A QUIETLY DIGNIFIED and modest man, Bert Kienzle’s mammoth contribution to Kokoda and Papua New Guinea, before, during and after World War II, has gone largely unnoticed.
While Bert was alive, several historians approached him offering to help him tell his remarkable story but he refused and after he passed away in 1988 his children rued that his remarkable story had not been written.
Time passed with great intentions but no action until in 2006 when Robyn Kienzle’s husband took their two daughters to walk the Kokoda Trail and was dismayed at the state of Bert’s old home and of the Kokoda Track tourism industry.
The trail being walked was not the original war trail, places were incorrectly named and Bert was barely acknowledged at all. The time had come to set the record straight.
Robyn is not and has never claimed to be a military historian. She tells Bert Kienzle’s amazing story through recollection of his family, interviews, personal papers and army archives and in The Architect of Kokoda reveals many previously unstated facts.
This is the story of a man who had an extraordinary life from start to finish. It attempts to portray who he was, how he became who he was and what he achieved during his life.
During Bert’s time at Kokoda it was a thriving outstation of Papua. Before the war he developed a successful gold mining industry there. After the war he provided the lifeblood for Kokoda with his rubber and cattle estates that covered 10,000 acres in the fertile Yodda Valley.
During the World War II he earned accolades like “the man who blazed the Kokoda Trail” and “the King of the Angels”.
The pre World War II chapters try to paint the picture of a man who grew up to be resilient, to be philosophical about the vagaries of life and to understand people of different cultures.
The World War II chapters try to give a detailed account of Bert’s experiences and massive contribution to the success of the Kokoda Campaign.
The post war chapters show that he never stopped. Despite tragedies, setbacks and seemingly insurmountable odds, he soldiered on.
Robyn Kienzle says: “My five years of research and resolve have paid off and my biography of my father-in-law, Bert Kienzle, has been published. I am told by the publishers I have done him justice. I hope if you read it you will agree.”
‘The Architect of Kokoda’ by Robyn Kienzle is published by Hachette Australia on 26 July - $35