Seventy-seven years ago, the sounds of machine gun fire and exploding grenades were common place throughout the Owen Stanley Ranges in the Papua New Guinea highlands.
Today the only physical evidence of this brutal conflict is decaying plane wreckages and slowly caving bunkers that were once home to Australian soldiers.
Keeping this important part of history alive is the healthy flow trekkers that brave the mountains that reach though clouds, treacherous tree roots and ever-present monsoonal rains.
From 11-21 August, five members of the Australian Defence Force Diving School retraced the battle fields of Papua New Guinea, embarking on a pilgrimage that saw them cover 156 kilometres along the Kokoda Trail, culminating at the village of Kokoda.
The primary reason for this pilgrimage was to support Rare Cancers Australia in their efforts to raise much-needed funds to continue supporting victims of rare cancers and raise awareness of these insidious diseases.
One of the Navy trekkers, Chief Petty Officer Cameron Schmid, said he was motivated to do the fundraiser after losing his father, grandmother and grandfather to various forms of rare cancers.
“So far, we’ve raised more than $20,000 and donations are still coming in,” Chief Petty Officer Schmid said following the trek.
“It was a great achievement by everyone and we also appreciated the opportunity to engage with cancer survivors through our participation with Rare Cancers Australia.
“The trek was actually even harder than I thought it would be, and there was definitely a sense of satisfaction at the end.
“It was nice to be able to share the experience with other trekkers as we all gained a better understanding of what our Aussie diggers and their Papua New Guinean comrades did during the Second World War,” Chief Petty Officer Schmid said.
Able Seaman Josh Lee also had personal motivation for doing the fundraising trek.
“Doing the Kokoda Trek was something I’d always wanted to do, but on a more personal level, I wanted to help out.
“I recently lost my grandfather to cancer, so this was a mixture of being able to help raise money for the cause and also ticking an item off my bucket list.
“It was really good to be able to achieve the trek with my colleagues and we had a lot of support with the fundraising,” Able Seaman Lee said.
This experience was also very special for Able Seaman Steve Palu, who on the 77th anniversary of the conflict was the first returning member of his family to visit the final resting place of his great great uncle, Gunner Benjamin Walter Webb.
Gunner Webb was killed in action on 23 October 1942 at Eora Creek, and was finally buried at Bomana War Cemetery.
To support Rare Cancers Australia visit www.rarecancers.org.au.