Jika-tabi shoes from the battle of Milne Bay

When Japanese forces landed at Milne Bay in New Guinea in August 1942, they were equipped with two armoured tanks and distinctive split-toed boots that puzzled the Allied troops. It was only after World War II when Australians identified the shoes as jika-tabi, rubber-soled footwear that separated the wearer's big toe from the others. They were developed around the turn of the 20th century by the brother of the founder of the Bridgestone tyre company, and they were based on the design of the traditional Japanese split-toed sock.

A pair of jika-tabi boots captured at the Battle of Milne Bay is on display at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) with other material originally gathered by the Army to help Australian troops understand how the enemy worked. Australian soldiers thought the "otherworldly" shoes were made for climbing trees. The Japanese were somewhat mysterious to us ... they had this aura of being supermen. The Battle of Milne Bay (August 25 to September 7, 1942) was a victory for Allied forces. It is regarded as the first major Pacific conflict in which the Allies decisively defeated the Japanese on land. The battle began when elite Japanese naval troops attacked Allied airfields on the eastern tip of New Guinea. A total of 167 Australians and 14 Americans were killed; Japanese casualties were much higher at around 750. Japanese soldiers who fled into the jungle found their boots were a liability. For weeks afterwards the Australian forces ... we’re tracking those stragglers the Japanese forces had left behind. The Australians were able to track them easily because of [their boots'] distinctive pattern."

Jika-tabi shoes still worn by the Japanese to this day, these days, jika-tabi shoes — sometimes known as ninja boots — can be seen in samurai movies, on running tracks and even on the catwalk. Their light, durable grip is still favoured by Japanese gardeners and construction workers.

Australian Railways WW2


World War 2


I didn’t know a lot about what happened with the Railways over the six years of World War 2 (WW2). The little I had read was that their infrastructure was totally worn down during the conflict.

So, what did happen with the railways in WW2?

Well certainly what was different from peacetime was that railway systems, such as the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR), had to manufacture and assemble a wide variety of defence equipment, using skills and tools usually employed for building and repairing locomotives and rolling stock. During the War, the NSWGR made machine tools, jigs and gauges; shells; radar antennae; tanks; aircraft parts; gun barrels, shields and brackets; military and hospital tents; collapsible canvas water tanks; haversacks and kit bags; gun covers and over 4,000kms of rope to name a few things the workshops across Australia made during WW2. Yet they still had to maintain their locomotives and rolling stock, expected to perform well beyond peacetime limits, while building and modifying wagons to transport military supplies. Beaufort Torpedo Bombers were assembled at Chullora Railway Workshops in 1942. State government and private engineering firms, co-ordinated by the Federal Government, worked together to meet Australia’s defence needs and create mass production, on a nation-wide scale. The military materials and articles required a higher degree of complexity and accuracy than had ever been attempted in Australia. While the railways were not structured to carry out this sort of collaborative effort, they did their best in the circumstances especially when the War moved to Australia’s doorstep.

After the coordinated strategic Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour, Singapore and then Darwin, Australia military planners were in a massive state of shock and so was the population and Commonwealth and State Governments.  Most industry around Australia depended on coal as did much of the population domestically. Australia was deficient in petrol and diesel fuel, leaving the overseas supply lines for powering motor vehicles and planes highly vulnerable. Trains such as the Silver City Comet and railmotors were also open to interdiction of their oil supplies at sea. The realities of war started to bite when Britain applied pressure on the Australian Government to reduce petrol consumption in order to assist with Britain's foreign exchange problems. For a country that was entirely dependent on imported petrol, Australia did not have sufficient petrol storage to carry it through any long-term disruption to supply. It was obvious that the steam railways would be the core of civilian and military transport in war. Defence Department identified railway workshops that could be turned to munitions production and other tools of war like planes and tanks.

Australia had placed itself in a dangerous position defence-wise through the 1930s. It had relied on British manufactured goods so heavily that Australian manufacturing remained underdeveloped, leaving the country without a firm economic base approaching WW2. Only months before the outbreak of the War, the Australian and British Governments reached agreement that the whole Australian wool clip would be purchased by the United Kingdom for the duration of any war. This would have implications for the railways in cartage to port as the British forces would urgently need copious woollen clothing for fighting in the approaching Northern European Winter. 

A scheme was adopted that provided for 21 armament annexes associated with State Government undertakings, especially railway workshops, and private factories to be established should war occur. Major emphasis was placed on the manufacture of fighter aircraft with the Defence Department assembling parts made mainly by State Railway Workshops. Another priority that was pursued was to produce petrol from oil shale at Newnes and Glen Davis in Central NSW. However, it was not until August 1940, a year after war had broken out, that the production of petrol commenced – a product very much dependent on rail transport. In many areas where railways might need relief, roads were fit for only the lightest motor traffic. Even major highways had not been constructed for long-distance heavy haulage which was commonly restricted by legislation to prevent competition with State-owned railways.

There were inherent features of Australia’s railway systems which presented obvious difficulties for satisfactory defence transport. Not only did gauges range from 3 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 3 inches, but locomotives and rolling stock varied in type and power from one State to another. Further, the load to be carried could not be constant either in quantity or weight except over specified lines within a single State. When resources had to shift quickly across long distances from manufacturing and population centres to defence outposts, these impediments would dog Australia throughout the War and shock and frustrate the American forces from when they arrived.

Meanwhile, restrictions on road transport through petrol rationing meant that those affected turned to the railways. There were growing demands, also, from the munitions program and troop movements. But this was all steady as you go – suddenly everything changed with the shock bombing of Pearl Harbour.  The massive attack meant that the United States was, unreservedly, a full fighting ally in the Pacific whereas, up to this point, it had only been Britain and its Empire countries. The enemy was powerful and in the first dark weeks Japan’s southward advance seemed frighteningly irresistible - the new ally’s Pacific battle fleet had been decimated. Suddenly, in 1942-43, Australia’s defence expenditure rocketed to 36.8 per cent of GDP.

The threat Australians felt was immediate and terrifying. At this moment, Australia stood alone and its own efforts would determine whether the final outcome would be defeat or successful defiance. Now it was war in the Pacific with its uncompromising challenge, which swept away the barriers and shattered the resistances and reservations to going on a Total War footing. As discordant as the railway systems were, almost having been constructed by States not to mesh in with their neighbours to prevent siphoning of trade – the systems had to be made to work a lot better for the nation’s sake.

Queensland Railways in the War Zone

In Queensland, a major logistical hotspot of the War, the story was the same with investment in the Railways having all but dried up leading into the War. This had major repercussions when Japan entered the global conflict and suddenly there was perceived to be a serious threat of invasion. There was even talk of abandoning everything north of the ‘Brisbane Line’ (basically the NSW/Queensland border) and concentrating the fight on defending the industrialised South-East. No matter what the strategy, it was obvious that troops had to be moved north to the War Zone, while Australia also became the closest safe supply base for the Allies in the Pacific.

During the 1920s and 1930s Queensland developed as one of Australia’s important food producing regions, especially for sugar, bananas, fruit and vegetables, meat and dairying. However, the outbreak of the War saw many rural workers enlist in the services, causing shortages in production. During 1943, heavy demand for beef from the growing number of Allied service personnel stationed in North Queensland outstripped supply from the region’s meatworks. A rocketing demand for canned meat for combat troops accentuated the critical supply situation. Two large Army-operated meatworks and cold storage facilities were established at Mount Isa and Charters Towers. However, this required large mobs of cattle to be railed from Western Queensland on a rail system stretched way beyond peace-time capacity. The frozen beef had to then be transported by rail to Townsville to Australian and US forces.  At Townsville and other coastal areas, the threat from the Japanese had become so great with code breaking indicating at one stage that the enemy was planning to mount a 300-plane attack on the northern centre, that schools were closed down and many women and children railed to safer centres inland or south. Meanwhile, the forestry and timber industries were among the first in Australia to be declared essential services in an attempt to exempt loggers, saw millers and carpenters from military conscription. However, the large enlistment of Queensland bush workers meant that the supply of timber from the northern rainforests fell just as demand for defence purposes increased. In the middle of the War, this demand was met by the mass production of pre-cut buildings by the American forces for bundling together in Brisbane and forwarded by rail to operational areas like Townsville for assembly. The Railways Department also placed heavy demands for sleepers. Cairns had long been the centre of north Queensland’s timber milling industry. From mid-1942, the town’s sawmills and furniture factories operated full-time on defence works. A timber product in great demand was three-ply veneer, manufactured in sheets cut from large kauri pine logs from the hinterland which were delivered to Cairns by rail. This traffic multiplied several-fold as the plywood was used locally in the manufacture of everything from bunk beds and prefabricated huts to barges, landing craft and aircraft propellers. 

With large concentrations of troops at military camps throughout North Queensland, there was an increased demand for fruit and vegetables. While efforts were made to grow much of this locally, considerable quantities had to be shipped from the South by rail even from as far as Victoria. Southeast Australia’s rail system was further stretched, as it was already hauling heavy consignments of troops and munitions, as well as non-perishable foodstuffs to Queensland and the Northern Territory. As rail transit time from Melbourne to North Queensland was seven to eight days, it was challenging for the State railway systems to ensure that fruit and vegetables arrived in edible condition. Another chokepoint for the Queensland Railways was in sugar production where the over-zealous internment of the many Italians in the industry, coupled with an overloaded rail system handling other critical demands, held up cane supplies to the sugar mills and the refining of raw sugar. To make up for labour shortages in this and other areas of food production in the North, hundreds of volunteers who had enlisted in the Women’s Land Army were put on trains and headed North to help out in growing food to supply concentrations of up to 90,000 Australian and American military personnel.  From December 1942, the headquarters of the Australian Army in North Queensland was transferred from Townsville to the Atherton Tableland. This was only the beginning of further pressure on the Queensland Railway network. Soon, a huge schedule of construction work commenced in building camps, stores, bakeries, mess kitchens, jungle training facilities, entertainment halls, sewage plants, army farms and a war cemetery, most materials having to be shipped in by rail. At its peak the region’s new hospital complex included a convalescent depot of 1000-bed capacity and two general hospital units, each with 1200-beds generating a large passenger traffic and use of ambulance cars.

Meanwhile, in South East Queensland, in 1940 large orders for the manufacture of shells and grenade casings were placed with Ipswich Railway Workshops which eventually produced a huge quantity of munitions. Once produced, the Railways had the job of transporting the armaments. At the same time, Queensland Railways was working flat out handling the increased output of the West Moreton coalfield near Ipswich in the production and transport of coal for power generation, metal smelting and meeting its own massively increased locomotive demand. Further North, with the threat to coastal towns and military depots, enlarged fuel and munitions storages were shifted inland to Charters Towers and as far as Hughenden to be beyond the reach of Japanese aircraft. However, this put further pressure on the transport task for Queensland Railways, coupled with the establishment of large troop training and billeting areas at Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands.

As a result of these heroic War efforts, the Queensland Railways as with its interstate counterparts ended the conflict in a rundown condition with a huge backlog of repairs that took years to restore. The railways played a far great role than they would have ever have expected to play in the desperate struggle for survival during WW2 they not only helped to produce everything from Grenades to fighter aircraft but they had to transport everything across our vast continent

Interesting Facts about Antarctica

Coldest place on earth where a high ridge in Antarctica has recorded temperatures below -133F/-93C

Antarctica is the largest desert in the world

The average thickness of the ice is approximately 1.6 Km

Winds in some places can reach 320Km/h

90% of all meteorites ever found have come from Antarctica

The largest ice berg ever measured is bigger than Jamaica estimated at; 11,000 square/Km; it broke away in the year 2000

There is treaty signed by 38 countries that prohibits military/mineral/nuclear or waste disposal activities

There is over 300 lakes beneath Antarctica that are kept from freezing by the warmth of the earth’s core

Husky dogs have been banned from Antarctica since 1994

You cannot work in Antarctica unless your wisdom teeth and appendix are removed

Antarctica is the only continent without a time zone

The ice sheet of Antarctica has been in existence for at least 40 million years

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on earth

90% of the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica

Some parts of Antarctica have had no rain or snow for the last 2 million years

Antarctica is the only continent without reptiles

There are no polar bears in Antarctica

The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is twice the size of Europe

Townsville Whale Watching Tours

A TOWNSVILLE man got a scare yesterday when he saw a pod of six humpback whales rushing towards his boat. Joe Martin took a friend out fishing near the Cape Cleveland Light yesterday about 2pm when he saw the mammals approaching. The whales were heading straight for his boat and he became afraid the boat would be swamped so he quickly started up his motor and sounded the horn. The whales dived underneath the boat and resurfaced on the other side. They came so close he was almost able to reach out and touch them.

Mr Martin said it was a surreal experience. "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.

He spent about half an hour watching the animals before they headed out to the open reef. Humpback whales have been frolicking in Cleveland Bay of Townsville over the past week as they begin their migration to warmer northern waters. Mothers and their calves are expected to be a common sight, playing in the waters off Townsville from now to August, and then in September as they move south again. Passengers on board the Magnetic Island ferry were treated to displays of whales breaching near the vessel in Nelly Bay last week and whale watching tourists were not disappointed. Townsville Whale Watching Tours marine biologist Chris Mirbach said the graceful giants had been sighted weeks earlier than was usual around the Palm Islands. "We have a 95 per cent success rate of seeing whales there, and every time we see them it is pretty special," he said. "They do have quite a few migration routes, Migaloo the white whale will change his migratory path every year."


Season Starts July 1st 2017 Max. 6 people Experience the new Townsville day tour, cruise around the beautiful Palm Islands searching for Humpback Whales and snorkel in the sheltered and calm waters of Curacoa Island. Departure: daily from Townsville CBD at 07.30 a.m. Launch vessel at 9.30 from Lucinda Return at approx. 5 p.m. to Townsville.

For Bookings: Contact Tropical Travel on p: (07) 47 72 58 00 Or e: info@tropicaltravel.com.au

The Story of Leslie Allen (Bull Allen)

(Nick Named – Bull) because he was as strong as Bull with a heart to match

Born in Ballarat East, his early years were difficult. After he was abandoned by his parents at the age of 12, he began working as a farm labourer. By the time he enlisted in the army in 1940, the 23-year-old was a tall and powerfully built man who earned the nickname “Bull” for charging through the opposition on the football field. Personally brave, Allen struggled with authority.

Australian and American soldiers rarely served together in the front line in the war against Japan in World War 2. Buna in late 1942 is a notable exception. Another, and less known, instance took place on Mount Tambu in the mountains above Salamaua (Papua New Guinea) in mid-1943.   

In 1943, Allen was awarded a Military Medal for recovering Australian wounded under fire near Wau in February. Five months later, on 30 July, he again repeatedly risked his own life when rescuing at least 12 wounded American soldiers during fighting on Mount Tambu.

Yet Allen was also a man badly affected by his war service. In the Middle East in 1941, he had been hospitalised with “anxiety neurosis” and when he returned to Australia from New Guinea his behaviour became increasing erratic. In February 1944, he struck an officer and was demoted. In September, Allen was discharged from the army suffering “constitutional temperamental instability”, “anxiety symptoms”, and malaria.  

So traumatised was this veteran of the Libyan, Syrian and Salamaua campaigns, that Allen retreated to an uncle’s farm and lost the power of speech for a time. In early 1945, he was awarded the United States Silver Star Medal for his services to the Allied cause. Among the many people who expressed their congratulations was Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In 1949, Allen married Jean Floyd, who had been a nurse during the war.

Battle of Waterloo

One of the most famous and powerful historical objects from the battle, this French cuirass, a breastplate worn as body armour by French cavalry, was holed by a cannonball that smashed through the unlucky soldier’s chest. The Waterloo campaign was the first occasion that British troops found themselves face to face with Napoleon’s armoured cavalry, whose cuirasses and metal helmets made them a daunting foe.

The armour belonged to 23-year-old trooper François-Antoine Fauveau – but there is a twist to the tale. Family legend has it that when his call-up papers arrived, François-Antoine was on the point of getting married, so his brother joined up, and died, in his place. Whoever was wearing it on 18 June 1815, this cuirass serves to emphasise the brutality of Napoleonic warfare at a most personal level.

Myths & Legends

Townsville has long been a place of great research and study. Today Townsville's James Cook University is one of the world leaders of tropical studies. It is Myth that the Ross River virus started in Townsville;

The first outbreak of Ross River Fever was in 1928 in the Hay and Narrandera region in New South Wales, Australia. The virus was first isolated in 1959 from a mosquito trapped along the Ross River in Townsville, Queensland. Since then, outbreaks have occurred in all Australian states, including Tasmania, and metropolitan areas. The largest outbreak occurred in 1979–1980 in the Western Pacific, and affected more than 60,000 people. Most notifications are from Queensland, tropical Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Geographical risk factors include areas of higher rainfall and higher maximal tides.  Other common areas for contracting the virus outside of the tropics are the townships along the River Murray that divides NSW and Victoria. Backwaters and Lagoons are breeding grounds for mosquitos. The virus is not contagious and is spread only by mosquitoes. The main reservoir hosts are kangaroos and wallabies, although horses, possums and possibly birds and flying foxes play a role. Over 30 species have been implicated as possible vectors. Symptoms of the disease may vary widely in severity, but major indicators are arthralgia, arthritis, fever, and rash. A blood test is the only way to confirm a case of Ross River Fever. There is currently no vaccine available.

Keith and Lin Teaching in Australia in 1960's (just another tour story)

 Keith & Lin were up here near Townsville, teaching at Giru back in the early days when they first started out as teachers. They explained how it was for teachers and students back in the 1950 & 1960's and what it was like for some of those more remote schools that did not have the resources that the larger schools and population centre's had. Keith taught wood & metal work skills and Lin home economics cooking & sewing etc. I never realised that this was part of the curriculum of those times; the remote schools did not have the necessary teaching facilities. I could imagine that the expense of building such facilities for such a small number of students located across Country Queensland could not be justified. But that won't stop us - in steps Australia's can do attitude of those times. The Queensland Government purpose built rail carriages, so they could provide the facilities at these remote locations, needless to say they were not the most ideal living and teaching arrangements by today’s standards. Keith would have his admin list to action before they turned up at any given location. He would order ahead of their arrival the stores, rations and equipment they would need for their stay at each location, which was normally around 6 to 7 weeks. While other schools with the facilities would learn over the period of a year or 2. The remote schools got there opportunity to learn the skills in a consolidated, intensive 6 week period. When Keith and Lin were in Town, that’s what the students did every day all day. They would park the carriage down a siding location, of the main line and children would turn up each and every day for Keith & Lin to teach them as much as they could. They would teach 7 schools in the one year, places like Saint Lawrence, Cabela, Mary bar and Giru. Keith would book the engine necessary to tow the carriages to the next location in advance sometimes allowing 2 days to get to the next location and set up. The schools knew they were coming 12 months in advance and they would have to cram the learning into those children so they could give up a 6 week period for Keith and Lin to do their thing. Their accommodation was also built into the carriage which Lin describes as the smallest bedroom she has ever known, picture how they live on a submarine and that’s close to the way these teachers lived. The carraiges were not air-conditioned, so the North Queensland heat along with the flies and mosquitos were an ongoing issue and fact of life you just learned to live with. Keith told me, he would fold up his bed in the morning and the whiteboard was pulled down in front of the folded up bed (ready to teach). Remembering that the stoves on the home economics carriage were wood stoves. So Keith being the gentlemen he was would reload the wood in the right area for Lin to use the next day. I said where did you eat, they said out of the home economics carriage of course. There was no special allowance to go eating out every night. Where were your toilets and showers I asked? Lin told me they did have their own water basin the smallest she has ever seen. The toilet was often the one at the railway station. I would have imagined not always that close bye, the shower they told me, was often at the local pub! I said what did you do for entertainment and one of the oldies on the Tour said each other, great laughter all around remembering this was where this married couple first met. Amazingly Lin had to give up teaching when she married Keith as the terms of employment for woman teachers back in those days, did not allow her to Marry Keith and continue teaching. They often did extra classes on weekends and after hours for the local adult population. Keith’s skills and machines were often put to work for doing little jobs that were needed around the town. He recalled that at one location all the children bar one were related to each other eyebrows and laughter around the table as he told that one. They both said the hours were long and they were kept very busy but they were great times. They said a big part of that were the people in those country towns and communities, they were fantastic people, on that point nothing much has changed in those rural communities of Australia.                                                  


Arno Grotjahn and the story behind his Winton Wall

In the town of Winton he become a local legend and tourist attraction for the wall he had built over a long period of time. The wall made of scrap parts, motorbikes, lawn mowers, sewing machines and anything else you can think off, became a place to look and mavel at - what could you find inbedded in Arno's wall. In later life Arno chose Winton to escape the world and to live out his twilight years. But the man himself had lived an interesting life, German by birth, he emigrated to Australia in 1965 and went opal mining, before moving into Winton. He had been shot in the chest when fighting for the French Foreign Legion in Vietnam 1948 - 52. He was a big man and had done time in prison for bashing a French Officer. He recieved a monthly pension from the French Goverment (for Legion service) until the day he died. He had met Adolf Hitler as a boy in German his father had worked at the German shipyards during the war and during a visit to the the shipyards by Hitler. Young Arno saw Him approach - he said he I gave him the Nazi salute and said Heil-Hitler, Arno recalls that Hitler returned the salute. Arno was no angel many of his views were not always main stream but Arno was an individual that walked his own path and those type of individuals give character and interest to life itself. I am sure his wall will continue to give much enjoyment to those that visit Winton