To read between the lines of ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’, the celebrated poem by Australian digger Bert Beros, will drive you to tears.
The poem, which whilst sentimental, touches a chord that has endured to this day in the hearts of both Australians and Papua New Guineans.
It tells of the prayers of worried Australian mothers, whose young sons are fighting the Japanese on the rugged Kokoda Trail, and how their prayers are answered in the form of ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’.
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels
Many a mother in Australia when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered on the Owen Stanley Track.
For they haven't any halos only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off and as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in the bad places on the awful mountain track
They look upon their faces would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded as they treat him like a saint
It's a picture worth recording that an artist's yet to paint
Many a lad will see his mother and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors at the bottom of the track
May the mothers of Australia when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.
- Bert Beros
Those dark days of WW11 are well and truly over but today, a younger, modern ‘fuzzy wuzzy angel’ is continuing the great tradition of its grandfathers.
These are the guides and porters of the Kokoda Trail, who bring overseas trekkers over this famous wartime icon.
Many of these young men, from the Koiari and Orokaiva villages along the trail, would not otherwise get paid employment in town.
The booming tourism industry along the Kokoda Trail is offering them a chance to earn money, rather than indulge in a life of crime like many of their peers.
Young men from all villages along the trail - Vesulogo, Girinumu, Nauro, Manari, Efogi, Naduri, Kagi, Alola, Hoi, Kovelo, and then Kokoda Station – are engaged as guides and porters.
It gives them a chance to earn an income and also helps to curb the law and order problem.
Trekkers walking along the trail is very good for the economy all the way from Sogeri to Kokoda.
The guides and porters of the Kokoda Trail, unlike many of their peers who roam around aimlessly in the towns and cities of PNG, know the importance of the Kokoda Trail.
It has given them a new lease on life.