Australian New Zealand Army Corp….the coming of two countries and their armed forces who fought with the British and the Americans to keep our respective countries free. Not only WW1 and WW2 but also Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Afghanistan and all the countries that need help due to unrest, such as Timor, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and several others, just to name a few we have proudly taken part in.
My Uncles all fought in the WW2 on the Kokoda Trail and surrounding mountains of New Guinea. My favourite uncle, Uncle Greg, suffered severe post trauma for many years on his return. Back then they didn’t really recognise this as a condition that should be treated though….so he suffered in silence. His nightmares were so horrendous, he slept in a small cottage some distance from my grandparents’ homestead on their central Queensland property, so that the rest of the family would not hear his screams during the night. His faint screams heard from the homestead could at times be mistaken for a bullock calling to the rest of the herd.
One of my cousins Neville and I were apt to go on night adventures when the rest of the household was snoring. We were terrified the first time we heard his screams and moans up close. Being foolhardy young ten year olds, we inched closer to the cottage as we tracked the sounds, and peered through the small window into his bedroom. Uncle Greg was writhing in agony, covered in perspiration, clutching his bedclothes and screaming pitifully as the nightmare progressed.
The next morning while helping with the milking, we decided to ask about his time during the war, a subject not usually spoken about by any of our family. It was regarded as a non-negotiable discussion. A look of agony and despair crossed his brown lined face fleetingly, but then he nodded and indicated that we should pull up some stools from the dairy and sit with him. Rolling a cigarette, Uncle Greg considered his words carefully. He told us how as the leader of his platoon, he was responsible for the lives of many Aussie soldiers as well as the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’. They were the New Guinea natives who worked tirelessly and devotedly helping our men wade through raging rivers, muddy jungles and up and down mountains during their battles against the Japanese invaders.
Notably they would help in transporting stores and equipment over the rough terrain. A close relationship and bonds of friendship developed between these local men and the Australians, particularly when the sick and wounded required transporting back to field aid stations.
They were the unsung heroes. Uncle Greg was devastated and heartbroken when he watched a group of his loyal native soldiers gunned down ruthlessly by a Japanese unit.
A lot is said every year on ANZAC Day about Gallipoli and fair enough as that was a bitter battle with the loss of many lives also, but it would be a good thing if more was told and remembered of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and the Aussie soldiers who lived and died in most inhumane conditions closer to home.
I found this poem recently which tells about the fears and prayers of every Australian mother, wife and sister of the young brave Aussies fighting a dirty war in a muddy, steamy hot country riddled with malaria and similar diseases the boys would come back with and suffer from for the rest of their short lives. Not many lived long after their stint in PNG.
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels
Many a mother in Australia when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered on the Owen Stanley Track.
For they haven’t any halos only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off and as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in the bad places on the awful mountain track
They look upon their faces would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording that an artist’s yet to paint
Many a lad will see his mother and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors at the bottom of the track
May the mothers of Australia when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.
– Bert Beros
My Uncle Greg died when I was still a child – thankfully he lived long enough to be there for me when my mother died. Without Uncle Greg I would have been unable to comprehend why I was losing my beloved mother at such a young age. He was a great comfort always to me, and to my cousins. I think now though that it’s a shame we could not be more of a comfort to him while he suffered from his memories and nightmares of his days in the New Guinea mountains and jungles. He lives on in my memory and always will be in my heart.
Tagged: Papua New Guinea