Vale June 2014

BASTOW, Marcia (April 2014) – No details available | BERA, Leo (15 April 2014) BRIEN, Fr Timothy N. (6 February 2014) | COOPER, Stan (12 May 2014) | DENNIS, Mike | DONOVAN, Kath | FLYNN MBE, Rita, (4 May 2014) | JOHNSON, Francis C (Frank) (25 December 2013) | O’LOGHLEN, Sir Colman Michael (6 March 2014) | RUXTON, Margaret (née McGregor) (1 April 2014) | SIPPO, William “Bill” George (12 February 2014) | SPEER, Albert “Bert” | (16 April 2014

Mike DENNIS (Aged 67)

Mike DennisLt-Col. Mike Dennis joined the Regular Army in 1967 after two years in the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (CMF). After serving as a Section Commander in 9 RAR, he was selected to attend OCS Portsea, graduating to Infantry Corps in 1969.

He served as a Platoon Commander in 1PIR, PNG and Pioneer Platoon Commander in 2RAR. On promotion to Captain he served as Adjutant Monash University Regiment, Company 2ic in 3RAR, serving in South-East Asia and as an Instructor Battle Wing Canungra. In 1982 he was promoted Major and Operations Officer 1PIR PNG and was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) primarily for the planning and conduct of border operations on the PNG/Indonesian border. This was followed by a posting as Officer Commanding 3 Brigade Headquarters ODF.

A major change of direction occurred when he was posted to the Defence Intelligence Organisation as the Senior Desk Officer PNG/SWP. Following involvement in the 1987 Fiji Coup and Operation Morrisdance he was promoted Lt-Col. and posted as a Defence Advisor PNG and the Solomon Islands in 1988. This position was primarily an intelligence collection role and he served on Bougainville in 1989 to 1990 in the early stages of the Bougainville War in a plain clothes role. He was awarded a Chief of Army Commendation and Australia Day Award for actions on Bougainville. Posted back to DIO in 1990 in the PNG/SWP section he was then selected to be the Defence Attaché South Pacific accredited to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

In 1995 Lt-Col. Dennis resigned from the ADF on completion of his posting in Fiji and took up a position of General Manager Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. This was followed by a senior position in sports management in the planning and conducts of the Sydney Olympics, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games Manchester and Athens Olympics. During this period as Vice President of Cleanevent International he undertook the restructuring of the US based arm of the company.

Lt-Col. Dennis’s other sporting interests include being the Manager of the Australian Rugby League Kangaroos, Manager and Coach of the Papua New Guinea and Fiji National Rugby League Teams. Simon Dennis. Photo courtesy PNG Attitude


Kath DONOVAN (Aged 83)

Kath DonovanKath Donovan arrived in Balimo in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea in June 1966 to do medical work among the Gogodala tribespeople. She was appointed to a government-run health centre that consisted of a few thatched huts staffed by a couple of male medical orderlies. The orderlies had minimal training and a penchant for going home at 4 pm no matter what the condition of any patient. This was unacceptable to Donovan, who believed that every patient should receive the best treatment possible. By the time she returned to Australia in 1983, she left behind a well-appointed 100-bed hospital staffed around the clock by two doctors and a team of qualified nurses. A nurse training school had been established, a feeding program was up and running and supervised aid posts covered 20,000 people over more than 20 villages.

After studying agricultural science, and later medicine, at the University of Sydney, Kath prepared to work in Papua New Guinea. Once in Papua New Guinea, she also developed a keen interest in malaria and was the first person to report chloroquine-resistant strains of the disease in her area. Over the years, Donovan wrote scientific articles on malaria, pigbel (a parasitic form of necrotising enteritis) and other tropical diseases. During the independence celebrations for Papua New Guinea, in 1975, she was awarded Papua New Guinea’s Medal of Honour for services to the country.

On returning to Australia permanently in 1983, Donovan began research into stress and coping and wrote the book Growing Through Stress (1991). Together with her friend and co-worker Ruth Myors, Kath established the Christian Synergy Centre, which provided psychological and medical services to missionaries and other Christian workers. In 2001, Donovan co-wrote a book, Taking the Mystery out of Malaria, for non-medical people. 

In 2008, Donovan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Kath Donovan never married. She is survived by a niece and two nephews and their families as well as Ruth and many other friends. Information and photo from Sydney Morning Herald.


Francis (Frank) C. JOHNSON (25 December 2013, aged 79)

Frank JohnsonFrank was a Harbord boy, son of Fred (dec.) and Dorothy (dec.) and was educated at Sydney Boys’ High and Sydney University. He went off to Papua New Guinea to teach and married Lois in 1959. He went to study at London University for a year, and son Niall was born. Returning to Papua New Guinea in 1960, Frank headed the Teachers’ College in Goroka. Son Jeremy was born in 1962. His next appointment was to Port Moresby as Principal of the Teachers’ College, but a grant to study at Columbia University in New York sent the family overseas.

The new University of Papua New Guinea appointed Frank as Professor of English at the age of thirty. These were productive and stimulating times!

The Hawaii English Project led to great years in Honolulu, followed by five years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and finally to an appointment as professor at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan.  Twenty-one stimulating years in Japan reluctantly led to a happy ‘retirement’ at Hyams Beach in NSW. Frank died on Christmas morning 2013 after a stroke. Lois Johnson


William “Bill” George SIPPO (12 February 2014, aged 89)

Bill was a ‘kiap’ in Papua New Guinea from 1946 to 1975. He was one of the fifty 54 men remaining from that period who were personally recognised at Parliament House, Canberra, in July 2013, with the Police Overseas Service Medal. Although Bill had never sought recognition for his work in Samarai, Milne Bay, Gamadodo, Goroka, Lake Murray, Mt Hagen, Kundiawa, Port Moresby and other areas, he was extremely proud to receive this medal, for himself and his family, but above all for his PNG friends who are no longer here.

Life for these men was rather different to that of present-day officers. Bill told of when he was on a remote station and a murder was committed during an inter-tribal dispute. He located the body, identified and arrested the offender, and held him pending trial at the next circuit of the Supreme Court. At the subsequent committal hearing there was no defence solicitor present, so Bill was asked to act as counsel for the accused. He recalled an old English statute from his legal studies which stated that “should a man be drawn into a melée through no fault of his own, he would be innocent of any crimes committed during the incident”. The accused was released and Bill still remembered him joyfully skipping down the road on his way home. He also remembered a time in the Ok Tedi area, where the local people built houses in trees 20 to 30 feet up above ground on land surrounded by swamp. The only way for his patrol to move was along a zig-zag causeway of fallen trees. As they balanced on them, they could see arrows swing back and forth, keeping them covered from the loopholes in the walls of the houses. He said it was remarkable how friendly you could manage to look when “under the gun”.

While at the Long Course in Balmoral (which he ‘topped’) in 1952, Bill met and married Anne McIntosh and in January 1953 they returned to PNG with their infant son Graham to postings at Chimbu, Mt Hagen. His last posting was in Port Moresby, where he was Acting Director and later Director of Child Welfare. In 1975 he left for Australia to reunite with Anne and their four children, Graham, Katherine, Elizabeth and Helen. His final duty before leaving the Territory was to devise and carry out a political education programme nationwide prior to the first general elections of a Papua New Guinea Parliament.

The family settled in Falls Creek, on the New South Wales south coast (not the snowfields) where Bill embraced a long-held desire to paint. He joined the Shoalhaven Art Society (eventually becoming president and a life member) and became a highly esteemed artist, with awards in water-colour, oils, acrylics and mixed media. He learned the crafts of stained glass, spinning and weaving, calligraphy, and leatherwork, and taught these to TAFE students and unemployed youth. For 10 years he was the Division Commander of the Shoalhaven Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, and was also on the National Council. He lectured on seamanship, navigation, and marine radio.

Bill was also instrumental in establishing the Shoalhaven Adult Education Group (later to become the Regional Evening College) and held the position of President for some years, as well as President of the NSW Association of Community Education Centres. In more recent years Bill became an ardent disciple of computers.

Bill’s abilities and interests were diverse but he could turn his hand to anything. He was a complex and highly intelligent man, with a wonderful wry sense of humour: a gentleman who accepted all people at face value. We miss him. Ann Sippo


Albert “Bert” SPEER (16 April 2014, aged 92)

Bert was the youngest son of Isaac Speer and Esther Chalker, born at Hillview Park, Woodhouselee in the Crookwell area of the headwaters of the Lachlan River north of Goulburn. As was the custom at that time, he left the one teacher country school when he had learnt everything the teacher could teach him; as a bright student Bert was 13 when he started working on the adjoining Pejar Park property.

I knew of Bert’s origin but had not appreciated how close we were in the early 1930s when I was attending school at Cowra down the Lachlan the other side of Wyangala Dam. Aged 7, I had already accepted the vision my parents had of my possible future. However, all Bert’s family followed a rural life even though Bert could have gone to Goulburn high school where his intellect would have brought him scholarships and he could have filled the professional role of his choosing.

When Bert joined the army on 17 August 1942, he chose to enter the Medical Corps and followed that role through to his working life. His first experience was in field hospitals under enemy fire in the New Guinea jungle at Milne Bay then at Wau when the Japanese tried to take the airstrip. Within the Medical Corps he had contact with doctors who ensured that he learnt everything he needed at all times; his tertiary education that prepared him for his life time of service to the people of PNG was practical not academic.

His wartime experience and friendship with many Papuan and New Guinea people led him to return to PNG in the Department of Public Health in October 1947 and his first posting was Kerema where he met Maori Kiki to whom he gave his Christian name. In 1951, he was next door at Saiho and led the medical team in the evacuation of Higaturu and Sangara when Mt Lamington blew out its side on 21 January 1951. I first met Bert in 1954 at the Ela Beach hospital from where he was sent to pioneer the establishment of health services in the Tari sub-district of the Southern Highlands.

Both John Gunther and I were impressed by his abilities and in 1959 he became a Regional Administrative Officer serving at Rabaul and Goroka and in due course providing the administrative backup at headquarters in Konedobu, straightening out problems in the malaria control programme then reviewing the Aid Post structure. He retired in 1971 leaving men he had trained to fill his role in the service.

Bert’s education by reading and guided experience gave him a fellow feeling with the Papua New Guinea people; he saw in them the latent intellectual ability that had frustrated his own life. He had an innate understanding, as did the leaders of the Public Health Department, that the people of PNG could, with education, fill any and all roles in the administration of the government of the country. He established close links with the founders of the Pangu Party and encouraged their development as leaders of the people. He was rewarded for his services in PNG when he was made an MBE in 1979.

Through his long life, he basked in the achievements of the young men he had adopted: Sir Albert Maori Kiki, Philip Bogembo, Teio Ila and Mauricio Biscocho and their families. He cared for his friends and any who suffered. In retirement his main venture was the investigation of the Montevideo Maru story and the history of the Crookwell area.

Over the past 40 years, Joy and I have welcomed his many calls to tell of the happenings among our mutual colleagues and looked forward to our infrequent meetings first in Crookwell and then Willoughby. We have explored together many significant historical events in PNG that are only part of oral history and those that only Bert held are now lost forever. He is well remembered by many who made their mark both in PNG and in the wider world. Peter Pharoah says, “I will always remember Bert because he was so helpful to me“; Ian Maddocks, “His longevity allowed him to be a valuable resource for PNG oral history and his enthusiasm for keeping in touch and gathering PNG comment and recollections” and John Mathews, “He was a friend and a great help during my time at Okapa.”

He will be greatly missed by his family and friends in Australia and PNG. Roy Scragg


Sir Colman Michael O’LOGHLEN  (6 March 2014, aged 97)

Sir Colman Michael O’Loghlen, World War Two veteran, Baronet and a Justice of the National Court of Papua New Guinea, died peacefully, at the age of 97, in Brisbane on 6 March 2014.

Born in Melbourne on 6 April 1916, Sir Colman was the grandson of Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, QC, Attorney-General and Premier of Victoria.

Sir Colman descended from a long line of lawyers. The first Baronet, Sir Michael O’Loghlen, QC, was the first Catholic to hold judicial office in the United Kingdom. His granduncle, Colman O’Loghlen, QC, practised in Ireland. Sir Colman’s eldest son, Michael, is also a Queen’s Counsel in Victoria.

Sir Colman had three siblings: all pre-deceased him. Ross, his elder brother, a Flying Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, was executed whilst a prisoner of war.

Sir Colman was educated at Xavier College, Melbourne. He completed secondary school in 1931 at the age of 15. In 1938, after completing his law degree at University of Melbourne, was admitted to practice as a Barrister & Solicitor in Victoria. In early 1941, Sir Colman was appointed to manage the Law practice of J.I. Cromie in Wau, in the goldfields of New Guinea.

In January 1942, the Japanese invaded New Guinea. Sir Colman remained in New Guinea, as a Lieutenant with the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR).

In June 1942, the NGVR, reinforced with two Companies of Australian Commandos, raided the 3,000 strong Japanese Garrison in Salamaua. Lieutenant O’Loghlen led one of sections that inflicted substantial damage and casualties. This was the first time any allied force in the south west Pacific area had initiated any counter action against the Japanese. During the raid, vital documents were captured which gave the allies warning of planned Japanese landings at Milne Bay. Following the raid on Salamaua, Sir Colman with other NGVR members withdrew to a position located at Mubo. In September 1942, the Japanese attacked this position in strength and were repulsed, inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking force.

Ian Downs has written a marvellous book detailing the NGVR’s history. With heavy casualties and attrition, the NGVR was disbanded in December 1942. The NGVR lives to this day as the only Australian Army Unit that was formed overseas, served all of its time overseas, and then disbanded overseas. It is the only militia battalion in the Australian Armed forces to be awarded a United States distinguished unit citation.

Captain O’Loghlen then transferred to the Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU). He was deployed with forward infantry units on the Torricelli line of advance, which saw heavy casualty rates on both sides. One of Sir Colman’s stories deals with the liberation of some Indian Prisoners of War: quoting Sir Colman “I was given orders to take a party up the Driniumor River to see if I could find a group of Indians who were being chased by the Japanese. Several hours up the river we came upon a group of Indians rounding a corner. I was leading at the time and an Indian Warrant Officer, thin as a rake who hadn’t eaten anything except grass for days, came up to me and gave me the most magnificent salute I have ever seen. However there were possibly Japanese about and I told him “For goodness sake! Please don’t salute again”. Then another few came around the comer – five in all, and when sighting an officer, also saluted magnificently. They were all as thin as rakes with their ribs and bones just sticking out everywhere from being starved. They had been captured in Singapore and sent to New Guinea as slave labour.”

In total Sir Colman spent 1384 days in the service of his country with 83% of that time in New Guinea. He returned from war, weighing a little less than six stone (38 kg).

Sir Colman succeeded to the title as the sixth Baronet of Drumconora upon the death of his uncle Charles in 1951. In 1954, he was appointed a Stipendiary Magistrate in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea, first centred in Lae and later Rabaul. From time to time, after 1957, he served as an acting judge of the Supreme Court.

After retirement, Sir Colman returned to Papua New Guinea in 1968, as acting Chief Land Titles Commissioner and in 1969 as an acting Judge of the Supreme Court. On Independence Day, he was made a Judge of the National Court and was one of PNG’s inaugural judges.

Sir Colman’s wife, Lady Margaret, passed away in April 2010. Sir Colman is survived by his eight children, twenty five grandchildren, two step grandchildren and many great grandchildren. Colman O’Loghlen

Sir Colman’s passing was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and can be viewed HERE


Leo BERA (15 April 2014, aged 66)

At Kairuku, Central Province, PNG after a short illness. Leo became a very respected Deputy District Commissioner in the Australian Administration before and after PNG Independence. He subsequently worked for a number of Oil, Gas and Mining companies in PNG, most notably with myself as co-Lands Supervisor with Chevron Niugini Limited at Moro, Lake Kutubu and more recently with InterOil. Bill McGrath


Fr Timothy N BRIEN (6 February 2014) (Revised)

Tim Brien came to Daru in the mid sixties as a lay teacher employed by the Montford Catholic Mission’s order of nuns. They were French Canadian: he was Australian.

After leaving PNG, he joined the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in England and trained for the priesthood at their house of studies at Leicester. Ordained in the mid 1970s, he left the order and became a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Wrexham in North Wales.

As a Catholic layman in PNG, resident on an island of expatriate individualists, Tim was one of Daru’s most colourful characters. He was an entertaining conversationalist and bon viveur. He was also a man of strong principle.

He did not always see eye to eye with the episcopal leader of his own diocese in the Western Province. As an ex-Anglican, he made no secret of his opposition to the ordination of women priests.

In Britain, he took in people in trouble or in disgrace and gave them bed and board.

An individualist with a kind heart. David Wetherell


Stan COOPER (12 May 2014, aged 97)

(T30071, Light heavy battery, Lark Force, POW in Zentsuji)  Stan is believed to be the last of the Zentsuji POWs. He died in Hobart. Marian May


Rita FLYNN, MBE (4 May 2014)

Netballers around Papua New Guinea are mourning the loss of one of the pioneers of PNG netball, Rita Flynn, who died from leukaemia in Sydney on 4 May. Her name is recognised in the naming the famous Rita Flynn Netball Courts on Bisini Parade in Port Moresby. She was given this honour for her pioneering role in establishing netball in PNG in the years before independence.

Rita was also a life Member of the PNG Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (PNGSFOC) and was also the patron and life member of the PNG Netball Federation. PNG Netball Federation President Julianne Maliaki said Rita Flynn was instrumental in introducing and building up netball in the country.

Rita, together with her late husband Bruce Flynn, contributed to the development of sports in PNG. The two were actively involved in the foundation and growth of the PNGSFOC. With acknowledgement to PNG Attitude


Margaret RUXTON (née McGregor) (1 April 2014, aged 80)

Margaret RuxtonMargaret was born the second daughter of Sydney McGregor and Elinor Marjorie McGregor (known as Madge). At the outbreak of WW2, Sydney joined up with the AIF and became part of the 2/22nd Lark Force and subsequently went down on board the POW ship Montevideo Maru.

The girls had a happy childhood, however all were aware of the deep sadness felt by their mother over the loss of her husband and the lack of information over his fate.

Margaret was particularly sensitive to this fact and over the years spoke to all and sundry in an effort to have some recognition given to these brave men.

There is a tribute to Sydney McGregor on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru website | .

In 2011 she also wrote a brief summary of her father for the website Lost Lives | .

Over several years she attended the reunion at Trawool and on one occasion it gave her great pleasure to meet Jack Doyle and his family, I remember her delight when she said “he actually knew Dad”.

When Andrea Williams and company increased pressure on the Government, Margaret said ‘at long last’. The July Canberra meetings gave her a real sense of connection with others experiencing the same pain and conflict.

Margaret supported all the efforts of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society; it was an incredible experience to attend the Service and unveiling of the Memorial, and she spoke of at last having closure.

Last year in some respects endorsed the previous year and I know she enjoyed the time spent with Norm Furness and Marg Curtis.

Margaret had major surgery at Bendigo Base Hospital on 19 March 2014, and after a week in their Intensive Care was transferred to St John of God critical care, where she made limited progress. However on 30 March further surgery was required from which she never recovered. Margaret will be sadly missed for her enthusiasm, and loyalty to all the causes she felt strongly about and in this case her devotion to the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society. Helen Forsyth

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