2017 KOKODA DAY COMMEMORATIVE DINNER
Sheraton on the Park Hotel, Sydney
The Hon Charlie Lynn OL
Three days ago we commemorated the centenary of the Australian Light Horse mounted cavalry charge at Beersheba – one of the most spectacular allied desert victories in World War 1.
Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign – one of the most desperate campaigns fought by Australian troops in World War 11 – and the first ever fought on Australian territory.
For some inexplicable reason neither of these two historic victories are deemed worthy of inclusion in our education systems today.
Tonight though, I want to focus on the men who saved us – not hose who betray us.
On this day 75 years ago the depleted ranks of two Australian brigades paraded before their commander, General Vasey, as the Australian flag was raised on the Kokoda plateau. It was the culminating point of one of the most desperate campaigns fought in some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. Wartime journalist Osmar White was witness to the conditions. He wrote:
‘The pain of effort, the biting sweat, the hunger, the cheerless shivering nights were made dim by exhaustion’s merciful drug . . . surely no war was ever fought under worse conditions that these. Surely no war has ever demanded more of a man in fortitude. Even Gallipoli or Crete or the desert’.
White certainly didn’t mean to demean Gallipoli, Crete or the desert – he was simply trying to put the conditions they had to endure into perspective. (more…)
I am privileged to attend today a Symposium which will enhance knowledge and encourage further scholarship and research into the Second World War unique conflicts known as the Battle of Crete and Greek campaigns.
Australia has been a destination for immigrants from Greece since colonial times but our shared experience during the campaigns of 1941 added a new dimension to that relationship, a bond that we see in the faces of veterans when they return to Greece and Crete, and in the lives of Greek families who have made Australia their home.
The Allied campaign to prevent the German invasions of Greece and Crete in 1941 was marred by mismanagement, mistrust and misunderstandings. However, the legacy of the campaign has cemented the ties of friendship between the peoples of Greece and Australia that will last for as long as there is a memory.
In 1941 Greece was the last country in mainland Europe holding out against the fascist invasion. Since the Italian invasion in 1940 the forces of the British Empire, including Australia, had been supporting the gallant Greek resistance.
In this early phase of the war the people of this city were swept up in the enthusiasm of celebrating the victory at sea of Cape Spada, Crete, when the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney sunk a more powerful Italian cruiser and damaged another in July 1940.
Eight months later the RAN was again in action between the Peloponnese and Crete, part of the victorious British fleet that defeated the Italians at Cape Matapan.
While Australian sailors were in action in Greek waters and Australian airmen were serving in RAF squadrons supporting the Greek army on the Albanian frontier, the decision had already been made to send an expeditionary force of Australian, New Zealand and British troops to strengthen Greek defences as the threat of German invasion grew. (more…)
71 years ago today HMAS Sydney died fighting.
The Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and her gallant crew were lost shortly after sunset on 19 November 1942 off the Western Australian coast. The ultimate fate of HMAS Sydney remained a mystery until 2008. Today we know that the shattered hull of HMAS Sydney lies on the bed of the Indian Ocean 1n 2500 metres of water, 240 off Shark Bay.
Nine months before the ship and her crew met their fate they marched past this very cenotaph. They had just returned from distinguished service in the Mediterranean in which she had inflicted disproportionate loss on enemy navies.
One of those who marched through Sydney on his return from the Mediterranean was Stoker James Stuart of Redfern. He had acquired a bosun’s call from HMAS Sydney and left the instrument with his family. He never returned to collect his souvenir and today it is in the collection of the Hornsby RSL.
HMAS Sydney had been launched in 1934, one of three light cruisers ordered by the Australian government as part of an expansion of the Royal Australian Navy. The others were HMAS Perth (sunk in Sunda Strait in 1942) and HMAS Hobart (badly damaged but survived the war) and the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (sunk near Sabo Island at Guadalcanal). (more…)
Major Matthew Vine, Second-in-Command of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, was guest speaker at the official Remembrance Day Service held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney. The service was attended by the Governor, Her Excellency, Marie Bashir; the Premier of New South Wales, The Hon Barry O’Farrell, the President of the RSL, Mr Don Rowe AM and representatives from the armed services, ex-service organisations, the consular corps and schools.
The 19th Century poet Tennyson wrote: ‘Theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do and die’.
When the call for volunteers went out a nation answered.
The nation was new and the nation was bold.
The people were toughened by the unforgiving land and forged in a bond of nationality.
The threat was not to them directly and indeed the call came from a land far away. (more…)
KOKODA DAY SPEECH BY BRIGADIER PHIL McNAMARA CSC ESM (Retired)
Chairman, Network Kokoda www.networkkokoda.org
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are gathered here today to commemorate the raising of the Australian Flag at Kokoda Village on 3rd November 1942, 69 years ago today by Major General George Vasey, the Commander of the Australian 7th Division. This event symbolised the turning of the tide in the war against Japan and was warmly acclaimed by both the Australian soldiers present and the group of PNG carriers and Kokoda villagers in attendance.
Japanese plans for a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby had been thwarted bu Australian and American naval forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942 and the battle of Midway in early June 1942. This left them with the only option of a land assault over the Owen Stanley Ranges via the Kokoda Trail. Their infantry forces started landing on the beach at Gona on 21st July 1942. (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/