Isurava War Memorial Dawn Service – Joshua Simmons

On the recent Kokoda Youth Foundation trek along the Kokoda Track, Joshua Simmons was tasked with delivering the Isurava War Memorial dawn service held on the 22nd September. This is his service…

The fighting at Isurava was one of several battles fought along the Papua New Guinea Kokoda Trail and to me one of the most emotional. It all starts on the night of the 14th of August 1942 where the 39th battalion decides that on their way to Isurava they would stop, dig themselves into the ground and prepare for a battle that could kill them all. With the Japanese’s success in Deniki the battalion were officially scared. Luckily for them the Japanese had not attacked for a fortnight allowing the 21st brigade to reinforce the battalion and start moving forward.

On the 26th of August the battle with the Japanese took place killing many. On the same day the 2/14th battalion had arrived to help, only for them to see that the 39th had exhausted many of their young soldiers many whom were an average age of 18. Thinking about these men, I become very proud of them and even prouder as I read more about what they did in the war. All those soldiers didn’t stop fighting so when the rest of the 2/14th arrived the survivors of the 39th battalion where giving a chance to rest as the 2/14th commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Albert Key had taken command from the 39th commander Lieutenant Colonel Honner to give his battalion a well earned rest. However the 39th didn’t want to stop fighting so they were placed in the rear so the 2/14th could occupy the most threatening part of the position.

After two days of fighting the morning of the 29th of August brought many ferocious attacks on this position. Sadly C Company position gave way and the Japanese used it to their optimal advantage, but standing in their way was a Private Bruce Kingsbury who jumped out of cover and immediately counter attacked the lost ground. In doing this Kingsbury’s action regained lost ground but at a price, Kingsbury’s life, during his counter attack a Japanese sniper had shot Bruce and killed him. For his courageous action Bruce was awarded with a Victorian Cross. This man to me is very inspirational as he risked his own life to help his mate regain and defend important ground. His actions have inspired me too help my mates because in some points in life they will be the only people who will be there for you when you are in need. As we have or are going to see Kingsbury has a rock “Kingsbury’s rock”, if you look hard enough you could see where the battle took place you could see the bullets in the trees. You might shed a tear but remember if it wasn’t for them they would be no use…

The battle still continued and later the C Company and D company were forced to give ground. By night Isurava was in danger of being overwhelmed so a kilometre withdrawal around the Isurava guest house was conducted. 30th of August gave no mercy as the Japanese were close on the Australians heels. With some of the companies under Lieutenant Colonel Albert Keys command struggling to muster a full platoon which didn’t help. To Keys left, the Japanese were using a weakness the Australians had in the line, and to his right the defence were getting heavily attacked by the Japanese. So a further withdrawal was in action at 3pm, but many had to fight their way out including Key’s company. When the 2/14th regrouped at Alola the next morning 172 people were missing in addition with the known casualties. The Australians gave their all and I’m very proud of their courage, mateship, endurance and sacrifice they all showed during this battle, all these characteristics are written on the four pillars behind me. It gives me great pleasure to stand here and experience the things I have in these past months and it gives me great honour to stand once where soldiers once have. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be standing in front of you lot right now. I have loved spending time with you all and after this trip I would like to see where everyone will be in the next 10 years after experience the things we have experienced in this program.