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Blog: Brutal simplicity tells story of war dead

on 16/07/2019

The Prime Minister has concluded her visit to Papua New Guinea, paying her respects to Australian soldiers who died there during the Second World War.

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She’s visited a war cemetery on the outskirts of Port Moresby, the Bomana war cemetery, from where SBS Correspondent, Richard Davis filed this blog.

The Prime Minister paused at the headstone.

“Wow” she said, “just 28”.

Surrounded by thousands of soldiers’ graves, she read the inscription.

“Corporal John French VC, age 28.”

Corporal French was posthumously awarded a VC for extreme courage under fire during the Kokoda conflict. It’s said that during the Battle of Isuvara, he killed 30 Japanese soldiers, firing his Bren machine gun from the hip before he was killed by a sniper’s bullet.

After touring the cemetery of more than three thousand gleaming white headstones, Julia Gillard shared her thoughts with journalists.

‘The tropical setting – the lush setting – is such a stark contrast to the headstones behind us, so the brutal simplicity of it really brings the message home very clearly .“

She paid tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of Australian forces who stopped the Japanese from reaching the strategically important city of Port Moresby.

“We are really commemorating the sacrifice that made our nation the safe place that it is today”, she said.

The manager of the cemetery, Jason Daniels says it’s the largest war cemetery in the Pacific, and has the highest number of Australian war dead buried anywhere in the world.

And it’s growing slowly.

The remains of many Australian soldiers are still missing, and every now and then they are found and new graves are dug.

Before she left the cemetery, the Prime Minister paused to write in the visitors’ book.

She wrote, “we remember and marvel at the courage and sacrifice”.


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