The Digger of Kokoda
The official biography of Reg Chard
By Daniel Lane
Published by Macmillan | RRP $36.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781761260278
Author Daniel Lane reveals in the introduction to this book that the idea to write the biography of Reg Chard OAM occurred on Kokoda Day in November 2019, seventy-seven years after the village’s recapture by Australian troops. On that day Reg Chard gave a moving speech recalling his time fighting in the Kokoda and Beachheads campaigns. He was ninety-six years old.
As one of the last surviving diggers of Kokoda, Reg Chard has become a custodian of the Kokoda legacy.
The book is written from Chard’s viewpoint in the first person, bringing an immediacy to the story. It is rich in anecdotes but it is much more than that. It is a memoir intent on honouring those who did not return as heroes.
It is a memoir that gives the reader a ground level no-holds-barred look at what it really took to hold back and then defeat the Japanese advance in New Guinea.
It is a deeply moving and inspiring story of a man who described his own survival as sheer luck as men next to him were maimed and killed. He does not spare his readers from the horrors of what he encountered, horrors that he spent the rest of his life trying hard to forget. He rejects the description of himself as a hero but it is clear his Kokoda experience lives within him to this day.
This is Daniel Lane’s first foray into the field of military memoir. In recounting Reg Chard’s story, I believe it’s possible the lines have been blurred between what Chard believes he remembers and the possibility that stories he has heard from other sources have merged with his own memory, which is not to discredit his story but rather to remind readers it is the output of a very elderly gentleman whose memory now may be imperfect.