The Kiaps Compendium – Part 6: Profiles of career Kiaps

Desmond Clifton-Basset | Michael Foley | William James Johnston | Frederick Peter Christian Kaad, OBE | Douglas John Parrish | Peter Sheekey | Royce Arthur Webb, MBE | Harry West

Desmond Clifton-Bassett

Des was born in England and came to Australia at 10 years of age. He lived with his family until 1941 when he went into the army at the age of 19. He had a very strict upbringing, and he loved the army as it gave him freedom and, it is said, it made a man of him.

He was serving in the army in Papua New Guinea towards the end of the war, and in 1946 decided to join the post-war Papua New Guinea Civil Administration. He spent the next two and a half years as a Patrol Officer and in 1948, at the age of 26, he opened a patrol post at Telefomin. Unfortunately, after three months there he contracted scrub typhus, a life threatening disease in the days before chloromycetin. Bobby Gibbs risked his own life to fly him out in terrible weather.

In 1952-53, Des attended the Australian School of Pacific Administration at Middle Head, Mosman. It was there he met Marie, and he and Marie were married in 1954. He was then posted to Samarai where their first daughter Helen, was born in the little hospital on the hill in 1955.

In 1958 Des was given his first posting as Acting District Commissioner. It was to Mendi, in the Southern Highlands, when he was 36. He was over the moon with joy! He got on very well with the local people and invited them to the Residency on formal occasions.

After Mendi, Des spent a short term in Samarai and Popondetta, and then was posted to Madang as Acting District Commissioner in 1963. He was confirmed as District Commissioner in 1965 and stayed in Madang until retirement.

Madang was a District of 186,000 people. Des loved his work, he found it challenging, varied and gave him opportunities for quick action. It was no nine-to-five job! He was always interested in town activities; he was a member of Rotary, the Founding President of the Madang Musical Society, a member of the Madang Amateur Theatrical Society, the Parents and Citizens’ Association etc. A highlight of his term in Madang was a two-day visit by the Duke of Edinburgh on the Royal yacht Britannia.

The advent of self-government and independence brought sudden change. The new government wanted Papua New Guineans in the top positions, and European District Commissioners had to go. Marie and the children left Papua New Guinea in 1974 and Des followed in early 1975 at the age of 52. He had difficulty adjusting to Sydney life, all that energy and drive was bottled up with nowhere to go. For a number of years he continued to visit Papua New Guinea and maintained his interest in the country.

His last few years were not very happy ones and his health gave him lots of problems. Des had his flaws but his heart was in the right place and he would do anything for his family. He was not the sort of person who could tolerate a retirement village or nursing home and he was writing letters and working in his garden just before he died on 27 September 1992. He was active to the last. Des is survived by his widow, Marie, his daughters Helen and Jane and five grandchildren.

Michael Foley

Papua New Guinea Times Courier, 14 July 1966

Well known Deputy District Commissioner, Mr Mick Foley, takes up his new post this week as Acting District Commissioner of the newly-formed Chimbu District.

The Chimbu District was gazetted in June [1966] as one of three new Districts for the Territory. The two other districts are the West Sepik and West New Britain. The new Chimbu District takes in about 200,000 people. The majority of these are under local government councils. The area is about three thousand square miles.

Mr Foley, 42, was born in Queensland and educated at Toowoomba. He enlisted in the armed forces at the age of 19 and first came to the Territory with the Army in January 1943. “I had a family interest in the place,” he said this week. “My mother’s brother was a resident magistrate in the Territory.”

He applied for and was given a patrol officer’s position in 1943 and spent his early days in New Guinea under Mr HLR Niall, now the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

After the war Mr Foley went into a newly opened post at Wabag in the Western Highlands, and in 1945 spent a short time at Mt Hagen. He attended a school for civil officers at Duntroon soon after the war and returned in 1946 as an officer of the Public Service.

He was then posted to New Britain for nine years which included two years at the School of Pacific Administration. He later served as Assistant District Officer at Kainantu and was posted to Mt Hagen as District Officer eight years ago.

During his career he has had wide experience in the Highlands.

William James Johnston

After living through the Great Depression, his secondary education was at a selective school, Canterbury High, (NSW). At the age of sixteen he met his future wife, Nancy. On turning eighteen, he was called up for service in World War 2 and drafted into the Army (AIF) as a Morse key operator in the 17th Line of Independent Signal Corps. After service in the Northern Territory he joined “Timforce” and was present in Timor for the handing over ceremony of the Japanese surrender.

His attempt to move into the Royal Australian Air Force was unsuccessful, as men were no longer allowed to transfer from one Armed Force to another and his request to join the paratroopers was rejected because he was under the required age of twenty-two. He then volunteered, and was accepted, for service in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit and was recalled from Timor in 1945 to attend the School of Civil Affairs at Duntroon Military College and Holsworthy Military Camp. With war ending in the Pacific, the Unit was disbanded later that year so, on the successful completion of the course, he was granted an immediate discharge from the Army to allow him to take up a position as a Patrol Officer with the new Provisional Civil Administration in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

In 1946, Bill married Nancy on 9 March; he was discharged from the Army on 17 April and departed for Port Moresby on 14 June.   After a couple of months in Port Moresby, he was posted to Misima Island where Nancy joined him. In September 1947 they transferred to Woodlark Island, to live in isolation from the outside world. There was no wireless communication and their ‘lifeline’, a Government trawler, called at three or four monthly intervals with food and mail. After he left Woodlark Island his District Officer, Cec Cowley, wrote: “It is not as easy as one would think to be thrown upon your own resources and be expected to handle a District like a veteran but that is precisely what you achieved and I am proud of the way you tackled it and the grand support your wife gave you. It seems to me you have a nice understanding of what is needed and even a nicer touch in providing that need. Frankly you made it look easy. Let me say, it did not cause you any harm. The going must have been tough at times and surely, at odd moments, you must have wondered if it was all worth it. It was Bill, and always will be. Would it ever be that we may again be together in a District, that is, in the same team, I shall be very pleased indeed, you have proved yourself a team mate and a very pleasant energetic one.” It was not to be, Cec Cowley perished in the blast at Higaturu when Mount Lamington erupted in January 1951.

After leave in Australia, Bill and Nancy returned to Papua living first at Sehulea and then Esa’Ala on Normanby Island. Sehulea was complete isolation. Their bush materials house with a grass thatched roof had no amenities, the people were primitive and they were the only Europeans living there. In 1948 Bill was selected to attend a course at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in Sydney. It was during this time his first son, Alan, was born and daughter Christine.

At the end of the course and gaining the Diploma of Pacific Administration, Bill, now an Assistant District Officer, returned with Nancy and the two babies to live in Kikori in the Gulf District of Papua where conditions were dank and miserable. It was here he did several well documented exploratory patrols through the limestone mountains in the Southern Highlands of Papua, opening up country inhabited by cannibal warriors. His second son, Gary, was born during his stay at Kikori and, tragically, his beloved daughter, Christine, died. This was the reason for his transfer to Madang in New Guinea to carry out the duties of District Court Magistrate.

The time spent in Madang gave him a break from the rigours of patrolling and there his much loved daughter, Margaret, was born. She was a wonderful lifetime compensation for him after his loss of Christine. In 1955, after a short spell of small town living in Madang, he was posted to Bogia for three years. In 1957 his third son, Christopher, was born and from 1958, with four young children, he carried out the duties of District Officer/A. District Commissioner at Manus Island for the next five years.

Nineteen sixty-three saw him returning to Papua. During the seven years at Popondetta, he was the Deputy District Commissioner and several times A/District Commissioner. It was during this time in his career he survived a fatal plane crash. In 1970, after being promoted to Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Services, he transferred to Headquarters in Port Moresby where he and Nancy stayed long enough to see The Territory of Papua and New Guinea become united, renamed Papua New Guinea and become an Independent country.

Bill was a Kiap. Kiaps were the Officers from the Department of District Services and Native Affairs, the “trail blazers”. They were the representatives of the Government, the men who patrolled the unexplored and uncontrolled areas and opened up the country to civilisation, risking their health and often their life. With a handful of native policemen from the Royal Papua & New Guinea Constabulary, they were the first men to move into the primitive areas to establish outstations which ultimately grew into centres and towns.

Until this happened, the Kiap was in charge of all the Government’s responsibilities in his area: health, education, law and prisons. He was given the statutory appointment of a Commissioned Officer of the Papua and New Guinea Field Constabulary and made a Magistrate for Native Matters. With seniority and experience, came promotion and added responsibilities such as Magistrate of the District Court, Coroner, Visiting Justice of Prisons, Justice of the Peace, to name some. In addition to patrolling, district administration and court work, the Kiap had to have a diversity of knowledge and be a “Jack of all trades”, planning and supervising the building of roads, bridges, houses, airfields, wharves and hospitals and, as records had to be kept and reports written, he needed to be a competent clerical person. He worked to bring his area under Government control, so that people from other Government Departments, missionaries and commercial people could move in.

Peter Ryan, the Editor of The Encyclopaedia of Papua New Guinea, wrote: “Whatever might have been the short sightedness and neglect on the part of nearly all Federal Governments since federation, we have every reason for pride in the achievement of our colonial administration in the field of Papua New Guinea. The enterprise, dedication, honesty and sheer bravery of the district staff, the Kiaps, was remarkable. The rifle played its inevitable early part, but the exploration and the pacification of millions was achieved at the cost of a few skirmishes….

” In any event, I make no apology for this candid tribute to the Kiaps, who wrote one of the most honourable pages in this country’s history. Their achievement is from time to time scorned by writers, film makers and academics. One suspects that envy might be at work here, envy of those great ‘outside men’ of Papua and New Guinea in whose generous adventure their critics had no share.”

Bill never played politics or tried to win influential ‘friends’. He did what he believed was right and his integrity could not be faulted. He was dedicated to his duties and would not be swayed from what he considered was correct in his deliberations and decisions, be it in the interest of the indigenous people or the Europeans.

An endorsement in a personal file at Headquarters was not an easy thing to get. Bill had several. Tto mention a couple: After successfully handling a possibly volatile situation at Manus, when other Officers had failed to solve the problem, the Director’s comment was, “Mr Johnston has handled the situation in a highly satisfactory manner and his personal file has been so endorsed”. In 1964, his selection as Returning Officer for the Northern District of Papua for the first House of Assembly elections resulted in the Administrator, Sir Donald Cleland, writing, “Your personal contribution to the success of the Election was substantial and you may well be proud of the part you played. My congratulations for a job well done. Your personal file has been so endorsed”; and the comment by the Chief Electoral Officer on his report was, “it is a first class document”. Bill was the Returning Officer again for the 1968 elections. Before leaving Popondetta, to live in Port Moresby, the Director of Education wrote, “The significant growth in the Parents’ & Citizens’ Association had been markedly influenced by you and your wife’s personal contribution.”

As the years passed promotions came, patrolling lessened and Bill’s other duties became varied. It was when he was travelling as a member of the Land Board in 1969 that he survived a fatal plane crash in New Britain. In 1971, when Headquarters was concerned  at what seemed to be a never-ending situation to the long running Mount Turu Cargo Cult, Bill was sent to Wewak to co-ordinate the work of the Officers responsible for it. His logic soon brought an abrupt end to the cult. On the final day, as the angry cultists and their followers poured down the hill in their thousands, the first European person they came across was Bill, waiting for them alone and nonchalantly leaning against a tree. A photo of this scene appeared on the front page of the newspapers. In a letter from His Honour, the Administrator, he wrote, “A potentially dangerous situation was handled coolly and skilfully and successfully defused. My congratulations on a successful operation”.

In 1972 Bill was selected as Chairman of the Coordinating Committee to handle the widespread famine in the Southern and Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The Assistant Administrator, Tony Newman, who made the choice, had recognised his no-nonsense ability to make swift and correct decisions. The plans and decisions Bill made could not be faulted as there was no loss of life and a saving of millions of dollars for the Administration. Doctor Waddell from the Australian National University in Canberra wrote, “The logistics of the operation was an unqualified success”, and the report by the Joint Forces included, “It was a model of efficiency that should be repeated in any similar operation”.

Bill’s last employment in Papua New Guinea was as Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Services, which saw him almost daily attending to emergencies. The search and rescue of planes and ships, burning ships, missing yachts, people missing on the mountains and at sea, drownings, cyclones, earthquakes, cargo cults and famines – and the frustration of coping with the inane questions put forward by journalists, particularly those from overseas countries.

Bill and Nancy took things for granted and considered their experiences made life interesting and different. They had a “nomadic” life, moving from place to place, often living under difficult, primitive and isolated conditions, surviving, in many cases, by being self reliant. It was a lifestyle they never considered changing. Bill had patrolled in the unexplored and uncivilised areas where the traditional murdering warriors were abhorrent in their activities. They were not Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and a writer once described them as “cannibals of near feral ferocity”, some being cruel, evil and treacherous to their own kind as well as to others. Some of these patrols received media coverage throughout Australia and Bill received congratulations from the Director of his Department for the high standard of his work. A comment on one patrol was; “It would rate as one of the best carried out in the Territory”.

He experienced the trauma and consequences of living in isolated areas with young children, often without proper medical help and the anguish of parting with them when, one by one, they left for boarding schools in Sydney. He was a devoted father who looked forward to their school holidays, a busy man who always had time for his children. As time went on, in addition to his official duties, Bill became involved with civic activities and held executive positions in various organisations.

During the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Chief Minister and Mrs Somare invited Bill and Nancy to attend a welcome on 26 February 1974 and to be presented to Her Majesty.

When the Localisation Programme commenced in 1972 and the European Officers were being replaced by the indigenous people, Bill was not selected for retrenchment.   The Chief Minister, in a letter to Bill wrote, “It is the wish of my Government that you should continue your service in Papua New Guinea. This decision to invite you to continue your service to this country at a time when localisation is so important to us has not been taken lightly. It results from careful inquiry by your Department head in consultation with Ministers and the Public Service Board. Your past personal contribution to the development of this country has been particularly taken into account.” His children were finishing their schooling and settling in Sydney and he wanted to be there to provide a home for them so he tendered his resignation to take effect from the 27 September 1975.

For thirty years he watched the growth of Papua and New Guinea, and saw it become an independent nation. He felt, with Nancy, he had made a worthwhile contribution to society and realised it was a privilege to have been part of this history making time. Bill was proud to be an Officer of the Department of District Services and Native Affairs – a Kiap – and Nancy was proud to be a Kiap’s wife. Bill wrote in his Memoirs: “It would have been a different story if I had not had the love, companionship and assistance of my lovely wife, Nance. She never complained about what lesser characters would have considered hardships, the rigours and uncertainties of isolation. We enjoyed our life in Papua New Guinea and did not feel we were badly done by or that we were living a deprived style of life. Maybe, there is a lesson there, contentment is not a location or being surrounded by material goods and services, it is being together and having a state of mind reached by being mentally and physically occupied and having attainable goals towards which you can work. I realise there will never be a similar period in history that will be available for a person of my background to experience. I consider Nance and I were fortunate to have had the opportunity to live the life we did and, as a native member of the Anglican mission once said, ‘we should be grateful to the people of Papua New Guinea that they were there for us to do what we did.’

When a career like Bill had in Papua New Guinea ends, it has an effect of making a person feel empty and lost and difficult to let go of the life he has lived.  Bill appreciated the continuing friendship of his wantoks – the members of the Retired Officers’ Association of Papua New Guinea. The unusual bond between these men and women had resulted in lifelong friendships with people he was comfortable with having shared a similar lifestyle for many years when they filled the void left by not having family, relatives and friends nearby to turn to.

Bill was fifty-one when he returned to live in Sydney. Considering himself too young for retirement, he successfully went into business for a few years and retired at sixty-five. From 1991, chemotherapy kept him in and out of remission when cancer was diagnosed. The treatment took away the quality of his life and the calcium from his system resulting in a hip replacement in 1995 and many falls and bone fractures.

Eleven years after leaving Papua New Guinea the National University in Port Moresby advised that, because of his service to Papua New Guinea public affairs and development his name had been listed for inclusion in the Papua New Guinea Dictionary of Contemporary Biography. This publication records the biographies of prominent and representative figures in the nation’s recent history and persons who have made a significant contribution to the country since 1945.

Bill achieved a great deal in life, a few things have been mentioned here and many have not. Being the good husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather that he was is what we, his family, consider to be his greatest achievement.

Frederick Peter Christian Kaad OBE

Una Voce No 1 2006

After serving in the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea during World War II, Fred Kaad joined the Administration in Papua New Guinea as a Patrol Officer in 1946, rising to District Commissioner in 1960. A plane crash whilst on duty near Madang in 1964 left him a paraplegic with extensive burns to his legs and continuing neuropathic pain. Nevertheless, he completed a Masters Degree through the New England University and became a lecturer and then Course Director at the International Training Institute in Mosman, Sydney, until his retirement in 1985, teaching project management to students from Papua New Guinea and other developing countries.

Harry West

Fred Kaad’s legion of friends will be happy to know that his outstanding contribution to the development of Papua New Guinea and its people, over a period of more than fifty years, has again been recognised with the award of a 30th Independence Anniversary Commemorative Medal.

The presentation was made by Paul Nerau, LLB, Papua New Guinea’s Consul-General located in Brisbane, at our special Christmas luncheon held at the Mandarin Club in Sydney on Sunday 4 December 2005.

Fred served with the AIF in World War II as a Patrol Officer in 1946 and became a District Commissioner in 1960. A plane crash, while on duty near Madang in 1964, left him a paraplegic. Despite great privation, and with a wife and three young daughters to care about, he soon completed a Masters Degree in Education and then lectured in Government at the Australian School of Pacific Administration, Mosman, continuously till retirement in 1985, enormously impacting the career development of hundred of students from Papua New Guinea and other developing countries. Amongst the students he was affectionately known as ‘Popa bilong ol’.

In 1951 Fred played a prominent part in rescue and rehabilitation following the Mount Lamington volcanic disaster. In 1962 he was appointed Secretary of the Select Committee on Political Development of the Legislative Council and in 1963 became the Executive Officer of the Currie Commission which led to the establishment of the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby and the University of Technology in Lae.

He represented Papua New Guinea on the committee that led to the inauguration of the South Pacific Games and in 1962 and captained the athletics section of the Papua New Guinea team at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth. He provided leadership at the national level in the development of athletics, basketball and soccer in Papua New Guinea. He became International Commissioner for Papua New Guinea on the National Association of Scouting in Australia.

For several years Fred was a director of the Council on New Guinea Affairs, a private foundation promoting knowledge of and friendly relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Apart from playing a prominent part as an actor in Chips Rafferty’s Walk into Paradise, filmed in the Highlands, Sepik and Madang Districts in 1955, Fred was charged with ensuring authenticity, particularly in regards to the dress and the many hundreds of traditionally, spectacularly and colourfully clad highlanders in the sing sing scenes which live on as an important historical record of the times.

Nomination: Frederick Peter Christian Kaad, 30th Independence Anniversary Commemorative Award.

Outstanding services by Fred Kaad to the development of Papua New Guinea are summarized below. These services were not only for the whole population – for example, in work towards independence – but also went to help individuals – for example, scouting, sport and further education.

Mt Lamington Eruption Response:  Mt. Lamington erupted in January 1951. Having been in the Northern District during World War II, Fred was familiar with the area and its people and immediately volunteered to help with the rescue effort. He was in the second plane to land at Popondetta the next morning and, for the remainder of the year was the Officer in Charge, engaged in rescue, rehabilitation, resettlement and area development. He was recommended for a decoration but as matter of policy no awards were given to Administration officer.

Work Towards Political Development, Self Government & Independence: Fred was appointed Secretary to the Select Committee on Political Development of the Legislative Council of Papua New Guinea in 1962. The Committee travelled extensively across the country and the direct results of the report were the introduction of universal suffrage and the First House of Assembly of Papua New Guinea in 1964.

Assisting the Development of Higher Education: Fred was appointed Executive Officer for the Commission on Higher Education in Papua New Guinea in 1963. The Currie Commission’s report, produced after a year of extensive travel in both Papua New Guinea and to universities in Australia, led to the establishment of the first university in Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby, and then the University of Technology in Lae.

Development of Sport: Fred made an invaluable contribution to the development of sport mainly through training, organisation, administration and providing areas for sport to be played, and by his own participation, in particular: (a)  South Pacific Games. He represented Papua New Guinea at a meeting of the 1961 South Pacific Commission in Noumea, New Caledonia to discuss the possibility of a South Pacific Games and, as a result, the first Games were held in Fiji and the next in Papua New Guinea. (b) British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Perth 1963. He was elected Vice-President British Empire and Commonwealth Games Association of Papua New Guinea and in 1962 was captain of the athletics section of the first team to represent Papua New Guinea at the Games. (c) Athletics, Basket Ball and Soccer. He was elected Foundation President, Amateur Athletic Union of Papua New Guinea in 1962 and the following year was elected Foundation President of the Basketball Association of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea Soccer Association.

Scouting: In 1961 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner, Boy Scouts Association, Papua New Guinea Branch, and continued in this role until the plane crash in 1964. Following a period of rehabilitation, he served as International Commissioner for Papua New Guinea on the National Association of Scouting in Australia.

Council on New Guinea Affairs: From 1966 to 1971 he was a director of the Council on New Guinea Affairs, a private foundation set up to promote knowledge and friendly relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Australian School of Pacific Administration/International Training Institute: Through his work at this institution, Fred continued his contribution to Papua New Guinea by training young men and women to better perform their various jobs in the Papua New Guinea government. His practical experience in Papua New Guinea and ability to speak both Pidgin and Motu made him a better lecturer and friend to the students. He was able to use practical examples familiar to them and help them settle in to life in Sydney – he was often referred to as “Popa bilong ol”.

Walk into paradise

Walk into Paradise was a French/Australia co-production filmed in 1955 and released in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom: a world-wide audience was introduced to Papua New Guinea. It was the first bi-lingual colour film ever made in Australia. The film was shot on location in Goroka, Madang and along the Sepik River.

Many locals were used in the cast doing their normal work in their normal clothes and, as well as English and French, instructions had to be given in at least four other Papua New Guinea languages. As Assistant District Officer at Goroka, Fred was given the responsibility of looking after the film crew and coordinating with the local people. He ensured that local customs were respected and the people were portrayed in an authentic way. For example, a spectacular scene of a huge sing-sing to stamp down a landing field for a plane showed the people in their magnificent traditional sing-sing dress.

The grandeur of the landscape of the mountain and rivers was captured. Although made as an adventure movie, the film has become an historical document in that it faithfully shows parts of the Highlands and the Sepik and some of their people as they were over 50 years ago. This was in no small way due to Fred’s insistence.

Douglas John Parrish

Una Voce No 2 June 2003

Doug enlisted in the AIF in 1940, and the middle of 1943 found himself behind enemy lines in the Sepik as a sergeant with a guerilla force known as Mosstroops. The Official War History relates how, in one engagement, Sgt Parrish and a companion were attacked by – but put to flight- six Japanese and a dozen armed natives. In early 1945 he was commissioned with the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit and served as a field officer while the islands were still being cleared of the enemy.

In May 1946 he took his army discharge in Lae, and immediately joined the New Guinea Administration in Rabaul as a Patrol Officer. For the next 15 years he operated in widely scattered districts of what became the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Administrator, Sir Donald Cleland, considered him an ‘outstanding’ field officer.

He declined a posting as a District Commissioner to take up the lesser, newly created position of Industrial Organisations Officer, charged with developing a framework for industrial relations, embracing both unions and employers, and the development of workers’ association in Papua New Guinea’s main centres.

His success there led to his appointment as Papua New Guinea’s Secretary for Labour, where he energetically dealt with the myriad of industrial matters, including occupational health and safety, that were emerging because of major industrial development such as the giant Bougainville copper mine. There was no supporting legislation in place even for the operation of heavy equipment such as cranes, or for inspectors to enforce safety conditions, and a standards office to control weights and measures.

His dedication to his tasks was all the more considerable in view of a period of personal tragedy. On leave in Australia, he, his wife Candy and their 10 year old twin sons were attacked by a man while they were parked at midnight beside the highway near Taree. Having first shot and seriously wounded Doug, the attacker sexually assaulted Candy. Despite her own horrors, she saved Doug’s life by driving him to the Taree hospital, where his blood loss was stemmed. When the bullet was removed in Sydney, he was told he needed to remain there for three months to recuperate. While there, Christopher, one of the twins, was killed by a car on his way to school.

In 1971, with Papua New Guinea self-government and independence on the way, Doug and Candy reluctantly left Papua New Guinea for Sydney. Doug then embarked on a second career as an executive with the Bechtel Corporation, which sent him to Indonesia for twelve months to oversee new projects. He later became administration manager for the New South Wales Employers’ Federation for eight years, and for another five he was consultant to them and the Confederation of Australian Industry.

Doug was energetically active in the Retired Officers’ Association for 30 years. He was elected President in 1986 while Fred Kaad continued in the position of editor of Una Voce. In early 1989 Fred went overseas for an extended period, so Doug did the editor’s job as well, including simply to ‘fill’ in until Fred returned. Then in 1972 Doug handed over the Presidency to Harry West and was able to concentrate on Una Voce. During his seven years as editor, Doug transformed the journal: he introduced the regular sections we have today, and encouraged members to contribute stories of general interest and archival value. He also put in a great deal of behind-the-scenes work towards the publication of our book Tales of Papua New Guinea. He had a fascination for computers and was always ready to help committee members experiencing computer problems.

Doug died on 26 February 2001 aged 81. His wife Candy predeceased him. He is survived by his son Craig.

Peter Sheekey

Una Voce No 1 March 2004

Peter was born in Goulburn and educated in Wagga Wagga. He joined the army in early 1942 and after non-active service in Northern Queensland and Northern Territory, saw active service on Bougainville Island. After the war he joined the Australian Department of District Services and Native Affairs. During 1952 he completed his personal away from base record duration patrol of 87 days through the Central Highlands, beginning and concluding at Mendi.

Whilst at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 1954 Peter met Gwen Flood, a nurse, and they were married in 1955. Peter and Gwen and their family lived variously in Samarai, Madang and Bogia before returning to Madang (1964-68) where Peter was the Deputy District Commission to Des Clifton-Bassett. In 1968 Peter was promoted to the new position of Director of National Security (Papua New Guinea) and the family relocated to Port Moresby. Like many expatriates, Peter chose the ‘golden handshake’ following Papua New Guinea’s Independence in 1975.

Again, like many expats, Peter struggled to adjust to city life and retired early in his mid fifties due to decreasing hearing. The family lived in Coogee until the late 1980s before Peter and Gwen relocated to Mosman, the scene of their courting days. Peter died on 9 November 2003 aged 80. He is survived by his wife Gwen and his three children Bruce, Louise and David.

Royce Arthur Webb MBE

Royce was a successful student and sportsman. In 1940, aged 19, he enlisted in the 2nd AIF. He served with the 1/13 Battalion 9th Division in Tobruk and was twice mentioned in dispatches. He was wounded and spent some time in hospital in Alexandria, then returned to fight in Papua New Guinea in the Owen Stanley range campaign, Buna, Gona. In 1944 he married Marjorie and their first son Richard was born in Sydney in 1945.

Royce joined the Papua New Guinea Administration and in early 1947 was posted to Finschhafen with Marjorie and Richard. He attended the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 1950-51. During this time the couple’s second son, Derek was born. Royce’s next posting was to Saidor in the Madang District. Subsequent postings were to Goroka, Talasea in New Britain and Wewak.

He was promoted to District Officer in 1960. His duties included investigating illegal border crossings and, in 1961, diplomatic missions to Indonesia. While in Wewak Royce took his turn as president of the local RSL and Wewak Golf Club and made lifelong friends. The family moved to Port Moresby in 1966 when Royce became District Inspector for the new Department of District Administration. In 1968 problems again occurred on the Sepik border with Indonesian West Irian, involving more diplomatic missions.

Over the next few years Royce visited Jayapura, the capital of West Irian, on many occasions resulting in an eventual border agreement being signed in 1973.

Following his promotion into the Department of Foreign Relations and Trade, (Intelligence and Security) Royce retired to the Gold Coast in 1974. He joined Broadbeach Rotary Club which was only the second such club to be formed in Queensland. He served as its 20th president. He was a great supporter of Legacy, and being great lovers of flowers and gardens, both Royce and Marge were members of the local Garden Club.

After a bout of ill health Royce passed away on 12 July 2002 and is survived by Majorie, sons Richard and Derek and three grandchildren.

Harry West

Una Voce March 2005

Reminiscences at the PNGAA Adelaide Reunion Lunch, 31 October 2004

My interest in Papua New Guinea started in 1937 when, as an early teenager, I had a link with David Lyall, a young patrol officer who worked with Jack Hides in remote parts of Papua under arduous conditions and great privation and met an early death. Then in 1944, Army routine orders sought applicants to attend a school of civil affairs for aspirant patrol officers. I was interviewed in Cairns by Colonel Murray, later the first Administrator of Papua New Guinea, Les Haylen, the Secretary of the Department of Territories, and a Federal MP, along with numerous others, and ended up at Duntroon to face a bewildering array of notables, including anthropologists Ralph Piddington, Ian Hogbin, Camilla Wedgwood, Theodore Strehlow, along with James McAuley, Ida Leeson, Alf Conlon, John Kerr (later Governor General), Dr Lucy Mair, from the London School of Economics, and others. Most were high ranking army officers at the time. After five grueling months, 18 of the 40 were returned to their units, 6 were sent to Borneo and the remaining 16, including me, to Papua New Guinea.

My first ANGAU posting was to Salamaua where I remained till October 1945, when civil administration was restored from military government in Papua and the former mandated Territory of New Guinea south of the Markham River.

The Transfer Authority from Lt-General Sir Horace Robertson and Major General Basil Morris to the incoming Administrator J.K. Murray was to have taken place in Port Moresby with some ceremony. Murray and party, who had all the relevant documents, were to have flown from Lae to Moresby on the appointed day, but could not do so because of bad weather and it was hurriedly decided that Murray should go by trawler to Salamaua where the District Officer, Major Kyngdon would deputise for the generals as the documents had to be signed on the soil being transferred. However, radio communications between Lae and Salamaua were out and Kyngdon could not be advised so Murray set out anyway. Nor did he know that on that day Kyngdon had decided to go from Salamaua to regional headquarters in Lae, and his trawler passed Murray’s on the way. So, fellow patrol officer Bert Wickham and I, being the only ANGAU officers available, as humble lieutenants, got to sign those important historical documents on behalf of the Generals.

I moved to Lae and my first job was to escort 300 highlanders home overland to Goroka. These labourers were the first group of highlanders ever moved to the coast and flown out to work at the army base and kept under strict quarantine conditions, especially in regard to malaria. They were promised that they would be flown home, but when the time came all available DC3 aircraft were being used to repatriate Australian troops from Borneo. There was no semblance of a road past Nadzab, only the roughest of bush tracks from the Markham Valley floor through the mountains to the uplands. They were not happy about the 10-day trip home, to them through unknown and hostile territory, carrying food for the journey and heavy loads of ex-army equipment they had acquired. In spite of the difficulties and my total lack of experience, I managed to get them all to Goroka, with the help of Tom Fox of the legendary prospecting and exploring Fox brothers, and Medical Assistant Lance Butler, particularly responsible for their anti-malarial program. To my disgust and disappointment the acting ANGAU District Officer at Goroka confiscated and destroyed all the items of ex-army equipment the highlanders had treasured and carried home under great difficulties. I have often contemplated the extent of the damage to goodwill and trust the District Officer’s stupid act engendered throughout the area.

I was discharged from the army in Lae in March 1946 and was soon back in the highlands where Medical Assistant Gray Hartley and myself, under Assistant District Officer Jack Costello, looked after the whole of what is now the Chimbu Province. Most of it was classified as ‘uncontrolled’ and tribal fighting was rampant.

Next came two and a half years study at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney from 1947 till March 1950, then a culture shock posting to Telefomin to take over from Des Clifton-Bassett who had opened the remote post at the head of the Sepik River a year or so earlier. He was evacuated with scrub typhus and Bobby Gibbes got the legendary Dr John McInerney in, just in time to save Bassett’s life. Dennis Buchanan, as an 18-year-old lad, loaded the Gibbes Sepik Airways plane that took me to Telefomin. He went on to develop Territory Airlines and later Flight West in Queensland. So difficult were flying conditions to Telefomin from Wewak at the time, when the aircraft used had no radio, and because of numerous aborted flights, it was costing 24 shillings to fly in one pound of rice. Patrols were long and tough without portable radios or air drops or helicopters. I remember it was more than eight weeks before I found out about the 1951 Mt. Lamington disaster. I was on a first contact patrol to the Oksapmin people, through rugged limestone pinnacles at 12,000 from Telefomin. My final long Telefomin patrol was many days to the headwaters of the May River where, almost by miracle, we rescued an abducted Telefomin girl and persuaded Miamkaling, the headman of the feared Mianmin people, to accompany us back to Telefomin. It shows the girl and Miamkaling, the Constables Buratori and Purari who were murdered along with patrol officers Gerald Szarka and Geoff Harris in the Telefomin uprising a couple of years later. I believe it to be the only photograph of the two constables ever taken, and therefore very important for police records.

On to Aitape in 1951, with much war damage to be assessed and recorded amongst the villagers, with great difficulty and much guessing, but a commendable and justified initiative by the Australian Government. A humorous memory of Aitape was the Medical Assistant who always put “MA LLD” after his name: not a Master of Arts, Doctor of Literature, but “Medical Assistant, Lik Lik Dokta” I also remember the lovely old German nuns on the equally lovely Ali Islands off the coast of Aitape. They were sent there as young girls, knowing they would never return to Germany. As fate would have it they were taken away to Hollandia by the Japanese during the war, but returned to Ali afterwards.

Next to Kainantu in 1952 under dynamic Ian Downs at Goroka, with instructions that the jeep road was to be extended through the ranges to the Markham River floor within a strictly limited time frame. I assessed, with the concurrence of a couple of practical locals, that the route chosen by my predecessor would be impossible, and decided on an alternative, located by one Pokia, a Sepik police Lance Corporal. Fortunately it worked and the first motor track to the highlands became a reality.
There is a monument at the top of the Pass to Rupe Haviland, the on-the-spot Cadet Patrol Officer who supervised the mammoth pick and shovel task. Perhaps the greatest personal satisfaction of my career was to find that, years later, when the permanent Highlands Highway, professionally engineered, was put in, the location followed almost exactly the original track.

In 1956 I was closely associated with the first agricultural show in the Highlands initiated by Bill Seale at Goroka. Gerry Pentland, one of the new breed of coffee planters but a World War I fighter pilot and local wag, put in a fine entry for the best collection of farm produce, but unfortunately for him an observant judge turned over an egg to find it stamped, ‘Egg Board of NSW’ and Gerry lamented his disqualification.

Later the same year, while I was acting District Commissioner, we made elaborate plans for the official visit of the Governor General, Field Marshall Viscount Slim, VC, to Goroka. On arrival day he was to have visited Mt Hagen first but the airfield was closed suddenly because of bad weather and we had the Governor General on our hands at 8 am instead of 1 pm.

On to Mendi to be acting District Commissioner in 1957, married in Goroka in early 1958, and to Wau for our honeymoon. Bad weather and our light plane diverted to Bulolo. An horrendous night jeep ride to Wau on slippery roads in heavy rain, and then a few days later a telegram from Mendi to extend the honeymoon for a week, as the native material court house had been burnt down, and the Supreme Court was arriving and the large combined sitting/dining room in the District Commissioner’s home was the only space suitable for the court!

There was a small dairy herd at Mendi, looked after by two locals, Susu and Milk. They delivered milk each morning to the various households. One day they were caught topping up the buckets from a water race and were hauled into my office. They were relaxed about the situation – “No worries, kiap, we don’t add water until we get past your place”.

In mid 1958 I was off to Hollandia (now known as Jayapura) to be the first Australian Liaison Officer to the Netherlands New Guinea, travelling on the Governor’s yacht, which had brought my counterpart, Rafael Den Haan, to Madang on his way to Port Moresby. My position involved the exchange of grass-roots level practical administrative information, experience and procedure, nothing diplomatic.

I soon befriended the government anthropologist, Dr JV de Bruijn, about whom was published a fascinating book, Jungle Pipernel, on his wartime experiences around Wissell Lakes in the West Irian interior, where he did air watch work, similar to our Coastwatchers. I accompanied him on a trawler on a month’s trip out of Merauke, along the Casuarina Coast, where Michael Rockefeller perished with much publicity a year or so later, and for days up the meandering Digual River, through some of the most extensive swamps in the world to Tanah Merah, where the Dutch kept their Indonesian political prisoners before World War II. Dr Hatta’s name was carved on a park bench. No prisoner could escape from this hell hole, surrounded by thousands of square miles of impenetrable swamps. Later, on a coastal vessel trip in the northern Vogel Kop area there was a scare with Indonesian patrol boats putting ashore small commando parties. At the same time similar small groups of fighters were being dropped by parachute in scattered places and district administration was collapsing.

After leave I was transferred to Rabaul in late 1959. At the time there was a 9 o’clock curfew. No New Guinea national could be at large inside the town boundary between 9 pm and 6 am unless holding a ‘pass’ from an employer. Everything was divided on a racial basis. Separate school, hospitals, clubs and cemeteries for whites, blacks, Chinese or mixed race. Even separate spaces in churches. The swimming pool was for whites only. Burns Philp and Colyer Watson would only serve ‘natives’ if they had a pass from the ‘master’.

As the sixties passed the Mataungan movement developed. I had two months’ break in mid 1967 when I was sent to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to be Australia’s Special Representative at the Trusteeship Council’s annual session where Australia’s administration of the Trust Territory was reviewed. It proved to be an interesting experience. The Six Day War, initiated by Israel in the Middle East, was fought and won, and the head of government or foreign minister of most of the world’s countries descended on United Nations headquarters. I was able to see Kruschev banging his shoe in the General Assembly and walking down Fifth Avenue on the Sunday morning. I met Prime Minister Holt at the Australian Ambassador’s residence.

Back to the Mataungans:  ‘Mata’ means ‘eye’ and ‘ungan’, to look after. The Tolais wanted to handle their own affairs. With more than 100 years of white domination, it was evident that they had gained little and lost a lot. Many of them were landless through the virtual stealing of vast areas of land by the Germans, that had not been rectified, and pressures on land were rising through the demands of cash cropping as well as subsistence farming and rapid population growth, related to excellent medical services. Having lost their land, economically, they saw the central government’s move towards multi-racial councils as strangling them politically. There was drama. Police strength was built up in Rabaul to 1,000: one third of the Territory’s total force. The Tolais were divided amongst themselves about 50-50, pro and anti multi-racial council, but everywhere was the overwhelming desire to handle their own affairs. John Kaputin brought home a new idea from the East-West Centre in Hawaii. The Administration tried all sorts of approaches and brought in many local and overseas ‘experts’. When the well-respected Papuan Oala Oala Rarua arrived, his mission was misunderstood and the eminent Tolai leader Nason Tokiala came to me in great secrecy and said: “Mr West, watch gud long dispela Oala Oala Rarua. Im I spi bilong Dr. Gunther (Assistant Administrator)”. Opinions differed at the Rabaul, Port Moresby and Canberra levels and loyalties were divided.

Sir Hugh Foot came with the United Nations Visiting Mission in 1964 and advocated much earlier independence than had previously been proposed. Gough Whitlam came in 1970 and my clash with him led to hours of debate in the House of Representatives with senior politicians either praising or denouncing me, along party lines. What, to me, at Gough’s meeting with the Gazelle Peninsula Multi-racial Council, was a brief, polite and essential factual correction was to him arrogant, bureaucrat interference. This related to the accidental gun-shot wounding of a native child at Pomio by a patrol officer. Years later, at a memorial service for Sir John Guise (Papua New Guinea’s first Governor General) at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney, Gough was introduced to me and said, “We had harsh words last time we met, didn’t we?”

Prime Minister Gorton visited Rabaul not long after Gough and was met by about 10,000 Mataungan supporters at the airfield. An equal number of multi-racial council supporters awaited him at Queen Elizabeth Park. As the Prime Minister’s plane landed, the mood of the crowd being addressed by Mataungan leaders was reaching fever point. Then the loudspeaker system failed. As planned, vital wires were cut by undercover police and reasonable calm prevailed, but the situation was tense until Mr Gorton left Rabaul. A navy patrol boat was positioned to evacuate him, if necessary.

Next, the Papua New Guinea Administrator David Hay arrived to tour the Gazelle Peninsula. I was instructed that there was to be no police presence, whereever he went. I conferred with Superintendent Bill Burns and we had no doubts that covert riot squad surveillance was essential. On the first day of the tour, the Administrator and I went first to Bai village as arranged. There was clear uneasiness, but fortunately we arrived earlier than expected. We moved on to Malaguna. As Mr Hay emerged from the car he was attacked but District Officer Jim Fenton threw himself between the Administrator and the attackers, and took the blow. Bill Burns’ riot squad of 30 was on the spot and the situation saved. We sped on to Kokopo and Mr Hay was removed back to Rabaul by sea. That day there were many attacks by Mataungans on council supporters throughout the Gazelle Peninsula.

Soon there was a top level conference in Port Moresby. Cabinet Ministers came from Canberra. Throughout a Saturday night Rabaul was in scrambled radio contact with Port Moresby. A special army communication unit had been flown in to provide the facility. Very early on Sunday morning the Ministers flew back to a Cabinet meeting in Canberra. The question was whether the Administrator should be given authority to use the army in a civil situation if the “Gazelle Problem” could not be contained by the police. Minister for Army Malcolm Fraser, following long established convention said, “No”, however Prime Minister Gorton, who had recently witnessed the circumstances first hand said, “Yes”. Fortunately the unrest did not deteriorate beyond police capacity. Not long afterwards, in the Liberal Party room, John Gorton used his casting vote against himself on a tied motion of confidence in the party leadership and Billy McMahon became Prime Minister.

Fred Kaad’s tribute

Una Voce June 2008

Gentle Man, Gentleman: That’s how PNGAA Patron, Fred Kaad, OBE, described Harry West when asking at the Annual General Meeting in Sydney in April 2008 to create an Honorary Life Members, Fred went on to pay Harry the following tribute.

An honorary member must be an ordinary member who has rendered outstanding and meritorious service to the PNGAA. That member’s appointment can only be determined by a formal resolution passed at an Annual General Meeting. So after very long consideration of several seconds – I have decided that the member who best fulfils these conditions is someone who has served as our association secretary for ten years and president for sixteen years, Mr Harry West. Harry has given his time and efforts to the Association, but apart from his “official” work, he is such good friends to everyone, doing all he can for individuals: not only those of the committee. He is humble, helpful and he listens. He may not agree with you, but he considers what he had been told before he answers. And he has moved on with the times and, to a degree restructured the PNGAA committee, so it works better and faster. I’m glad that Harry could find no one to replace him as president last year. Although problems within the committee caused him heart burn, he carried on and kept everyone together. This same committee, together with our members, has shown its gratitude by giving him a gift although, fortunately for all of us, he remains on the committee.

Now, whilst I have the floor I would like to mention some of the things that Harry West achieved in his many years in Papua, the things that are probably uppermost in his memory. The formal things first. In late 1945, Papua and New Guinea were separate and both under military rule, and it was decided in Canberra that it was time they returned to civil administration. This was to be formally effected by a treaty to be signed by Colonel JK Murray, representing the civil administration, and Lieutenant-General HCH Robertson and Major-General Basil Morris, who commanded each area. Colonel Murray was waiting at the appointed time and place at Salamaua for the signing but “Red Robbie”, as he was known, had transport and radio difficulties and couldn’t get there. So Lieutenant Harry West, as the senior ANGAU officer in the vicinity, signed this significant treaty on behalf of General Robertson. A good start for a young officer! Harry took his Army discharge in Lae in 1946, and was soon in the Highlands as one of three men who looked after the whole of what is now the Chimbu province, most of it then classified uncontrolled.

In 1958-59, Harry served as the first Australian Liaison Officer in Netherlands New Guinea, based in what was then Hollandia, but he ended by doing much travelling because at that time the Indonesians were still fighting the Dutch, and their paratroops were trying to get a foothold in the country, so Harry’s was a very strategic posting – but not all gin and bitters, but rather hard work.

In 1967, Harry, then in Rabaul, was appointed for two months as Australian Special Representative to the 34th Meeting of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations.   Those of you who have experienced the United Nation Missions that came to Papua New Guinea can appreciate that there were sometime intelligent and probing questions, but more often uninformed, ridiculous and one-eyed questions which Harry would have been confronted. During his time in New York the Six Day War initiated by Israel occurred, so Harry met many of the international leaders and dignitaries, including Khrushchev, who had gathered at the United Nations in response to the war, and he witnessed the celebrated occasion of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table in the General Assembly.

Then it was back to Papua New Guinea to continue his Rabaul posting, then to Port Moresby as First Assistant Secretary Native Affairs in the Department of the Administrator, before taking long leave in Australia and finally his discharge on medical grounds in 1973. But much more than these formal responsibilities will remain in Harry’s mind.

There was a time at Telefomin in 1950 when he led patrols in the May river and Oksapmim, then to Aitape and Kainantu. Here he took a very great risk, of which he and all those who knew the situation were justifiably proud. He moved the approved planned route down through the Kassam Pass to another route he believed was much better and this new route became the final way down towards Lae.

Possibly Harry’s greatest contribution was those six years in Rabaul during the Mataungan period where he had to try and fight for the commonsense of people on the ground against orders from Port Moresby and Canberra. I was in Rabaul for the first year of Harry’s period and can vouch for the growing unrest with which he had to try and cope, and the problems he had to face. But Harry West is both a gentle man, and a gentleman. Some of you may remember that he clashed with Prime Minister Gough Whitlam when Harry made what he saw as a brief, polite correction of fact of something Whitlam said publicly in Rabaul about the gun-shot wounding of a native child. But Whitlam saw it as arrogant, bureaucratic interference, and it all got an airing in Federal Parliament.

The formal motion to make Harry an honorary life member was at this point put, and passed unanimously.


You may also like...

Leave a Reply