around
gorges and down across swiftly flowing happy mountain streams.
the track clambers up the mountainsides, cut steps – big steps, little
steps, steep steps or clear the soil from the tree roots. Every few
miles bring the track through a small patch of sunlit kunai grass, or an
old deserted native garden, and every seven or ten miles build a group
of dilapidated grass huts as staging shelters, generally set in a foul
offensive clearing. Every now and then leave beside the track dumps of
discarded putrefying food, and occasional dead bodies. In the morning
flicker the sunlight through the tall trees, flutter green and blue and
purple and white butterflies lazily through the air, and hide birds of
deep-throated song or harsh cockatoos in the foliage.
midday and through the night, pour water over the forest, so that the
steps become broken and a continual yellow stream flows downwards, and
the few level areas become pools and puddles of putrid mud. In the high
ridges about Myola, drip this water day and night softly over the track
through a fetid forest grotesque with moss and growing phosphorescent
is the track which was once described as "being almost impassable
for motor vehicles", and such was the route to be covered from
Deniki to Ilolo. Along this track, day after day, the walking sick and
wounded passed and plodded, those too desperate to stand being carried
by native carriers. Carrying improvised stretchers, one or two blankets
lashed with native string or vine to two long poles spread by stout
traverse bars, as many as eight or ten native bearers would traverse the
track day after day. To watch them descend steep spurs into a mountain
stream, along the bed and up the steep ascent, was an object lesson in
stretcher bearing. They carried stretchers over seemingly impassable
barriers, with the patient reasonably comfortable.
care they give to the patient is magnificent. If night finds the
stretcher still on the track, they will find a level spot and build a
shelter over the patient. They will make him as comfortable as possible
fetch him water and feed him if food is available, regardless of their
own needs. They sleep four each side of the stretcher and if the patient
moves or requires any attention during the night, this is given
instantly. These were the deeds of the "Fuzzy Wuzzy
Angels"-for us! What can we do for them?
the walking sick and wounded absolute ruthlessness was essential. Those
alone that were quite unable to stagger or struggle along were carried,
but frequently men against their will had to be ordered on to
stretchers. There was practically never a complaint nor any resentment.
From each staging post at dawn, the walkers, the lame and the halt were
set upon their way, while the native bearers were assembled for their
tasks. Late each afternoon, and far into the night, each staging post
would receive its casualties. These would be fed, sheltered and tended
until dawn, then on again.
courage and cheerfulness of these casualties was wonderful, beyond
praise-some-times almost incredible. One soldier with a two-inch gap in
a fractured patella, splinted by a banana leaf, walked for six days and
arrived at hospital in good condition.
no known live casualty was abandoned, that of the many hundreds brought
out during these weeks only four
died subsequently in hospital, is
a magnificent tribute to the fitness and the fortitude of these men.
and rain and the jungle will obliterate this little native pad, but for
ever more will live the memory of weary men who have passed this way,
ghosts of glorious men that have gone. Gone far beyond the Kokoda
"AS YOU WERE!" 1946 by the AWM