Brian Searle

A Kokoda Discovery

I had booked to do the Kokoda Track with Wild Trek Tours at the end of October2022. I am the manager of an Aged Care Facility with Vasey RSL, where a significant number of our residents are returned service men & women.

I was telling Vasey resident Geoff McKinley, a Vietnam Veteran himself, and he told me both his father and uncle fought in Kokoda. His father made it back, but sadly his uncle, Christopher McKinley did not. He told me his uncle was buried over there, but had no idea where. I told him we were going to Bomana War Cemetery at the start of the track, and I would keep an eye out.

Geoff’s uncle was in the back of my mind as we arrived at Bomana. I discovered there was a book with a list of all those buried there, so I thought I’d look up Christopher McKinley.

To my great surprise, there was Christopher’s name. Number 2003, Christopher McKinley, 26 years old, who died on 8th September, 1942. A Private in the Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 2/14th Battalion (the same Battalion as our tour leader’s father), service no. VX46283.

I took a few photos of the book, and then set off to find Christopher’s headstone. There were coordinates in the book, so it wasn’t difficult, and I found it rather quickly. What an honour to find Geoff’s uncle’s place of rest, and to be able to take a few photos and report back to Geoff. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

When I returned home, I wanted to be able to give the photos to Geoff when I first saw him, so the weekend I arrived home, before going back to work, I had them printed.

On my first day back at work I was able to tell Geoff all about my experience and present him with the photos. He was overwhelmed and extremely grateful. He’s had a tough life and explained he will treasure those photos. He immediately organised to have 3 of the photos framed.

Thanks to Wild Trek Tours for providing such an experience and for allowing me to make a difference in Geoff’s life.