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Encounter with the Yiluis: “When the arrows fell like rain”

Des Martin awarded the PNG Order of Logohu by consul-general Magdalene Moi-HeDES MARTIN

BILL Brown’s reports in PNG Attitude are read with interest by all of us old kiaps and the latest chapter on Dreikikir brought back memories of my time there.

I don’t know if, when Bill were at Dreik, he saw my Patrol Report 1/51 when I ventured well down south of Mai Mai following reports of tribal murders.

I found that the occasional patrols pre- and post-war had only penetrated the main tracks and villages and discovered I was well into uncontrolled territory where no previous contact had been made.

The main characters doing the killing were from a Yilui group paying back attacks made weeks earlier by another group from Eismala. I was a bit late, a day or so behind the Yilui, then bumped into them when the raiding group was resting. Arrows were fired before they fled.

I assumed at the time the Yilui were returning from a raid but found later they were on their way to attack the Eismala group.

When I arrived at Eismala the next day, I found a number of bodies on the track obviously killed while fleeing the scene and many more with arrow wounds with the shafts broken off. Others who had fled the attackers came back when I arrived but were suffering PTSD and were no danger to the patrol.

A number were badly wounded and could not have survived but there was nothing I could do to prevent their suffering.

I also found that the Yiluis had been accompanied by warriors from other local groups. When I moved on and arrived in the Yilui area after seven or eight hours walk, the patrol was attacked by a large group.

As one of the police later told his mate, “Spia bilong benarra pundaun olsem rain” [the arrows fell like rain].

I ordered the police not to open fire and Sergeant Nemo and I rushed forward and tackled the fight leader dodging arrows as we did so. I fired my pistol into the ground which startled the fight leader who was attempting to fire at Nemo and me.

We handcuffed him and his mates ran off probably because they had not seen a kiap or police before. When we entered the area and set up camp, friendly relations were established particularly as the fight leader found we were not going to kill him.

The area was actually in the Aitape Sub-District but, as I had received the report of tribal fighting, I followed it up. As I reported to headquarters via Rup Haviland, the Assistant District Officer at Maprik, I was unable to make arrests as too many scattered groups were involved and there was no way the area could be controlled until a patrol post was established.

Headquarters agreed as it was policy not to try to prevent tribal fighting unless the locality was under government influence. No departmental * staff were available at the time so the status quo remained until Nuku was opened a couple of years later.

I might add that the police, carriers and I were totally exhausted after three weeks of wallowing around in swampy ground. Those were the days.

* Department of District Services and Native Affairs


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arthur williams

Des seems like another century..and of course It is. Makes Lavongai seem like a kindergarten.
Always amazes me to hear what you guys did; sometimes for many days. To have been a Kiap is surely a claim to have been part of 'band of brothers'. Glad I have that in my CV too...even if nobody knows what the hell that means here in Cardiff and I guess in many other places too.
But I bet St. Peter will know!
Thanks for sharing your memories Des.

Arnold Mundua

Yes...'Those were the days', Martin. Good story and indeed a good piece of history for the future generation. Thank you.

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