Service marks eighty years since Kokoda

August 4, 2022 BY

Honouring them: Attendees included soldiers from the 8th/7th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment headquartered at Ranger Barracks. Photo: TIM BOTTAMS

THE Last Post cut the cold winter air along Sturt Street last Friday morning in remembrance of a watershed conflict in Australia’s World War Two history.

The event, which also included a small march and wreath laying, was held by Ballarat RSL at the city’s Cenotaph to honour the 80th anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign.

RSL spokesperson John Scannell said Kokoda represented a significant turning point in Asia-Pacific theatre of the Second Word War.

“Today marks the Japanese taking of Kokoda and the start of the Kokoda campaign during the New Guinea campaign,” he said.

“It was very important because it’s where the Australians first inflicted defence upon the Japanese and pushed them back to the coast.

“It was very hard hand-to-hand fighting in the jungle. We suffered about eight-and-a-half thousand casualties.”

Established in Ballarat during World War One, the 39th Battalion was a key unit during the Kokoda campaign, with only 32 of its men returning from the conflict.

Arch of Victory-Avenue of Honour committee president Garry Snowden said it was important for the people of Ballarat to remember the local connection to the Kokoda campaign.

“The 39th Battalion was raised here. They trained at Darley at Bacchus Marsh and held an exercise in Corangamite which was hardly preparation for fighting on the Kokoda Track,” he said.

“At the time when Australia was most under threat, all of our regular army units were fight on the other side of the world and all we had to send up was the 39th Battalion.

“They were melting in the heat of battle, sent up to meet the Japanese who had 10 days’ worth of provisions. The 39th Battalion held them up for almost six weeks.

“In terms of Australia’s fortunes, the 39th Battalion played a role that is underestimated and not sufficiently remembered in my view, so it was important Ballarat did something today.”