The Kiaps Compendium – Part 1: The end of an era
James Sinclair, Una Voce No 1, March 1992
The death of Jim Leahy on 25 November 1991 removed from the scene the last survivor of the Australian explorers of the 1920s and 1930s, who penetrated into the then unknown interior of Papua and New Guinea and discovered dense populations of virile tribesmen in country that hitherto been considered arid and empty. It is an inspiring chapter in Papua New Guinea history. Many young Papua New Guineans today dismiss the colonial past as something to be forgotten, ashamed of, shoved away out of sight as being somehow demeaning of Papua New Guinea’s status as an independent country.
But the past is as vital to the culture and development of a nation as the present. One cannot be separated from the other. You can’t ignore history. And it should always be remembered that the explorations of these Australians were only made possible by the work of the indigenous policemen, carriers and medical orderlies who accompanied them. In every sense, the work was jointly done. Papua New Guineans should be proud of the part their fathers and grandfathers played in opening up the interior.
And now the last of the Australians of that wonderful era has gone, Mick, Paddy, Jim and Dan Leahy, Jim Taylor and John Black, Jack Hides and Jim O’Malley, Charles Karius, Ivan and Claude Champion, Bill Adamson, Michael Dwyer, the Fox twins – they have all departed.
The first great journey of this modern era of Papua New Guinea discovery was the North West Patrol of 1926-28, which crossed New Guinea from the Fly River to the Sepik. The leader was Assistant Resident Magistrate Charles Karius of Papua’s Magisterial Service. His companion was young Patrol Officer, Ivan Champion, whose name will always be associated with Papuan exploration.
Mick Leahy made his appearance in 1930. With Michael Dwyer, he crossed New Guinea from the Upper Ramu to the Papua coast, looking for gold. In the process the little party unlocked the front door to the highlands. Mick made several prospecting journeys into the Upper Watt country of Morobe Province in 1931-32, accompanied by his brother Paddy. In 1933 there was the great journey with which the name of Mick and Dan Leahy will always be associated – the 1933 Wahgi expedition.
This was the journey that Mick and Dan captured for posterity on film; footage which forms the fascinating core of an otherwise seriously flawed film First Contact, which utterly fails to acknowledge that the expedition was jointly led by Mick Leahy and James L. Taylor, Assistant District Officer of the Mandated Territory Administration. Taylor is not even mentioned in the film, nor is the other white member of the party, the surveyor, Ken Spinks.
The Wahgi expedition proved the existence of the teeming populations of the Central Highlands. There was still a huge area of unexplored country left in Papua, between the headwaters of the Strickland and Purari Rivers.
In 1935, Sir Hubert Murray, Lieutenant-Governor of Papua, sent a patrol to explore this territory. This was the famous Strickland Purari Patrol, led by Jack Hides, Assistant Resident Magistrate, and Jim O’Malley, Patrol Officer. Hides reported heavy populations of war like people and was forced to fire on attacking tribesmen in defence of his party. Ivan Champion, now an Assistant Resident Magistrate, was sent in to check Hides’ claims and to extend his explorations. His companion was Bill Adamson, Patrol Officer. This Bamu-Purari patrol greatly increased the stock of knowledge of the interior. The explorers pushed to the Papua-Mandated Territory border, to a point a few kilometers from Mount Hagen, when Mick and Dan Leahy were mining for gold.
In 1937, Ivan’s brother, Claude, led another patrol to the newly discovered Lake Kutubu, and far beyond. Claude Champion was accompanied by a patrol officer, George Anderson. A base camp was established on the shores of Lake Kutubu. Ivan Champion and Bill Adamson then returned to Lake Kutubu and established a Police Post, from which base most of the Southern Highlands Province of today was explored in detail.
In 1938 Jim Taylor led what was the longest and biggest exploratory patrol ever mounted in Papua New Guinea through the country to the west of Mount Hagen – the great Hagen-Sepik patrol. His companion was John Black. Although Mick and Dan Leahy played no part in this expedition, they did make numerous journeys into the unknown country surrounding their base. The Fox twins, tough prospectors, made an extraordinary journey to the west from Mount Hagen. Nobody knows for certain how far they went, but it was a very long way – at least to the Strickland.
I count myself privileged to have known the four Leahy brothers (although Paddy was not the easiest bloke to get along with!). The Leahys – in particular Mick – have been accused of being too ready to resort to the use of firearms in tight spots. It is a judgment easily made today. It should be remembered that the Leahys and their dependent Papua New Guinean carriers were but a tiny handful in a sea of tough and vigorous warrior tribesmen. Events of recent years have indicated that the Highlanders are ever ready to use deadly force to settle their differences. They were ready fifty years ago. Vale, Danny. Last survivor of a brave era. There are many of us – Australians and nationals – who will not forget you and your brothers.
The early post World War II career Kiaps are proud of what they achieved in Papua New Guinea, but it is important that their forerunners are not forgotten. They are the pre-war men of the Magisterial Service in Papua and Native Affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, who paved the way for the Kiaps to carry on in their tradition.
An excellent source of information about these men can be found in James Sinclair’s book, Last Frontiers – the Explorations of Ivan Champion of Papua, a record of geographical exploration in Australia’s Territory of Papua between 1926 and 1940, published by Pacific Press Brisbane in 1988.
Last Frontiers, Foreword by Maurie Pears and Bill McGrath
This book is a story of high adventure, a special tribute to Ivan Champion, OBE: explorer, resident magistrate, navigator, author and gentleman. It commemorates, too, the magnificent work of the ‘Outside Men’ of the Magisterial Service, the officers who with their Papuan police and carriers explored and pacified old Papua.
It was these men who put into practice Sir Hubert Murray’s policy of ‘peaceful penetration’. They established a tradition of service that was to endure to the end of the Australian colonial era – a tradition of service that was taken up by Papua New Guinea upon her Independence. Australia has never given adequate recognition to the work of the ‘Outside Men’. Australians in general, are ignorant of a period in our history that is as full of romance, adventure, colour and excitement, as that of the American West.
One of the greatest of the ‘Outside Men’ was Ivan Champion, the subject of this book. His personal contribution to the exploration, pacification and administration of Papua was immense. Few of the ‘Outside Men’ are still alive. Their story could never be properly told in a single book, but it is our hope that the present volume, which recounts some of the deeds of one of the foremost of them, will help to show Australians what manner of men they were, and how splendid were the deeds they did.
James Sinclair, the author, is himself an ‘Outside Man’ who patrolled in some of the country that Ivan Champion first walked over. He is today the foremost Australian writer on Papua New Guinea. He has created, we believe, a modern classic in the literature of geographical exploration.
To so many Australians who have lived and worked there, Papua New Guinea is a very special place. In our case, Papua New Guinea has given us much more than we have returned. This book grew out of our desire to repay some of our personal debt, and to record our admiration for Ivan Champion and the great ‘Outside Men’ of a time, not so long ago, that in 1988 seems far away.
Una Voce No 3 1989
Ivan Francis Champion, OBE, was born on 9 March 1904, eldest of the three sons of HW Champion, Government Secretary, and his wife Florence. All three sons, Alan, Claude and Ivan, joined the Papuan Magisterial Service and achieved high office. Ivan joined the service in November 1923. He served with distinction as a naval officer during the Pacific War as the skipper of the ex-Papuan Government yacht, Laurabada, and as a pilot and marine surveyor.
After the war Ivan became the Assistant Director of District Services and Native Affairs and was Acting Director from 1949-51. He was appointed Chief of Native Lands Commissioner in 1952 and was Senior Commissioner of the Land Titles Commission when he retired in March, 1964. He was a long time member of the Retired Officers’ Association of Papua New Guinea. With his death on 12 August 1989, a great chapter in the history of Papua came to an end. Ivan’s exploratory work was recognised by the award of the Gill Memorial Medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 1938 and the John Lewis Gold Medal in 1951. He was appointed an OBE in 1953.
Following an offer from Sir Hubert Murray, O’Malley visited Papua in 1929 and took up a temporary position under his uncle as inspector in the Department of Native Affairs. At Kikori in 1931 he met Jack Hides, who was gaining a reputation as an energetic ‘outside man’. When O’Malley was appointed patrol officer in the magisterial branch in 1933, he was immediately assigned to accompany Hides to Kairuku. Their first patrol together that year, in the Kunimaipa Valley, won them commendations from Murray and the Prime Minister’s Department, Canberra. In 1934 Murray chose Hides and O’Malley to explore the large region between the Strickland and Purari rivers.
The two explorers complemented each other: Hides was slight, O’Malley strongly built; Hides ‘restless, impulsive and dashing’, O’Malley calm and methodical. The patrol through the southern fringes of the Central Highlands endured harsh conditions and considerable loss of life, capturing the imagination of the press, which lionized Hides and O’Malley on their return to Australia. The quieter O’Malley shied away from the attention. Yet he showed enduring loyalty to Hides, who enjoyed the public adulation, though it was to earn him detractors in Papua.
O’Malley’s postings to the stations from which he patrolled the difficult Kukukuku, Goilala and Kunimaipa areas in 1935-38 indicated the esteem in which his superiors held him. Between 1938 and 1940 he was transferred in turn to Misima, Samarai and Baniara. In 1941 he returned to patrol in Goilala, where he remained as assistant resident magistrate until he was mobilized in the Militia on 21 March 1942 as acting lieutenant, Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit. He patrolled extensively in the Kairuku and Kunimaipa areas, and transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in 1943. Promoted major in March 1945, he was placed on the Reserve of Officers on 16 November.
After World War II O’Malley was appointed district officer and magistrate in Port Moresby. There, on 23 June 1949 at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, he married Vere Pauline, whose father John Esmond Brien had been Murray’s private secretary. Following his marriage, O’Malley was posted to Gulf District as District Officer. He served at Kerema and Kikori. In 1958 he was appointed District Commissioner, Manus District. He stayed there until he retired to Sydney in 1968. He died of acute myocardial infarction on 10 January 1975 at his Killarney Heights home and was buried in the Northern Suburbs Cemetery. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons.
Another enlightening book is Patrol Into Yesterday by JK McCarthy who writes of his experiences from mid 1920 through to his wartime and post war experiences. Post war, 1945-52 he was the Director of the Department of District Service and Native Affairs.
Patrol Into Yesterday, Preface by JK McCarthy
A blue-covered book called Standing Orders was issued by the New Guinea Administration of pre-war days to every Cadet and Patrol Officer. “This is your bible,” said the District Officer as he handed me my copy. “Read it and believe – and you will be saved.”
The volume was a remarkable piece of work. It was written in terms of advice and it dealt with almost every conceivable situation that was likely to be encountered by the man in the field. Personal health was covered by the admonition to swallow five grains of quinine a day (no wonder I’m slightly deaf); there were instructions on how to spell by the phonetic method; how to behave with becoming calmness when primitive warriors shot arrows at you; when and when not to arm the native constabulary with ball ammunition – and, as an afterthought on explosives, and in complete contradiction of all the laws on true sportsmanship, how to use gelignite for fishing.
A great mass of other detail was practically dealt with in Standing Instructions, and one paragraph had much to do with the writing of this book. Every Patrol Officer was ordered to keep a daily diary and the volume went on to say, “This journal is in reality a personal diary and in the case of an officer whose duties embrace patrolling, the journal must show details of work performed on the station as well as details of patrols.” In my case the order resulted in a habit which has persisted for thirty-six years. Scores of diaries, fat and thin and scribbled in all sorts of places, testify to my addiction, and each year sees another added to the list – and the writing seems to get worse as one grows older.
The reading of these notebooks brought back many happenings to mind. Some of them had been totally forgotten but the diaries stirred the memory so that it recalled others. My first inclination was to write of them all but that was impossible in such a book as this.
To Ralph Ormsby and Led Odgers, my thanks for the information they gave me on the wartime Sepik tragedies at Timbunki and Angoram. “There is a limit,” as Stuart Inder pointed out, and so I have had to omit many events and the men connected with them that have made up my life in New Guinea.
To the men who make patrols possible in New Guinea – the carriers who bear the burdens and to my many friends in the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary, I give my sincere thanks. I like to think that his book is a small tribute to them.
When JK McCarthy was the Director of the Department of District Administration and Native Affairs he gave Bill Johnston a copy of his book endorsed: “To Bill Johnston who does the same job that I write about. With warmest regards. (Signed) JK McCarthy.
In the remote inland Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea there is a large geological structure bearing the name Hides. Gas from the Hides structure is being supplied to the Porgera mine, some 70 kilometres to the north-east. A licence over the Hides gas discovery was granted in November 1980. The current licensees are British Petroleum, Esso, and Oil Search Ltd. Famous names.
But who was the Hides after whom the structure was named? He was a young man who achieved world fame during his brief life, a son of Papua who gave his life to Papua, and the search for gold.
Jack Gordon Hides was born in Port Moresby in June 1906, one of the sons of roads overseer Horace Herbert Hides. From boyhood Jack was fascinated by the deeds of famous ‘outside men’ like CAW Monckton and Leo Austen, and he vowed that he, too, would become a patrol officer and discover new lands and new tribes. Hides joined the Papuan Public service in July 1925. He became a patrol officer in 1928, and Assistant Resident Magistrate (ARM) in 1934. He rapidly made a name for himself with a series of arduous patrols into the Papuan interior, and in September 1934 was chosen by Sir Hubert Murray to lead an expedition into the last remaining unexplored country in Papua, between the Strickland and Purari Rivers.
ARM Hides and his companion, Patrol Officer Jim O’Malley, left Daru by launch on 1 January 1935. They ascended the Strickland to the junction with the Rentoul, and with 10 police and 28 carriers crossed the Great Papuan Plateau and became the first white men to encounter the wig-wearing tribes of the Southern Highlands. They crossed the Tari Basin, entered the Wage and Nembi Valleys and marched on to the Erave and via the Samberigi Valley to Kikori, which they reached on 17 June 1935.
Unfortunately, the patrol was involved in a series of armed clashes with the new tribes they encountered. At least 32 attacking tribesmen were shot dead by police rifles. No member of the patrol was injured, but one police constable and one carrier died from cold and exhaustion. Sir Hubert Murray called this great Strickland-Purari Patrol one of the most difficult and dangerous ever carried out in Papua. It was the last major exploratory patrol to be carried out in the old way, without radio or aerial assistance.*
The patrol attracted the most extraordinary media attention in Australia, and overseas. Overnight, Jack Hides became a popular hero. He was called upon to give a series of lectures, and wherever he appeared the public was enthralled. His first book Through the Wildest Papua (about his earlier patrols) became a best seller. His Papuan Wonderland, on the Strickland-Purari Patrol, was likewise a tremendous success. Hides had only limited education, but he was a natural writer, with a vivid turn of phrase.
In 1936, Jack Hides resigned from the Papuan Administration. He was no prospector, but he thought he had discovered traces of gold during his epic patrol. He convinced an influential group of Sydney financiers to form a company, Investors Limited, to back his attempt to locate the gold.
With a companion, David Lyall, Hides set out from Daru in February, 1937. His party was equipped with the best that money could buy. Dave Lyall had worked on Morobe Goldfields and, although not an experienced prospector, he at least knew a lot more than Hides.
For month after month the expedition ascended the Strickland, slowly staging their supplies from camp to camp. They were in reach of their goal when, in early August Lyall fell dangerously ill, vomiting blood. It was only then that Jack Hides learned that his young companion had a history of stomach ulcers.
Hides abandoned the expedition and began a frantic dash for the coast in a vain effort to save the life of his friend. It was a gallant but grim and bitter retreat. All but essential equipment was abandoned. Food ran out, and starvation threatened. Along the way five carriers died of beriberi. Dave Lyall died at Daru on 16 September 1937 and was buried there.
Hides’ own health was shattered by his experiences. He returned to Sydney to try and recover. Mineral samples that he brought back proved worthless, but his backers, Investors Limited, still had faith in Jack Hides, and he planned to make another attempt to find his gold.
Restless, ill, desperately unhappy and blaming himself for the death of Lyall, Hides wrote a book, Savages in Serge, in an effort to take his mind from his problems. He wrote another on the expedition which he called Beyond the Kubea. The dedication read: “To David Lyall, whose courage and fortitude make memorable those last tragic days”.
Hides applied to the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department for the position of Administrator of Nauru. His letter of application was very brief: “Sir, May I ask you to consider me an as applicant for the Administratorship of Nauru. I feel that the service I have rendered Australia and New Guinea is sufficient to entitle me to such consideration, Jack G Hides.”
But time had just about run out for Jack Hides. One wet night he attended a Board meeting of Investors Limited to discuss another expedition to the Strickland headwaters country. The meeting over, Hides took a taxi to Lindfield and then decided to walk the rest of the way home. He was a fine athlete, a noted swimmer and boxer in his earlier days, and he liked walking. A sudden rainstorm drenched him, and he caught a slight chill. His young wife, Marguerite (whom he had married in 1932) called in a doctor, who diagnosed pneumonia. Hides was immediately admitted to a private hospital in Darlinghurst, but he had been so weakened by his privations on the Strickland that he had no strength to fight the disease. On 19 June, Jack Hides died, just before his 32nd birthday.
Beyond the Kubea was published posthumously. The gold of the Strickland had claimed him, just as surely it had claimed Dave Lyall. It is fitting that the name of Jack Hides has been perpetuated in the Hides structure, in the heart of the country that he was the first white man to penetrate.
* Bill Johnston’s patrols in the Delta/Gulf District were all carried out without radio and aerial assistance.