Excerpt from “Those Ragged Bloody Heroes” by Peter Brune ~~Golden Stairs~~

picture-RaggedBloodyHeroes-BruneFrom Uberi lay an extremely hard day’s march to Ioribaiwa. Distance, so the soldier would quickly learn, was to be measured not in miles but by the number of gruelling hours’ marching with, of course, usually a 65-pound pack and a weapon to carry. Many men quickly acquired a body-length stick to assist them in their labours. Such a stick was to become a trade mark of the appearance of troops on the Kokoda Trail. The first day’s march across the mountains began with a mile’s rough journey beside the Goldie River, and then a steep and daunting climb up a razorback spur on the Imita Ridge. The soldier was confronted by the first, but by no means the last, excruciating ascent on the Trail – the Golden Stairs.
The Golden Stairs consisted of several thousand logs of wood pushed into the ascent and held in place by wooden pegs. Filthy, putrid mud constituted the rest of the ‘step’. At some points the exposed roots of trees formed the steps thereby making them irregular in distance and shape and often harder to climb, especially for shorter men. The stairs became permanently sodden and slippery because of the daily rains that soaked and saturated the jungle. Men fell, banged knees, shins and ankles on the exposed log steps, gave vent to their anger and struggled agonisingly to their feet; and orderly progress became impossible.
Lieutenant Hugh Dalby, 39th Battalion:
They were so steep . . . We soon had it worked out that instead of trying to walk over the mountain range in sections as we started off doing, and nearly killed ourselves, the next day we set off at intervals . . . So you might be five minutes getting rid of your men. But instead of getting to the next staging place at five o’clock at night when it was dark and have people out looking for you, you’d get there at two in the afternoon because you weren’t hampered by this stop start, stop start.
Periodically the soldier would catch and clutch at a glimmer of hope through the foliage – sky. The top of the ascent was near, extra strength was summoned; the ultimate exhausting effort was put forth; the Golden Stairs were beaten. But the beguiling point of success was repeatedly found to be a false crest and the daunting reality that there were many hundreds of steps still to climb became evident. When the summit was eventually reached, to reveal that the distant horizon bounded a succession of ridges and valleys all of which appeared as formidable as the one just conquered, the true proportion of the torture of the Kokoda Trail began to appall even the toughest soldier.

Soldiers and a native bearer climb the Golden Stairs rising towards Imita Ridge

Soldiers and a native bearer climb the Golden Stairs rising towards Imita Ridge

picture-KokodaTrail-ImitaRidge

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Those Ragged Bloody Heroes” by Peter Brune ~~Golden Stairs~~

  1. “Those Ragged Bloody Heroes” was published in 1991.

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