Kokoda veteran’s stories recorded for local history project
Read how a local World War Two hero gave a special interview to the City of Marion.
This article appears in City Limits magazine - Issue 50 - December 2015.
A 95-year-old veteran of World War Two has told his dramatic story of survival on the Kokoda Track in an on-camera interview to the City of Marion.
John Heard’s recollections of the 1942 campaign against Japanese forces in Papua New Guinea has been recorded as part of a project to preserve first-hand accounts of historical events and honour the memories of local servicemen.
The former signalman and Sturt resident also described “going for an impromptu swim” after being on the cargo ship Costa Rica when it was sunk by German aircraft off the coast of Greece.
Mr Heard enlisted in the army in May 1940, aged 20, and was assigned to 1st Australian Corps Signals where he was promoted to Corporal.
After serving in the Greek and Syrian campaigns, in 1942 Mr Heard was in the midst of fighting on the 92-kilometre Kokoda track.
“We were on the Kokoda Track laying cables… the wires kept shorting due to the green sappy plants and we were on short rations of bully beef and a packet of biscuits shared by three men per day,” he said.
“I ended up walking back to Port Moresby for medical treatment to prevent a cut becoming infected… hearing crunches in the undergrowth in front of me and finding the boot print of a Japanese soldier… we didn’t have time to be scared.”
Mr Heard’s involvement in World War Two ended after being shipped back to Australia for treatment for fungal infections where he was daubed in coloured ointments, earning him the nickname of the ‘Painted Man’.
After the war, Mr Heard became a Major in the regular army and worked as a lighthouse keeper and book keeper.
He and his wife Joanne recently celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.
The recordings of Mr Heard and three other World War Two veterans will be available at the Marion Heritage Research Centre in early 2016.
The project is supported through a $2700 grant from the Department of Veterans' Affairs Saluting Their Service Commemorative Grants Program.
The City of Marion is seeking additional grant funding to convert the raw footage into a documentary.
More information is available from the Marion Heritage Research Centre on 7420 6455 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
City Limits Magazine
The City Limits Magazine is a community publication that keeps Marion residents in touch with what is happening in their community. It includes information about major projects, council initiatives and events, as well as profiles of community members.
It is published three times a year and distributed to 40,000 residents and businesses in the Marion Council area.