Questions over the fate of Captain Sam Templeton were recently revived after an elderly Japanese veteran, Kokichi Nishimura, made a number of rambling and conflicting claims over the issue. In one report he claimed to have killed Templeton himself. In another he claimed to have witnessed his killing. Later he claimed he buried Templeton around eight days after he had been killed! His latest ‘correction’ was probably due to the fact that offical Japanese records revealed that his unit, the 2/144th Battalion, did not arrive in the area until a week after Templeton was either killed or captured by the Japanese Yokoyama Advance Force. These, and a number of other fanciful claims Nishimura has made over the years, do not stand up to scrutiny. His eccentricities have led to his estrangement from his battalion association in Japan and from his family. Military historians would regard him as an ‘unreliable witness’. Carl Johnson who published a history of the 39th Battalion (Mud over Blood. History House, 2006) provides the most authentic report of Templeton’s fate. [Read more…]
I enjoyed immensly Rowan Tracey’s essay in the June issue (United Service 61 (2) 24-29,2010). Tracey strongly supports what I and Brigadier Casrey have been saying for years. What is more, he presents his material so logically and progressively that it leaves little room to disagree with his conclusions. Three facts are significant here:
. The Kokoda Trail campaign has never been properly analysed from the viewpoint of ground and tactics.
. There was never any ill-feeling by Allen towards Blamey. Blamey’s ADC told me that Blamey visited Allen in Darwin as soon as he could and they spent until dawn yarning in a convivial way.
. Rowell was the first of the war’s senior officers to come out to present himself in the best possible light. Blamey declined to write his memoirs for the noble reason that the war was over and he had no wish to damage any of those who fought.
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; and 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. Peter Pedersen of the Australian War Memorial is one I have always admired for the latter quality, and now we have Rowan Tracey, who I hope goes on to write further.
Major-General G. L. Maitland AO OBE FRD ED (Retd)
2 July 2010
Rowan Tracey’s article can be read at: http://blog.kokodatreks.com/2010/07/21/conflict-in-command-during-the-kokoda-campaign-of-1942-did-general-blamey-deserve-the-blame-2/
Lieutenant-Colonel Rowan Tracey is a military historian and trek leader with Adventure Kokoda. He recently presented the following article to the Royal United Services Institute:
General Sir Thomas Blamey was commander-in-chief of the Australian Military Forces during World War II. Tough and decisive, he did not resile from sacking ineffective senior commanders when the situation demanded. He has been widely criticised by more recent historians for his role in the sackings of Lieutenant-General S. F. Rowell, Major-General A. S. Allen and Brigadier A. W. Potts during the Kokoda Campaign of 1942. Rowan Tracey examines each sacking and concludes that Blamey’s actions in each case were justified.
On 16 September 1950, a small crowd assembled in the sunroom of the west wing of the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg in Melbourne. The group consisted of official military representatives, wartime associates and personal guests of the central figure, who was wheelchair bound – Thomas Albert Blamey. Those present were concerned that Blamey’s ill health would not allow him to endure the ceremony that was about to follow. Although the governor-general, Sir William McKell, and the prime minister, Robert Menzies, were late in arriving from the airport to present Blamey with the baton of a field marshal of the British Army, Blamey’s strength held out and he was able to accept the baton from the governor-general. This minor but historic ceremony recognised Blamey’s service to Australia and he remains Australia’s highest ranking soldier.
Despite the recognition of Blamey by the Australian Government, his reputation has suffered in recent years. Accompanying the increased interest in the Kokoda campaign in Australia, numerous books and articles have been published on the subject. In otherwise balanced histories, Blamey has come under scathing criticism. On the other hand, the performance of other key participants has received little or no scrutiny. At the time of the withdrawal of the Australian troops along the Kokoda Trail in New Guinea, the senior commanders were Lieutenant-General Sydney Rowell (1st Australian Corps), Major-General Arthur Allen (7th Division) and Brigadier Arnold Potts (Maroubra Force, 21st Brigade). All three officers were relieved of their commands, but under different circumstances. [Read more…]