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(Australian Associated Press)
Shot through the hip while fighting Japanese soldiers along Papua’s notorious Kokoda Track, Private Jim Moir lay in agony for 30 days on a stretcher before receiving life-saving medical help.
The World War II digger was wounded along with a bunch of mates serving with the 2/16th Australian Infantry Battalion at Brigade Hill in September 1942 as they desperately tried to stop the Japanese advancing towards Port Moresby.
Their only chance for survival was to be carried by stretcher bearers through the dense, steep jungle terrain to the nearest hospital in Port Moresby.
“Most died terrible deaths,” Mr Moir recalls, his voice breaking.
“It’s a bit hard to remember. I should never have survived.”
To honour his fallen mates and those who helped save his life, 97-year-old Mr Moir turns up each year to take part in Perth’s Anzac Day marches.
While he needed a wheelchair for last year’s parade and will again this year, he revels in seeing an increasing number of young faces in the crowd.
Mr Moir was himself a young chap when he enlisted aged just 20 while working for the local council at the seaside town of Bunbury, south of Perth, in 1940.
After being shipped from Perth to Palestine for training, he had a short stint serving with Australian troops north of Tripoli in Lebanon before his battalion was needed to fend off invading Japanese troops in what is now Papua New Guinea.
More than 600 Australians died and over 1000 were wounded during the four-month Battle of Kokoda, which began after Japanese soldiers landed in Papua in July 1942 with the aim of taking Port Moresby.
Those diggers are at the forefront of Mr Moir’s thoughts when he makes his annual pilgrimage to join the Anzac Day march along Perth’s famous St Georges Terrace.
“So many of them were close to me but didn’t make it,” he said.
“The terrible way the chaps laying alongside me died. If people could see that maybe their could stop a bloody war.
“When I think of those poor souls …It was just so horrifying to see the way those poor soldiers died.”
With the world currently on edge over the potential for fresh conflict breaking out between North Korea and the United States, Mr Moir says he hopes there won’t be another war.
“A chap came to my door one day and said, ‘Do you think the war will always go on?’. I said: ‘Yes, I’m sure because there are so many greedy people who always want something that someone else has got’.”
Last year’s Anzac parade in Perth drew an estimated crowd of 30,000, with Mr Moir among the 6500 or so who marched.
Among the oldest participants were 106-year-old Eric Roediger, who was a prisoner of war and worked on the Burma-Thailand Railway, and 102-year-old Anne Leach, who was a WWII nurse.
For Mr Moir, he’s just glad he’s still around to join in again this year.
“Everyone reckoned it was a miracle when I came back from the war,” he says.
“Most people were surprised to see me because so many soldiers died of their wounds. But here I am at 97 and still kicking.”