The DIY cadet: Graham Hardy

I was interested to read the articles in the latest Una Voce regarding the role of kiaps in pre-independence Papua New Guinea. I was especially interested in the statement that Cadet Patrol Officers were trained under the close supervision of senior officers. If that was true, my case was unusual. I arrived in Port Moresby, with five others, in October 1952 as a fresh faced 21-year-old following our induction course at ASOPA. We were introduced soon after arrival to the Assistant Director. After warmly welcoming us to the Service which took about ten seconds, he told us that sexual relations with native women were absolutely forbidden, and then wished us success in our future careers. The whole thing took about five minutes, and we were dismissed and left to our own devices, in my case for a week before a ship was leaving in the direction of my first posting which was Kikori, the headquarters of the Gulf District.

The District Commissioner was Jim O’Malley, who told me that there were three types of men who came to PNG: those running away from their wives, the police or themselves. As I was single with no criminal record, I supposed I fitted the third category. My first four months were spent at Kikori learning procedures relating to Treasury, Bank and Post Office, radio operation and weather reporting, government stores, re-fuelling of Sandringham and Catalina flying boats, labour recruitment and at the same time reading numerous circular instructions relating to a wide range of matters and sitting in on the occasional Court for Native Matters. All this was under the watchful eye of Bill Johnston, the ADO, who on my first day in the office handed me the Criminal Code to read; no doubt to keep me occupied while he worked out what to do with me. Bill and Nancy Johnston took me under their wing and were very kind to me. My only field trip was an overnight with Bill up the Kikori River to check out a possible airstrip site. That was the sum total of close supervision.

After four months, in early 1953, I was sent to babysit Beara Patrol Post in the Purari River delta for six weeks to await the arrival of a senior patrol officer ex-leave. All I had to do was issue rations and keep an eye on the place. By this time Jim O’Malley had gone on a year’s long leave and furlough and Kevin Atkinson had replaced him. At the end of six weeks I received a letter from the DC to say the replacement officer had gone elsewhere, and I would be there indefinitely and should start doing patrols.

Beara had a new permanent materials house, which was quite comfortable, and an up-grade from the condemned termite-infested residence in Kikori which was considered fit accommodation for a mere cadet. There was a police detachment of one NCO and five constables, a Papuan clerk, an interpreter, a carpenter, a couple of labourers and a few prisoners. There was a ferryman who, every working day, paddled his dugout canoe the eleven miles to Port Romilly sawmill, where the only radio transceiver existed, and back again with mail and telegrams and personal stores from Port Moresby. The mill was owned by Steamships P/L and their coastal ships called there fortnightly. There was also a Seagull outboard motor, of about one Shetland pony power, which was fairly useless because of swift currents and submerged obstacles such as detached nipa palms.

I explained the situation to the NCO, Corporal Udiga, and told him he would be taking me on patrols. He was not a young man, and said he had never moved off the station, as he looked after it while the OIC was on patrol with younger police. I assured him this was a first time opportunity for both of us. I had read all the station copies of reports of past patrols so had some idea of how it was done. As I had grown up in the bush in Queensland, the Papuan bush had no great terrors for me, except for crocodiles, and the legendary “tree crocodiles” (a type of Komodo dragon?) of which the local villagers seemed genuinely terrified. I worked out a patrol itinerary of one or two weeks a month on patrol and the rest of the time on the station. All the patrols around the delta were by dugout canoe. As the Papuan clerk was the only other person with any English, I had to get going on learning Police Motu with assistance from all and sundry who were only too happy to help. I became reasonably proficient, even to naturally thinking in the language, but never used it again as the rest of my field service was in TNG. I also got to rely on Village Constable Amua, an elderly man from nearby Koravaki village, who became a mentor and good friend.

About May 1953 the DC made the first of only three inspection visits by a senior officer to Beara while I was there, and swore me in as a Commissioned Officer in the Royal Papuan Constabulary, so I could serve a summons on a crocodile shooter living in the delta. I was not, however, a Magistrate in the Court for Native Matters, so I gained a lot of experience in arbitrating disputes, while serious matters were sent to Kikori, a sixty mile paddle each way for the relevant Village Constable. There were very few serious matters brought to my attention as a result.

One day in November 1953 I visited Port Romilly sawmill, and the manager George Barchard told me that two patrol officers had been killed at Telefolmin. One of them was Geoff Harris, a contemporary with whom I had kept up a desultory correspondence. In fact, I owed Geoff a letter at the time of his death. That night on the ABC news from Port Moresby, I heard a report of our Director earnestly assuring parents in Australia that their cadet patrol officer sons were never left to work alone but were always under the immediate supervision of senior officers. Another youthful illusion went out the window: senior public servants are capable of telling porkies.

I remained at Beara for about fourteen months and after my last patrol there, a three week effort to conduct the first ever census of the villages on the Middle Purari, I was transferred to Kukipi Patrol Post at the mouth of the Tauri River, south-east of Kerema. This involved walking along the beach from Arehava at the easternmost outlet of the Purari Delta to the sea, to Kukipi via Kerema. I arrived in Kerema about 3 pm on Anzac Day 1954 where the expats, nearly all of them returned servicemen, were well into celebrating their great day. My main duty at Kukipi was to begin moving the station to a new site at the mouth of the Lakekamu River, just a few miles away. At least I had the luxury of my own radio transceiver and had been gazetted a magistrate. In the five months I was there, I carried out only one patrol and that was to the Kovio census division around the junction of the Lakekamu and Monckton Rivers. The Kovio people were apparently of Micronesion ethnicity, hundreds of miles from any people of similar race. When I went on leave at the end of 1954, it was about twenty seven months since I had arrived at ASOPA in August 1952.

As a postscript to the above, the only patrol I ever did with a senior officer was a week-long murder investigation shortly after I arrived at Minj in 1955 in the Western Highlands after my first leave. Then, after attending the long course at ASOPA in 1956, I was posted to Laiagam in the Western Highlands on the very edge of the Restricted Area in early 1957. When there was a report of several murders in an isolated area north of the Lagaip River opposite the Porgera Valley never before visited by a patrol, I managed to carry out a successful operation during which we arrested about forty offenders and brought them back to Laiagam. My seniority was such that I should not have entered the Restricted Area unless accompanying a Senior Patrol Officer, but no one was available, and again my success was entirely due to my NCO, Corporal Naeopa and the Laiagam detachment.

I hope I have not given the impression that I resented being left to my own devices. On the contrary, the whole thing was a great adventure and the challenge of making my own decisions and the satisfaction of reaching successful outcomes was a unique personal experience. The opportunity to work in an environment the like of which will never be seen again was given to a relative few, and none of us could have succeeded without the unwavering loyalty of the old style constabulary, especially the NCOs. These men, as a body, have never been given the recognition by the Australian Government they deserve. At the end of their service most returned to their villages where they died in obscurity, unhonoured and unsung. They live on only in the memories of us who worked with them.

 

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