75 years ago there was genuine relief on two special days in 1945. On May 8 it was all over in Europe, VE day. “Victory in Europe” – Hitler was dead and Australians serving there could come home. Then, 15 August marked VP or VJ Day – “Victory in the Pacific” (or over Japan). Thus, Australians serving in this theatre of war could also come home but the fate of some bushwalkers on active service was unknown as they were POWs (Prisoners of War).
World War 2 (WWII) was a different war for Australia compared to WWI. The enemy was at our doorstep in New Guinea and nearby islands with multiple bombing raids on Darwin and other towns of the top end. New Guinea was more than the Kokoda Track as the Japanese proved difficult to dislodge from many outposts.
At least 172 bushwalkers, men and women enlisted to meet this threat. Our small nation of 7 million eventually had over 950,000 citizens in uniform. Bushwalkers were spread through all three services of army, navy and air force. Sadly, some bushwalkers were lost or became POWs in the ill-fated defence of Singapore with its surrender on 15 February 1942.
All POWs were not accounted for until well towards Christmas 1945 when finally, the bushwalking clubs could do a final count of their losses. Thirteen (13) bushwalkers would never return to join their families and bushwalking friends. The thirteen were remembered with short biographies in the 1946 Bushwalker annual magazine but what about a permanent memorial to honour their memory?
While we now know that these bushwalkers are remembered at Splendour Rock this initially was not an obvious choice. A memorial park was even considered on Narrow Neck.
When Splendour Rock was dedicated on ANZAC Day 1948 access to this site was much more difficult than today. However, the bushwalking clubs had chosen well. Splendour Rock is unique. There is nothing quite like it elsewhere in Australia or NZ to honour fallen bushwalkers (trampers).
So, 2020 is an appropriate time to update existing information on these fallen bushwalkers. In 1945, the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs (now Bushwalking NSW) was far smaller than today so their loss was keenly felt. Some special bushwalkers never came back.
Take a moment to view this revised file here of these FALLEN BUSHWALKERS then reflect – “LEST WE FORGET”