Captain RR Cole, MC: Bob Harvey-Hall

1968 Igam Barracks
L-R: Capt Bob Cole wearing the rank of Colonel as Hon Col of PNGVR, Lt Col Don Ramsay CO 2 PIR, Brig Ian Hunter, Commander PNG Command, Lt Col Mal Bishop CO PNGVR

I first met Bob Cole (then Commissioner of Police) when he became Honorary Colonel of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles: I was officer commanding A Company PNGVR at Lae and became involved in a small way with the design of the NGVR/PNGVR colours by producing a piece of the D’albertis creeper (Flame of the Forest) obtained from the Lae Botanical Gardens, for the designer of the unit Regimental Colours. Captain, Honorary Colonel, Robert Rothsay Cole, MC, was deeply involved in the ‘fight’ for approval from Northern Command for the use of the D’albertis as the appropriate surround for the PNGVR badge on the Regimental Colour: Northern Command was insisting that the surround must be wattle as for all other infantry battalion in the ADF. Those in the know in Area Command at Port Moresby, including the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mal Bishop, MM, were adamant the Flame of the Forest was the way to go, however the battle seemed to be lost until the Honorary Colonel became involved.

Bob Cole was adamant that Australian wattle had no relationship to PNG and that the D’albertis creeper flowers were the appropriate surround. There were many subsequent letters over a period of more than six months between Northern Command and PNGVR, however the Honorary Colonel did not waiver. Finally, Command asked for a sample of the creeper and fairly soon, with the blessing of Army Headquarters, the GOC Northern Command agreed to Bob Cole’s proposal. The brilliant red flower makes a magnificent setting on the green background of the Regimental colour now housed, with the Queen’s colour, in the Australian War Museum.

On a brilliant day in May 1969 at Igam Barracks outside Lae, the Administrator Colonel DO Hay, CBE, DSO, at a ceremonial parade of over 500 soldiers, presented the Queen’s and Regimental colours to Lieutenant Colonel Bill Harrington, MBE, the Commanding Officer of PNGVR. With the Battalion formed up on the Inspection Line, Captain RR Cole, OBE, MC, Honorary Colonel Papua New Guinea Rifles, was received with a General Salute. It was a fitting tribute to a fine soldier.

Bob Cole came to PNGVR with an impressive military record. He was one of the first people from the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to enlist in the AIF and served in the Middle East. On return to Australia he became a member of the Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) with which he won his Military Cross. Later he joined ANGAU where he became a leading operational field officer servicing with distinction in the Aitape area. He served PNGVR well as their Honorary Colonel.  A good bloke.          



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