Letters & Enquiries
Featuring commentaries about previously published articles and news items, along with opinions of interest to PNGAA members. Also included are enquiries from those who require assistance with their research or finding someone from the past.
The Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Society was established in 2009 and integrated into the PNGAA in 2013. The society encourages students and adults to explore the significance of WWII in the Papua New Guinea islands and what the start of the Pacific War in 1942 meant for Australia, including its worst maritime disaster—the sinking of MS Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.
If you have news for the members, please contact Andrea Williams on firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos of Port Moresby Golf Club
I am looking for any of you old-timers out there who could share photos of the Port Moresby Golf Club—Newtown site (pre-World War II), Kaugere site (post-World War II), Ward Strip site (around 1972–74) or the current site of Royal Port Moresby Golf Club (from around 1974).
Bruce Mackinlay, OBE
PO Box 282 Port Moresby, PNG—Mobile: +675 7626 977
Memories of Wau
My Mum, Dad, sister and I were living in Wau in 1941, and we lived on the left-hand side of the aerodrome. As I was only eight at the time, this is a memory of the aeroplane at that age.
I remember seeing the plane down in the gully every time I went to school. I remember my parents talking about it going off the side of the drome. Also, apparently there were a few ‘near misses’ because of the slope of the drome.
Actually, it was a thrill for me to read something in PNG Kundu about my memories of my wonderful time at beautiful Wau.
Editor’s Note: On 3 August 1940 DH. 60M ‘Eros’ VH-UQY ran off the runway during take off at Wau and crashed into the government store, wrecking it and the aircraft.
Remembering Norm Oliver
I have been a member of PNGAA for many years and have always enjoyed reading the Association’s journal. I have been most impressed by the quality of recent editions of PNG Kundu.
Reading Ed Brumby’s Vale for Norm Oliver in your most recent edition, I was prompted to reflect on Norm, Papua New Guinea’s sport facilities and the contributions of so many people over so many years to encourage and support participation in sport across Papua New Guinea (PNG). I played at various basketball tournaments with, and against Norm Oliver, from the mid-1960s and in the early 1970s. The most enjoyable part of any tournament was sharing a few beers with Norm and his friends after the last game was played.
My background—towards the end of 1962, fifty-two graduates of the ASOPA Cadet Education Officers Course, travelled to PNG to commence their teaching careers. I was one of those teachers. I arrived in Wewak two days after my twentieth birthday, with one lecturer (Les Peterkin) and nine other cadets, for our last three weeks of ‘practice teaching’ experience.
We had all graduated as primary school teachers, but in early November we had received an offer to take up postings in various high schools. My memory is that only six of us took up that offer—it was one of the best decisions of my early life and led to a wonderful fifteen years in secondary schools, in four different provinces of PNG.
Not only did I enjoy my time in PNG—I thrived on the challenges, the diversity, the opportunities, the friendships and the knowledge that we teachers were contributing to PNG’s growth.
The attached ‘A Concrete Legacy’ is a tribute to all who made an effort to provide facilities, coaching, officiating and administration for sport in schools and communities across PNG.
David Keating, OAM
Origin of ‘Kiap’
Recently, while going back through old PNG books, I noticed a photo which, unfortunately, drew me back to earlier discussions about the origins of the title kiap. The book, by Noel Gash and June Whittaker, was entitled A Pictorial History of New Guinea and the photo was on page 78. The caption read in part ‘indigenous police in their naval style uniforms …’.
You will recall kiap was thought to be a contraction of the title Captain—perhaps the rank of officers in charge of police detachments in German times. But this theory was gleefully discounted by those pointing out the fact that Kapitan was a naval rank and Hauptmann would be more accurate for an officer in the police force. However, if indigenous police were clad in naval uniforms it is likely they were commanded by naval officers.
So, let the debate resume!
I read Neville Threlfall’s letter in the last issue with interest and have the following to add to his narrative.
My father was at General Blamey’s parade at Koitaki when he uttered the now infamous statement: ‘It’s the running rabbit that gets shot, not the hunter with the gun.’ For the survivors of Kokoda, Isurava and Brigade Hill this was too much to bear and Blamey was booed. Blamey claimed that he was misunderstood as he was attempting to lift the troops’ spirits. However, that evening in the Officers’ Mess Blamey lambasted the officers from those battalions that they had let Australia down and were defeated by an inferior enemy.
In November 1942 the remnants of Dad’s battalion paraded at Ward’s Strip preparatory to flying to Popondetta and movement to Gona along with the rest of 21 Brigade. The parade was addressed by New Guinea Force Commander, Lieut General Edmund Herring, who told the assembled troops, ‘Soldiers should expect to die.’
The reaction to what he envisaged were inspirational words was unexpected and caused resentful muttering among the assembled troops and they then began to ‘count him off’.
This was a custom whereby the men would loudly begin to count to ten and if the offending person hadn’t vacated the area by the time the count reached ten then they would take matters into their own hands and physically remove the offending person. In relating this experience to me, Dad told me that during the count he heard a rifle bolt being worked nearby.
What these events showed, perhaps, was how out of touch the Australian senior command were in the new style of close jungle warfare.
Celebrating the Terrells
We look forward to sharing the story of our parents, Tim and Judy Terrell, in a future issue of PNG Kundu.
Tim died in 2020, following a hard-fought battle with cancer. Judy pre-deceased him by nine months. We were deeply impacted by their deaths because they were an incredibly important and consistent presence in our lives. We struggled to come to a space to appropriately represent their contribution to making our world a better place and apologise for the delay.
Born in Darjeeling to Alec and Joyce Terrell, Tim lived a remarkable life devoted to helping others all over the world, particularly in Papua New Guinea.
Tim was a gentleman, a man of integrity, commitment and humility. He was deeply loved and is missed by his family, friends and colleagues.
He was the dearly loved husband of Judy for sixty-two years, beloved brother of Jill, Alan (dec.) and Mike (dec.) and adored father of Holly and Kim, father-in-law of Geoff and Maree.
He was the treasured grandfather of Jaimie, Kiri, Christabelle, Elise and Rian and their partners Brett, Evan and Dave and the loving great-grandfather of Henry and Mallee
His wisdom, generosity and kindness live on—a man of deep faith, at peace with God.
Dr Holly Northam, OAM
Vale Marjorie Walker
I was saddened to read of the passing of Mrs Marjorie Walker in PNG Kundu, June 2021.
I was a third-year student at St Gabriel’s School for Girls in 1968 and have fond memories of her. Mrs Walker (née Zeck—apologies if this spelling is incorrect) was my art teacher.
Miss Zeck entertained our class with stories of her time in Tanzania and surprisingly often asked questions about the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. One day she informed us that she had accepted a teaching position at Kerevat High School. As I was from Rabaul, I was delighted. I gave her our home phone number and asked her to call me when she arrived in Rabaul.
I was home for Christmas holidays so was pleased when Miss Zeck phoned to say she had arrived, settled in and was eager to meet my parents, Poppy and Cyril Holland.
Not long after Mum, Dad and I visited her at Kerevat. Mum and Miss Zeck became firm friends and thereafter we saw her quite often. She accompanied us on many of our Sunday picnics, joined us for lunch or dinner whenever she was in town and even ‘saw in’ the New Year with us as we partied with friends at Chinatown. I also remember her running with me after the Chinese New Year dragon as the dragon ‘terrorised’ the folk of Rabaul.
St Gabriel’s School for Girls (not St Gabriel’s Girls Grammar School) closed in 1968 and in 1969 I commenced boarding at Ipswich Girls Grammar. However, I often caught up with Miss Zeck when I returned home for holidays.
I remember Miss Zeck with fondness and am saddened at her passing. And I am not surprised at her many accomplishments in Papua New Guinea. Her dedication and passion for teaching others was well respected, well known and very much appreciated. May she Rest in Peace.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas.
Rathmines Heritage Centre
On 8 April 2021 my husband and I attended the event at the Rathmines Heritage Centre, ably organised by Sara Turner and Suellen Holland. It consisted of a tour of the old Catalina base, a walk-through of the Max Dupain Photographic Exhibition in the Heritage Centre, and an excellent lunch at the Rathmines Bowling Club. The occasion was of special interest to us as my husband’s father was a pilot in air rescue in New Guinea during the war (although not involved in the Catalina base) and my father was in Tobruk and New Guinea as part of the 9th Division.
Rathmines on Lake Macquarie, operated by the RAAF, was once the largest flying boat base in the Southern Hemisphere. Established in 1939 it is the only surviving and intact flying boat base left in Australia, and its significance is such that it has been recognised for protection on the State Heritage Register.
These flying boats and their crews stationed at Rathmines were involved in events that ended the threat of invasion to Australia including the mining of Manila Harbour and the waters off the East Coast of China, as well as in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
In its heyday the site consisted of eighty acres (32 ha) of cleared land, buildings housing personnel servicing the aircraft, a land airstrip and the water strip for launching the mighty Catalinas. Today, some of the buildings remain including the beautiful Rathmines Theatre, which has recently been renovated and is still used for artistic purposes. The RAAF operated 168 Catalina Flying Boats here between 1941 and 1950, flown by four front-line squadrons, two communications units and three Air-Sea-Rescue flights.
Max Dupain is a renowned Australian photographer, but not many know that he was appointed as an official war photographer towards the end of World War II. In this excellent exhibition he has captured the day-to-day life at military bases, including the RAAF Rathmines Base and the base on Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea. Seventy years later these photographs are still so clear, recording accurately and with sympathy and admiration the role played by various servicemen and women (the latter servicing the huge Catalinas at the base). During his own service Max Dupain also experimented with camouflage and concealment for the RAAF.
The exhibition has been curated by the History Section of Lake Macquarie Council from black and white reprints of material from the State Library of NSW.
It is available until November 2021 at the Rathmines Heritage Centre and is well worth a visit, not only for the exhibition but also a view of the beautiful old theatre, which played such a huge role for those serving at Rathmines Base during the war.
I still remember getting the Sunderland Flying Boat from Rose Bay to New Guinea during the 1950s for school holidays. Not Catalinas, but still exciting. I believe one or two of the old Catalinas have been restored and are still flying today.
Blamey’s Rabbits and a Sequel
Reference was made in Una Voce, December 2019, to the remark made by General Thomas Blamey when addressing Australian soldiers in Port Moresby in 1942: ‘It’s the running rabbit that gets shot, while the sitting rabbit is safe’, (or words to this effect).
Blamey may have only meant his words as a metaphor, to encourage the soldiers to hold their positions when attacked, rather than withdrawing, but the soldiers resented his words, thinking he may have been comparing them to rabbits.
Military discipline prevented them from voicing their resentment when on parade; but when it was learned that he would be visiting the military hospital the following day, lettuce leaves were smuggled in and soldiers chewed them ostentatiously as he came through the wards.
(Personally, I don’t find Blamey’s metaphor very accurate—as a farm boy I made war on them with a .22 rifle. I never wasted bullets on a running rabbit; it was the sitting rabbits that fell victim to my shooting.)
There was a sequel to Blamey’s remarks, which may well have caused an Australian politician’s downfall. The Hon. Francis Forde, the Minister for the Army, visited Port Moresby soon afterwards. Like Blamey, he addressed a parade of soldiers who had been involved in the fighting on the Kokoda Track. Forde had evidently heard of Blamey’s remark, but gained a wrong understanding of it, for he accused the men of a particular battalion of having ‘run like rabbits’.
Forde, being a civilian, there was no military discipline to prevent the soldiers from voicing their disapproval, and their hooting and booing drowned out the rest of his speech. The spreading of this story may have had a part in the following events.
Forde was Deputy Prime Minister to Prime Minister John Curtin. When Curtin died on 5 July 1945, the Governor-General appointed Forde as caretaker Prime Minister. But when the Labor Caucus met on 13 July, Forde was not confirmed in the position—JB ‘Ben’ Chifley was chosen as the new Prime Minister, and Forde went down in history as the Australian Prime Minister with the shortest term—eight days.
In the Federal election in 1946, although the Chifley Government was returned to office, Forde lost his seat—the only cabinet minister to do so. He did not attempt to re-enter the Federal Parliament, but in 1955 he stood for, and won, a seat in Queensland’s State Parliament. It was thought that, with his previous political experience, he had a good chance to become a future Premier. But in 1957 he lost his seat and did not try to re-enter politics. It may have been Blamey’s rabbits that ended his career.
COVID-19 Travel Update
The months just fly by when you are having fun, Easter has gone and here we are well into 2021.
There has been a spike in COVID cases in PNG, they are huge by PNG standards, but small by the world standards.
There is little change in this area of the world. Our international borders (PNG, Australia and New Zealand) are still tightly closed. However, a travel bubble will open up later this month between Australia and New Zealand only.
Our company has experienced large changes in the last twelve months, for we have gone from a company that received 90% of its business from international clients to one that receives zero international business and now does 100% locally business.
This change required a complete rethink in how we operate. We went from a company where people booked months in advance to one where local bookings are for today! These bookings could even change later in the day if they cancel.
If you come from outside Oceania all countries in this part of the world (PNG, Australia & New Zealand) require you to quarantine on arrival at your expense and in a government nominated facility. Even vaccinated people entering Australia, New Zealand or PNG internationally still have to quarantine for fourteen days on arrival. Unless you are a citizen or a permanent resident of one of these countries then it is difficult to gain entry. Our international borders are still effectively closed and likely to remain so for some time yet, maybe even to the end of 2021.
Until these international restrictions are lifted and people are free to enter PNG and Australia internationally without having to quarantine then there will be few or no international travellers ‘coming downunder’. We have had no indications from the authorities in PNG or Australia as to when these international restrictions will be lifted.
All we can do at this stage is to encourage our nearest and dearest to stay as safe and as healthy as they can and offer our understanding, compassion and help our industry friends, colleagues and partners, particularly those in North America and Europe.
We are committed to recovering from this and getting our international travel business moving again as soon as this is over. Stay safe and healthy and my very best regards.
Trans Niugini Tours, Mt Hagen
Plantation Life in New Ireland in the 1960s
Becoming a member of PNGAA and reading the many interesting articles from contributors has rekindled many memories of the early 1960s when I was a copra and cocoa plantation manager employed by WR Carpenter Pty Ltd, Rabaul. I enjoy reading others’ experiences but would like to know if you think readers would be interested in other stories from my own experience.
The early 1960s were a period of change; the Vietnam War was of concern as was New Guinea’s shift from semi-colonial rule to independence. Plantation managers (and owners) had to adjust to the circumstances and plantation life was full of alarms, for example when different groups of workers tried to settle their tribal disputes between each other.
Being on my own managing an isolated plantation on the East Coast of New Ireland there was no outside help. I had an old 3BZ wartime radio that was near useless so medical emergencies were a challenge. Local people as well came for help with their health problems. Fortunately, all managers were required to work fulltime at Nonga Base Hospital to obtain a medical assistant’s certificate before employing workers. There had to be enough food supplies for the 180 indentured native workers for three months. Managers were also required to do all mechanical repairs on plantation machinery so, all in all, it was a full-on occupation.
Accident at Wau
I write re the Bristol freighter aircraft story by Ron Austin in the June issue of PNG Kundu.
I was told, correctly I hope, there are the remains of one of these aircraft at the bottom of the airstrip at Wau.
The story was: Because of the slope it is the practice to land uphill at Wau and then, at the top turn at right angles to the strip. This aircraft was on a promotion flight in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. The pilot did not turn after landing and the brake cable broke. Mr Austin mentions their original ‘dodgy’ brakes but it wasn’t them that led to the loss of this plane.
John R Horne
Looking for a Heroine
I am working on a book and TV documentary project that has a missing link that one of your readers may be able to provide.
During the 1942–43 Battle of Buna-Gona in New Guinea, Australian Department of Information (DOI) combat cameraman, George Silk, a New Zealander, took a series of photographs that the department subsequently considered too graphic, and banned from publication.
Silk considered his shots the best he had ever taken—among them the now famous image of ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel’ Raphael Oimbari helping blinded Private Dick Whittington along a bush track (pictured below).
Silk felt it vitally important that Australians, and the world, see how desperate the fighting in New Guinea was. So, he wined and dined a young lady from the DOI stationed in Port Moresby, and she agreed to covertly help him. She ordered prints of Silk’s best shots from the lab in Sydney, and passed them onto Silk. He in turn passed the prints on to a Life magazine reporter who passed them onto Life photographer George Strock, who was returning to the US.
Strock had Silk’s picture of Oimbari and Whittington published, full page, in Life in March, 1943. It cost Silk his job with the DOI, but he was quickly hired by Life, which used his photo as ammunition in a campaign to have the US War Department overturn its ban on publication of photos of dead and seriously wounded Americans. The campaign came to be backed by US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who considered the American public too complacent about the war.
As result, a photo taken by George Strock of three dead Americans on Buna Beach was published by Life in September, 1943, shocking America (pictured at right). In 2014 Time magazine called it the most influential photograph of World War II.
It probably would not have been published had George Silk’s photo not paved the way. And that would not have happened without the help of the young lady from the DOI. Do any of your readers know the identity of the anonymous heroine?
Editor’s Note: The author of this letter has asked that contact with him should be made through email@example.com
I am writing to ask whether anyone among your readers has a contact with someone from Mt Hagen in PNG.
I went to boarding school with Eve Fox, who spent many school holidays on our property west of Rockhampton over a period of five years. Her brothers were attending boarding school with my brother and also came to us for several school holidays. This was from 1965 to 1969 so Eve was twelve to fifteen at that time. Her father was John Fox who lived at Korn Farm at Mt Hagen.
Sadly, I lost contact with Eve as I travelled a lot after I married and I guess she married too, but I did hear that she moved to Nauru.
Anyway, I will at some point check out births, deaths and marriages, which may give me a clue, but after looking at your old website and reading so many stories it inspired me to give you a try.
Thank you in anticipation.
0419 742 72—firstname.lastname@example.org
I have seen a range of books written about PNG in the journal over the last few years. I do not know if your readers are aware of the two books described below. I have a personal interest in them both.
The first is Villagers at War: some Papua New Guinean experiences in World War 2. I am the author. It was first published in 1979 by ANU then was republished in 2012 by UPNG Press.
The second book is Meeting the Challenge: Australian teachers in Papua New Guinea pre-independence 1955–1975. This book, edited by G Burke, has twenty-four stories by Australian teachers who worked in PNG pre-independence. I wrote one of those stories. This book was published by Copyright Publishing, Brisbane in 2005.
Secondhand copies of these books are available online at www.abebooks.com at the time of writing.
My opinion is that it would be helpful for the Association to create an archive online of books about the relationship between Australia and PNG. It is possible one exists but I am not aware of it.
Neville K Robinson
Seeking Photographs of Port Moresby
I am presently compiling a book on Port Moresby—its history, suburbs, iconic buildings, interesting characters and related topics and would be grateful for any old (i.e. before about 1970) photos of the city.
I have assembled quite a few pictures already, but it is always good to have a selection, particularly from early in the 20th century and just before and just after World War II, to demonstrate the transition of the town to the city that we have today. I prefer to have jpeg files.
I can be contacted on the email address below for any contributions.
Searching for Contact
On the Inside Front Cover of the December 2020 issue of PNG Kundu, among the accolades to the late Fred Kaad, which I also endorse, there was one from a John Pain, an ex-patrol officer. It is coincidental that both John and I lived in PNG during the same period, though, after sixty-six years, I am still resident in PNG.
The coincidence further expands when you consider that, only two years ago, I discovered that my biological father was a Hugh Crofton Pain. A veterinary surgeon, he served in a medical unit of the Australian Army during the First World War. He died in Brisbane in 1953 at the age of seventy. At that time I, too, was in Brisbane but neither of us was aware of the other’s existence in that fair city.
Since Hugh was the only Pain to have emigrated from England in the early 1900s it is most probable that John and I are related. I would therefore like the opportunity to make his acquaintance with a view to further unravelling the above sequence of events.
I would appreciate it if readers of PNG Kundu could help me make contact with John Pain. The unusual spelling of the name, with or without an ‘e’ at the end, further cements the possible relationship.
Sir Ramon Thurecht, OBE
Peter Shanahan and His Snakes
The vale for Pete Shanahan in PNG Kundu, June 2020, reminded me of an episode we shared during my time in Papua New Guinea.
Late one afternoon Peter and I had finished the day’s work and we were sitting on the verandah talking about the day and having a beer. As we sat there a huge python snake, maybe 3.5 m long, came across our front lawn.
Peter immediately ran after it, grabbing it by the tail and, of course, it swung around to bite him. He quickly caught it behind the head and, while the monster snake twisted and turned and its body curled on the ground behind him, Peter was looking into the serpent’s face and talking to it before letting it go into the shrubbery and gardens. It all seemed madness to me.
Occasionally, one of his snakes would escape from its enclosure in our house at night and in the semi-darkness we would search for it; that is, Peter, not me. Going into my bed I always made sure my mosquito net was well tucked into the mattress as some of these snakes were small and very thin and could move very quickly.
Old Tony Corless (at least we thought he was old) would tell me that he had lived a life of alarms, extreme tensions, and of course the war of 42/45 but his greatest fear was of snakes of any kind and he could not understand how Peter could be attracted to them.
The five years working on some of the thirty plantations owned by Coconut Products Ltd. was an experience I will never forget. Before reading the Vale I had not heard of Peter again after I left the company to return to Australia. He did what he liked to do, was successful in his pursuits and a very amusing bloke to have known.
Prince Philip in the Sepik
I was a mission pilot in the Sepik in the sixties and am now doing some research on that region. Can anyone provide me with any information, including the date, about Prince Philip’s visit there? Thank you.
News Travels Fast!
It was a great joy to read Tony Skelton’s memories in the latest issue of PNG Kundu magazine. It brought back some memories of a small but important incident in my life that took place almost forty years ago.
It was October 1981, at Nuku Government Station in the West Sepik Province, and I was the guest of Tony Friend, District Officer in Charge. Only a couple of days earlier we had returned to Nuku after a challenging walk from Oksapmin to Baktaman in Western Province, crossing the Victor Emanuel Range and the Hindenburg Wall. Tony acknowledged it was the hardest walk in his kiap career. I must have passed the test, as a day after our return to Nuku, Tony asked whether I would like to be his wife—I did not hesitate, although I had known him just over two weeks. But before we were able to announce the happy news, we started to receive congratulations from friends in all corners of West Sepik Province: from Oksapmin, Telefomin, Lumi, Vanimo, and even from Wewak.
‘What on earth has happened?’ wondered Tony. ‘How do people know about our engagement?’
‘No doubt you mentioned it over the radio,’ I helpfully suggested.
‘No, certainly I did not’—and then, the eureka moment: ‘Tony Skelton!’
Indeed, on the day of our momentous decision, Tony Skelton, the Talair pilot, had landed at Nuku and came to our house for a cup of coffee. We couldn’t hide our joy. The news travelled with the speed of light or, rather, with the speed of Talair’s Twin Otter …
Kiaps on Leave!
My story about kiaps on leave has been uploaded to the PNGAA website, e-books section: www.pngaa.org/e-books/, which some of our readers might find interesting. It happened to two kiaps while on leave from TPNG during the Australian Administration.
This story was made possible by the excellent leave provisions we enjoyed during this Administration. Immediately after the end of the Pacific War when the interior of TPNG was being opened for development, some of the living conditions for expatriate staff there were often quite primitive. This was the era of grass huts, oil lamps, pit latrines, mosquito nets, tinned food and, on some of the remote outstations, living conditions were often quite harsh.
In compensation we were given excellent leave conditions—three-months’ leave on full pay every two years, six-months’ long-service leave on full pay every six years. So, what we did during our leave became part of our TPNG experience.
For example, some officers combined their recreation leave with their long-service leave, to enable an academic year at a university. Others spent their leave travelling through other Pacific countries to see what PNG would be like after Independence, and so on. Still others sought wider experience by touring the world.
The story describes how another kiap, John Cochrane, and I were detained by Russian soldiers while on leave from TPNG in Germany.
As advised at the Sydney PNGAA Christmas 2020 lunch, Kenthurst Rotary Club is raising money to set up a basic dental clinic in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The dental clinic will serve an estimated 300,000 people living along the Sepik River in the north of PNG. These people have no access to dental services in their area.
Once the dental clinic is set up, we will organise volunteer dentists from Australia every year. This will ensure periodic dental care for the people of the Sepik River while they organise a resident dentist.
People wishing to contribute to this project can contact Karo Haltmeier on email: email@example.com and phone: +61 468 329 764.