Navy mates spend Anzac Day in Kokoda

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Natalie Staples (author)

Location(s): Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Kokoda, Papua New Guinea

Lieutenant Commander Richard Brickacek and Chief Petty Officer Richard Kamprad pose for a photograph on the Kokoda track. (photo: Unknown)
Lieutenant Commander Richard Brickacek and Chief Petty Officer Richard Kamprad pose for a photograph on the Kokoda track.

Two best mates from the Royal Australian Navy have walked the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea, in homage to those who fought in the area during the Second World War.

Lieutenant Commander Richard Brickacek and Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Manager Mine Warfare Richard Kamprad finished the nine-day hike in time to attend the Anzac Day service at Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby.

Both said the experience gave them an appreciation of the difficulties troops had endured 74 years ago.

Lieutenant Commander Brickacek said the trip "was a bucket list" item for him. 

"I have always thought of Kokoda as the equivalent of Australia's Second World War version of Gallipoli: what happened there and our commitment," he said.

"Walking the route of the conflict, it was incredible to think what it would have been like without modern boots, medicine and equipment.

"Having the constant threat of the Japanese and battling with malaria and dysentery, it would have been incredibly gruelling."

The walk was personal for Chief Petty Officer Kamprad, his grandfather, Corporal David Crow, served in the area.

"He was a stretcher bearer and his brother-in-law was a signalman," Chief Petty Officer Kamprad said. 

"While my grandfather survived Kokoda, he passed away when I was two years old. 

"I never got to know him and I never got to sit down and have a beer with him so I thought this was a good way to pay my respects.

The pair finished the 96-kilometre hike on the evening before Anzac Day.

Both said seeing the dawn break over Bomana War Cemetery on 25 April was unforgettable.

"It was an amazing sight; there was a lone piper on the hill whose music echoed down the valley to the memorial service.

"The wet grass, the overhanging tropical trees and being surrounded by 3,824 graves - 699 of them unmarked - was incredible," Chief Petty Officer Kamprad said.

Lieutenant Commander Brickacek said three graves were individually lit and the stories of some of those involved in the conflict were recounted to the crowd of 3,500. 

"The service was absolutely brilliant; it wasn't only front line personnel but also profiles of people from Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and Australia who performed different roles.

"Highlighting the individuals really personalised the service and drove the bigger picture home," Lieutenant Commander Brickacek said.

"It was also special to see the camaraderie between the different countries and the pride the Papua New Guinea military have.

"I don't think this year's Anzac Day can be beaten and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who is interested in learning about Kokoda and understanding all sides of the conflict."

The Kokoda Track was the location of the 1942 battle between Japanese and primarily Australian forces in what was then the Australian territory of Papua. 

Bomana is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemetery in the Pacific.