Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel

Papuans living in the villages along the Kokoda Track prior to the Second World War (1939 - 45) lived a wholly traditional existence. Their only previous contact with the modern world had come with the occasional visits of Australian Government patrol officers. They knew nothing of the war or the nature of modern warfare, until it came crashing into their villages in July 1942.

Both Australian and Japanese soldiers trampled crops, destroyed huts and stole food. Terrified villagers fled into the jungle to escape the destructive battles and air raids which followed on the heels of the troops. Villages were destroyed and many villagers were killed, injured or mistreated.

PAPUA. SANANANDA AREA. MUCH HAS BEEN SAID OF THE INVALUABLE HELP WHICH THE NEW GUINEA NATIVES GIVE THE ALLIED TROOPS. THIS PICTURE SHOWS NATIVES CARRYING OUT ALLIED WOUNDED AND THE NATURE OF THE COUNTRY FROM WHICH THEY EVACUATED THE ALLIED CASUALTIES. (NEGATIVE BY BOTTOMLEY).

The Papuans were recruited to work as labourers, carriers and scouts for both sides and executed their tasks in conditions of extreme heat and wet. Teams of carriers brought Australian supplies to the frontlines and carried seriously wounded and sick soldiers back over the track to Owers’ Corner.

In retrospect the Papuans had little reason to be loyal to their Australian colonial masters, who often treated them as second class citizens in their own country. Nonetheless many worked until they dropped. It is said that no living soldier was ever abandoned by the carriers, not even during heavy combat. Their compassion for the wounded and sick earned them the eternal gratitude of the Australian soldiers, who called them ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’

Men like Captain Bert Kienzle had the ability to communicate and understand the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and did much work not only to secure the Austrlalian carrier lines but to also to ensure that the Papuan carriers welfare was looked after. To his credit, Bert was put to constant use by his superiors in planning military and logistical strategies and it was he who helped reduce the number of desertions of Papuan carriers who trusted him above all others when he explained why they were needed in this war that was not of their making.

Sapper Bert Beros wrote what is perhaps the most famous Australian poem of the Second World War (1939 - 45) while serving on the Kokoda Track. It may never have been printed but for the fact that an officer sent a copy home to his mother and she was so impressed that she had it published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail.

'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels'

Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track

For they haven't any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse

Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It's a picture worth recording
that an artist's yet to paint

Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track

May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

Sapper Bert Beros

NX6925, 7th Australian Division, Royal Australian Engineers

"When I was young, I was going to Port Moresby, looking for work, in 1942. The Japanese dropped a bomb and started to fight with the Australian Army. The Japanese dropped more and more bombs. So I ran away from Port Moresby to Naduri. The Australians were at Uberi and Owers' Corner, near Sogeri. Their camps moved to Iorabaiwa, Naoro, Menari, Efogi and Kagi. It was a bad time. My father was a police man. There was a store for food and shells at Myola Lake . The Australians moved on to Isurava and Kokoda. The Japanese were camped at Buna and were moving down to the Australians who had to move back to Iorabaiwa again. The Australians fought back and pushed out the Japanese and won. The war was finished and the Japanese ran away to Buna. The fighting damaged all of our food gardens for the village people of Kagi and Naduri. We had no money. It took hard work, at a bad time. I keep the medal for my father now. 1942-1945 is a bad time." Ovuru Indiki.

-Neil Sharkey

NATIVE BEARERS (POPULARLY KNOWN AS FUZZY WUZZY ANGELS) WALK LONG DISTANCES CARRYING HEAVY LOADS OF SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT FOR AUSTRALIAN TROOPS.