The Australian High Commissioner and the Head of Australian Defence Staff in Papua New Guinea, joined the local community in Sanananda to unveil a plaque commemorating the 180 men who were left wounded, killed or missing after fierce fighting that took place between Nov 1942 and Jan 1943 in the area.
The visit saw the delegation travelling to Buna for a tour of World War II sites. They then joined the local community at Sanananda for a moving commemorative service and the plaque unveiling.
The service was attended by 21 relatives and descendants of the ‘Mice of Moresby’, many of whom have never travelled to Papua New Guinea before. They were also joined by members of the local community, including Ananias Mongagi and his son Frank.
Mongagi has a unique history with Australia, as he was present at the initial unveiling of a plaque in 1973, when a small group of veterans from the 55/53 Battalion came to Oro to remember their fallen brothers. They were led by Frank Budden, who had served as an officer during the war. Mongagi was so affected by his experience at the service that he named his unborn son Frank, in honour of Budden.
Australia’s friendship with Papua New Guinea is built on people to people links, and the story of the 55/53 Battalion and Mongagi and Budden in a small village in Oro is one of so many stories of the connections between the countries.
The tour was supported by David Howell, ‘Kokoda Historical’ cofounder, guide and historian, and the descendants group was led by Rob Denny, President of the Mice of Moresby Association.
(The local community and the Australian delegation at the commemoration and plaque unveiling)