By Bruce Scates
Australians were making pilgrimages to the battlefields and cemeteries of worldwide struggle because the Nineteen Forties, from the jungles of recent Guinea and South-East Asia to the mountains of Greece and the deserts of North Africa. They commute looking for the tales of misplaced household, to mourn the lifeless and to return to grips with the previous. With attribute empathy, Bruce Scates charts the background of pilgrimages to Crete, Kokoda, Sandakan and Hellfire go. He explores the emotional resonance that those websites have should you served and people who have in mind. in response to surveys, interviews, large fieldwork and archival study, Anzac trips bargains insights into the tradition of loss and commemoration and the starvation for which means so pivotal to the event of pilgrimage. Richly illustrated with full-colour maps and images from the Nineteen Forties to at the present time, Anzac trips makes a massive and relocating contribution to Australian army historical past.
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37 38 Captivity Narratives young men cut off before they had reached their prime – and many of the lives could have been saved had the Nips been less brutal and had given us even a minimum of medical supplies. ’16 Babb may not have been an excitable Frenchman, but he was certainly enthralled by the journey. He describes his ‘elation’ at rediscovering ‘lost graves’, isolated cemeteries overgrown by the jungle, incorrectly recorded on prisoner maps or badly damaged by Allied bombing. He and his party wander far from the track and search the jungle for clues.
The graves of Sandakan, Ranau and the track were also cleared by conscript enemy labour, but those forces were soon evacuated to Japan or hastily despatched to the war crimes trials in Rabaul. Management of Borneo’s graveyards quickly fell to the War Graves units and its vast reserves of ‘coolie labour’. The greater number of troops stationed along the line meant that the process of repatriation was a much more lengthy and difficult business. Moreover the involvement of civilian labour – auxiliary staff managing the railway – lessened the stigma of ‘the enemy’ tending Allied graves.
Sticpewich admitted that he soon ‘felt the strain’ of the journey as he slipped down the same steep and muddy track he had trudged in 1945. Days began ‘with showers’ and ended with ‘heavy rain’. 5 In 1945 prisoners had lugged loads of rice and equipment across this impossible landscape. In 1945–46, and again in 1947, Sticpewich struggled to retrace the ground. The second of these searches was the most exhaustive. 6 Previous parties had wandered barely 20 metres from what remained of the rentis, the Malay term for the narrow and overgrown track.