Deniki, a small village located about eight kilometres south of Kokoda,was the seventh staging post on the Kokoda Track.
Higher than Kokoda, it was possible from Deniki to see into the Yodda Valley and discern Kokoda and its nearby airstrip.
Deniki figured prominently in the history of the 39th Battalion.
Station 15 – Key access point to Kokoda
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Deniki, a small village located about eight kilometres south of Kokoda,was the seventh staging post on the Kokoda Track. Higher than Kokoda, it was possible from Deniki to see into the Yodda Valley and discern Kokoda and its nearby airstrip. Deniki figured prominently in the history of the 39th Battalion. It was to this area that the elements of the battalion that had been engaged at Oivi withdrew on 27 July 1942. Here they met up with Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Owen and the small force that had withdrawn from Kokoda. Together the troops returned briefly to Kokoda before again withdrawing to Deniki after a short engagement on 28 July which saw the death of Lieutenant Colonel Owen.
Gradually the various companies of the battalions arrived at Deniki after marching over the Kokoda Track. By 6 August there were over 600 troops including about 40 from the Papuan Infantry Battalion. On 4 August Major Alan Cameron, the Brigade Major of the 30 Brigade, (of which the 39th Battalion was part) arrived to take command of the 39th Battalion. He ordered an attack to regain Kokoda, but the main part of his force was halted north of Deniki. The following day the Japanese attacked Deniki without success. It was not until 13 August that all the companies that had been deployed to attack Kokoda had returned to Deniki.
The previous two weeks had been a trying time for the young soldiers of the 39th Battalion. Some companies had an average age of only eighteen. The soldiers were tired and short of food but put up a firm defence when the Japanese attacked again on 13 August. When the Japanese attack eased, however, Major Cameron decided to withdraw his battalion up the hill to Isurava and the troops were in their new positions by the end of the day.
It might be wondered why the Japanese had not pushed their attacks with more persistence. The initial force that landed at Buna and Gona on 22 July had however, been tasked only to carry out a reconnaissance to the foothills. On 28 July Tokyo ordered the Japanese commander at Rabaul to send additional forces to Papua to advance over the Owen Stanley Range and seize Port Moresby. These forces, which together formed the South Seas Force under Major General Horii, began to arrive at Buna in mid and late August. By 26 August
Major-General Horii had some 13,500 troops of whom some 10,000 formed a well-balanced fighting group consisting of five infantry battalions, mountain and anti-aircraft artillery, engineers and pioneers. They were supported by native carriers. The 39th Battalion had been forced back from Kokoda to Deniki and then to Isurava by a well experienced and stronger Japanese battalion with engineer support, but was soon to face attack from a much larger force.
During the counter-offensive in October and November there was no fighting at Deniki. After the hard fought battle at Eora Creek the Japanese withdrew and on 2 November the leading units of the 2/31st Battalion passed through Deniki and entered Kokoda.
Wounded members of the 39th Infantry Battalion making their way back to the base hospital. To reach the hospital area they had to walk for nearly six days through thick jungle. This iconic image is one of similar scenes that is reproduced in the Walkway's Education Centre. (AWM 026319)
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner C.O. 39th Battalion. The Walkway's Kokoda Education Centre is named in honour of Honner. (Image: 'Those Ragged Bloody Heroes' by Peter Brune)
Four spotters from the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company (NGAWW) sitting by their tent. Identified, left to right: R Pardy; S Savage; B P (Spud) Murphy MM, and C Turnbull MM. Note the strain and exhaustion showing on the last two men, this is because they are being relieved at Kokoda after having been through the entire Kokoda campaign. Murphy and Turnbull relieved the spotters at Kokoda only hours before the Japanese overran the location. They remained on duty continuously, often under fire, often without rations for days, passing their own signal traffic [transmitting messages] and that of the 2/21st Infantry Brigade. They needed to move their station on at least six occasions before they finally lost their transmitter to gunfire at Deniki. Both were awarded the Military Medals for ‘Courage and resourcefulness at Kokoda in July 1942’. (AWM P01035.002)
November 1942. Looking northward over a native grass hut towards the Yodda Valley and Kokoda which is some 3,000 feet below and obscured by the roof of the hut. Australian soldiers, who are members of the 2/4th Field Ambulance, and native Papuan carriers rest briefly at the hut as they make their way along the Kokoda Trail from Alola to Kokoda. (AWM P02424.101)
A group of Papuan natives (the legendary Fuzzy Wuzzy angels) carry supplies along the Track. It was noted at the time that 'one "boy" usually carries about 50lbs [23kgs] weight, and two "boys" can manage about 70lbs [32kgs]'. Carrying such weights (and also carrying wounded troops to medical stations) in the slippery and challenging conditions earned the highest praise from Australian forces. (AWM 013004)
Australian troops baking over and open fire, making 'austerity cakes' made of flour, egg pulp, tinned milk, raisins and sugar. Supply problems saw the transport of bulky materials difficult in the jungle, so troops in forward areas had to experiment and improvise. However, often there was little time or inclination for such breaks, given that fires could be detected by the enemy. (AMW 013254)