A gruelling section of the Kokoda Trail, dubbed by sardonic Australian troops as the ‘golden staircase’, has been rediscovered. NSW Liberal politician Charlie Lynn [right] says he and a team of PNG locals made the discovery with the aid of global positioning satellite technology, World War II survey maps and local knowledge.
Time has destroyed the 3,000 metre-wide wooden steps that presented exhausted soldiers with a final obstacle before heading into battle at Imita Ridge, where commanders ordered them to repel the Japanese or die trying.
“This is a very significant find,” Lynn said. “The staircase was the last stand for the Aussies, where they prepared to fight to the death. When you see the terrain, it’s just incredible stuff.”
But Kokoda Trail historian Soc Kienzle – whose father Bert helped organise and maintain the lifeline provided by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – said he’d heard similar claims before. There’s been all sorts of varying claims, about varying tracks. I’ll check this out with my maps,” he said. “But I welcome anything Charlie does to reopen the original war trail.”
“The golden stairs consisted of steps varying from ten to eighteen inches in height. The front edge of the step was a small log held by stakes. Behind the log was a puddle of mud and water. Some of the stakes had worked loose, leaving the logs slightly tilted. Anyone who stood on one of these skidded and fell with a whack in the mud, probably banging his head against a tree or being hit on the head with his own rifle. Those who had no sticks soon acquired them, not only to prevent falls, but allow the arms to help the legs, especially with the higher steps. After the first half dozen steps, it became a matter of sheer determination forcing the body to achieve the impossible. It was probably the weight more than the climb, though the climb would have been enough to tire even a lightly loaded man. The rear companies, where the going is always hardest, took twelve hours to complete nine miles” - WB Russell, 2/14th Battalion