Interest in the trekking Kokoda during the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign in 2012 is growing. As a result there is much interest about ‘lost’ battlefields along the Kokoda Trail.
Whilst the Kokoda Trail has been a neglected shrine since the end of the war in 1945 none of the battlefields have ever been ‘lost’. Some had been reclaimed by the jungle and others had been bypassed with the relocation of wartime villages to their current locations.
Official Royal Australian Army Survey Corps maps published in 1978 identify the wartime routes of the Kokoda Trail and the wartime village locations. The battlesites of Brigade Hill and Isurava were confirmed using GPS devices and cross-checking the data with the official Royal Australian Army Survey Corps Maps.
There has been much recent publicity over the ‘discovery’ of a lost battlefield at Eora Creek. This was more of an event than an actual ‘discovery’. Early trek operators who have been conducting treks across the Kokoda Trail for more than a decade before the boom in trekker numbers from 2004 have been visiting the Eora Creek battle-site since they began their operations.
The selection of ground for a defensive position includes the identification of the ‘ground of tactical importance’. This is the piece of ground that makes the rest of the defensive position untenable if captured by the enemy. At Eora Creek the ‘ground of tactical importance’ dominates the abandoned village pad and the track that descends down to the creek and up the feature towards Alola.
The Australian 16th Brigade was allocated the task of attacking the Japanese defensive position at Eora Creek. The battle was fought during the period 22 – 28 October 1942. The 2/1st and 2/2nd Battalions attacking on the main axis of the track and the 2/3rd Battalion probing the right flank of the Japanese position and then attacking them from the west and forcing the enemy to retreat from the ground of tactical importance.
The western flank of the Japanese position is not visited by trekkers because their trek itineraries do not allow for it. The same applies to Mission Ridge and the north-western sector of the Isurava defensive position. None of these battlesites have never been claimed to have been ‘lost’.
Prospective trekkers should be wary of any claims regarding recent discoveries along the Kokoda Trail. The original tracks have been used by trekkers for decades past and all of the battlesites are well known to those who specialize in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign.
Lost kokoda battlefields have never been lost!