THE 39th BATTALION PARADE AT MENARI- 5 September 1942
The village of Menari is located a few hours walk from Brigade Hill.
Following the withdrawal of Australian troops down the Kokoda Track, the Australian force commander, Brigadier Arnold Potts prepared to make a stand against the advancing Japanese forces at Brigade Hill. As he prepared for the immanent battle Potts found time to pass his congratulations on to Colonel Honner, the officer commanding the 39th Battalion (Militia) regarding the performance of that battalion.
The 39th had just been withdrawn from the frontline at Mission Ridge, the approach to Brigade Hill after being replaced by much needed fresh troops.
They had been in continuous action for five weeks. Their strength on 27th July was 470 and by 2nd September, just five weeks later it was down to 180, of which 90 were ill. It was these remnants of the 39th that paraded at Menari.
Colonel Honner relayed the message personally to the men of the battalion on a clearing at Menari. Damien Parer, the Australian cinematographer was present as the soldiers formed into what was left of their companies. An officer of the 39th asked if the men should clean themselves up prior to hin starting filming. Parer however, knew the importance of the moment and insisted that history should see these men as they were.......Ragged bloody heroes, many only boys wearing tattered uniforms, odd boots, hollow eyes, button-less shirts supported by makeshift crutches and leaning on each other to remain standing. Instead of rifles, which they passed on to those of the 27thbattalion passing to the front, they were holding sticks that they had used for support during their trek back to the frontline.
Colonel Honner addressed his troops; congratulated and praised them for the fine work they had done and said that all of the Australian Army was proud of them. At these words there was a stirring among the ranks of the 39th. Here was an affirmation that the AIF was proud of them, claiming them as Brothers in Arms. This was wonderful news indeed for these weary Militia soldiers.
Colonel Honner continued “for the rest of your days, you will be able to recall these days with the warmth and the knowledge that when the heat was on, you did not buckle, did not take a backwards step. None of us will forget our fallen comrades, but your own efforts have ensured that they will not have died in vain….”
Damien Parer, with his hand-held movie camera recorded for future generations, in both film and frame of that film, that special moment. A parade comprising young battle weary exhausted Militia men at a small clearing at the village of Menari, behind the Australian lines on the Kokoda Track.