Mateship is very much part of the Australian Spirit – The Power of Mateship

The official changing of the wording on one of our icons in New Guinea from “Mateship” to “Friendship” left me clutching for my tranquilisers..

Clearly this was the work of maniacs intent in destroying much of what we value so dearly from yesterday. Even more infuriating is that those responsible are using public money in no small measure to do it.

Mateship among other qualities forms the base of our Australian spirit, conceived with the arrival of the First Fleet, born and reared in early colonial days and christened in its young  age  with the landing at Gallipoli .

A classic example of the mateship on the Kokoda Track was during the fighting withdrawal of the 39th Battalion. A group of walking wounded was ordered to return to Port Moresby.  Soon there would be showers, clean clothes, hot meals , crisp white sheets and deep restful sleep then home. It seemed that for these diggers, their war was over.

On the journey, they met the advance guard of the units moving to relieve the battered 39th. The word was that the 39th was in deep trouble.  With the exception of three very badly wounded, the casualties turned around and went back to fight once more besides their comrades.  Such conduct is surely much deeper and meaningful than friendship.

In my view, friendship is holding hands while strolling along a well sign-posted path on a sunny day. Mateship is often stumbling into uncertainty where your only strength is being with those you trust.

Revisionists of military campaigns clearly do not understand the fundamentals of human behavior and emotions during dangerous times when there is a common sense of purpose. Nevertheless, surely responsible research would show the difference between mateship and friendship, before leaping into nowhere and distorting history.

         The Power of Mateship

Such fools in air conditioned offices and dens 

Change history with strokes of pens.

Thus after much public money has been spent 

“Friendship, not mateship” was the signal they sent. 

I wonder what the diggers would have thought

Of “Friendship” on a track where they had fought.

Against incredible odds with blood, sweat and tears so long ago

While in OZ, loved ones held their breath as the threat did grow. 


No air conditioning, instant coffee and umbrella in case of rain

These mates in green, soldiered in heat, rain, mud, misery and pain. 

No sick leave on the track; just mateship to help them out 

Deep brotherly love, sharing and caring was what it is all about.

A silent oath to each other when danger loomed and then the fear 

They stayed together, staunch and true even when death was near.

Like the ANZACs, they were true blue mates, not just friends

Mates were brothers and whatever the test, would never bend.

Fancy coffin, polished hearse or many flowers that friends gave

Versus mates in green rags, shrouded by groundsheets in muddy graves.

No splendid wakes, laughter and what a great chap he had been

Just a sip of water, new orders and moving on in the cruel jungle green.

So many battles where back to back, they all stood fast.

Brothers bonded in mateship and ready to fight to the last.

The power of such unions is a signature from ANZAC to this very day.

Our sacred mateship from generations past is not for sale in any way. 

George Mansford © March 2017

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