In additional to Craig Moore, Dane Chambers also delivered a special, emotive speech at Brigade Hill on our recent Soc Kienzle-led trek along the Kokoda Track…
Courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice are not qualities that we typically associate with someone 18 years of age, however these are the qualities that embody the brave men who fought in the Kokoda campaign.
As a boy 18 years of age, I would not conceive that I would be called upon to fight a foreign enemy in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable. Instead of defending the streets of a capital city, they were called upon to defend the territory of Papua.
The terrain was unforgiving; each climb was just the start of the next descent. The equipment that they were supplied was not suited to the tropical conditions; it was more at home in the desert. Medicine to combat tropical illnesses such as malaria was not forth coming until it was too late, with many succumbing to the illness. Food was scarce and heavily rationed, shared with the weary bodies in the nearby weapons pits. The enemy seemed to be unending, willing to sacrifice their lives for the emperor, seeking to overwhelm with sheer numbers. Regardless of how these boys joined the war, they overcame these obstacles and stood side by side on the battlefield as men.
2300 men who came ashore made the ultimate sacrifice and did not return to their families. Those who were lucky enough to return home, did so forever changed, carrying the memories of fallen mates and the horrors of war.
I will never truly understand how they felt on those wet and cold nights, sitting on the side of a ridge, looking for an enemy amongst the thick undergrowth, while their mate tried to sleep beside them. It is their sacrifice that gave me the opportunity to be born into a life, where I would not have to. A life where I now seek to respect the memory of their courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice and honour that memory by exercising those freedoms they fought for.