45. Wonderful action of Police Lance Corporal Sauweni

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

It was not until after Jack Grainger and I had become very interested in Femsep that we located the most important of the police who had brought in the Telefomins convicted of riotous behaviour. He was Lance Corporal Sauweni and whoever trained him, and those who allowed him to blossom, did a wonderful job! The most highly paid General in the world could not have handled the tragic situation better! When Szarka and Harris departed on their patrols Sauweni was left in charge of the station so he spoke to the Telefomin wives of his police and asked them to report anything unusual.

Several reported that strangers (Telefomins) had asked about who had been left at the station now that the Europeans had gone and Yendabari’s wife reported that Edubomsep, the headman of Telefolip, had warned her that there was going to be an attack. Sauweni therefore posted lookouts at various points and advised the local Baptist missionary, Reverend Norman Draper, that there was a possibility of danger. Just after daybreak on the day of the killings in the other valleys, large numbers of armed men were seen in the bushes close to the station and the Mission – and other strategic points – but, when the unscheduled aircraft landed, they disappeared.

Sauweni felt that an attack was imminent so he went to the Mission, where he knew Femsep’s young son was a student, and he asked him (Femsep’s son) to accompany him to the station. The boy went with him and, when they got there, he (Sauweni) dropped all pretence and held him as a hostage because, he said, he believed (as Grainger and I believed) that Femsep was the brains behind it all. The unloading of the aircraft took time and, after it departed (around 10am), the armed men began returning. Unnoticed amongst them was Tigori, Harris’s haus cook who did not usually wear traditional garb but he had been instructed by the survivors of the Harris party to wear it now and go and get help. He told Sauweni what had happened and Sauweni immediately sent a message to Rev. Draper asking him to radio Wewak and tell them of the attack on Harris and request assistance. He then ordered Suni, the Station Interpreter to put on his penis gourd and go to the far valley as a spy to see if the Szarka party was safe. He also sent Constables Yandabari and Lego, with four rifles and ammunition, to relieve the Harris party.

The messenger sent to Rev. Draper returned and reported that, on his way back, he had seen Femsep hiding in the bushes so Sauweni called for Femsep to come. Femsep did and Sauweni arrested him as a hostage. He then arrested the fifty or so armed men referred to in No. 43, telling them that the attack on the Harris and Szarka parties had been a total failure and he was waiting for the kiap to return and gaol them all. Since he should not have known that attacks were contemplated, his bluff succeeded and they surrendered quietly. At 12.30 an aircraft arrived, in response to Rev. Draper’s call, bringing ADO George Wearne (who joined the Field Staff 7 January 1947) and Wewak’s Senior Medical Officer, European Medical Assistant Rhys Healey, to assess the situation. They told Sauweni that the District Commissioner was personally touring all stations collecting policemen to join a large relief party but Sauweni expressed the view that, although that might be good in one way, it did not allow him to go to the rescue of his friends.

 

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