I can't say enough about Soc. He walks up hills quicker than a 20 year old and is probably the leading historian on the trail. He is excellent in all areas! His father made the trail, so you also get a lot of inside stories told from father to son. Excellent! Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!Oh, and don't even think about catching him going down!
Well I finished reading your book “The Architect of Kokoda” and congratulations on a wonderful recollection of the life and times of Bert Kienzle and his sweetheart Meryl. Both extraordinary yet humble people!I wonder how the Aussie diggers would have gone in this battle if not for Bert and his fuzzy wuzzy angels?
I wonder if anyone would have the same tenacity as Bert should Australia ever be faced with anything as horrific as that war again!
Thank you Robyn for sharing the history of the Kienzle family and for allowing the reader to see a gentle and romantic side of a man who did so much.
In your book you have brought together an honest and different aspect of the history of Kokoda and Papua New Guinea that I do not believe many people would be aware of. Again many congratulations on a book that I know took many years to collate and you have done the Kienzle family proud.
For me, it was a no-brainer - when I decided to trek the Kokoda Trail in the footsteps of my Great Grandfather Jim Cowey MC, I would be mad to trek with anyone BUT Soc Kienzle!
Soc is the son of Captain Bert Kienzle, a man so pivotal to the Australian success in the Owen Stanley campaign due to his intimate knowledge of the Trail (and it's many off-shoots) yet more importantly his affinity with the local people, who he would organise to carry essential supplies, the sick and wounded, and the hopes of Australia on their caring shoulders. Soc himself grew up on the Kokoda Trail and has a relationship with the local people built on mutual respect and shared experience. As he grew, the battlefields were Soc's playground and like a sponge he soaked up his father and other eye witnesses first-hand accounts of the events of the war against the invading Japanese. Soc's knowledge of the Trail and the Owen Stanley campaign is unsurpassed, gleaned from primary sources, life experience and being passionate about getting the history absolutely correct - this distinction sets him apart from others in the “Kokoda Industry”. On a personal level, Soc is a very caring and compassionate man who has the health and safety of his trekkers utmost in his mind, but also a cheeky sense of fun that certainly pushes you through those bloody hills. At the end of each long, hard day, you still have a smile on your face, which speaks volumes of the morale he fosters in his trekking groups.
On my trek, I also witnessed the marriage between Soc/Komplete Kokoda and Kokoda Historical as being a very happy and productive one. Gary Traynor from Kokoda Historical is indeed a fine historian, and his passion for the history of the Kokoda Trail and it's many players is unquestionable. With his intimate knowledge of the Diggers from both immediate contact and relationships fostered with the families left behind, he also brings a palpable, moving human story to the facts of the war.
In spite of my screaming lungs and aching feet, I thoroughly enjoyed my trek with Soc and Komplete Kokoda/Kokoda Historical. I learned so much about the history, and also myself from the experience. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from a Kokoda Trail legend, and I will never, ever forget it.
“ A must read book” - The Architect of Kokoda, Bert Kienzle - The Man Who Made the Kokoda Trail" by Robyn Kienzle. It is a wonderful read and speaks mostly about Bert Kienzle's birthplace of Levuka and his young days at LPS.
According to renowned author (and also a famous second row for NSW and Wallabies): "In my humble opinion, Bert Kienzle did more than any other single man to make Australian victory possible."
Bert Kienzle's grandmother, was a Melalina Leota from Tutuila, American Samoa who eloped to Levuka with a Capt Wilson and they built a family whose offsprings are still around today. The late Insp. Wallace Caldwell was a descendant of Capt and Malelina Wilson'd daughters.
It is a most wonderful read and the world should know that a true son of Fiji (a Kai Loma at that) saved the Aussies from a walloping at the hands of the Japs at Kokoda. something the ozzies don't really wanna talk about too much.
"Soc ..... thank you for your support, encouragement and confidence you gave me over the past 2 weeks which enabled me to complete the Kokoda Trail and reach our ultimate destination at Ower's Corner. Your commentary, the reading of letters and poems at various points along the way made the experience all the more memorable.
The ANZAC Day Service at Kokoda and the small dedication ceremony at Brigade Hill were two of the most moving and emotional experiences. Once again, thank you very much."
Our family group flew out to Kokoda on a high, with great expectations of a physically challenging adventure, and the opportunity to learn more about the history of Kokoda and the PNG conflict during WW2... the history was a large factor in our decision to undertake the trek as my father, and grandfather to the other members of our group, was involved in this conflict as a member of the RAAF...
KK met, and probably exceeded all of our expectations as we completed our trek at Ower's Corner on a high.
The trek was obviously physically demanding, as expected, but we quickly became adept at pacing ourselves and adjusting to the ever changing walking environment under Soc's experienced guidance... however, from a factual history perspective we all felt that his intimate knowledge of the PNG conflict, much of which came from his own father's experience working with the allied forces, was a highlight of our trip... Soc's account of major battles and in many cases, knowledge of individual heroics, allowed us to clearly visualise what our diggers would have experienced in this difficult environment... the sites we visited off the track of military significance was also a feature (and made us a little fitter over the extra 30 or so kilometres) and made our trip a little different to others.
As a family, we thoroughly enjoyed Soc's candour, local and historical knowledge, and leadership... we would have no issues in recommending Soc and KK as an opportunity for trekkers in the future who wish to learn the real story of Kokoda, and enjoy the ability to absorb the country and its people, at a pace that allows you to do so.
Thanks once again Soc for making our trek a very memorable one.
"Thanks Soc for an Adventure of a lifetime, trekking from Kokoda to Owers Corner was an experience I will never forget.
The history of the area came alive during your talks as you pointed out the actual locations where battles and other events occurred and how they unfolded.
You displayed a detailed knowledge of the track, the local people, and the best places to camp. This knowledge and your approach to the trek assured me that I was travelling with a Professional and an expert in his field of operation.
Your ability to speak the local language added flavour to the trip and the responses you received from the Porters and the Local people showed they held you in high esteem which clearly comes from your honest approach and your understanding of their culture and their current circumstances.
To anyone considering undertaking this adventure, I highly recommend Komplete Kokoda, it is a Professional organisation that specialise in small groups that quickly bond together, so you feel as if you are trekking with your mates after the first day."
"My motivation for doing the Kokoda trek was to learn as much as possible about the campaign. Because of his years of living at Kokoda, and being the son of a Kokoda legend, Soc Kienzle probably knows the area, its people and its history better than any other Australian.
He gave us all the facts and figures, but more importantly, through his passion and intimate knowledge, he gave us a deep and very moving insight into the experience of the average Digger who fought along the Kokoda.
For anyone who seriously wants to learn about the campaign and its place in our history, you could not do better than go with Soc Kienzle."
"People refer to the Kokoda legend but with Soc as your historian the reality of the legend becomes the truth. His inate ability to communicate the very essence of that which is Kokoda made it an experience I will remember for a lifetime.
The story of the Kokoda legend was handed down in detail to Soc by his dad Bert, one of the true legends of the Kokoda campaign.
To have the honor and the privilege of being a recipient of this information, some of which is not even known by many of the authors of books on the matter was a truly humbling experience."
"I and a group of walkers recently had the good fortune to share time with Soc Kienzle walking the Kokoda Trail.
My Expereince was enriched by Soc's detailed portrayal of the places and events surrounding the Kokoda campaign based upon his extensive knowledge of the land and its history. He showed us places and told us things that you don't hear or read about in books ..... things that really brought the Trail to life"
What a bonus to have met Soc along the Kokoda Track in August.
Our group it seems were just walking across the track when Soc invited us to join his group and our experience changed, from focusing on just our fitness level, to the beginning of an emotional journey, intouch with the history and reality of 65 years ago. Soc described the battles, showed us the sites and gladly answered our questions, which enriched our knowledge. Our trek now seemed to have much more historical and emotional purpose.
Soc was adamant that the history of the campaign must never be forgotten - it won't. His knowledge and passion for the preservation of the truth will be remembered and passed on by those who have had the privilege to accompany him on his Kokoda trek. Such a wonderful experience.
Soc is the son of Capt Bert Kienzle who was the planter who coordinated the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, the 1000 native porters who carried the supplies for the Australian forces. Soc lived at Kokoda for 37 years, so knows it and the history better than any European alive.
One of the interesting things we learned about the guiding companies that are organising treks, is that few are guided by people capable of imparting much knowledge of the history of the Trail. In fact some groups comprise a large number of trekkers (30+) and an even larger number of porters. Inevitably they comprise of people of different fitness and walking capacity, so they string out over a considerable distance. It would be impossible to be continually pointing out significant historical sites to such a group.
We realise how lucky we were to be a small group, all fit and able to stay together, absorbing a huge amount of the history as we went.
Thanks to Soc - a rewarding adventure
The Kokoda Village welcome was a colourful spectacle and a great tribute to the admiration and respect with which the Kienzle family is held and of course we saw evidence of this in all the villages all along the Trail.
Anzac Day (with Komplete Kokoda) was a most moving experience and I felt most honoured to have played a small part in the Dawn Service. Having someone impart first hand knowledge and experience of the people, the Trail and its history, as far as I am concerned is of paramount importance - and Soc Kienzle did this so capably"
During the first half of July 2009 I fulfilled a lifetime ambition when I walked the Kokoda track. The experience was made even more special by the presence of one of my daughters and my son. Day 6 of the trek found us at Efogi where we were preparing to meet one of the few remaining Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
While waiting for this meeting, my daughter was introduced by chance to Soc Kienzle. She immediately recognised the 'Kienzle' name from the many conversations with me over preceding months, concerning all things Kokoda. Soc's father Bert, had been instrumental in organizing teams of carriers, supply dumps at Myola and a myriad of other functions vital to an army conducting a war in the Owen Stanleys. My daughter introduced us and after a brief conversation Soc invited me to accompany his party up to Brigade Hill the next day.
Brigade Hill is an iconic battleground in Australian military history and I like to think that I have a pretty good knowledge of events there. Accompanying Soc however, was an opportunity far too good to miss. The knowledge I have is acquired mainly from books, whereas Soc’s knowledge comes from direct interaction with his father and other men who were there. Consequently, Soc was able to give me many insights and much information that is not to be found in any history book. Soc was able to graphically illustrate the savage nature of the close quarter fighting, the sequence of events that played out during the battle and the role played by the local Papuan men. Renown for their labours in carrying wounded, few people know of the active and uniquely Papuan role played by many of these warriors in the actual fighting.
The trip to Kokoda has provided lifelong memories for me and my children. I now have a far better understanding of the events at places such as Isurava, the Kokoda plateau and Eora Creek. The half day I spent with Soc on Brigade Hill however, provided a first-hand knowledge and was a highlight I will never forget.