I was a signalman during World War 2, a telephone linesman in Papua New Guinea and later in Borneo. My job was to run telephone lines up to units at the front. Our Commanding Officer, Warren Bennett was awarded the MBE, so we must have done something right.
In New Guinea the AIF 7th Division consisted of the 18, 21 and 25th Brigades. They had seen fighting in North Africa. At full strength a brigade had three battalions each of 700 men. 18 Brigade was deployed to Milne Bay, 21 and 25 to Port Moresby. 21 Brigade consisted of the 2/14 (Victorian), 2/16 (West Australian) and 2/27 (South Australian).
These seasoned troops were slow to get to New Guinea, Churchill had wanted them to stay in North Africa to protect the Suez Canal supply line rather than travel across the world to defend their homeland; and we had to ask the US for shipping.
Until the AIF turned up the Japanese advance over the Owen Stanley Ranges had been delayed by conscripts hastily assembled into militia units.
The 39 Battalion was one such unit.
At a signals reunion 40 years ago I ran into a fellow linesman who described getting a line to the beleaguered soldiers at the front.
He said he got to New Guinea before I did; and under orders he took a group of locals to carry the line and headed toward Kokoda.
He put a line through to 39 Battalion, a single D3 cable with earth return. The earth return was wire wrapped around a bayonet pushed into the ground.
Bert Kenzala owner of the rubber plantation at Kokoda rang through this only line to report the dry Myola Lake was a good dropping zone for the 2/14 and 2/16 Battalions.
Norm Ensor is Senior Vice President of the 7th Division Association and a committee member of the Battle for Australia Association.