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The Veteran Who Marches On

By James Burke
Epoch Times Sydney Staff
Apr 24, 2007

Jack Lupp, WW2 veteran and the president of the 2/1st Battalion Association. (James Burke/The Epoch Times)
Jack Lupp, WW2 veteran and the president of the 2/1st Battalion Association. (James Burke/The Epoch Times)

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Each year, the number of World War II veterans able to participate in the country's ANZAC Day marches diminishes, yet public turnout remains strong, suggesting the diggers' wartime sacrifices will be remembered for generations.

"Three and half thousand people went through the 2/1st Battalion [which served during World War II]; at the present time we have 60 odd [left]," said Jack Lupp, the president of the 2/1st Battalion Association.

"Each year you lose so many – the numbers are dwindling…everybody is over 80, y'know – our general [Paul Cullen] is 98; he is a good bloke."

Only this month, the 2/1 st's highly decorated Major Basil Catterns passed away. Mr Lupp, who held the rank of sergeant, says there are only three officers of the battalion now remaining.

In 1940 at the age of 22, Mr Lupp joined the 2/1st Battalion and then travelled to the Middle East where the battalion was rebuilding after heavy losses suffered during the Battle of Crete.

However, with the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the 2/1st Battalion would return to Australia [via Ceylon] and then partake in what is considered one of the toughest military campaigns Australian troops have fought in – the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.

"Kokoda was the worst and a long turnout," recalled Mr Lupp. "It wasn't a day; it was a few months."

During the counter-offensive against Japanese forces the 2/1st Battalion were involved in the major battles at Eora Creek (October 20–29) and then at Gorari (November 9–12), followed by Sanananda(20–21 November).

"If you got wounded or something, you had to make your own way back – you got sick with malaria it was no use, you were sick; you had to walk back. If you were crook, you had to walk out yourself.

"When our battalion finished it up," said Mr Lupp, "there was only 60 people, that's out of 680 or something, so it isn't too many people, is it? We had more people killed in Kokoda than all the other campaigns put together."

While the conditions were harsh and the fighting ferocious, Mr Lupp remembered the morale of the Australian troops remained high.

"Nobody seemed to give up. I never saw anyone run back, they always done their job as far as I was concerned," he said.

Following the Kokoda campaign, the 2/1st returned to Australia to rebuild and were then sent back to New Guinea in December 1944 to help round up an estimated 35000 Japanese in the Aitape-Wewak region.

"That's where the war finished [for us] – we were doing coastal patrols – we lost a few good people there, but nothing like [Kokoda] of course," he recalled.

When asked what his most memorable moment from the war was he replied it was when they were told they were going home: "We were out in action when the war ended – they fired a few things into the air and we were told the war was over."

This year Mr Lupp, now 88, will lead the 2/1st Battalion in the ANZAC Day parade in Sydney.