Kokoda Press was established to produce, publish and to support the continued research and updating of the Field Guide to the Kokoda Track—An Historical Guide to the Lost Battlefields.
The author Bill James first walked the Kokoda Track in 1999, he was amazed at how little information about the locality of the sites was available to trekkers. For example, the battle sites of Deniki, Isurava and Brigade Hill lay hidden and unmarked, effectively ‘lost in the jungle’. Questions like, ‘Where did Bruce Kingsbury win his VC?’ or, ‘Where exactly did Langridge and the other 100 Australians die at Brigade Hill and Mission Ridge?’ could not be answered.
Bill James was deeply affected by this. How could the places where so many young men had lost their lives remain unmarked and forgotten? Surely their sacrifices, and those of their loved ones left behind, require more of a place in our history. These thoughts were reinforced when Bill walked the track for the second time in 2001, so he resolved to research and write the book, what is now the Field Guide to the Kokoda Track.
This book is intended to be an historical preparation for people who want to, or are actually planning to, walk the Kokoda Track. It can also be read as a ‘stand-alone’ story and will appeal to people who simply want to learn more about the history of Kokoda, and understand more about the legend that surrounds it. The book includes many telling excerpts from the hand-written diaries and memoirs of the men who were actually there in the thick of battle, eyewitnesses to these extraordinary times.
The aim of this book is not to write another analytical history of the campaign. While providing some historical background and personal perspectives, its main objective is to be a battlefield guide—a companion to the history books. It attempts to correctly identify and describe the localities of many of the 1942–43 battles, as well as other places of wartime significance—encampments, supply dumps, aid posts, hospitals, etc.—used by the Australians, from Port Moresby in the south to the Gona–Sanananda–Buna beaches in the north.
It also attempts to locate the path of the wartime Kokoda Track over the Owen Stanley Range, from Owers’ Corner (south) to the village of Kokoda (north of the range). Of the 96 kilometres that can be covered by current-day trekkers, approximately 10 of them are not part of the original track used during the campaign—these more recent tracks were cut to access new village sites and gardens, leaving the old wartime track unused and overgrown.
Virtually all Australians who go on trekking tours to Kokoda have local Papuan guides, and many are accompanied by Australian trek leaders. However, the practical interpretation of historical information available to these guides is extremely limited. This carefully researched book is intended to fill this void. It is hoped this will make the trek a far richer experience.