On exercises along the railway line near Mt Garnet,
Atherton Tablelands, May, 1943.

After the ordeals of Kokoda and Gona the men needed to rest and for the battalion to be rebuilt. William Crooks wrote in The Footsoldiers: “Over the course of the next three months – from January to early April, 1943 – the battalion slowly began to recover: It’s men, it’s life and laughter. For those who had taken part in the Owen Stanley campaign – the Kokoda Trail: it was never to be forgotten.” Six months training and rebuilding on the Atherton Tablelands prepared the battalion for its next campaign, the recapture of Lae, to be followed by clearing the Japanese from the Ramu Valley, and the imposing Finisterre Ranges where the Japanese were waiting in heavily fortified dugouts on the infamous Shaggy Ridge.
Gruelling two and three-day route marches were part of the training . They tested the endurance of the men to the limit, but ensured they were superbly fit ready for the task ahead. Tactical mistakes that had been made during the Kokoda campaign were rigoursly examinied and rectified for future campaigns. Lieutenant Colonel Tom Cotton, by then the Commanding Officer, believed the battalion had reached its fighting peak by the start of the Lae campaign. In his Appreciation in The Footsoldiers he wrote of the battalion in its attack down the Markham Valley to Lae: “It moved like a co-ordinated machine.” The 300 reinforcements who had been sent to Port Moresby to join the battle at Gona were described as the best to ever join the battalion.
William Crooks wrote: “There wasn’t one rotten egg amongst them.” Normally, every battalion had to sift through new arrivals to identify who was unsuitable for battle, which could be the case for any number of reasons. Every one of the new recruits passed the test. Three ships, the M.V. Canberra, M.V. Duntroon, and M.V. Katoomba, transported the battalion back to Port Moresby in late July, 1943. They went into camp at Pom Pom east of Port Moresby to prepare to become the first British Empire troops of World War II to be airlifted into battle. They had no idea a disaster of unimaginable proportions and horrifying consequences, the Liberator crash, was about to befall them

The Atherton Tablelands in north Queensland was the battalion’s main jungle training area before and after the Lae campaign. One of the many essential duties between battles was cleaning and servicing weapons, the task being undertaken here by (left to right) NX81910 Bob Gawne, NX48308 Alick Brierley and NX96060 John “Jack” Boyd. Boyd’s service was typical of infantrymen who took part in the New Guinea and Borneo campaigns. He enlisted on his 27th birthday May 14, 1942. He was one of the 300 replacements sent to fight at Gona, but was held in reserve after the battle-weary battalion, down to less than a quarter strength at the end of the Kokoda campaign, was withdrawn from action. Returning to New Guinea in 1943 Boyd survived the Liberator crash and was involved in the heavy fighting in the Markham Valley on the road to Lae and then in the Ramu and Surinam valleys, including the battle of Shaggy Ridge. He served with 8 Platoon, A Company. Like somany soldiers Boyd suffered a bout of malaria and was out of action for a few weeks in October, 1943. In June 1944 he took part in the last campaign of World War II, the invasion of Balikpapan, Borneo. It was a short but bitter campaign marked by repeated, savage hand-to-hand fighting when Japanese suicide squads attempted to infiltrate the battalion’s ranks. Like most veterans Boyd never talked about the war. He served 474 days overseas out of his total service of 1,348 days from May 1942 to January 1946.