Parades and Station management: Paul Oates

(This is how I remember the TPNG outstation protocols. Other kiaps may have differing recollections.)

On a Patrol Post or Sub District Headquarters, the working day in the late 1960s and early 1970s would officially start at 07.45 hrs. At that appointed time, the OIC or ADC would arrive for work and the morning parade would commence. A police bugle would be blown or the Station Bell (usually an empty gas bottle or an old artillery shell (either allied or Japanese), would be sounded (or hit in actual fact i.e. hence the command ‘Paitim belo’) and the parade would be assembled. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) bugle calls were similar to those of the Australian Army although some were slightly altered. As the number of outstations grew, it presumably became difficult to provide trained buglers for each station and anyway, some kiaps didn’t like the sound of a bugle.

Some kiaps (me included) tried to ensure we were suitably dressed and wore khaki short sleeve shirts and shorts with long socks and laughing sided boots or stout shoes. I was always taught to set an example to the ‘troops’ as you shouldn’t expect people to be smartly dressed and proud of their calling if you, yourself, didn’t also display this standard in your manner and dress. I understand some Kiaps (especially on the Papuan side) didn’t wear khakis however the principle was the same. I can remember meeting my first ADC and he wore whites; however, on the bush stations I was posted to we mainly wore khakis (shirt and shorts with long socks and–in my case–walking shoes), when on day duty. I also wore an Akubra slouch hat and hiking boots when on patrol however this was also a personal thing. Some kiaps didn’t bother to wear a hat on parade. This was because the RPNGC were the only Commonwealth uniformed body that were allowed to salute bareheaded (as explained in our basic training, that if you didn’t return the salute with your hand {as in any other uniform service where, if you were bareheaded when given a salute, you stood or sat to attention to return the salute} a policeman might think you had a stiff neck, etc.)

Anyway, back to the morning parade. The Police would be formed up in a squad with the NCO in charge. On a Patrol Post this could be a Senior Constable (Corporal) but on a Sub District Headquarters, it was usually a Sergeant who often had medals and long service stars. Some had war medals as well. By the early 1970s, some Sub Districts had a uniformed Police Officer and they conducted their parades separately.

The police, while on duty at their station, wore a blue beret with a silver badge, a blue shirt with epaulettes and blue lanyard with a silver whistle on the right shoulder, their number and any decorations on the left breast, a black leather belt with silver buckle and blue shorts. They had long blue socks with red flashes and black boots and black mud gaiters. When on patrol, the police mostly changed into light coloured khaki mufti to ensure their dress uniform did not get spoiled. They would then use their official belt and boots and gaiters with their khakis.

Once on parade, the other parts of the administration staff would be drawn up in squads. The warders, if there were some, would be out in front: they wore (wear) a khaki and maroon uniform, similar to the police, and the prisoners would be formed up behind the warders. On the stations I was at where there was a detention centre, the prisoners would (or should) be wearing only a bright red wrap around laplap which went from their waist to their mid calves, and had printed on it black broad arrows (the same as our original convicts used to wear). When a court case was heard and the offence proven, the instruction “Givim laplap!” was a signal for the police to take the now convicted prisoner away.

The labourers, called a ‘bigline’ at the stations I was at in New Guinea, would be drawn up under their bosboi (foreman). They would wear an assortment of shorts and shirts and went barefoot. They might have their equipment with them (bush knives, axes, sarifs, etc.) ready for use or these might be stacked to one side. The drivers and clerks might not actually take part in the parade however they would usually be standing around at the edge of the parade ground. Central to the parade ground would be the flag pole which in the late 1960s early 1970s, would have the Australian flag, either about to be raised, or if they knew how, ready to be broken out at the top of the flagpole.
The No1 kiap (unless he was away and the No2 took the parade) would then call the parade to order, (‘Parade, Attention’) and the flag would either be raised or broken out. Then the Parade would be ordered to salute (‘Parade, Salute’) and the flag would be saluted with the right hand in (usually) the Australian manner. Having conducted the salute, the parade would then be inspected for any sign of a problem (illness, physical discomfort, lack of respect? etc.) by the officer. Generally, a few words would be passed between the officer and the NCO and Warder in Charge and between the ‘bosboi‘ of the biklain (big line). The biklain would be given their work for the day for example.

Then the officer would return to the front of the parade and the parade would be called to order (‘Parade, Attention’. Then ‘Parade, Dismiss’.) The Police NCO would then salute the officer and his salute would be returned. Then everyone would then turn to their right and march off.

The police on duty would then report to the office and those off duty would go back to their houses and their interrupted time off. Depending on how many police were available, uniformed members worked a roster system to guard prisoners unless there were warders on station.

The senior police NCO on a patrol post was a very important position. He provided a go-between for the police and the officer. Many local problems would be brought to him rather than direct to the kiap. The kiap would often discuss problems with him and discuss possible alternatives, especially if the NCO was a senior man who had a lot of experience. For anyone who has served in the services, it is the senior NCO who actually makes everything work. It was a little different on a smaller station (Patrol Post) where the senior NCO might only be a corporal (Senior Constable).

The senior Non Commissioned Officer (NCO), and on a large station with a large detachment, there might be a number of NCO’s, was responsible for the good order and discipline of the detachment. On my first posting to a Sub District HQ after the morning parade, the Assistant District Commissioner (ADC) took me on his monthly inspection of the barracks and housing. All government employees who had government housing were required to have their houses cleaned and ready for inspection by the ADC. This was generally welcomed as it provided a reason to have any defects examined and work ordered to fix them up. (When this ADC left however, his replacement did not favour this practice.) The senior NCO would always accompany the kiap on these occasions. That meant that (by default) the senior NCO had quite a lot of implied authority, even over the other government employees.

After parade, the kiap or kiaps would then go to the government office to start the day with whatever work there was that required their attention. If the kiap (on a single kiap station) was on patrol, the clerk could conduct whatever minor business had to be done including operating the radio schedule, banking, preparing the mail and any associated paperwork. The daily rainfall would be recorded and the stores checked and issued. The mailbag would be prepared and sealed with a string and numbered lead seal for a government charter or the next aircraft. When the kiap arrived back on station, finance reconciliations were prepared, Patrol Reports were typed and a signal (telegram sent by wireless over the outstation schedule), to the District Headquarters sent advising the District Commissioner that the kiap had returned and the patrol completed.

All kiaps were on 24 hour, 7 day a week duty, no matter what their level. If there was a problem, you were responsible and you were only supposed to leave your station with the knowledge of your ADC and permission from the District Office. To my knowledge, no one ever requested or was ever paid overtime.


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