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Kokoda Legend : Captain Sam Templeton - David Howell

Kokoda Legend

Captain Sam Templeton

By: David Howell

Paperback | 5 June 2024

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One of the finest soldiers and most courageous leaders I have ever known. – Lt Doug McClean, D Coy, 39th Battalion

If you have trekked Kokoda, then the campsite of Templeton's Crossing will be familiar. Discover the story of the man behind the name.


Captain Sam Templeton was the first Australian officer to be captured by the Japanese in the Kokoda Campaign. After being interrogated by his captors he was executed on the battlefield.

Prior to facing his enemy, Templeton had predicted his fate, telling one of his platoon commanders, that if 'he went into action, he wouldn’t come back'. Having resigned himself to his destiny, Templeton misled his captors on the numerical strength of the Australian forces waiting in Kokoda and Port Moresby.

Did the misinformation given by a militia officer slow the initial push by the Yokoyama Advance Force into the Owen Stanley Range, allowing the Australian Imperial Force to join the fight earlier? Did Templeton create doubt in the mind of the commander of the South Seas Force, influencing an operational change for the attack on Port Moresby?

A quiet and often aloof character originally from Belfast, Captain Sam Templeton is mentioned in just about every book written about Kokoda. Prior to fighting in New Guinea, Templeton is reputed to have helped quash the Irish rebellion, served in submarines with the Royal Navy during the First World War and to have fought with the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

Kokoda Legend goes beyond the myth to discover the real contribution Captain Sam Templeton made to stopping the Japanese advance over the Owen Stanley Range in 1942.

About the Author

Mr David Howell is a Melbourne based author, Kokoda tour guide and historian specialising in the history of wartime New Guinea.

David started his Kokoda career at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway in Concord, NSW. Here he took thousands of visitors around the memorial educating them on the significance Kokoda. David continued as a guide at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, before taking up a full-time appointment. He created and was the editor of the Shrine's magazine Remembrance and designed and ran the Friends of the Shrine program. In 2015, he returned full-time to trekking Kokoda with his company Kokoda Historical. He is currently the history chair and a Life Member of the 39th Battalion Association and the Secretary of the Mornington RSL.

David served for 15 years as an infantry soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. In 2008, he deployed on peacekeeping operations in the Solomon Islands. David is well published on Australian military history and a regular guest on many radio and television history programs including the award winning SBS series Who Do You Think You Are. David is married with two children and resides on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

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