ADELAIDE – In May 1969, exactly 50 years ago, I first arrived in Port Moresby, having turned 18 a bare six weeks previously.
To the best of my knowledge, with one exception who soon decamped south back to Australia, every other recruit to the service that year was several years older than me.
So I think that I am possibly the youngest former expatriate kiap still living and I turned 68 this year.
While I was stationed in Oro Province from early 1972 to mid-1974, I cannot recall meeting Doug Robbins, who has just died, although I certainly knew his mate Drew Pingo quite well.
Also, I had the privilege of doing patrol work both around Tufi and, on one occasion, at Safia, so I know a bit about the sort of country Doug wrote about in PNG Attitude.
His death, at what I think these days would be regarded as a comparatively young age, is a cause of sadness to me, first and foremost because of the impact it will have upon his family. To them I offer my sincere condolences.
Secondly, and more selfishly, I feel sadness because I sense that another small bit of my life vanishes with him.
As I have got older, I have watched as people and things that were familiar to me either simply disappear or are irrevocably changed.
Intellectually, I know that this is just the way things go in modern life, the only permanent feature of which is change.
But emotionally, it just seems that the world with which I was once so at ease and so confident is disappearing before my eyes.
The death of a loved one is always painful and sometimes devastating. We mostly recover from the shock and grief sufficiently to get on with life but, if my experience is any guide, a little bit of us never really gets over it.
While I cannot claim any direct association with Doug he was, like me, a member of that somewhat vague and amorphous "band of brothers" who share experiences and memories about a time and place that very few others can understand.
For that reason, his death is a cause of sadness for me and, I expect, more than a few others who may not have known him but at least knew of him.
So, I say vale, Doug. May your last patrol be a good one and your old comrades who have gone before awaiting you with a cold beer and a smile.