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Kokoda Battles Historical Poetry By Mike Mcarthur

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#1 mikmac1959


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Posted 26 August 2009 - 07:26 PM

G'day All,
Like all that have the honour to walk the Kokoda Track I was deeply affected. I am disappointed that so many Australians are still not aware of the courage, sacrafice, mateship and endurance that occurred over there. I have written a series of poems in an effort to help people learn some of the history with out the need to read a large in depth historical book. Who knows maybe one day i will get them published? Any way i thought to day which is the anniversary of the beginning of the battle of Isurava i would share one with you .
regards Mike


In 1942 there was a life and death struggle,
Against the Japanese in the New Guinea jungle.
The invaders landed with a force 2000 strong,
Encountered only 110 Aussies, to take them on.

By 13th August now 500 defenders at Deniki,
Severely outnumbered by the swarming enemy.
After a full day of fighting there were nearly cut off,
So they had to withdraw or all lives would be lost.

Retreat to the next village, about 2 hours back,
Isurava that sat astride the Kokoda Track.      
C.O. Colonel Ralph Honner after a good look around,
Concluded, the best delaying position to be found.
A natural stronghold perched above the valley below,
To the front and to the rear tributary creeks flowed.
Provided obstacles to slow, no were to hide.
A belt of thick scrub but cleared spaces each side.

To outflank on the right, a stiff uphill climb,
Through thick jungle left side, to pass the line.
Dug in north-south between the two creeks,
For 500 metres and 400 metres west–east.

Defenders spread to protect the perimeter,
Close enough for their fire to interlock each other.
This way everyone supported the man next to him,
Each section, platoon, company did the same thing.

Practiced manoeuvres so reserves new what to do,
If the storming Japanese managed to break through.
Over the ensuing days Honner further drilled the men,
How to predict flanking movements, be waiting for them.

Although physically exhausted from weeks of fighting,
After practice and practice, confidence was rising.
The message from Moresby, the AIF are on their way,
No give in, fight till the death, here they must stay.

No more retreat for these brave Militia Men,
Hold this ground, reinforcements are coming.
So while the 39th Battalion prepared Isurava for attack,
The 2/14th were making their way over the track.

The hit and run tactics used by the Aussies to date,
Confused the enemy leaders made them hesitate.
They were amazed at the resistance there’d been,
The defenders only boys by the bodies they’d seen.

They were not aware only 400 faced them,
Thinking 2 thousand were now waiting dug in.
If their commander Major General Horii only knew,
He’d have ordered his army to keep pushing through.

Keep pressure on the defenders, give them no time,
To fortify positions and prepare a protective line.
This hesitation could well have changed history,
If they’d of quickly pursued it is difficult to see.

How the small band of exhausted Australian men,
Could have held for long against the might of them.
But for nearly two weeks the Japanese regrouped,
Now 5 battalions massed, 6 thousand crack troops.

On the morning of 26th August the assault begun,
The booming sound of the Japanese mountain gun.
Rolling along the ridge top near the most forward post,
Entrenched out there to warn of the enemies approach.

As the gunfire continued and intensified that day,
It was clear to all the battle was under way.
But there was no panic waiting for the enemy,
The preparations, as thorough as they could be.

The huge mountain gun caused havoc that day,
Round after round from 500 yards away.
In the distance a load whump noise, 5 seconds to wait,
Huddle in the foxhole, life in the hands of fate.

The gun was disassembled and carried by teams,
The barrel took three men, it weighed 94 kilograms,
The myriad of parts were placed into rucksacks,
Dozens of troops struggled with them over the track.

The 39th possessed an obsolete Lewis Machine Gun,
First seen action on the Western Front in World War 1.
No long range artillery to counter the Japanese,
Have to wait until they got closer to inflict damage.

At the forward patrol post Lieutenant Simonson,
Lead a counter attack to silence the gun.
But it was well protected, by soldiers dug in,
So he and his gallant men had to fall back again.

As the missiles continued to rain in causing hell,
The infantry started pressing the perimeter as well.
To the North side way up on the high ground,
And launching flanking movements around.

The human waves of attacks pressed all afternoon,
Impossible to hold on, if help doesn’t come soon.
Physically exhausted and ammunition getting low,
Any breach of the perimeter would be a fatal blow.

On the high ground were they copped the most heat,
B Company held on by the skin of their teeth.
All reserves committed, hold on they must do,
Nobody behind them but three officers at H.Q.

Although Brigadier Potts new his men had fought well,
As he assessed the grim situation he could tell.
This brave band of men could not survive the night,
They’d be overrun and wiped out before the day light.

Miraculously that evening around 5pm,
The reinforcements arrived, a fine body of men.
C company of the 2/14th all strong, fit and tall,
The confidence they showed obvious to all.

When the two groups laid eyes on each other,
They stared momentarily in wonder.
The newcomers looked at the men to be relieved,
The state they were in was hard to believe.

Men dressed in uniforms that were in shreds,
Raggedy scarecrows, eyes sunken into their heads.
Smelt like latrines that had been left in the sun,
Not bathed for weeks, since the campaign begun.

Bodies racked with dysentery and fatigue,
Lucky they had arrived in time it seemed.
It was hard to believe they could hold a gun,
They’d done an incredible job every one.

Now relieved the 39th were due to fall back,
They’d done their bit to protect the track.
But the situation was dire it was clear,
Every man available was needed here.

The 2/14th were like gods to the militia men,
Bronzed muscular bodies, twice the size of them.
Dressed in green, well equipped and ready to fight,
They would learn jungle warfare that first night.

Recently returned from fighting in the Middle East,
There you could see your enemy at least.
Here the fire fights were over a short distance,
The enemy could creep in close to the defence.

Dark in the jungle, couldn’t see a bloody thing,
Very seldom could the enemy be seen coming.
Had to stay alert because skilled enemy fighters,
Would infiltrate positions and bayonet defenders.

On the 27th hell was unleashed by the enemy,
At 1st light the full power of their artillery.
Mountain gun shells, mortar bombs rained down,
Heavy machine gun fire levelled the tall grass all round.

Just a prelude to what next was in store,
Troops stormed from the jungle, waves of 100 or more.
Rushed the perimeter on the north and west sides,
These most vulnerable positions held back the tide.

The Aussies responded to these frontal attacks,
Hand grenades and storms of fire turned them back.
When due to weight of numbers they reached the lines,
Met with bayonets and hand to hand struggles at times.

Often threatening to over run the thin line,
But desperate fighting repulsed them each time
The probing Japs found a weakness mid afternoon,
Between B Company and D company 16th Platoon.

The jungle was so dense only a limited view,
The enemy was on them before they new.
With overwhelming numbers they breached the line,
A highly dangerous situation for sure this time.

Fresh troops mounted a counter attack,
Expelled the enemy, the line was back intact.
The wave attacks continued through the day,
Near the front lines a thick cover of bodies lay.

In the distance Major General Horri watched,
As attack after attack was squashed.
Three days in this battle had come at great cost,
With 1000 wounded and 350 lives lost.

Getting impatient tomorrow must be the day,
Called up his reserve battalions to enter the fray
This massive frenzied human tide,
Again attacked the North and West sides.

C Company’s position to the front right,
Took heavy casualties in the relentless fire fight.
Attacks so ferocious threatening to break through,
Coming forward the reserves were mauled too.

Sensing victory attacked at this weakened spot,
The perimeter in jeopardy, they must be stopped.
Just as another Banzai attack had began,
Private Bruce Kingsbury ran straight at them.

Mowing them down as he fired his Bren gun,
Stopped the advance, caused them to run.
This brave action had turned the tide,
As other diggers joined in by his side.

Tragically after the enemy had fled,
A snipper shot Brave Kingsbury dead.
He was awarded a posthumously a V.C.
For his actions of unselfish gallantry.

Despite Kingsbury’s sacrifice to stop the breach here,
As the Japanese assaults continued it became clear.
Shear weight of numbers meant only one outcome.
The Australians must withdraw or be overrun.

Chaos and mayhem each time they broke the line,
Expelled over and over, more difficult each time.
When the gallant C Company lost the high ground,
Meant the enemy could rack machine gun fire down.

Also some enemy moved along an alternate track,
Near Missima the 2/16th made frontal contact.
Sent by Horri to attack Alola and secure it,
Cut of Isurava there will be no exit.

So after 4 days of constant fighting and strain,
With no shelter, soaked by the torrential rain,
Not even hot cuppa or meals to eat,
Standing to all the time, deprived of sleep.

The evening of the 29th the order came to fall back,
To a place one hour walk on the track.
This withdrawal must be done the right way,
To keep the pursuing enemy at bay.

It was carried out with much skill and precision,
A battalion go back, dig in a defensive position.
Allow the others to move safely through them,
Leap frog each other and do the same again.

The Australians were not aware as they went,
The cost to the Japanese this battle had meant.
Lost two thousand troops to death and wounding,
And held up four vital days in their track crossing.

The momentum of the Japanese drive was in tatters,
Horii’s ambitious ten day time table shattered,
Weeks of continued stubborn resistance on the track,
Would eventually cause his men to turn back.

If the defence at Isurava had been over run,
It may have been a completely altered out come.
Over the ranges could march the enemy.
Unimpeded all the way to Port Moresby.

Australia could suffer heavy aerial bombarding,
And a real possibility of the Japanese invading.
Against the overwhelming odds the diggers had fought,
This battle is now considered Australia’s Agincourt.

#2 39thdecendant


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 06:45 AM

In one word, Brilliant! I only wish Dad was still alive to read it, he would have loved it.


#3 39thdecendant


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 07:45 AM

It must be wonderful to be able to put into words the emotion you are feeling. I wish I could put into words what I felt when Dad died and then taking his ashes back to Isurava & Kokoda.
Dad wrote a lot of poems, I think it was his way of dealing with the situation and the aftermath, no councilling back then.. just deal with it. I have posted one of his poems below, I hope you like it.
The evening air is tranquil, the winds emit a sigh,
The troops are sleeping peacefully, the snores both low & high,
The ever watchful spotter sits at his lonely post
The tents flap in the gentle breeze, that wafts in from the coast.

Then from afar a distant a drone comes to the ear,
The spotter listening carefully, “What is that I hear”
Slowly, nearer, comes the sound, pulsating on the air
The spotters ears are straining, as he list with cautious care.

Swiftly he springs to his feet, he wastes no time on thought,
He blows his whistle lustily, a long and then a short
Instantly the camp is waked, as men spring from their cots,
And struggle frantically to find their trousers, boot & socks

Then the tents are thrown side the drone had louder grew
The men run quickly to their holes, old soldiers and the new
And then they watch and strain their eyes, “How many can you see?”
Some say six, some say eight, some fool says twenty three.

Now they are almost overhead, our heads are truly low
We steel our nerves and realize, tis seconds to the blow
And then that hateful, swishing sound comes hurtling from above
Men offer prayers and curse the Japs, and think of those they love

The swishing strikes its zenith, a moment of suspense
And then the earth seems split in two, the air grows vile with stench
Again and yet again, they come, we crouch with bated breath
The dust has choked our nostrils, the roar has made us deaf
The ground leaps up around us, we tremble, sweat and pray
Thank God we dug this haven, t’will save our lives today
At last the leaping, hurling earth has ceased to leap and jump
We ease ourselves, but still our hearts are beating with a thump.

We listen, then we realize, the planes are passing by,
And many a curse is wished upon those vultures in the sky.
Again the spotter lustily blows ( two long) ,”All Clear!” he cries
We crawl from out the trenches, still gazing at the skies.

We listen, then we realize quickly the blasting death has gone
We hope they won’t come back again, at least not until morn
And so we clamber back to bed, our clothing though is near
They will not catch us napping, for life indeed is dear.
                                                                                       WJ Guest

Sent to his mother during March 1942, after the Japs had captured Lae and contrived to blast us off the 7 mile strip.

#4 Fluppy


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 04:43 PM

Wow Mike.  This is fantastic.  Really captures the essence in a nutshell.  

39th Decendant - Your father's poem moved me greatly.  Also captures the spirit in a nutshell - or should that be 'bombshell'?  


#5 mikmac1959


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 06:05 PM

thanks Fluppy and 39th decendant. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for shareing your Dads poem with me , it was very moving. He was a very talented man and may i say if he was a member of the amazing 39th militia he was a legend and a true Australian hero!! All the Diggers were heroes!!!

Is it only me or does anyone else get a little annoyed that the anniversary of The Battle of Isurava can occur with out a mention at all in our media ( well i did not hear anything on commercial radio or Television)  This battle was surely the most important in Australian history , why is it that after 67 years it is still pretty much ignored?
Ask your friends, neighbours and work mates if they have heard of Isurava, I think i know the answer.
Shame! Shame! Shame!

#6 39thdecendant


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Posted 28 August 2009 - 07:09 AM

Hi Mike,
The most unfortunate part is that these so very important dates come & go with only the veterans celebrating & remembering and each year, those veterans are getting less & less. The only battle, to have been fought on then Australian soil in direct defense of our country seems to be greatly glossed over in our schools and only minimally touched on. Yes dad was a 39th Battalion, 'A' company, his name was Bill Guest, Dad was 21 when he went to New Guinea, after the war he rejoined the army and went back to Moresby in the PNGVR, and then to Lae in the PIR. We lived up there until i was 21, and Dad stayed up there for another 7 years. In 2007 we took his ashes and spread them at Isurava & Kokoda. A plauqe is at Isurava on a small rock just above Kingsbury's rock.
I didn't know he wrote poems until we cleaned out his effects after he died in 2006. If you are interested I can post some more, I have copied them onto the computer. I have even found a poem, not written by dad, but by another in his battalion about the 'Choco's' before they actually went to Kokoda.. Would you mind if I copy your poem and send it off to the 39th Battalion assoc & 2/14th Battalion for their newsletter?


We knew well by the odour that we were in Kokoda,
The rubber trees they hid us as we came,
‘Twas twelve, and right on time, and a thrill went through the line,
As we stalked those Japs like hunters after game.

On and on we sneaked, and the trees around us creaked,
The twigs made such a crackle where we trod,
Not a murmur or a cough, as, with safety catches off
We glided on, and put our faith in God.

But not a shot rang out, nor came a warning shout,
As warily we made the final run,
The huts were searched with care but not a soul was there
Above the dark clouds overcame the sun.

It pored all day and night, reinforcements not in sight,
We settled down to meet whatever came,
Our feeling’s far from gay, as in those holes we lay,
With shorts and shirts protection from the rain.

Dawn overcame the night and gloom gave way to light,
We shivered ‘neath a southern icy breeze,
The sun had risen high when there came a warning cry,
‘To posts, the Nips are coming through the trees!”

And so to posts we ran, every officer and man,
The gunners opened up their hymn of hate,
The Japs replied in kind, and in every Aussie mind
The hopes that help arrives before too late.

On raged that sullen fray, and Death stalked through the day,
Australian youth and dreaded Jap marine,
The enemy tried hard, but we gave them not a yard,
A drenching mist descended on the scene.

Some tried to infiltrate, but quickly met their fate,
At every charge we fiercely drove them back,
A searching hail of lead swept the living and the dead
A desperate fight, our hopes upon the track.

We knew the Jap must know our ammo stock was low
And something very quickly must be done,
Though we felt it hard and sore, we know we must withdraw,
If we had to fight a rear guard on the run.

We pulled out in the mud, from that hell of splattered blood,
With sadden hearts we trudged on in the rain,
‘Twas true the Jap paid hard, but our stubborn stand was marred,
With thoughts of comrades left there in the drain.

William J Guest
A Coy, 39th
[sic] A Coy 39th Battalion was sent in to capture Kokoda on 8th Aug 1942. The entry was unopposed, but the enemy came into the plantation next morning and a savage battle ensued. Exhaustion of food and ammunition forced a withdrawal at dusk on the 10th. Both C & D Coys who were to join A Coy were ambushed and had to return to Deniki. the 'odour' as referred toin verse 1 was the distinctive smell of a rubber plantation.

#7 mikmac1959


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Posted 28 August 2009 - 01:17 PM

Thanks Nettie,
I have sent you a message please let me know if you don't receive it.
As today is the anniversary of the Brave act and unfortunate death of Bruce Kingsbury i would like to submit  this poem in his honour!

Bruce Kingsbury V.C.

This story is etched in Australian war history,
It involves a brave man named Bruce Kingsbury.
I think it’s important that everyone knows,
The exploits and actions of this amazing hero.

It was WWII in a jungle  in a nearby land,
He and his mates made a remarkable stand.
At a place called Isurava just over 700 dug in,
Severely outnumbered and no chance to win.

History tells us now, but they didn’t know then.
Over 4 thousand crack troops were advancing on them.
Wave after wave of the enemy were repelled,
Remarkably for days their positions were held.

The Japanese soldier you must understand,
Were derived from a culture in an ancient land,
Descendents of the Samurai they lived just to die.
Kill or be killed, follow orders and never ask why!

Then the word came out, “they’ve broken through,
There’s nothing between them and battalion H.Q.”
“Counter attack now” ordered Colonel Key,
Bruce Kingsbury yelled “come follow me!”

Private Kingsbury wasn’t alone on that fateful day,
Plenty of mates charged with him into the fray.
About 14 brave diggers in this fighting patrol,
They fixed bayonets, attacked to take back control.

Jack Clements, Bob Thompson, and Jim Truscott were there,
Edward Silver, Harry Saunders, and Lindsay “Teddy” Bear,
Alan Avery, Dennis O’Conner names all Aussies should know
All remarkable heroes for the bravery they showed.

Lined out like the backline from a Rugby scrum,
On the inside was Kingsbury with his Bren Gun.
He rushed forward firing the Bren from his hip,
Clearing resistance from this crucial strip.

With short bursts he sweep enemy positions with fire,
The number of casualties grew higher and higher.
With the job now completed he stopped for a rest,
Then a single shot rang out from a snipers nest.

The assailant was hidden in the jungle ahead,
Struck near the heart and sadly Kingsbury was dead.
Young Bruce was a real estate agent before the war,
Already a veteran of the Middle East, but just 24.

For his actions Kingsbury was awarded a V.C
The highest honour that exists for battle gallantry.
and every man at Isurava deserved an award
For the bravery they showed we all should applaud,

This is only one part of that battle from hell
You see in just 3 days over 60 diggers fell.
Our ragged bloody heroes had set a trend,
They left no doubt it was a fight to the end.

I’ve trekked there and oh boy what can I say,
I’ll remember that place till my dying day.
A feeling engulfed me, words can’t explain,
Never felt it before and probably will not again.

The imposing monument erected says it all,
Four black granite pillars standing tall.
On each engraved a single word with a message,
Endurance, Sacrifice, Mateship and Courage.

I walked down from the monument off to the right,
Where Kingsbury and his mates had that desperate fire fight.
Emotions took over, I could never be the same,
Having stood under the rock that bears Kingsbury’s name.

Finally at tracks end a self promise was kept,
I sought out Kingsbury’s grave to show my respect,
But on arrival at Bomana cemetery I soon was aware
There is nothing I’ve seen before, can ever compare.

Lines and lines of white head stones of our courage dead,
Head in my hands and once more tears were shed.
Nearly four thousand grave stones set the scene,
No doubt the most awesome place I’ve ever been.

So each Anzac day as our nation remembers with pride,
Please join me and ensure, you don’t set these men aside.
They should all be revered like the Anzacs way back,
Thanks to all the brave men of the Kokoda Track.


#8 peterh13


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Posted 30 August 2009 - 07:18 PM

We had a  couple of lovely poems read out on our trek. I cant remember the name of the poems but Im sure Gail will know.
Prepare for the worst and dare the good Lord to dissapoint you.

Non semper erit aestas.

#9 mikmac1959


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Posted 08 September 2009 - 04:51 AM

Anniversary of the Bayonet charge at Brigade Hill

BRIGADE HILL.  By M. G. McArthur.

I had the honour to camp at Brigade Hill,
It was quite eerie, calm and surprising still.
Little indication of what had occurred long ago,
The bloody battle against an irrepressible foe.

They’d done it before some of these very men,
Now at Mission Ridge and Brigade hill to do it again.
They had held Isurava for day upon day,
This new mission was simple, here you must stay.

Considered perfect for another ambush,
Engage the enemy, slow down their push.
Perched high on the ridge with views down the track
Steep fall each side “surely no one could come up that!”

The enemies tactics evolved from each battle faced,
Some circle out wide and some up the track race.
Full frontal attacks to engage all our men,
Find their positions then outflank them.

But it is surely impossible to use that tactic here,
Look over each side the cliffs almost sheer.
Underestimated their foe and the damage was done,
The enemy climbed in the dark with ammo and guns.

So when dawn broke on the 8th September
All hell broke loose as bad as any could remember,
The enemy were securely entrenched behind them,
Cut off and surrounded were 3 battalions of our men.

The Japanese General’s brilliant tactical approach,
Front defensive, rear fall back positions, destroy them both.
A desperate situation for our lads indeed,
They’d be destroyed if his tactic was to succeed.

“The track’s the supply line, we can’t let them stay
and to evacuate injured mates, there is no other way.
We must get between them and Moresby it’s clear
Because we are the only resistance from here.”

With the situation desperate a plan had been hatched,
The enemy must be dislodged, take back that track.
So that afternoon as torrential rain fell
They fixed bayonets and charged into hell.

These brave men who were surrounded down the hill
New what they were in for, they new the drill,
Into a wall of fire from an enemy dug in,
Be lucky just to survive, little chance to win?

Captain Claude Nye led this heroic patrol
He merely said “Yes Sir” a hero to the sole
Of the twenty five men who went up the track,
Nye and sixteen others never came back.

But remarkably eight men made it right through,
They fought their way up to Battalion H.Q.
You’d think they’d be honoured for an effort like that,
No way on earth they were lined up to go back.

So with a new leader and fresh fighting men,
They took their place and attacked once again.
Captain ‘Lefty ‘ Langridge was in charge of the line
Sadly he and twenty others were killed this time.

Unfortunately these brave actions were to no avail,
The enemy’s weight of numbers just had to prevail.
This bloody battle could never be won
The aussies were still outnumbered 6 to 1.

So the order was given to fall back,
Regroup at Menari, use the alternative track,
But with any withdrawal the rearguard is the key,
A withering volley of fire, bog down the enemy.

Brave men volunteered for this dangerous duty
To buy time for the mates to get out to safety.
And sometimes it’s like that in the theatre of war
Ordinary men, do extraordinary things and more!

In a Kingsbury like act brave men broke from their cover
Chucking grenades, with Bren’s they protected each other
Charging down the hill with their commander Captain Lee
Took their foe by surprise and caused them to flee.

Because of actions like this many managed to withdraw,
To reform and prepare for what next was in store,
But what of this battle on “Massacre Hill”
In just 2 days 80 of our finest were killed.

But remember this is all that could be done,
Fight tooth and nail and don’t dare be overrun,
Hold on and then withdraw to fight another day,
Slow down the enemy and prolong their stay.

So some 65 years have come and they’ve gone,
The world has changed and everything’s moved on,
I sat on that hill, tears streaming from my eyes,
Reflecting on the actions, so many lost lives.

I could never imagine the horror they went through,
All Aussie heroes who did what they had to do,
So the likes of Nye, Langridge, Lee and the rest
Should never, ever be forgotten…. Lest we forget.

#10 mikmac1959


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Posted 11 September 2009 - 10:36 PM

i am glad i put a couple of my informative poems on this website.
they have been pretty popular with lots of views......BUT...... i
have no idea if people liked them and learnt from them!!!!
would like to here from someone who read my poems
to hear what they thought,
cheers Mike

#11 peterh13


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Posted 12 September 2009 - 05:44 AM

I think that poetry like this is a good way to learn and remember history.
Prepare for the worst and dare the good Lord to dissapoint you.

Non semper erit aestas.

#12 Fluppy


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Posted 13 September 2009 - 05:37 PM

QUOTE(peterh13 @ 12 Sep 2009, 05:44 AM) View Post
I think that poetry like this is a good way to learn and remember history.

#13 mikmac1959


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Posted 14 September 2009 - 12:51 PM

Thanks for the comments Peter and Fluppy! I do enjoy reading the history books and then trying to put it all together in poetry to make it easier for people to learn the history.
Cheers mike

#14 peterh13


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Posted 14 September 2009 - 05:39 PM

It certainly beats "The boy stood on the burning deck".
I really look forward to your next poem.
Prepare for the worst and dare the good Lord to dissapoint you.

Non semper erit aestas.

#15 mikmac1959


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Posted 14 September 2009 - 07:36 PM

Thanks again Peter,
this one I hope explains why Australians are not well educated about the battles fought on the Kokoda Track. ( i am afraid it is a bit long)

Australia’s Spartans by M.McArthur

Have you heard the legend from Ancient Greece?
A small band of men performed an awesome feat.
At Thermopylae just three hundred Spartans,
Held the pass against thousands of Persians.

Australia had it’s our own Thermopylae,
Nearby in the jungles of New Guinea.
What a shame the nation lacks the historians,
With the ability to create a homeland legend.

Here several thousand of our young men,
Fought an enemy numerically superior to them.
Our Spartans lost over two thousand men,
To save our country from enemy occupation.

The Anzac legend forged at Gallipoli,
Rightly is enshrined in Australian history,
But if Gallipoli baptised us as a nation,
Kokoda was certainly the confirmation.

Sadly many Australians are still not aware,
Of the battles that occurred in the jungles there.
Isurava, Brigade Hill, Mission Ridge, Kokoda,
Ioribawa and to the beaches of Buna and Gona.

So each Anzac Day as thousands gather at Gallipoli,
Why were these places overlooked by our country?
Was it because the full truth was not known,
About the courage, endurance and mateship shown?

Unfortunately Australia had surrendered her sovereignty,
To an American General to lead against the enemy.
Douglas MacArthur a pioneer in public relations,
Expertly worked the media to create his own legend.

He’d been in charge of troops in the Philippines,
Only Americans in serious military action at the time.
His office released glowing communiqués,
Describing MacArthur’s amazing heroics each day.

The American media took the stories in both hands,
They needed a champion to raise morale in their land.
Portrayed as all that was good in the South Seas,
Against all that was evil and Japanese.

Ignoring the fact it was his ineptitude at the time,
That caused the predicament in the Philippines.
Despite knowing about Pearl Harbour, he did not act,
Didn’t prepare his men for a follow up attack

MacArthur never saw action near the front line,
He preferred the safety of distance all the time.
When the defence of Bataan became a desperate mess,
Left his unfortunate troops, went to an Island fortress.

Retreated by boat to Corregidor,
Protected by ten thousand troops maybe more,
Based himself in one of the tunnels underground,
Safe here, still released bravery stories to astound.

But when the defence was starting to look grim,
Defeat looked imminent as the enemy closed in.
This brave all conquering leader of men,
Ran off to Australia and simply left them.

MacArthur was made the Supreme Commander
Of all allies in the Southwest Pacific Area.
Announced “I’ll handle the front, you take the rear”
Pretty hard to see how he could do it from here!            

In Melbourne in the excessively plush Hotel Menzies,
Four thousand miles from the nearest Japanese.
The high command in place were all Americans,
On the entire senior staff not one Australian.

So no knowledge of the Australian soldier’s ways,
Or the conditions in which this jungle war raged.
Between them little or no combat experience,
And put in charge of our homeland defence.

After local news reports suggested the true hardships,
General MacArthur instituted complete censorship.
Now totally in control of all the war news,
The notorious self publicist pushed forward his own views.

To denigrate the fighting ability of the Australian,
Suited his purpose as he lobbied Washington.
Wanted American troops to come save the day,
The Might of America would be the only way.

Promised he’d quickly dispense with the Japanese,
The mighty Marine’s will bring them to their Knees.
Trumpeted to the media as our troops kept falling back,
Saying we outnumbered the invaders on the track.

In reality and as the available intelligence said,
The diggers performed very admirably instead.
He should have known what he said was wrong,
The Japanese heavily outnumbered us all along.

The troops that were sent were not adequately trained,
For this bungle only the military could be blamed.
That MacArthur was incompetent there was no doubt,
But the censors were able to stop the truth getting out.

Our own General Sir Thomas Albert Blamey,
Had the highest rank in the Australian Army
But he had no idea as the battles raged on,
The decisions he made were mostly wrong.

Added insult to his obvious ignorance,
In New Guinea made a speech full of arrogance.
Gobsmacked the gaunt survivors of the track,
Said they’d been defeated each time they fell back.

In future they must advance at all costs,
No consideration for the lives that were lost.
Nearly caused a mutiny at Koitaki Plantation that day,
Said the rabbit gets shot when it is running away.

Not only denied the gallant diggers the credit due,
But indirectly caused the deaths of many, who
Decided to take unnecessary risks from then,
To disprove the slur he’d made against them.

Alone the Australians had cleared the Kokoda Track,
To the beach heads the Japanese had pulled back.
They were finished as an offensive threat at the time,
Deny them supply, let them wither on the vine.

The obvious tactic and the right strategy,
Not for the gung-ho fools controlling military policy.
Ordered attacks across open beaches, sheer suicide,
Many brave Aussie soldiers needlessly lost their lives.

And the fearless MacArthur, the “American Caesar”,
Habitually depicted himself as a heroic combat leader.
In truth he only visited New Guinea for a day,
When counteroffensive had forced the enemy away.

When the crack American Troops finally entered the fray,
Over the Kapa Kapa track, cut off the enemy, save the day.
Emerged on the other side of the Owen Stanleys,
All suffering from malaria, malnutrition and dysentery.

They’d disappeared and weren’t seen for 42 days,
Did not fire a shot or see a single enemy on the way.
Became known by all as the “Ghost Battalion”,
For months unable to resume effective action.

None of this showed up in MacArthur’s controlled press,
Released incorrect information to cover up the mess.
The truth never got in the way of a good story,
The newspapers told of American battle glory.

The Aussies alone pushed the enemy across the track,
He sent fresh Americans’ to Buna to have a crack.
The soundly constructed bunkers had to be seized,
Earthen roofs, well concealed by the Japanese.

The Americans were stymied, the going got hard,
They sat down, and hardly moved forward a yard.
The Australian 18th Brigade had to come in,
Lend them a hand and show them how to win.

True to form MacArthur issued a press release,
The Americans had achieved an amazing feat.
Single-handedly taken Buna and won the campaign,        
Completely ignoring the Australians again.

Sanananda finally fell on 22nd January,
Ending the most gruelling campaign in our history.
Soon the Americans celebrated the Guadalcanal victory,
To become glorified in countless Hollywood movies.

The Aussies caused a turning point in the Pacific war,
The Japanese land forces never been defeated before.
So by denying the enemy on the Kokoda Track,
Triggered allied resurgence there is no doubt about that.

Despite their achievements against extraordinary odds,
The men of Kokoda felt they just done their job.
For years remaining silent about what they’d achieved,
Not blowhards, but done a good job they believed.

Did not want the honour or all of the glory,
It took many years before they’d tell their story.
Most did so out of duty to mates killed on the track,
Or for those who had died since they’d come back.

So for years and years the truth was not told,
But time has let the true story unfold.
Men in power may create their own destiny.
But time exposes the truth for all to see.

Now modern Aussies go to show their respect,
Thousands each year do the Kokoda Trek.
In both directions the Owen Stanley’s are trodden,
To prove these heroics won’t ever be forgotten

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