The Bulldog Track
A grandson’s story of an ordinary man’s war and survival on the other Kokoda trail
By Peter Phelps
Published by Hachette Australia
RRP $29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780733639777
Peter Phelps’ dad George Phelps was ten years old in September 1939 when his father Tom Phelps left Sydney for Bulolo in the New Guinea highlands to work as a gold miner and carpenter on a three-year contract.
Seventy-five years later, Tom’s grandson, actor and writer Peter Phelps, has pieced together the story of his grandfather’s survival, thanks in part to the remaining physical evidence of a rudimentary diary written with carpenter’s pencil on his pith helmet, which he headed: ‘Walk across New Guinea’.
Amazingly there were photos too that survived the escape, some taken en route. Tom Phelps had initially attempted to join the Australian Army after the Japanese attack on the town, but he was rejected as unfit. As Phelps writes, ‘Gold-dredge workers who lived in Bulolo ….. became either full-time soldiers or unemployed evacuees.’
Faced with the awful prospect of becoming a casualty of war as the Japanese advanced, Phelps set out with his mates to walk through some of the most rugged terrain on earth – the Bulldog Track – to safety.
Travelling by whatever means was available, Tom Phelps, half-starved and suffering malaria, would eventually make it home. This is his inspiring story of survival against the odds.