2014 ANZAC Trek across the Kokoda Trail

1942 Kokoda BadgeThere is no more memorable way to commemorate the sacrifice of our veterans than by linking a trek across the Kokoda Trail with the official ANZAC Dawn Service in Port Moresby.

Bomana War Cemetery is the largest in the Pacific with 3779 graves. The cemetery lies in a serene tropical garden 19 kilometres north of Port Moresby off Pilgrims’ Way. The cemetery was begun by the army in 1942 and formally dedicated by the Governor-General of Australia, Field Marshall Sir William Slim, on 19 October 1953. Those who died fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried here.  The official ANZAC Day Service is attended by veterans and dignitaries from across the Pacific.  The Australian Defence Force provides the Catafalque Party at the Cross of Sacrifice and Papuan soldiers form a Guard of Honour. The service includes a martial band and the angelic voices of a local school choir.

The solemn silence of the pre-dawn is a time for quiet reflection on your trekking experience.  The first glint of light on the endless rows of polished marble headstones is a humbling reminder of the price of freedom and the sacrifice involved to secure it.  The candle-lit faces of more than a thousand Anzac pilgrims bow in silence as an army bugler sounds Reveille. A lone bagpiper then moves among the headstones  to the haunting tune of Flowers in the Forest which bids farewell to the dead.

Our ANZAC treks follow the original wartime trail and include authentic historical briefings at all battlesites and other significant areas. They also include a moving battlefield Dawn Service at the Isurava War Memorial and a Remembrance Service at the 21st Brigade Headquarters position on Brigade Hill.

At Bomana the Cross of Sacrifice, the Memorial to the Missing and the Stone of Remembrance are built of a particularly beautiful golden-coloured sandstone.  The graves are marked with polished marble headstones and dressed in uniform rows on sloping lawns between the Stone of Remembrance and the Cross of Sacrifice.

On a rise at the rear of the cemetery is the Port Moresby Memorial to the Missing which consists of a rotunda of cylindrical pillars enclosing a circle of square pillars with bronze panels engraved with the names of 703 Australians as well as Papua and New Guinea local forces listed as missing-in-action. The names of the battlefields on which the men died are carved on the entablature above the pillars. In the centre is a topograph with a bronze compass showing the direction of the distant New Guinea battlefields. [Read more…]

BOMANA DAWN SERVICE – The only place to be on Anzac Day in PNG

Anzac Day Dawn services are traditionally held at cenotaphs, shrines, war cemeteries and local  monuments around Australia.

The Service has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for attacks, the stand-to was repeated at sunset.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they had felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. A dawn vigil, recalling the wartime front line practice of the dawn ‘stand-to’, became the basis of a form of commemoration in several places after the war.

Today dawn services include the presence of a chaplain, but not the presence of dignitaries such as the governor general. They were originally very simple and followed the military routine. In many cases, attendance at the dawn service was restricted to veterans, while the daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers. Before dawn, the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes’ silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the Last Post and then conclude the service with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up. [Read more…]

War Cemetries in Papua New Guinea

Cross of Sacrifice, Bomana War Cemetery

Wartime journalists wrote that our diggers often feared the jungle of Papua and New Guinea more than they feared the enemy.  It was a hell of place to die.There were times when the badly wounded were given morphine and a gun and left to the mercy of the enemy to cover their mates escape. ‘Goodbye cobber, may God Bless You’ was whispered as a farewell salute.

Others had to be left where they fell. When time and circumstances permitted they were given a burial service and the site was recorded on crude sketch maps for recovery at a later time. Many were never to be found.

‘I have seen the time when you dig a number of holes in the ground and bury your dead’
wrote Laurie Howson of the 39th Battalion.  ‘Nothing would be said, but you think ‘maybe it will be my turn next.’

Seventy years on our veterans of the war in Papua and New Guinea are at rest in three beautifully manicured cemeteries in Port Moresby (Bomana), Rabaul (Bita Paka) and Lae. [Read more…]