ICONIC HISTORY: The Kakoda Track is well remembered as icon for grim jungle warfare in New Guinea.
ICONIC HISTORY: The Kakoda Track is well remembered as icon for grim jungle warfare in New Guinea.

Clive conquers Kokoda Track

AFTER the realisation that their wedding may not take place a friend came to their rescue.

Clive and Margaret Drew were married in a private home, with only one of their family present.

It was wartime and Clive's battalion was camped at Caboolture but, within two weeks, the order came they were to go to New Guinea.

The adventure started when their ship, the Vanderline, reached Townsville and collided with an American vessel.

All the troops were asleep as the ship tipped to one side. It received a hole in the side just above the waterline.

As the lights had gone out, the crew, thinking it was sinking, abandoned ship leaving the soldiers to fend for themselves. However they came back when they could see it was not going to sink and later the vessel limped into Townsville.

The troops slept ashore that night and the next day they boarded another ship and were soon in Port Moresby.

Clive and the other soldiers were issued with jungle equipment and the next morning they were transported over the hills to where the walk started.

They were now on the Kokoda Track to experience the worst conditions in New Guinea.

They climbed mountains all day and were utterly exhausted by night fall.

They had to sleep in the mud and then do another day of mountain climbing.

By the third day they sighted the Japanese and, early next morning, they attacked.

The Australian troops had to retreat to Imita and, from then on, began to push back the enemy forces.

For three months they pushed the Japanese back along the Kokoda Track.

After they reached Gona the Army decided they couldn't finish off the enemy.

There were many soldiers sick, wounded and weak.

There were only 123 men left out of their battalion of 1000.

Clive remembered they only collected about 30 per cent of the food dropped by plane.

They were struggling to carry all the gear as well as their very ill or wounded mates on stretchers.

They trudged through heavy rain and slippery mud, suffering from weakness and malaria.

The sick and exhausted were told to make their own way back to Poppendetta where a plane could land to pick them up.

There was no help and Clive had to crawl some of the way determined not to miss the flight.

Soon they were back in Port Moresby.

They recuperated for a month as the war went on.

Clive was getting sicker and weaker.

He and three mates went back to the doctor and found after a blood test that they had "scrub typhus”.

They were sent to a hospital where the other three men died.

Clive drifted into a coma and it was three weeks before he knew where he was.

However he was paralysed from the waist down, as were his arms.

Eventually he was sent by hospital ship to Brisbane and transferred to Downlands Hospital in Toowoomba.

Margaret resigned her teaching post in Tara and took up residence near the hospital.

They remained there for eight months before Clive was transferred to Greenslopes Hospital in Brisbane as the doctors were concerned realising his legs were still paralysed.

Margaret stayed as close as possible encouraging and feeding her husband.

Gradually he improved and gained a little more movement to his limbs.

The doctors didn't think he would walk again.

Finally in December 1943, Clive was discharged after spending 12 months in hospitals though he was very thin and had to use crutches, he and Margaret returned to Dalby.

A year later they were in their own home in Myall St.

Clive was to fully recover and spend the nine decades of his life in the town.

He was fully involved in business, social and even civic affairs while raising his family and tending his beautiful garden.

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