Book reviews, 2005

Yali’s question: Sugar, culture and history by Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz
Witch doctor by Anne McCosker
Bamahuta – Leaving Papua by Philip Fitzpatrick
He’s Not Coming Home: A story of love, loss and discovery in Rabaul during World War 2 by Gillian Nikakis
Development Bulletin No. 67 April 2005: Effective Development in Papua New Guinea
The Unseen City: Anthropological Perspectives on Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea by Michael Goddard
Oscar X-Ray Calling by Betty Scarlet
The Kokoda Trail: A History by Stuart Hawthorne
Vision and Reality in Pacific Religion, edited by Phyllis Herda, Michael Reilly and David Hilliard
U.S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane 1942-1945 by David Jones and Peter Nunan
The Final Missions by Lionel Veale MID
High Mountainous Country – No Reliable Information by Ray Stuart
No Turning Back by E.T.W.Fulton
Meeting The Challenge – Australian Teachers in Papua New Guinea, Pre-Independence 1955-1975, edited by Gail Burke
The School That Fell From The Sky by Fred Hargesheimer
Of Storms and Rainbows, Volume II by AL Graeme-Evans
A Trial Separation: Australia and the Decolonisation of Papua New Guinea by Donald Denoon
To The Ends Of The Earth, The Life Story of Ida Voss by Paul and Eleanor Knie
Bougainville Before the Conflict, edited by AJ Regan and HM Griffin
The Truth About Kieta – January 1942 by John V Plunkett
Madang by James Sinclair
Day of Reckoning by Lachlan Strahan
Sogeri: The School That Helped to Shape a Nation – A History, 1944-1994 by Lance Taylor

Yali’s Question: Sugar, Culture and History by Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz 2004
ISBN (cloth) 0-226-21745-0, ISBN (pb) 0-226-21746-9. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637. Please purchase through your book retailer.
Reviewed by John Howard, Una Voce Mar 2005

Recently a book appeared on the new acquisitions stand of our university library which may be of interest to some members of the Association. It is called Yali’s Question: Sugar, Culture and History by Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz. It is an account by two anthropology professors of the Ramu Sugar project. Errington and Gewertz already had PNG experience when they commenced their work at Ramu Sugar (RSL) and had three extended stays there. The book is a very comprehensive account covering the pre-contact history of the area with the situation at Ramu Sugar up until 2001. Amongst the people interviewed were Doug Parrish, referred to as ‘president of the Retired Patrol Officer’s Association’ [sic], Lady Barbara Jephcott, and David Colton, still Chair of the Ramu Sugar Board.

It traces the project from the purchase of land by Doug Parrish and Neil McNamara in 1956 and the gestation of the project, particularly the role of John Christensen of DPI. The position of Booker Tate as the management company is discussed also the life of both expatriate and local workers and the traditional landowners and their relationship with the project. Particularly interesting were accounts of the local workforce’s adjustment to the working environment of Ramu Sugar and the concerns of local workers about life after Ramu Sugar. Families must then leave the estate and their anxieties about where they will live and, if in the village, their likely reception there are discussed.
There is also discussion of economic aspects of the project, the role of tariff protection in the success of the project and the clout wielded by Coca-Cola Amatil through its buying power.

I found particularly interesting some personal vignettes in the book. Jock Campbell was chairman of Bookers. He had gone in the 1930s to work on his family’s sugar estate in British Guiana. He was shocked at the conditions of employment of the sugar workers, who were still treated much as their predecessors, the slaves, had been. He resolved to make things better when he had the opportunity. He believed the profit motive must be combined with a commitment to public morality with a concern for employees, customers and the nation in which the enterprise operates. Campbell became Lord Campbell of Eskan and was a prominent supporter of the British Labour Party.

Other interesting personalities described were Joe Herman, Engan born American citizen recruited by RSL from the States as Community Relations Officer and Robin Wilson Tolai manager of seasonal employees and later out-growers. Wilson’s sudden death in 2001 lead to an extraordinary outpouring of grief by the extended RSL community.

Witch Doctor by Anne McCosker
ISBN 0-9750591-0-6, Soft cover 70pp., Cost: $22 including p&p in Australia. Published by Matala Press. Orders to: PO Box 829 Maleny Qld 4551 or . Cheques payable to Matala Press.
(Una Voce Mar 2005).
Bamahuta – Leaving Papua by Philip Fitzpatrick
ISBN 1 74076 1367, Fiction. Soft cover 313pp. Cost: $29.95 (incl postage in Australia). Published by Pandanus Books c/- Australian National University, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, Canberra. ACT 0200. Orders also through their website or Ph: 02-6125 3269. Published 2005.
(Una Voce Mar 2005).

He’s Not Coming Home: A story of love, loss and discovery in Rabaul during World War 2 by Gillian Nikakis (2005)
ISBN 0 734408145, Cost: $29.95 (p&p not included) 256pp, 39 illustrations, soft cover. Published by Lothian Books, South Melbourne. Please purchase by contacting
Reviewed by Pat Johnson – Una Voce Jun 2005.

Essentially this is the personal story of a family caught up in the events of World War 2 and their lives until recent times. The book provides insight through letters into life, attitudes and events of living in a tropical outpost from the 1930s.

The author, in seeking to find out more about the father she never knew (believed lost on the Montevideo Maru), focuses on her mother as central to this quest. The story relating to her mother is a positive one, highlighting strength of character and achievement.
Questioning and reflecting on her own feelings as a child growing up, the author accessed archival records, interviewed significant persons and referred to a comprehensive bibliography on the general subject. For example, the loss of the Montevideo Maru, the lives of the missionaries at Vunapope/Ramale and the survival of POW Coastwatcher, John Murphy. Some damning correspondence highlighting the un-preparedness of the Government is reproduced. Receiving support from people who were involved in these times and beyond, as well as returning to Rabaul for the 50 years commemoration of the invasion in 1992, was cathartic.

Overall, the strength of this book lies in the numerous letters reproduced. The resolving of childhood grief in adulthood may provide comfort to those in similar circumstances.

Development Bulletin No. 67 April 2005 Effective Development in Papua New Guinea.
Una Voce Jun 2005
ISSN 1035-1132, cost $25 (incl p&p within Aust) or $35 (incl air postage overseas), 35 papers and case studies providing personal stories on successful development. Available from: Development Studies Network, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University, ACT 0200. .

The Unseen City: Anthropological Perspectives on Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea by Michael Goddard. (2005)
ISBN 1 74076 1340. Soft Cover, 225pp. Cost $34.96 (including postage in Australia). Published by Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra Act 0200. Orders also through their website: or telephone 02 61253269.
Reviewed by Philip Fitzpatrick – Una Voce Jun 2005.

When I was last in the Highlands I worked with a Melpa man who had been rendered virtually landless by the expansion of the township of Mount Hagen. He was working as a driver for an oil company and lived in a squatter settlement outside the town on someone else’s land and paid rent for the privilege.

Similar settlements developed around Port Moresby much earlier in Papua New Guinea’s history. It is interesting to read in Michael Goddard’s book how many of these settlements have been integrated into the city. It is also interesting to see him debunk many of the myths, past and current, about these places.

Goddard’s exploration of the motives of the raskols is fascinating. He traces their activities to tradition, describing how the prestige derived from their largesse is similar to that enjoyed by traditional bik men. Very few raskols accumulate wealth in the mafia style. To do so would make them prime targets for the police. Instead, their plunder is quickly distributed to other people, most notably in the form of large amounts of rapidly consumed booze.

A large amount of Goddard’s field data was collected by observing the operations of the Village Courts, a system set up in 1973, ostensibly to recognise and preserve rural traditional culture, including the means of dispute resolution. The system has since been adopted by urban settlements around the larger towns but has lost some of its informality in favour of legalistic procedure – a sort of reversal of the normal Melanesian process of modifying colonial structures to suit its own cultural needs.

Goddard’s observations have enormous relevance for the problems of law and order in Papua New Guinea. He makes it plain that heavy-handed measures are not the way to go. He also makes it clear that trying to force Papua New Guineans to use westernised economic practise is fraught with danger. The book has immediate relevance for Australia’s aid program to Papua New Guinea. Our preoccupation with good governance based on western style economic models may be seriously flawed because of our poor understanding of how Melanesian society works.

The book is derived from a collection of seminar papers and monographs presented or published generally within academic circles. For this reason it tends to be repetitive; maybe it should have been more closely edited. Otherwise, the anthropological jargon is thankfully kept to a minimum (keep the dictionary handy however).

Oscar X-Ray Calling By Betty Scarlet
ISBN 0476013852. Soft cover, 173pp Illustrated cost AU$30 (incl p&p within Australia). Australian orders to H Scarlet, 12 David St, Glenbrook NSW 2773 Ph: 02-47396189 or NZ$20 (incl p&p within NZ). NZ orders to B. Scarlet, 103 Shetland St, Dunedin NZ or .
Reviewed by Allan Jones – Una Voce Sep 2005.

This is a story about the love of Albert and Betty Scarlet, missionaries in PNG from 1962 to 1971, for the Lord, each other, their three daughters and all the people they come into contact with. It is an account of the joys, hardships and tragedies experienced by this unassuming family. Readers will be better able to empathise with missionaries, pray more specifically and give more suitably.

Those who say ‘no man can multi-task’ never met Albert Scarlet. In addition to having the responsibility for the spiritual oversight and counselling of many, Albert built roads, houses and classrooms; maintained vehicles and generators; managed schools and stores; carried out bookkeeping tasks; tended the sick and performed numerous other duties, all on a miniscule budget! Betty shows us life through the eyes of the missionary’s wife. She faces the challenges of the illnesses of their children and themselves; woefully inadequate facilities; the children’s schooling needs; ‘official’ Christian work with women’s groups, Sunday School and Religious Instruction classes; first aid services; humidity and torrential rain; and much more. Readers will weep and cheer at the experiences of the Scarlets’ Papuan fellow labourers such as Makora and Egi Toea. In PNG today the love of Betty and Albert lives on in the hearts of many. ‘Jesus is very strong,’ a Papuan pastor says to Albert during an inland patrol through the forest of a ‘foreign’ tribe. Oscar X-Ray Calling testifies to this.

The Kokoda Trail: A History by Stuart Hawthorne
ISBN 1 876 780 304. 269 pp, RRP $29.95. Published by Central Queensland University Press. Available from booksellers.
Reviewed by James Porter – Una Voce Sep 2005.

This interesting and very detailed history of the Kokoda Trail from its earliest beginnings covers ground which has not been available in most other accounts which, in the main, concentrate on the famous 1942 battle by Australian soldiers against the invading Japanese. The author, who spent much of his early life in Papua, is to be congratulated on his meticulous research over a period of thirty years – the result is a fascinating read for any ex-resident of PNG.

The many maps included illustrate the determined attempts over the years to find a land route over the intimidating heights of the Owen Stanley Range, which still today separates Port Moresby from the rest of the country. There are comprehensive descriptions of several attempted crossings. These include Rev James Chalmers in 1879, William Armit from the Melbourne Argus newspaper in 1883 shortly followed by George Morrison of the Melbourne Age newspaper. It was an altercation involving Morrison’s party that left a legacy for some years of a hostile attitude to any other parties attempting to penetrate that area. Explorations organised by the Administrator, Sir William MacGregor, who scaled Mt Victoria, 4072 metres, in June 1889 and who also crossed British New Guinea from north to south in 1896 via Mt Scratchley, 3810 metres, are covered.
From Mt Scratchley, MacGregor got the first view of ‘The Gap’ a depression in the main Owen Stanley Range where the eventual Kokoda Trail was to pass. It was later discovered that a German party under Ehlers and Piering had, in 1895, first crossed from north to south, from Salamaua. MacGregor’s successor, George Ruthven Le Hunte, was equally keen to see a land crossing over the range to the northern goldfields and on to the coast and an exploration by the Government Surveyor Stuart-Russell, sent out in 1899, is included. He became the first white man to pass through the Gap to the village of Eora. Charles Monckton’s efforts in establishing a government station at Kokoda are described along with details of how the overland mail service eventuated and the effect the new airstrip at Kokoda had on that. Later chapters in the book describe development of the Port Moresby–Sogeri road over the years prior to World War II, in particular overcoming the biggest obstacle, the notorious Hairpin Bend around and over the Rouna Falls on the Laloki River. It follows through with the widening of this road through to Owers Corner during the war. The six month battle of the Kokoda Trail is described in some detail, highlighting the vital roles of experienced Territorians ‘Doc’ Vernon and Captain Herbert Kienzle in support of troops along the Track.

The final chapter outlines conditions on the Trail today; organized tours for fit bushwalkers along a path which, in spite of improved rest places at various spots, remains essentially the same wild, narrow foot-pad through physically testing mountain terrain it has always been.

Vision and Reality in Pacific Religion, edited by Phyllis Herda, Michael Reilly and David Hilliard (2005)
Una Voce Sep 2005

ISBN 1 74076 1197. 350 pp soft cover, $34.95 (incl postage within Aust.). Published by and available through Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200 Ph: 02 6125 9975. This book explores the religious history of the Pacific Islands, examining the indigenisation of Christianity and other faiths.

U.S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane 1942-1945 by David Jones and Peter Nunan
Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2004, ISBN 1-59114-644-5, hardcover, pp. 297, RRP $80.00. Purchase/order through your local book seller.
Reviewed by Bob Blaikie – Una Voce Sep 2005.

As a young man growing up in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm during World War II the rapidly increasing defence capability in Brisbane was at once a source of intense interest and some trepidation as the war came ever closer to Australia’s shores. On 15 April 1942 the US submarine tender Griffin together with six US submarines slipped quietly into Brisbane with their arrival being unannounced and almost unnoticed in contrast to the euphoria which had greeted a squadron a year before led by the cruisers Chicago and Portland. Griffin and its charges had as their mission to ‘Defend Australia against Japanese invasion’. Brisbane was selected as the submarine base with its well-developed port facilities including the South Brisbane Dry Dock capable of handling most US submarines. Brisbane was also beyond the range of Japanese aircraft in New Guinea. Griffin was to remain at New Farm for seven months; followed by Fulton which was there for eleven months and Sperry for two months. I can vividly remember as a youth sailing too close to the submarines and being warned off by a shot across our mast.

Two Brisbane writers, Jones and Nunan have written an account of the United States submarine base at New Farm Wharf and of the boats and their crews. It is also the story of this Australian city and its people during wartime and of the interaction and cooperation between Australians and Americans and of the many close relationships which developed. While the primary mission for all submariners was to ‘Destroy Enemy Vessels’ this is also the story of the covert activities of the submarines such as reconnaissance, rescue and support of shore parties and of the mutual respect which developed between the submarine crews and Australian Coastwatchers. It is a story not well known. The Brisbane based submarines operated in the South West Pacific so it can be expected that much of the activity centres in the waters in and around New Guinea. In this extremely well researched and very readable book we read of the submarine Wahoo on 24 January 1943 penetrating right into Wewak Harbour and its torpedoing of the destroyer Harusame. In a similar operation Guardfish attempted to penetrate Rabaul Harbour on 28 January 1943 after sinking two destroyers and a small freighter off Kavieng. The Guardfish under Lt-Comdr Klakring decided that if ships in Rabaul would not come out he would go in.

The authors go into some detail of covert operations in support of Australian Coastwatchers. The evacuation of parties of missionaries and civilians by the Nautilius and Gato from Bougainville at the end of 1942 and again in March 1943 at the request of Jack Read is described. In the middle of Teop Harbour Jack Read and the submariners honoured the New Year in the good old traditional manner. We read of Malcolm Wright, Peter Figgis, Les Williams and Peter Simogun together with three other Papua New Guineans boarding the Greenling at New Farm in the dead of night on 21 February 1943 to be eventually landed at Cape Orford in New Britain. Brisbane people took the submariners to their hearts and their homes and many long lasting friendships were established. Leave centres were set up at Coolangatta, Surfers Paradise, Toowoomba and Redcliffe and the sailors travelled widely to other spots to recuperate after the rigours of war patrols.

When the base finally closed in March 1945 as the war moved closer to Japan, 181 war patrols had sailed from Brisbane with 117 enemy ships totalling around 515,000 tons being sunk. But there was a cost. Seven US submarines were lost while under Brisbane task force control and a further three were lost on patrols to or from Brisbane while under other commands. In all but two of these losses there were no survivors.

This is a valuable well illustrated book for those with an interest in Australian maritime history and of World War II in Papua New Guinea.

The Final Missions by Lionel Veale MID (2005)
ISBN 0 957738528. 304 pp, hard cover with dust jacket RRP: $39.95 Available from Mr L Veale, PO Box 408, Ashmore City, QLD 4214 Ph: 07-5539 3510.
Reviewed by Dr Eric Lindgren – Una Voce Sep 2005.

Lionel Veale’s earlier books Wewak, And Then There Were Two (a semi-autobiographical novel), and Long Island dealt with three Missions as a Coastwatcher to relay information back to military planners on the disposition of Japanese Forces in northern NG. The present narrative continues his own experiences on Umboi Island and adds the deeds of compatriots on New Britain, and at Hollandia (Djayapura). …..
It (Umboi) was strategically important to the Allies, as it held a commanding position in Vitiaz Strait, with the potential to provide an obstacle in the Allied advance north after the battles at Buna and Gona to the southeast. ‘Their determination to remain invisible to the enemy, yet report on their day-to-day happenings became legend in the south-west Pacific.’ As for the villagers who helped our soldiers, as Veale says “Old lives would never be the same, but it was time for them to learn about the new world that existed beyond their shores.”’

High Mountainous Country – No Reliable Information by Ray Stuart (2005)
ISBN 0-975237-1-5, 80 pp, 35 illustrations, 8 maps, soft cover. Cost $25.00 (p&p not included). Published for the author by Forty Degrees South, Hobart.
(Una Voce Sep 2005)

Poetry on Papua New Guinea 1961-64, through the experiences of a young platoon commander with the Pacific Islands Regiment at Taurama, Port Moresby; on outstations at Manus and Vanimo; and patrolling in the Gulf District north of Kerema, To be launched in Hobart 29 September, with subsequent launches in Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane.Available for purchase in October from: 40 Degrees South, PO Box 136, Lindisfarne, TAS 7015. Website, and Ray Stuart, Lot 4, One Tree Hill Rd, Kersbrook SA 5231. Website

No Turning Back by E.T.W. Fulton
Edited with an Introduction and Afterword by Elizabeth Fulton Thurston, ISBN.1 74076 141 3, soft cover, 314 pp, illustrated, including maps, index $34.95. Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200 Ph: 02 6125 9975. Available booksellers.
(Reviewed by Donald Denoon – Una Voce Dec 2005)

What an extraordinary life Ted Fulton lived. An Australian heir to a British military tradition, he was born in Sydney in 1904 the year that the new Australian Commonwealth agreed to take over Britain’s role in Papua. After his middle-class family was plunged into poverty he made his own living from a tender age before setting out to see the world. His account of his early years in Sydney, when public transport meant trams and most private transport was horse-drawn, are among the most fascinating in these memoirs. After his first foray to Rabaul in 1926 he was down-and-out in Hong Kong, and shipped back to Sydney. He doesn’t say so, and his editor, daughter Elizabeth Thurston, doesn’t emphasise this, but his integrity was so obvious and impressive that people did want to help him out in the financial crises that marked his life in Sydney and Hong Kong before he returned to Rabaul. In 1936 he joined Jack Thurston, gold mining in the Sepik. Prospecting in the Sepik right up to the war was real pioneering, but it is the war years that will hold most readers’ attention. As a gunner in the 6th Division he fought in the Mediterranean and narrowly survived the calamitous Greek campaign, then spent the rest of his long war with ANGAU in New Guinea – most often behind Japanese lines. Month after month of perpetual danger brought him to the edge psychologically. (His bride, Gwen, had to cope with what we now call post-traumatic stress.) These were extraordinary wartime adventures, but it’s not the events that make the book special, but rather Ted’s profound reflections on the nature of war, the nature of his enemies, the quality of his allies. Averse to writing about himself, he is generous and accurate in his accounts of everyone else. Similarly, Ted is at his most acute when he describes the New Guineans who worked for him and with him on the goldfields, during the war, and on the plantation he developed afterwards. His language is shaped by the colonial ethos of that era, but it expresses mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual admiration.

Ted Fulton’s life (he died aged 95 in 1999) covered the whole era of Australian administration in New Guinea. Just as he conceived Australia as in some sense British, so his New Guinea was in some sense Australian. Australia’s official relations with PNG are often tense, and yet relations between people are often warm, intimate and enduring. Ted embodied the personal warmth rather than the formal coolness. To understand the links between these radically different societies, we must dig below the official surface to the gold of personal connections, and the publishers, Ted and Elizabeth have given us the perfect place to begin prospecting.

Elizabeth’s role in her father’s memoirs is not obvious, yet absolutely critical. Ted’s diaries, interviews and writings are rich in detail but often cryptic and allusive and assume knowledge of the wider context. Elizabeth first had to add the information a later generation needs to understand the men who were born before the Great War, survived the Depression and then fought in the Pacific. But what makes Elizabeth such a splendid editor is not just what she puts in or omits, but her restraint. Because she curbs her filial loyalty and her literary flair, it is her father’s voice that is amplified and reproduced, not her own – until the last chapter, where she has incorporated seamlessly a daughter’s perspective on growing up in PNG with Ted and Gwen.

Meeting The Challenge – Australian Teachers in Papua New Guinea, Pre-Independence 1955-1975, edited by Gail Burke
IBSN 1 876844 42 3, hardcover 240 pp. CopyRight Publishing Co. Brisbane. October 2005 Cost: $20 plus $5 postage within Australia. Available from: Gail Burke, PO Box 1224, KENMORE QLD 4069. Phone: 07 3374 4894.
(Reviewed by Henry Bodman – Una Voce Dec 2005)

All profits from sales of this hardcover book will be channelled through Rotary International in support of aid projects focused on the welfare of the children of Papua New Guinea.

Careers with a Challenge was the background information supplied to potential officers of the Public Service of The Territory of Papua New Guinea during the 20 years leading up to Independence . This very slim volume supplied virtually no detail of life and employment in our future home but it was certainly ‘spot on’ in its title.

Only 30 years after Independence, we have seen the history of the Australian contribution to PNG independence twisted into unrecognisable forms and it behoves us to ensure that future generations and historians will have the necessary evidence to arrive at something approximating the reality we know.

Gail Burke’s edited stories, in Meeting the Challenge, have put on record grass roots experiences which will be hard to ignore in future years when students and academics might like to promote an ‘original’ and ‘imaginative’ version of Australia’s contribution to the welfare and future of the independent state of Papua New Guinea. Gail’s collection has been put together in a random way without personal agendas to interfere with the simple record of the lives of those teaching in PNG from 1955 to 1975. It is an enjoyable record of real life ‘at the coal face ’of colonial administration. The result is a collection of very human experiences which contrast beautifully with each other in suggesting the aura of the times and the commitment of the story tellers to the job of educating a people to embrace the task of self government.
Too often we have rued the fact that our experiences in Papua New Guinea are largely unrecorded and, thus, Gail Burke is to be congratulated on putting these stories together. It is to be hoped that this simple formula will be adopted by others who have equally interesting and important experiences to add to the existing record.

In Gail’s book you will find the range from uproariously funny through desperation, violence and challenge to pride and satisfaction. Many of the ‘scribes’ will be known to many from shared times on outstations and meetings along the path of nation building. That the profits from the book will be sent to the scene of expatriate PNG teacher effort gives Gail’s book and personal effort real credibility.

Included in Meeting the Challenge Gail’s husband, Clarrie, has written an Introduction and Background (Historical Snapshots) which sets the larger scene for the stories which follow. It is a useful précis for the reader not familiar with Papua New Guinea between 1955 and 1975 and will also be a reminder of much for those who have let that part of their lives slip into the mists of time. With Clarrie’s help and guidance, Gail has overcome enormous personal challenges to produce for us an enjoyable reminder of times gone by and to illustrate why so many can be, and are, proud of their colonial contribution in whichever field it might have been delivered.

The School That Fell From The Sky by Fred Hargesheimer
ISBN 1-58909-1167. Soft cover. 148pp, illustrated. $20 inc. postage within Australia. Orders to Dougal Geddes, Foulsham & Geddes, Solicitors, Suite 1103, 99 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000.
(Reviewed by Stuart Inder – Una Voce Dec 2005)

‘The story of Fred Hargesheimer is to me one of the great stories of the Pacific War,’ said Jack Paar, when long time host of American NBC’s Tonight Show. Those who know Fred Hargesheimer’s story agree, and this book will lead a great many more to the stirring tale of the young US Army Air Corps pilot who was shot down, wounded, over West New Britain in 1943, survived only with the help of the people of Nantabu village who hid him from Jap patrols – and who went back after the war to build them a school in gratitude.

The Airmen’s Memorial School at Ewasse – ‘the school that fell from the sky’ – is now 41 years old, and ‘Hargy’, who turns 90 next May, is still active chairman of the Memorial Foundation that set it up. For his 90th birthday he hopes to make one more visit to New Britain from his home in California. It will be his 14th, although in the 1970’s he and his wife Dorothy spent four years at Ewasse to help the school become self-supporting.
The school has had hundreds of graduates who have made their mark in all walks of life – lawyers, leading academics, sociologists, and business people. Its cross-section of active volunteer supporters include trustees Anne Ames and Garua Peni and many PNGAA members, such as Fred Kaad, Betty Whitten, Ray Thurecht and Matt Foley. Matt and Hargy had met in the jungle in 1943 when Matt was a member of a Coastwatching team led by Ian Skinner and including John Stokie.

That story, together with all the other details of Hargy’s eight months on the run in New Britain, the first month alone, his squadron given him up for dead, is the meat of this book – and what a vivid, honest read it is!

Hargy first published it in a private small-run edition in the US, but this edition, updated and expanded, has come off the presses of Ray Thurecht’s PNG Printing Company in Port Moresby, with proceeds to the school.

The update reveals that 54 years after Hargy had bailed out over New Britain, his aircraft in flames, he was able to locate Mitsugu Hyakutomi, the Japanese fighter pilot who shot him down. Hargy learned he survived their crucial encounter because Mitsugu ‘could never bring himself to shoot helpless enemy pilots hanging from their parachutes’.

Thus Hargy was able to go on to change the lives of hundreds of Papua New Guinea children for the better.

Of Storms and Rainbows, Volume II by AL Graeme-Evans
ISBN 0 646039822. Albert Speer MBE advises that he recently obtained a copy of this book – it is a fine history of the 2/12th Battalion and the Milne Bay campaign. References copies are available in the Mitchell Library and the Australian War Memorial Library, Canberra. (Una Voce, Dec 2005)

A Trial Separation: Australia and the Decolonisation of Papua New Guinea by Donald Denoon
ISBN 1 74076171 5, 228 pp. Cost: $45 Available from Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200 Ph: 02 6125 9975 and other booksellers. [Donald Denoon was Professor of Pacific Islands History at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU, until retiring in 2004.]
(Reviewed by Leo Scheps – a Sydney based Pacific historian – Una Voce Dec 2005)

‘Many people say that independence came too soon; others accept that the timing was about right, and a few insist that it was overdue. However, developments in the past 30 years beg the question: is ‘independence’ the appropriate term for what happened in 1975?’ (page 5)
Donald Denoon’s highly accessible and authoritative book examines this much debated and still relevant question. Denoon, who was Professor of History at the University of Papua New Guinea in the optimistic 70s sees PNG’s past 30 years not as the coming of age of a restless youth anxious to escape the paternal home, but as a trial separation of two adults whom geography and history had yoked together. As many former ‘items’ discover after seeking freedom and independence from each other, PNG and Australia remain interrelated and inter-dependent in a variety of ways. ‘Decolonisation is by no means complete and independence is a work in progress. What seemed like a divorce in 1975 is a trial separation, in which the two governments can negotiate a new way of living next to each other.’ (page 197)

Denoon’s metaphor looks to the future of the relationship as well as its past. To avoid repeating mistakes, it is essential to be clear-eyed about what happened back in the 1970s. ‘It is more useful to understand the past than to moralise about it.’ (page 197)
This means steering clear of some of the unfounded pessimism which characterises many recent accounts of PNG independence, and the romantic view of the colonial period which inspired them. For instance, the notion that the country’s crime could be eradicated with the re-introduction of the kiap system is both unrealistic, and incompatible with democracy. Denoon rightly attributes the nation’s relative lawlessness to a failure to properly train a civilian police force, both before and after independence.

Of particular interest to anyone concerned about the development of democracy in former colonial territories is Denoon’s detailed and highly readable account of the negotiations over PNG’s constitution. It reveals that some of the country’s problems: the ambiguous status of Bougainville and the unrepresentative character of many politicians, for instance, date back to this period. Similarly, its constitutional stability, peaceful changes of government, and high degree of civil liberty, can be traced to the same era. On balance, they didn’t do a perfect job, but didn’t do a bad one either. Denoon’s information is original, balanced and lucidly expressed. This book is sure to become a favourite with scholars and general readers interested in PNG affairs. One can only hope that policy-makers in Canberra read it as well.

To The Ends Of The Earth, The Life Story of Ida Voss by Paul and Eleanor Knie
ISBN 0 646 43485 3, A Missionary story written and compiled by Paul and Eleanor Knie, Knie Family Trust, 2004. 224pp. Includes bibliography, index and over 280 photographs. Cost: $35 (incl p&p within Aust) Available from: or Paul Knie, 38 Murphys Creek Road, Blue Mountain Heights, Toowoomba Qld 4350 Ph/Fax 07-46968344. (Una Voce Dec 2005)

Bougainville Before the Conflict, Edited by AJ Regan and HM Griffin
ISBN 1 74076 1383, hardback, 566pp, non-fiction, includes maps and illustrations price $85 Available from Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra ACT 0200 Ph: 02 6125 9975 and booksellers.
Reviewed by Robin McKay – Una Voce Dec 2005.

This is a monumental work compiled by Anthony Regan and Helga Griffin as editors of contributions by an array of highly qualified academics. This includes Bougainvillians who can add their people’s inner feelings and though processes to their scientific findings.

Anthony Regan is a Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia project at ANU Canberra, and has worked in PNG, Uganda, East Timor and Solomon Islands. He has been an advisor to the Bougainville Peace process 1997-2005. Helga Griffin BA Hons., Dip Ed., Graduated from Uni PNG, James Cook Uni., and Canberra College of Advanced Education, and has been on the research and editorial staff of the Australian Dictionary of Biography at ANU Canberra for 20 years. Her interest and study of Bougainville goes back over 30 years.

Contributing authors in the introductory chapters start with Mathew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at ANU, covering sites and artifacts from pre-history to later migrations. Hugh Davies, Professor of Geology at UPNG, contributes an overall geological picture of the island, and linguistics are covered by Professor Darrell Tryon, Professor Linguistics at ANU, who has worked for 40 years on the indigenous languages of Oceania. Eugene Ogan, UCal and Harvard, has carried out ethnographic studies on Bougainville for over 40 years, mainly in the Nasioi area and is a worthy successor to his early mentor, Douglas Oliver. He provided the introduction and Jonathon Friedlander, Harvard, delves into biological Anthropology and genetics but disappointingly does not come up with a definite reason for the distinctive and highly attractive colour of the people. Of my 35 years in NG prior to the late 1960s, I spent 23 on or involved with Bougainville, and I found the people to be dour, enigmatic, conservative and proud. I admired them greatly and trust that any impact I had on them was reasonably positive.

Chapters covering the ‘Colonial’ era, from 1910 to and including WWII, contain many rather contentious statements emanating from anecdotal and/or personally prejudiced evidence. However none of these detract markedly from the overall picture presented and little could be achieved by questioning them here. The remaining section of the book covers the Post WWII period up to the present day, the political, social and economic development and the massive impact of modern global economics on a subsistence culture. The lack of a national entity and appreciation of grassroots politics over NG as a whole led to misunderstandings on all sides, and given the unexpected solidarity of the people, the ensuing chaos became inevitable.

All this is ably recorded by the following Bougainville academics: Roselyn Kenneth, Joachim Lummani, John and Elizabeth Momis, Bill Sagir, James Tanis, and Melchior Togolo, as well as expatriate scientists Jared Keil, Jill Nash, Eugene Ogan and Hank Nelson, with a contributing chapter by Don Vernon, the Managing Director of Bougainville Copper, 1970-1986.

Gene Ogan’s reference to overstated fatalities might be borne in mind when assessing the human costs of this turbulent period but the sufferings of the average villager, women and children can never be overestimated. This book will be a standard reference in the future to be quoted, misquoted and argued about but one wonders how the people will cope with the 21st Century, as indeed how any of us will.

The Truth About Kieta – January 1942 by John V Plunkett (2005)
ISBN 0 646 452002. Soft cover, 220 pp, illustrated, cost $30 (including postage anywhere in Australia). Published by John V Plunkett, Doncaster, Victoria. Please purchase from the author, 4 Grand Boulevard, Donvale, Vic. 3108.
Reviewed by Pat Johnson – Una Voce Dec 2005.

There have been many stories of escapes retold. In relation to PNG these have similar scenarios, ie, lack of communication, confusion and disbelief about forthcoming events and subsequently the failure on the part of some planters, missionaries and administration officials to grasp the seriousness of what was about to unfold. Not fully realising the danger, those who chose to stay, in most instances, did not survive. A timeline of significant war events sets the scene, spanning a period of just three months.

This is the story about a group of 15 men who heeded the prudent decision of the Administration Officer-in-Charge at Kieta to escape. All made it safely to Port Moresby. Why did these men choose not to talk about their experiences and courage in sailing a small ketch to Port Moresby with only a wall chart and compass as navigational aids? The Introduction describes why the author decided to find out the truth. The facts are provided through reports, letters, diaries, newspaper articles and cablegrams. These also illustrate the personalities of those involved. The recollections and diary of the only survivor living today of this escape, are central to the story. What is also revealed is how distortions, misinterpretations and misinformation can change the context and the truth reflecting on the credibility of the participants of what really happened. The reports in the print media were also a source of anger and resentment. The extensive Bibliography illustrates the effort the author has gone to in checking the veracity of information and highlights the importance of using Primary rather than Secondary sources when engaging in research. In this case, errors of fact from the same source were reproduced in many publications, some not included in the Bibliography.

Overall, this is a story for those interested in PNG war events and Bougainville in particular including, as well, the serious researcher.

Madang By James Sinclair,
ISBN 9980-9976-8-0 450pp Published by DWU Press, Cost: AU$120 or PNGK250 plus postage to Australia: AU$50 within PNG: PNGK55. Colour and black and white illustrations included. For further information contact Sir Peter Barter, PO Box 707, Madang, PNG
Tel: (675) 852 2766 Fax: (675) 852 3543

Day of Reckoning By Lachlan Strahan
ISBN 1 74076 167 7 396pp Softcover $34.95 incl. postage Available from Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra ACT 2000 Ph: 02 9664 0999
There is plenty of meat on this bone. It took the author, a working diplomat in DFAT, eight years to research and it details some startling events in PNG in the aftermath of WW2. He enlisted the help of ex-kiap Brian Jinks who in Una Voce, June 1998, sought information regarding ‘an episode in Manus in 1948 when police under Commissioner Grimshaw were sent to arrest some Chinese labourers for assaulting a villager’. In the December 1998 edition Paul Quinlivan, a Crown Prosecutor when given access to Justice Phillips’s notebooks, offered us Sell-Out in Manus 1946-48. He emphasised the duty of the Administration (kiaps and police) to protect PNG people from injury by foreigners disdainful of Australian sovereignty over the Islands.
Three hundred Chinese labourers had been brought to Lorengau to salvage wartime assets sold by the US Forces to the Chinese Nationalists and several strung a local teenager from the beam of a Quonset hut and beat him for allegedly stealing cigarettes. On Australia Day 1948 he went to the kiap and asked for justice. Astonishingly this relatively minor crime led to five Justices of the High Court sitting for five days in November to consider an appeal against convictions for assault made in the PNG Supreme Court during July. All this might have been avoided if the District Officer had felt it possible to accept the offer of a Chinese Army Captain to bring the offenders along for a beating by the victim. ‘Payback’ is not a uniquely PNG concept….
Another of our members to be interested in Jinks’s request was Peter Grimshaw who researched the affair and took issue with Quinlivan’s comment that the role of his father as Police Commissioner was very minor. On 20 March 1948 a Sydney newspaper claimed that ‘Three hundred Chinese on Manus are asserting extra-territorial rights and resisting attempts by the Administration to arrest some for civil offences. They have formed a defence perimeter and established machine-gun posts’(!) The same day the District Officer signalled Moresby seeking police reinforcements under an experienced officer to compel an identification parade and arrest of offenders.
On 24 March two Catalinas with fifty armed police flew to Manus and next day the uniformed, be-medalled and very experienced John Grimshaw fronted the American commanding officer and a Chinese general, lined up the labour force enabling the native complainant to identify his attackers and brought four of them before the court next morning. The contingent were back in Moresby by 27 March and anyone familiar with administration in Australia let alone TPNG would marvel at the question put by Quinlivan ‘Who would defend the indigenous inhabitants of Manus?’ being answered inside seven days. The decision in March 1948 of Judge Phillips as Acting Administrator to reinforce Australian legal control on Manus would have been prompted by events in Lae three months earlier. Around midnight on New Year’s Eve a fracas broke out at the Cecil Hotel between Filipino Scouts, an auxiliary unit of the US Army, seeking entry to a dance and European attendees, many from Works & Housing. A manager for New Guinea Goldfields received a blow to the head – probably from a bottle – and died within days. There was only one doctor in Lae who, as Strahan points out, must at the age of 23 have found giving evidence at an inquest in which his treatment of the deceased was under scrutiny a daunting occasion. Dr Roy Scragg, OBE, later Director of Health, seems to be the only person involved in this affair still ‘on the membership list’.
Twenty Scouts were operating as a US War Graves Registration team in PNG but by 14 January six of them were in Malahang Gaol charged with manslaughter and a Supreme Court trial was planned for a week later. Out of the blue the ranking US Army officer there was instructed by his HQ in Manila that Judge Advocate staff would immediately proceed to Lae and hold a court martial of the Scouts. As Strahan says ‘the message revealed that the Americans did not recognise Australian jurisdiction and intended to solve the matter in their own way’. Cyril McCubbery, then 50% of the Crown Law Office, met a plane carrying no fewer than nine JAG officers but the jurisdictional contretemps rapidly ascended to the office of Dr Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, in Canberra.
The author emphasises that the will to assert Australian justice in its Trust Territory was not selectively anti-foreigner, coloured or otherwise. In November 1947 a kiap in a faux-magisterial role committed a sickening offence against a native at Kaiapit and within six weeks a younger kiap on that patrol post emulated him. They were sentenced to three and five years imprisonment respectively. Having dealt with their own in such measure the Australian Administration was not prepared to relinquish authority over offending Chinese or Filipinos.
Dr Strahan has written a voluminous account of administrative negotiations from local to Embassy level, court room conflicts and cross-cultural clashes in a place and period rarely examined and for the casual reader there may be too much detail. However, fifty-eight years after the foregoing events PNGAA readers will observe that the country was then being run by a handful of overworked staff who certainly didn’t need problems with international ramifications. Yet within ten years a functioning Public Service had been created of which most members could be modestly proud.
JB Toner

Sogeri: The School That Helped to Shape a Nation – A History, 1944-1994 by Lance Taylor 2002
ISBN 0 949600423, 340pp including 140 photos. Cost: $30 for Sogeri connections and PNGAA members plus $11 postage within Australia for 1-3 books. Cheques to ‘ING Direct’, available from Ms Marjorie Walker, 31 Josephine Avenue, Mt Waverley VIC 3149 Ph: 03 9803 9071 (reviewed in Una Voce Dec 2002 and still available)

Leave a Reply