Australian Defence Force and Australian Public Service personnel have retraced the steps of soldiers who fought on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in World War II.

The 96-kilometre trail, across rugged and isolated terrain, is only passable on foot.

Soldiers of the Citizen Military Force and Australian Imperial Force fought and died along the track as they tried to repel the Japanese advance in 1942.

“There is no denying it, this is an arduous trek. It is long, gruelling hours in wet, tropical conditions."

Forty Defence military and civilian members followed in the muddy footprints of those soldiers on Exercise Kokoda Strike 2019 from May 3-12.

Lieutenant Colonel Clark Smith stops to read a memorial on top of Brigade Hill, along the Kokoda Track. Photo: Corporal Tristan Kennedy

Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel Julian West, the exercise commander, said the activity focused on professional development among the three services and military history.

“For me and the team, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to better understand the courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice of those Australians who served in World War II in Papua New Guinea,” Lieutenant Colonel West said.

It was a physically and mentally challenging activity and months of preparation ensured the participants were ready for it.

“There is no denying it, this is an arduous trek. It is long, gruelling hours in wet, tropical conditions,” Lieutenant Colonel West said.

“The participating members spent months training physically with pack marches and mentally by researching the Kokoda campaign.”

Exercise Kokoda Strike 19 participants stand at Owers' Corner after finishing the Kokoda Track. Photo: Corporal Tristan Kennedy

Primarily a land battle, the Japanese objective was to seize Port Moresby by following the Kokoda Track over the mountains of the Owen Stanley Range. The Japanese withdrew on  September 26, 1942, after months of gruelling fighting and several major battles in the jungle terrain.

The lessons of the Kokoda campaign would initiate changes to Australian military training and doctrine that are relevant today.