The Kokoda challenge comes to the Coast
By ED SOUTHORN
MIAMI Bushland "veterans" Gary Height and Peter Scott are in training for their next challenge.
It's the 96km inaugural Kokoda Challenge bushwalk, paying tribute to the efforts of the 53rd Australian Militia Battalion during the New Guinea campaign in WWII.
The trek through the Gold Coast hinterland on July 16 and 17 aims to cover the same distance as the Kokoda Track and has attracted national interest.
Fresh from spearheading the successful public campaign to preserve the Miami Bushland from private development, Miami residents Gary and Peter have now joined forces with Tweed medicos Peter Harrington and Peter Comben in Team 53rd Battalion for the marathon walk.
The Kokoda Challenge Association is raising funds via the walk to enhance awareness among young Australians of the WWII Pacific campaign, to enable high school students to walk the Kokoda Track and to provide aid to descendants of the New Guinea "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels" who assisted the Australians along the track in the war.
Team 53rd Battalion, sponsored by the James Frizelle Auto Group and Waterworks Pty Ltd, has been training to complete the walk in the time allowed, but doesn't expect to threaten the Ar- my/Navy parachute instructors team from HMAS Albatross or the Queensland Ambulance paramedics.
Gary and Peter said they were honored to have Gold Coaster Clarrie Meredith, a veteran of the 53rd's Kokoda campaign, as their team patron.
The 53rd Battalion was formed in October, 1941 from young conscripts. After less than three months of limited training, they sailed for Moresby.
Corporal Clarrie Meredith received his baptism of fire when the push against the invading Japanese came in August, 1942. In one action, eight officers and 120 soldiers of the 53rd were killed or wounded.
By the time the 53rd had gone on to further battles at Sanananda, it had been reduced from 220 members to only 36.
They had played a huge role in turning the tide against the Japanese, contributing significantly to denying Port Moresby, and Australia, to Japanese occupation. Following promotion to Sergeant, Clarrie Meredith saw further active service on Bougainville, then returned to Australia as an Infantry Training Instructor until the end of the war.
Clarrie and his wife Olwyn have been married for 60 years.
Readers can support the Kokoda Challenge via Nerang RSL Sub Branch, or go to kokodachallenge.com