Many voices contend for B’ville influence
E Course teachers recalled with affection

PNG great, Bob Cole, dies on Gold Coast

McCarthy_Cole_Green Yesterday Papua New Guinea lost one of its greatest servants and Australia lost a pioneering officer whose association with PNG began before World War II.

Former pre-war kiap and PNG Police Commissioner Bob Cole OBE MC died on the Gold Coast. His PNG career spanned the years 1938 to 1968 and he served in the Sepik, Bougainville, Western Highlands and Southern Highlands Districts, attaining the rank of District Commissioner before being appointed Commissioner of Police.

In Una Voce, the journal of the Papua New Guinea Association, in March 1993, Bob wrote a story about his late wife Kay’s introduction to New Guinea. Some extracts.

We were married in 1943, during the War, and after I had spent three years in the Middle East writing her letters. We married within a week of my return to Australia and only had two weeks together before I reported to Melbourne and then New Guinea two months later. These separations were the pattern until the end of 1943 when I was discharged. After the war we had a wonderful ten months together before deciding that I should return to work, which meant New Guinea where the Provincial Government was in operation.

Bougainville was my posting and there being no married accommodation available I was not able to take Kay with me when I returned. I was required to build my own residence before a permit would be granted for Kay to join me and this did not worry me very much because I knew I could knock up a suitable house within a few weeks, and so off I went to get started, giving Kay an assurance that she would be with me within a week or two and that the Territory people would look after her all the way to me.

I landed at Sohano at the end of November 1946 and was sent to Buin where I arrived two weeks later, and where Jimmy Hodgekiss was in charge as ADO. Jimmy did not like crowded stations (we had a Patrol Officer, Jim Humphries, and an EMA, Alan Pinkerton) and now me, who intended bringing a woman to the station. This was too much for Jimmy so he went bush to start Boku and left me in charge at Buin to build the house for my wife.

The house was built by the end of December, native materials throughout except for the floor which was constructed from Japanese bed-boards salvaged from the huge overgrown Jap army camp in the bush nearby. These boards were better than limbum, but only just, because they were very thin and gave way frequently underfoot. Our furniture was patrol issue to start with, no refrigerator, and a camp stove salvaged from the same Jap camp. Upon completion I convinced Raleigh Farlow, the District Officer, that it was suitable as a married quarter and he notified Moresby to this effect and asked for approval for Kay to join me.

Passages to Papua New Guinea, on aircraft, were at a premium in 1946 and baggage allowances were very limited so when Kay did get a seat on 27 January 1947 she filled her handbag with cutlery and the allowable baggage space was used for linen in addition to her own clothing. I remember Treasury hit me for £10/13/6 to cover excess baggage, and duly collected it.

You can read this wonderful story in its entirety here.

Photo: Bob Cole (centre), as Honorary Colonel, Papua and New Guinea Rifles, with Col JK McCarthy and Lt Col H Green

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