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Hosea’s war: insight into an early PNG author

BY KEITH JACKSON

IN AN ARTICLE last weekend - a compelling guided tour through his own PNG book collection - Phil Fitzpatrick mentioned early Papua New Guinean author, Hosea Linge.

“The subject matter might not be so relevant now,” wrote Phil, “but its place in the annals of Papua New Guinea literature is very important. The book sits very comfortably in my collection.”

And in PNG Attitude yesterday, George Oakes offered a comment that gave greater context to the life and work of Hosea Linge.

George spent his pre-war childhood at Pinikidu in New Ireland, the son of the tulatula (Methodist missionary), Rev Daniel Oakes, who was later captured by the Japanese and lost his life on the Montevideo Maru.

Hosea Linge was one of Rev Oakes main helpers and, when Mr Oakes was transferred to the Methodist Mission station at Kavieng in late 1941, not long before the Japanese invasion, Hosea took over running Pinikidu, where he remained for most of the war.

After the war, Hosea wrote a fascinating account of these years. The book was published in 1978 by the United Church in Rabaul with the help of Rev Neville Threlfall, an occasional contributor to these columns.

George Oakes – who returned to Sydney with his mother and brother in 1941, and who later became a Kiap in PNG - was good enough to transcribe a chapter or two of Hosea’s book, An Offering fit for a King, for the Lost Lives website. We reproduce this here….

______________________

The Synod in November 1941 gave me the status of a Probationer and appointed me to my home circuit of Pinikidu; I therefore prepared to take up this appointment. In December I went to stay at Malakuna, with my wife and child and with some newly graduated pastor-teachers, to wait for a ship.

While we were at the District head station at Malakuna, we were told that Japan had entered the war on Germany's side, and the situation of everyone at Malakuna and in Rabaul was very uncertain. Japanese reconnaissance planes began flying over Rabaul.

The Rev LA McArthur was our Chairman, the leader of the work of the Church in the New Guinea District. He thought of sending the New Ireland girls, who were in the Girls' School at Vunairima, back to New Ireland, and he asked what I thought about it. I agreed with him, because we did not know what the war might bring.

So he sent a message to Vunairima and the single girls came to Malakuna to get on the ship with us. The ship took us to Kalili on the West Coast of New Ireland, where we landed on 17th December.

We climbed up to the Lelet Plateau, following the bush tracks, and down to the coast on the other side, arriving at Pinikidu on 21st December. The minister there, the Rev D Oakes, told me to stay at Pinikidu for the time being, and he went away to Kavieng; we never saw each other again, so there was no opportunity to discuss our work, and I could not ask him for the help that I needed.

The war came to Kavieng on 21st January 1942, but we who were in Central New Ireland did not know it. I was having a meeting that day with the pastor-teachers, local preachers, class leaders, church stewards, congregation representatives and the government appointed headmen of the six villages of a catechist's section; I used to have meetings like this in each catechist's section.

The people went back to their villages after the meeting, and the next day a message came that Kavieng had been attacked and partly destroyed, and that the minister's house at Liga, outside the town, had been burned down.

****************

In the third week of January 1943 one hundred Japanese soldiers and their officer came to Pinikidu and stayed in the mission house. The day before their arrival, their officer and some soldiers came to inspect the house and the things in it. The officer demanded the key of the house from me, which I gave to him, and he then went inside the house.

He unlocked a cupboard and saw the things in it, including the small tins containing the money from the sale of various books; then he closed it again, and they went away, saying that the whole company would come the next day.

That afternoon the teacher of the primary school, a pastor and the schoolboys told me about the tins of money in the house; when the Japanese had first come to Pinikidu they had thrown away the books and money, and the teachers and schoolboys had picked them up again and put them back in the cupboard. I told them to bring the money to me, which they did.

The following day the whole company of a hundred soldiers arrived, and their officer looked for the money in the little tins, and he called for me and asked me about it. I told him that it was in my care. Man, how he stormed at me! He was furiously angry with me, saying that I was a thief.

I did not speak, I just stood quietly before him with my body, and in my spirit I leaned upon the God of Hosts in prayer. Later I spoke a little to him, and he showed me his sword and told me to bow respectfully to him in the Japanese way, which they call kere. Then he told me that that was all.

They stayed at Pinikidu for a week and then went away again. The Pinikidu people commented: 'They will not govern this country, because America and Australia will defeat them'.

Read the full extract from An Offering Fit for a King here: War comes to our Islands 1942-43

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