Man takes up mission to honour hero who saved country

A TOOWOOMBA man is on a mission to have a memorial built in a remote Papua New Guinean village to commemorate a commander who helped save Australia from Japanese invasion.

The problem facing Stephen Harrold is the location - in the village of Alolo on the rugged Kokoda Track - is virtually inaccessible.

He needs the Australian Army's help to helicopter in the memorial.

The stone memorial and plaque will honour Brigadier Arnold William Potts, an Australian grazier who served in the First World War and led the 21st Brigade of the Second AIF during its defence of the Kokoda Track during the Second World War.

Toowoomba man Stephen Harrold is on a mission to honour a war hero.
Toowoomba man Stephen Harrold is on a mission to honour a war hero. Andrew Backhouse

He was largely responsible for a fighting withdrawal from the town of Isurava.

His distinguished career was controversially cut short when he was dismissal by General Sir Thomas Blamey.

Mr Harrold said Brig Potts had been ordered to attack but, upon realising his force was greatly outnumbered and would be destroyed, instead conducted a "brilliant" fighting withdrawal.

The strength of the invading Japanese was worn down and their advance slowed.

His action has been called "one of the most critical triumphs in Australian military history and one that an apathetic nation has still to honour".

Following his dismissal, Potts went on to command the 23rd Brigade during the Bougainville campaign.

Mr Harrold said numerous books portrayed Brig Potts as a hero but there was limited recognition of him.

For more than a year Mr Harrold has struggled against red tape but is hopeful a trip can be made to PNG in August this year.

His friend Frank Taylor, an Australian tour operator, helped lay the groundwork by negotiating a deal with Alolo village leader David Sega.

Mr Harrold said Mr Taylor's support had been outstanding.

Village leader David Sega and Australian tour operator Frank Taylor agree to have the memorial in the village.
Village leader David Sega and Australian tour operator Frank Taylor agree to have the memorial in the village. Contributed

Mr Harrold is hoping the memorial will educate the public about the heroics of Brig Potts.

With army support, the plan is to operate out of Port Morseby and move the equipment into the village on a helicopter.

He has enlisted the support of Federal Member for Groom Ian Macfarlane who is lobbying the Minister of Defence for use of the choppers.

"It's a very worthy idea and has the support of the local community in PNG," Mr Macfarlane said.

Various army associations including the 2/14th, 2/16th and 39th battalions have supported the project, along with the PNG Volunteer Rifles.

To find out more about the project or to help call Mr Harrold on 0417515786.


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