(Australian Associated Press)
As the sun rises over the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea, the Anzac Day dawn light will fall on a sea of thousands of white tombstones, among them the grave of the Governor General’s uncle.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign and the Battle of Milne Bay, which formed part of the New Guinea campaign in the Second World War.
Sir Peter Cosgrove will deliver an Anzac dawn service address on Tuesday at the Bomana War Cemetery near Port Moresby.
It’s the largest war cemetery in the Pacific with close to 4000 graves, mostly Australian.
As he pays his respects to the courage and mateship of Australia’s war dead and those who survived the bitter fighting, Sir Peter will also make a personal tribute to his uncle Bill, a flight sergeant with the RAAF Beaufighter unit.
Sir Peter never had the chance to met the “boisterous and charismatic” Tigers VFL football player, who had the club’s slogan “Tigers, eat ’em alive” painted on the side of his planes.
In August 1943, his plane crashed near Goodenough Island, and he left behind wife Dot and daughter Madeline.
Military service runs deep in Sir Peter’s blood.
His father and grandfather were also soldiers, and he served in Malaysia and Vietnam, before going on to lead the multinational peacekeeping force during the East Timor’s traumatic transition to independence. Two of his three sons also joined the army.
Sir Peter will also laud the efforts of local Papua New Guinean men, known affectionately as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who helped wounded and injured Australian soldiers along the Kokoda Track.
Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove will attend commemorations at the Isurava memorial.
An estimated 625 Australians were killed on the trail and more than 1600 were wounded. Casualties from sickness exceeded 4000.
The Cosgroves will also visit Milne Bay, where the Japanese suffered their first defeat on land during the Pacific war.