Interview with Tracey Allen, author of Carpe Librum blog:

Patrick Lindsay


Patrick Lindsay is a prolific Australian author, having published 18 books on the back of an extremely successful career as a journalist, TV reporter and presenter.  In December I reviewed his book Back From The Dead - Peter Hughes' Story of Survival and Hope After Bali, giving it 5 stars.

Patrick joined me recently to answer some interview questions.

Patrick, what inspired you to write about the Bali bombings of 2002 and survivor Peter Hughes in particular?

I was working on a book called The Spirit of The Digger when, like all Australians, I was stunned by the reports of the Bali bombing. I watched transfixed as the chilling images unfolded on the TV. As I watched, I was struck by the spirit of the survivors and their rescuers. I realised I was watching the same spirit I was researching. Gen Peter Cosgrove had told me that you didn't have to wear the slouch hat to have the spirit of the Digger. It occurred to me that we all have that spirit within us and that it came out in times of crisis - terrorism, bush-fires, floods, etc. I decided I should explore it further by writing about the story behind the main face of the Bali attack, Peter Hughes. Of course, I didn't know whether he would survive: it was touch and go then and he actually died a number of times and was brought back to life. I contacted him when I heard he was recuperating. He agreed to let me tell his story. We're good mates now.

What was the hardest part of writing or researching Back From The Dead? How did the book change you?

It was a very emotional journey. Peter was still in the early stages of his recovery when I started interviewing him. He endured great pain and he suffered many doubts but his spirit always shone through. His son Leigh was an extraordinary support and became his rock. It was difficult to reconcile the callous violence and fanaticism of the bombers with the gentle humanity of the Balinese and the idyllic beauty of their country. I was intrigued by the intersecting time lines of the lives of the perpetrators and the victims and I decided to use that as a device to unfold the central storyline. The hardest part was pushing on with the work when I knew how painful it often was for Peter. I learned much as a person from observing Peter, his fellow survivors and their remarkable healing angels, especially Dr's Fiona Wood and John Greenwood.

Publishing 18 books is an incredible achievement in any author's career.  Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I think persistence is a writer's greatest asset. I was a journalist and a TV reporter and presenter for more than 25 years before I started writing books full time. I have always been telling stories of some kind or another. Books require a special determination - to secure an overview of the scope of the work involved and to doggedly fight through the research and writing to completion. But if you know what you want to say then you'll find a way to do it. Treat your writing with respect, find a haven where you can work without distraction and then just start. Also read voraciously and write as often as you can.

What can you tell us about your research and writing process?  Does your background in journalism assist you in your research?

Yes, I think being a journalist, especially starting as a newspaper journalist before computers and the Internet, taught me the value of relentless research and gave me a healthy scepticism. Unlike a lot of journos today, we had to sniff out our own stories, not wait for press releases. I learned not to accept things at face value and to cross check facts and statements. I love the benefits brought by the digital age but the downside can be the lure of Google and the unquestioning acceptance of facts, just because they are on the screen. Whenever possible I dig back to primary sources, rather than relying on someone else's interpretation of them.

Patrick Lindsay's newest release

How long do you spend on each book and how do you decide what you will write about next?

On average I would spend about three months intensively researching and around the same time writing a book. This can vary widely. I spent almost two years on my last book, True Blue, 150 Years of NSW Police Force. It was a far bigger project than I first imagined. It's often difficult to accurately assess the size of projects as the research can take you down unexpected paths. That book was commissioned by the NSW Police; the first I've done that way. All the other books have come from an idea I've developed or from a suggestion from the publisher. 

A large portion of your books are related to the Australian Defence Force and military history; can you tell us more about your interest in these areas?

It started with my interest in Kokoda, or more accurately my love for the men who fought there. I wrote, produced and directed a documentary for the Australian Army on the Kokoda Campaign back in 1991 and many of the Diggers I interviewed for it became treasured friends. My first book was The Spirit of Kokoda and the other books, like The Spirit of The DiggerCosgroveFromellesThe Coastwatchers, etc seemed like natural progressions. It's not that I have a love of war or military history so much: rather I have a fascination with what war does to people and how they respond to it. It prompts the most remarkable responses from ordinary men and women. But I also write on very different subjects and I'm passionate about my It's Never Too Late series of inspirational books.

After such a successful career in journalism and television, are you ever pulled in too many directions or turn down interesting projects in favour of writing?

Yes, I've spent a dozen years now writing books and in that time I've declined quite a number of interesting opportunities in TV and other areas of the media. I created  the format for the reality TV series, In Their Footsteps, which Nine broadcast last year. It was a ratings success and I'm working on some similar programs. I'm aiming to expand my work in that field next year. 

Do you have a favourite bookshop you'd like to tell us about?

My favourite is Helen Baxter's lovely little bookshop in McMahon's Point in Sydney [Blues Point Bookshop].  Helen is a prodigious reader and a great source of literary advice.

What's next?  Do you have anything in the pipeline for 2013?

I'm working on another inspirational book and a number of television projects. 2013 is shaping as a very busy year.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Like most authors (and publishers) I'm trying to come to terms with the often bewildering changes to the publishing world. I'm trying to understand the e-book options.  I'm very optimistic about the future. I think it may open opportunities for authors to take greater control of their own work and destinies.

Thank you Tracey for your blog and for all your work to spread the word on the pleasures of reading and writing.  I'm delighted you enjoyed Back From The Dead.

topicTALKS is coming


Three old stagers have joined forces to create an exciting new series of programs of live talks that will inspire, inform and challenge you on subjects that matter in your lives.

TV legend Ray Martin, presenter and author Patrick Lindsay and promoter Colin McLennan have called the programs topicTALKS and reckon they’ll appeal to people who, like them, are “passionately curious”.

Patrick Lindsay sees the programs as an opportunity to shine a light into areas of our lives, which are generally ignored by mainstream media in their endless pursuit of the youthful dollar.

“Remember when spinners played cricket, not spent their time crafting one-liners and news grabs for politicians? Remember when social media meant journos who liked a drink? We see topicTALKS as an antidote to the pre-packaged, passionless presentation of ideas we have thrust at us,” he says.

“We reckon people are longing to see storytellers who speak from the heart, who conceive their own ideas, believe in them and present them with spontaneity, authenticity and passion. We want to explore topics that are vital to us and our families and to the future of our planet. We want to hear our storytellers speak in person and we want to have the chance to challenge their views.”

Ray will host the series and will introduce four other top storytellers, who will each speak for 20 minutes, followed by an all-in Q & A:

Tom Keneally                                     “Five great novels you haven’t read yet”

Australian Living Treasure, one of our greatest storytellers and most decorated living authors, having won a Booker Prize, two Miles Franklin Awards and received honorary doctorates from six universities.

Ray Martin                                    “One cranky, profane saint”

One of Australia’s most respected and experienced journalists. Along with a diverse television career, he’s long been involved in charity work and has written two national best-selling books.

Gretel Killen                                    “Why happiness is like nits”

TV provocateur , stand-up comic, advertising voice-artist and author of more than twenty books. Hosting Big Brother made her a household name in Australia.

Patrick Lindsay                  “Fromelles … voices from the graveyard”

After a long career in television, now one of Australia’s leading non-fiction authors, having written 17 best-selling books since 2002. The chairman of the Kokoda Track Foundation since 2005

Seb Robertson                  “Giving a voice to the elephant in the room”

Young Australian social entrepreneur, who formed his own foundation, Batyr, to educate and empower young people to confront and accept difficult social issues. Sydney’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year .

topicTALKS will debut at three venues over three Sunday mornings:

Sunday April 22, 10am-12.30pm, @ Cremorne Orpheum


The first series of IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS will be 10 one-hour episodes. In each episode viewers will join a descendant of our veterans is they take an uniquely personal journey of discovery - literally walking in their forebears' footsteps - to learn what their loved ones endured as they served our nation.


The first episode features searcher, Julie Bryce, as she retraces the remarkable experiences of her great uncle Tommy Johnson, who survived the sinking of the HMAS Perth only to suffer the horrors of the Thai-Burma Railway, then another hellish trip to Japan, during which he was again shipwrecked, to be taken to a POW camp in Tokyo, then to meet an astonishing fate.

Subsequent episodes will take us to the sacred shore at Gallipoli, to the killing fields of the WWI's Western Front in France, up the deadly Kokoda Track, to relive Spitfire dogfights over Malta, the secret world of the Z Specials in Borneo, the terrifying bombing raids on Darwin and to Vietnam and Korea.

Patrick conceived the format for IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS as he watched the growing number of Australians who were making pilgrimages to honour their forebears to iconic battle sites like the Kokoda Track, to Gallipoli, Fromelles and Villers-Bretonneux.

"I firmly believe that you can't know where you're heading unless you know where you've come from," Patrick said. "The service and sacrifice of our veterans is deeply embedded in our national DNA and a growing number of Australians want to find out more about their stories.

"IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS will give all Australians the chance to watch over the searchers' shoulders s they make their emotional journeys. Each family's story reveals the devastating impact of war on those who stayed at home and waited and it traces the impact on subsequent generations." 

Shine Australia is producing IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS. The Executive Producer is Michael Caulfield (Australians At War) and the Series Producer is former ABC and 60 Minutes' Producer, Jonathan Harley.

VALE Stan Bisset MC OAM (1912-2010)

Stan CU web.jpg

Stan Bisset, who died on the Sunshine Coast on 5 October, aged 98, was one of the heroes of the Kokoda campaign in WWII, and Australia’s oldest Wallaby rugby international.

I’ll never forget watching Stan as he stood in front of his beloved brother Butch’s grave at Bomana War Cemetery outside Port Morseby. It was August 1998 during what Stan and his fellow Kokoda Diggers called The Last Parade, their pilgrimage to say a final farewell to the mates they left behind. 

It was the first time Stan had visited the grave since Butch had died in his arms on the Track 56 years earlier. He stood there silently for a long time.  I could see the emotions surging through him.  As always, he stood ramrod straight but tears welled in his noble eyes as the memories flooded back. 

There before him lay Butch, his life cut short by the terrible random selection of war like so many others on the Track. Stan had vowed to lead a good and productive life to honour Butch’s sacrifice. And he had been as good as his word.  He had raised a fine family, forged a long and successful career and had done all in his power to keep Butch’s memory and the story of Kokoda alive. 

While I watched, Stan gently wiped the tears from his eyes with his powerful hands and then brought them to his side. He squared his shoulders and paused. Then he swept his right arm up in a crisp, practised salute: an homage from a warrior, a farewell from a brother.

Stan has a deep rooted sense of duty and an unshakeable sense of honour. He had, and still has, star quality: that indefinable amalgam of physical presence and character that sets the remarkable ones apart. He was a genuine sporting hero who blossomed into a military hero in the cauldron of war. 

I vividly remember when I met him for the first time, doing interviews with the veterans for a documentary. My immediate thought was that they’ve ordered a hero from Central Casting and they’ve sent the perfect specimen.

Stan’s former commanding officer and lifelong friend, the late Phil Rhoden, told me that Stan had no time to grieve for Butch during the battles along the Track and took many years to recover from the loss. Like so many other Kokoda veterans, the campaign was one of the defining experiences of Stan’s life. Somehow, Stan dealt with the blows and got on with his life. 

Stan Bisset is quite simply one the finest men I have met. I have been privileged to call him a friend and a mentor for twenty years. He personified so many attributes of the Digger to me: courage (both moral and physical); compassion; selflessness; independence; loyalty; resourcefulness; devotion; coolness; and humour.

He carried himself with the bearing of a natural leader and a champion sportsman.  Even as he neared his century, he continued to inspire me and all those who know him with his dogged refusal to surrender any ground to Father Time. 

Since the rediscovery of the Kokoda story about 15 years ago, barely a day would go by without someone wanting to contact Stan and meet him. Without fail, he gave his time and his support.

In 2000, Stan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to veterans, particularly through the 2/14th Battalion Association.

Stan is survived by Gloria and his children and grandchildren

Stan Bisset, like his story, is timeless.

Time for a Fair Go for Fuzzy Wuzzy Descendants

The people of Oro Province, at the northern end of the Kokoda Track in PNG, have been waiting for more than two years for their government to help rebuild the roads, bridges, schools and villages destroyed by Cyclone Guba in November 2007.

Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands lost their homes when Cyclone Guba hit the province. Around 60 bridges and almost 100 schools were lost in the disaster. 

Two years on, and just a handful of temporary bridges have been put in place. Thousands still live under tarpaulins in temporary shelters and kids are being taught in bush lean-tos. Much of the province is still cut off from the main thoroughfare for food and basic supplies – the road to Kokoda from the port of Oro Bay and the town of Popondetta.

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, two things happen: first, the region suffers more floods during last month’s torrential rain; and second, it now seems the government has lost the funds it committed for the province’s rebuilding.

Yes, that’s right, the Kina 60 million earmarked for the restoration of the province’s infrastructure has apparently disappeared in Port Moresby!

In the latest issue of his PNG Attitude newsletter, respected commentator, Keith Jackson, writes:

“Over K60 million allocated by the PNG Government for relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro Province in 2007 has ‘gone missing’. Provincial authorities briefed Public Services Minister Peter O’Neill of the situation but were not able to say where the money had gone.”

The Province’s administrator, Owen Awaita, was quoted as saying that K11 million had been allocated for restoration work during the state of emergency declared following the disaster and another K50 million had been “parked” at the Treasury Department in Port Moresby. Unbelievably, apparently all this money has disappeared. 

In addition, a further K600,000 committed to land owners in Girua village, north east of Kokoda, allegedly had not been paid, prompting the villagers to ban authorities from their land until the payment is made.

The time has come for the PNG to show some political will and some transparency. Any qualified accountant could trace the missing funds within days.

While this disgraceful abrogation of responsibility continues, the people of Oro – many of whom are the descendants of the beloved Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – are relying on NGOs like the Kokoda Track Foundation and the Anglican Church for food and water. They are being denied justice and access to basic resources. Their children are being denied a future.

The PNG Government cannot proclaim its success in securing massive gas projects while turning a blind eye to massive fraud and ignoring the plight of so many of its people.

It's Never Too Late

If police officers and international footballers are starting to look like kids to you, you know you’ve reached that ‘certain age’. But, instead of stressing about getting there, I reckon we should celebrate making it. 

It’s a great age: an age when you have more time to consider things and when you can spend more time doing the things you love, rather than the things you have to do.  It’s an age when you even feel like you’re starting to gain some wisdom - or at least some perspective.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves some of life’s really tough questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? How can I be the best that I can? What percentage of my potential do I normally achieve? And what is the main internal obstacle preventing me from achieving more?

For most of us the answer to that last question is fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of pushing outside the boundaries we draw around ourselves. When we realise that most of our boundaries are illusions, we can set ourselves free.

I’m convinced that it’s never too late to be what you might have been! It’s never too late to push through your boundaries … to open your mind … to make your own decisions … to do something great.

In case you think it might be too late for you, consider a few examples: 

Consider Ray’s case. He was 52, diabetic, arthritic and had gall bladder and thyroid problems. He’d dropped out of high school, worked as a chalkie in a broker’s firm, sold paper cups, even tried his hand as a jazz musician.  He was selling milkshake machines when he met two blokes named Mac and Dick who owned a restaurant.  Ray saw the potential and followed his dream. Ray Krok bought the restaurant from the McDonald brothers and gave birth to the Golden Arches.  It wasn’t too late.

It was never too late for Nelson Mandela either.   He began his real career on the world stage at 72.  And what an impact he has had and is still having!

Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister of Britain at the age of 65 and guided his nation through to victory in WWII at the age of 71. Coincidentally, both John Winston Howard and Edward Gough Whitlam were both 56 when they became Prime Minister.

My great friend, Stan Bisset, is about to turn 97.  He’s one of the heroes of the Kokoda campaign and our oldest living Wallaby rugby international.  Some circulation problems recently left him with a leg sore that wouldn’t heal. Did he lie back and accept it?  No, he did what he always has done: thought positive.  He checked things out on the net (yes, at 96!) and saw that some of the top footballers used hyperbaric chambers to improve blood flow for healing injuries.  So he organised a couple of weeks’ treatment in the chamber and solved his problem.  Now he’s working on a new exercise regime.  It’s never too late.

The one thing which has changed dramatically over our lifetimes is the pace of change. A very wise man once wrote: “Some people don’t like change.  Change couldn’t care less!”

It’s time to pause and reflect.  Whatever our age, whatever our stage in life, it’s never too late to take control of our destinies, to rethink our priorities, to rekindle our passions and to chase our dreams … and, most importantly, to have fun doing it!  Perhaps that bulging brain, Edward de Bono, summed it up best: “You can analyse the past but you have to design the future.”

It’s never too late to design your future!

(An article Patrick wrote for All About You, the magazine of the Queensland AMA)

Fromelles Missing ... Are we doing enough?

Last year was wonderful year for our missing Diggers from three world wars: Jim Bourke and his team brough home the last of our remaining six missing Vietnam vets, the HMAS Sydney was finally located  and we confirmed that the mass graves at Pheasant Wood contained the remains of the missing soldiers from Fromelles.

The task of identifying the missing Fromelles Diggers is underway. But is it too little and perhaps too late?

The man behind the discovery of the Pheasant Wood missing, Lambis Englezos, is deeply concerned at the way the process of identification is heading. He, and many others, are also concerned at the paucity of detailed information emanating from the investingating team.
"There is a joint ownership, it is not blood specific.  It has been suggested to me that the descendants are our constituents.  With the recovery work at Pheasant Wood, I would suggest that our constituents are the soldiers of Pheasant Wood," Lambis says.

"Each of the soldiers will receive the dignity of individual reburial and hopefully, their identity.  I believe that every effort should be made to identify as many of the soldiers as possible.  To that end, I suggest that, if  LGC Forensics don't get viable DNA from particular soldiers, then we should go back and re-sample them before their final burial.  I ask that a full range of samples be taken, including load bearing bones, for example the femur and toe, and that those samples be sent elsewhere for testing.  We can't be held back by a restrictive tender process, professional pride or the dollar.  We must do everything we possibly can to get viable DNA  from each set of remains.  We must maximise the chances of identification."

And that's  thre central question at this stage: are we doing everything to maximise the chances of identifying the remains found at Pheasant Wood?

Lambis again: "Given the veracity of the German list, I had hoped that donor samples could have been taken earlier.  Once the decision was made to recover, samples could have been taken and sent over for matching, prior to the sitting of the Panel and before the soldiers are reburied.  I'm not a descendant, however, if I was, I'd rather be given the opportunity to be there for the burial of my soldier, rather than be there for the changing of a headstone.  Maybe it has all been too hasty, too neat. The process continues, research is fluid and ongoing.  There has been a lot of speculation, perhaps misinformation, this has been amplified by what some might say is a lack of transparency and inclusiveness."
"We are guessing that the majority of the 250 recoveries are Australian, especially if the pattern of recovery from the first three pits was repeated in the remaining pits.  As was suggested, they were not all at Pheasant Wood.  The question of alternative sites is apparent.  It has been contended that there is an even bigger British site behind the Wick Salient.  If there are 25 British among the Pheasant Wood recoveries, there are as many as 306 ''missing'' British  from the 19-7-16 battle.  The ''missing'' of the 9-5-15 battle of Aubers Ridge are also to be considered."
Lambis and his team forced the hand of the bureaucrats over Pheasant Wood. They encountered a solid wall of negativity and skepticism when they initially tried to persude them to investigate their claims. Without their tenacity and the weight of their research, the Fromelles missing would still be languishing unrecognised behind the wood at the foot of the town.

The bureaucrats are now concerned that Pheasant Wood has set a precedent that could open the floodgates for other discoveries of war dead. To me that's not even a consideration: we have a unbreakable moral obligation to recover our war dead, to try every means within our power to identify them and to give them a dignified individual burial

Lambis has no doubt: "What I saw at Pheasant Wood was certainly very grim and confirmed for me that they were not at rest. We had to recover.  We have a moral obligation, it offers dignity, hope, identity, ownership and pilgrimage. If our ''missing'' can be found, they should be recovered. The passage of time has not diminished our obligation, our honouring of their sacrifice. They will be restored."

On a positive note, it's possible that Tim Whitford's great uncle, Harry Willis, may be one of those who is identified by DNA matching with his descendants. Harry Willis' medallion was one of the first artefacts found during the original non-invasive examination of the Pheasant Wood site in 2007 and was one of the items confirming the presence of Australian remains in the graves. The Army's team of experts has asked for DNA samples from Harry Willis' surviving niece, Tim Whitford's grandmother, Marjorie Whitford from Yarram, Victoria.

The Army is seeking comparative DNA samples from two of Harry's descendants: Marjorie Whitford and Harry Willis' nephew "young" Harry Willis from Melbourne. Tim Whitford reports: "The experts believe these two sources offer the best chance of getting a match, should our soldier-relative's remains produce viable DNA, now that he is out of the burial pit and into a temporary mortuary."

Tim was concerned that other surviving relatives may feel slighted and added: "Please don't think that the choosing of these two DNA donors detract from your own contributions or indicate a lesser relationship to our soldier uncle, far from it. The two donors are simply the closest and best sources of a match with either Mt DNA or Paternal DNA based on uninterrupted female-female-female line or the shortest possible male-male line. To those who have supported our search and fight for Harry in any way over the years, thanks so much."

Tim points out that although DNA testing brings no certainties, it takes the family another step closer to the resolution they've sought for more than 90 years.

Let's hope this signals a concerted effort by the Army's experts to exhaust every avenue possible - including modern and ancient DNA testing - to identify the missing so as many as possible can be buried under a named headstone next year on the anniversary of the battle, July 19 2010 at the new cemetery at Fromelles.

If you're a relative of one of the missing, please call the Army, between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday on 1800 019 090 and register your contact details so they can take DNA samples from you if needed.

Kokoda Spirit Officially Launched

Patrick's latest book, Kokoda Spirit, was launched in Melbourne today by one of the Kokoda Campaign's "Ragged Bloody Heroes' of the 39th Battalion, George Palmer.

Kokoda Spirit Launch PL George web.jpg

Speaking at the Old Observatory, near the Melbourne Shrine, George was joined by his old comrades, Alan 'Kanga' Moore, Peter Holloway and John Briscoe. George welcomed the book and paid tribute to his comrades who never returned home.

"It is an essential part of our heritage that this story is kept alive. We were a unit that was unprepared for warfare. We had very little training for what was ahead of us, having spent months unloading boats and digging fortifications," George said.

"However, the tremendous bond which was developed is exemplified by the magnificent pillars at the memorial at Isuurava. They are Sacrifice, Mateship, Courage and Endurance. Each pillar signifies the tremendous spirit of the soldiers battling under overwhelming odds.

"When I returned there a couple of years ago, I sat on a log looking back through the valley towards Kokoda. I felt a great sense of serenity and peace which was so different to where the terrible carnage occurred."

George said he hoped the book would bring he and his mates' experiences to every Australian home.

"The men of Kokoda drew on an inner spirit to withstand overwhelming odds and prevail against a formidable foe. This same spirit lives on today and I believe ordinary Australians can use it to overcome obstacles in their own lives. We have seen this in times of crisis when Australians have banded together and selflessly helped each other -times like the Bali Bombing, Cyclone Katrina and our recent bushfires. You don’t have to walk the Track to understand the spirit of Kokoda and use it in your own life," he said.

"When you read Kokoda Spirit, think of us in 1942. We were not trained for the events that overtook us. We had no experience of such situations. We had no expectations of what we would find or have to do. This is the true essence of what these events should tell us today. The resilient Australian Spirit is shown in this new book and it gives a more human story to the events. Other veterans and I still talk about events in the world as they happen. Our bond goes back to the “Track”."

Speaking at the launch, Patrick said that in the book, for the first time, he tried to capture the spirit of Kokoda in words and pictures

"Last year I was talking with my cherished friend, Stan Bisset, around the time that he turned 96. As we chatted I found myself marvelling at him … at his quiet modesty, his noble carriage, his boundless energy, his grace and his refusal to surrender an inch to father time," he said.

"I began to think of the other men of Kokoda I’d met over the years. And how many were of the same calibre as Stan … so many of them now gone  … Phil Rhoden, a cherished friend and mentor, Ralph Honner, a prince among men, Teddy Bear, Alan Avery, Chas Butler, Maurie Taafe, Sam and Charlie Pike, Harry Mortimore, Doug McLean, Laurie Howson, Stew Gedye, Spud Whelan and many more.

"I thought of those whom I never met but whose sacrifices created the Kokoda legend … Bruce Kingsbury, Charlie McCallum, Butch Bisset, Claude Nye and Lefty Langridge, John Metson, Sam Templeton, Bill Owen, Mocca Treacy, Bob Dougherty, Alan Haddy and so many others who now sleep at Bomana.

"And finally, I thought of those Kokoda men still with us, men who’ve become friends and who ensure the stories of their mates are passed on … George Palmer, Col Blume, Dud Warhurst, Bede Tongs, Arnold Forrester, Ken Phelan, J.D. McKay, Harry Barkla, Peter Holloway, Kanga Moore and many other wonderful characters.

"They were, and are, special people … from a remarkable generation of Australians.

“Interviewing the Diggers I became aware of the spirit they possessed. Some, like Ralph Honner and Phil Rhoden, could describe it beautifully. Others simply lived it.

"Ralph Honner described the superhuman performance of his young diggers of the 39th Battalion – men who had never fired a shot in anger before the cataclysmic battle at Isurava and yet were able to hold off a battle-hardened enemy that outnumbered them by six to one until they were reinforced: 'Indeed, the strangest feature of their story is that the weaker they became, the stronger and fiercer waxed their resolution to hold on at all costs until the long-promised relief should become a reality.  In the testing crucible of conflict, out of a welter of defeats and disasters, of mistakes and misfortunes, of isolated successes and precipitate withdrawals, they were transformed by some strong catalyst of the spirit into a devoted band wherein every man’s failing strength was fortified and magnified by a burning resolve to stick by his mates.'

"Phil Rhoden was the commander of the battalion which relieved Ralph Honner’s young men. Many years ago, I asked Phil to define the spirit that enabled the Australians to prevail on the Track. He thought about it for a long time and he said: 'Interdependence, one upon each other … the ability to fight on when there’s scarcely a breath left in your body … and, finally, respect for each other.'

"The story of the battles along the Kokoda Track and their importance to Australia is now comparatively well known.  The word Kokoda is recognised, indeed, revered by many Australians. And, after all these years, the men of Kokoda are receiving some recognition for their sacrifices and their achievements.

"Yet, still, I believe, there remains confusion about the spirit, which sustained these remarkable men. For a start, it won’t die with them. It’s a spirit we can all use today. The fact is that we’ll all walk our personal Kokoda Tracks at some time in our lives.  It may be the death of a loved one … the loss of a job … a marriage break-up … illness … a child battling an addiction.

“I received a wonderful bonus during the latter stages when I was once again chatting with Stan. I was showing him some of the shots I’d taken on the Track for the book when, out of the blue, he mentioned that he’d had a camera on the track.

"He completely gobsmacked me! I said ‘Stan I’ve known you 20 years and you’ve never mentioned that before.’ In his wonderfully understated way, he said ‘Yes, I don’t know where I got it from … Dad must have sent it up, I s’pose.’ When I asked whether he still had any of the shots, he asked his beloved Gloria and, twenty minutes later, Glor emerged with a box full of about 50 wonderful prints … some absolutely iconic.

"They’ve never been published before and they give the book a special insight, an aura … as do those given to me by other diggers, like George and Phil Rhoden’s widow Pat.

"I wrote this book … to explore the spirit that sustained these men; to celebrate it; and to try to bring it to life in words and images. I had a vision for this book – inspired by the works of Carla Coulson, Italian Joy and Paris Tango. I wanted try to express the spirit of Kokoda equally in words and pictures. I wanted the result to be unique among the works dealing with the subject.

"And the team from Hardie Grant has turned that vision into reality. I’m delighted with the production.

"It’s dedicated to Stan and Phil and George and all the men of Kokoda … and it’s aimed at all those who have walked the Track, following in their footsteps, or all those who wish they could walk it.

"I hope it does them, and the spirit of Kokoda justice."


The internationally acclaimed London Science Museum has announced that it will mount a special exposition next year featuring the Battle of Fromelles and the search at Pheasant Wood for the Australian and British dead buried by the Germans after the battle.

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In doing so the giant London organization has recognized the excellence of its tiny Fromelles counterpart by seeking permission to borrow some artefacts from the battle. (Some artefacts from the battlefield at the Fromelles Museum at left)

The small but superb Fromelles Musee de la Guerre, run by a local organisation called the Association pour le Souvenir de la Bataille de Fromelles, will provide a number of objects found on the battlefield.

The driving force behind the Fromelles Museum, Martial Delebarre, confirmed he had responded to the request suggesting four objects: a spoon from a British soldier; a Rising Sun Australian insignia; an imperial tobacco pipe; and a compass belonging to a British officer.

“I have sent photos of these objects to London. I am now waiting for their response. The objects will be lentprepared for 5 years, the length of the exposition,” he said.

M Delabarre added that the London Science Museum planned to dedicate one of its galleries to the search of Pheasant Wood, focusing on the identification, using DNA, of the remains of the exhumed Australian and British soldiers and Australian soldiers.

The Pheasant Wood resulted from a six-year quest by Australian amateur historian Lambis Englezos and his team of supporters, in Australia and overseas.

The Imperial War Museum is apparently also considering an exhibition on Fromelles. The hope is that these two expositions will coincide for several weeks around the time of the official commemoration of the new Fromelles village cemetery, on the 19th July next year. This cemetery will receive the exhumed remains of the Australian and British soldiers recently exhumed from the mass graves where they were buried by the Germans in the days following the battle on July 19 1916.

The news is a wonderful recognition of the work of those who have for so long fought to recover the Fromelles Missing and it’s a fitting honour for the Missing themselves and for their families, who have waited for almost a century for resolution.

Let’s hope it prompts the authorities to redouble their efforts to use all available means, especially DNA, to identify as many of the Missing as possible before next year’s re-interment so they can be buried under their names.

Kokoda Veteran to Launch 'Kokoda Spirit' Book

One of the 39th Battalion's 'Ragged Bloody Heroes', George Palmer, will launch Patrick's latest book, Kokoda Spirit, at the Old Melbourne Observatory on Tuesday November 10 at 10.30am.


George fought at the Battle of Isurava and later in the campaign. He is circled in the adjacent photo and is one of only two Diggers still with us from the famous Damien Parer photograph showing the young men of the 39th Battalion slogging their way through the mud up the Track heading for Kokoda.

Now, 88, George had just turned 21 when he and his mates faced the Japanese invaders. The 39th Battalion, brilliantly led by Lt Col Ralph Honner, was able to hold up the Japanese at Isurava against overwhelming odds. They held on just long enough to be reinforced by the 2/14th Battalion which had been rushed back from the Middle East to help defend Australia.

Kokoda Spirit explores the spirit that enabled the Diggers to finally prevail against the battle-hardened Japanese invaders, despite it being their baptism of fire and being out-gunned and out-numbered.


The book is a richly-illustrated production, featuring many photos taken by one of the heroes of the campaign, Stan Bisset, that have never before been published, along with scores of specially-taken images of the Track from Patrick and noted Australian photographer Ross Eason, giving the reader as close as possible an impression of the place and its aura.

The book also includes many aerial photos giving an unique view of the remarkable terrain and a special 'virtual trek' created with the help of cinematographer and trek leader Paul Croll.

The book will appeal to all those who have walked in the footsteps of the Diggers, those who are planning to do so and those who wonder what the Track's attraction is all about.