Pressure on South Pacific journalism
The kiaps: After dedication, melancholy

On reading patrol reports

Bridge across the Nali (Upper Burnett) River  2019 (Jeremiah Kakara) croppedPETER DWYER & MONICA MINNEGAL

MELBOURNE - We have recently published three short articles that may be of interest to PNG Attitude readers.

They draw on the archive of patrol reports that, with permission from the Papua New Guinea National Archives, has been provided online here by the University of California at San Diego.

These reports are a major source of information on PNG’s colonial-era history. For understandable reasons, however, they were prone to error. They must be read with care.

Our aims in writing these articles were threefold:

  • to help untangle the whereabouts of people of several Western Province language groups (Konai, Febi, Kubo, Bogaia) in the years of earliest contact by officers of the Australian government

  • to think about the kinds of factors that shaped the knowledge produced by those early patrols;

  • to encourage more attention to the extremely valuable historical records provided by the archived reports – valuable to historians, both national and expatriate, and ultimately valuable to rural Papua New Guineans as they explore details of the earliest intrusions by outsiders onto their lands

The articles are based on patrols from Kiunga, Kopiago, Koroba, Olsobip and Nomad. The first is subtitled ‘South of the Blucher Range’, the second ‘Travels in East Awin’ and the third ‘Burnett River People’. They are well illustrated with maps.

The following people are mentioned in dispatches, some at length, some just briefly. A number have embarked on their last patrol:

Kiaps: JC Baker, Robin Barclay, Leo Bera, Mike Briar, CR Brillante, Rhys Carpenter, W Cawthorn, Des J Clancy, Bob Hoad, Jim Hunter, John McGregor, Bill Paterson, JW Ransley, James Sinclair, James Taylor, Peter Turner, Bill van Rikxoort

Interpreters: Imbum Tiape, Hinube Pogoba;

Administrative officers: KA Brown, Jack Worcester;

Teachers: David Eastburn;

Anthropologists: Frederick Barth

And, not to be forgotten, one kiap dog

The articles have been published by the Journal of Pacific History. They are available on-line at but it is not open access. We can provide copies to anyone who sends a request to

And, borrowing from one of our articles, a brief note on river crossings.

Bridge across the Nali (Upper Burnett) River, 1964 (Bob Hoad)

In 1964, returning to Nomad from Tari, and patrolling via Lavani valley, Bob Hoad photographed his crossing place on the upper Burnett River, a river that is known locally as Nali.

He wrote: “This small stream crossing was extremely hazardous. The constant roar in a confined space was far from comforting. I had not seen anything so challenging.”

In 1968, Jim Hunter, coming from Koroba crossed as the same place: where “the river surged around one main massive boulder in the centre of the stream”.

Bridge across the Nali (Upper Burnett) River  2019 (Jeremiah Kakara)
Bridge across the Nali (Upper Burnett) River, 2019 (Jeremiah Kakara)

In 1970 and 1972, respectively, WA Cawthorn and Robin Barclay, patrolling from Nomad Station, also crossed the Nali at this place.

More than 45 years later, as seen in Jeremiah Kakara’s photograph, the same crossing continues to link people of the upper Strickland tributaries with people of what is now Hela Province.

Just looking at Jeremiah’s photo brought back memories of past crossings we have made and induced a tightening of the stomach muscles and a rush of adrenaline.

We would both have wanted a handrail or, at the least, a guiding hand.


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Martin Kaalund

Bob Hoad has entrusted his photographic collection to me to post on the Ex-Kiap website. The photos are numerous it will take some time (I rely on the co-operation of my graphic artist daughter). Some of you may have seen Bobs photos of Nomad patrol post.

Bob wishes to leave an historical collection online and has prepared two groups of photos, 'Beyond the Kubor' and '50 Years of PNG History'. I hope to post these before Christmas but if I make no progress before then possibly Peter Salmon of Ex-Kiap could assist me.

Robert Forster

The University of California’s photocopied archive of old and ancient Patrol Reports is fascinating - a treasure trove for historians and archivists keen to blow away the metaphorical dust that will be shrouding a multitude of historical nuggets.

Those who click the link must however arm themselves with patience. Some titbits will be buried under layers of difficult bureaucratese, lost forever as a result of photocopying made difficult by faded ink, or may even have been erased.

I discovered the archive three years ago and was immediately struck by the contrast between information that was immediately apparent and that which had been obscured either by DDA format or cramped language.

My first search was for the Johnny-Come-Lately stuff I had written between 1971 and 1975.

Much of it was there to read but offered in a form so stilted by my inhibitions, or adherence to the Sub-District’s preferred style, that morsels which may have been of marginal interest to researchers would have been difficult to identify.

Then there was the discovery that not all reports had been archived.

Some written at Bereina may not have covered anything of interest because those mainly single-issue field visits (hard to call them patrols) were routine, uneventful, and a brief account may only have been submitted to smooth acceptance of a camping allowance claim.

It is easy to think they were misfiled or refiled by a Sub-District Office clerk who was uncertain where to slot them.

However there were others written while working within Tapini Sub-District whose absence was more puzzling.

The archive revealed that the main section of one I had written on cargo cult thinking in the Upper Kunimeipa (there is a copy here at home) was missing and I had been bollocked (unknowingly) for this omission by the DC.

And another covering a newly discovered Cargo Cult in an unusually remote Goilala location is not enjoying San Diego light of day either.

Perhaps it was passed on through the confidential route?

This means that unless confidential files are visible elsewhere, many historical gems, those covering anything between early administrative attitudes towards PNG’s embryonic politicians, social unrest judged at the time to be best hushed up, or the misdemeanours of an over adventurous officer, have still to be revealed.

For example one of the Kunimeipa’s most intriguing former kiaps was Roy Edwards who patrolled across it during the late 1940’s.

He is credited by priests, and some anthropologists, with breaking contemporary Goilala payback cycles and therefore saving hundreds of lives.

However the methods he used were judged by Moresby to have been too extreme and he was cashiered.

Some information on this emerged in Bill Brown’s recent reminiscences but the strongest stuff, some of it perhaps written by Ron Galloway the contemporary ADC at Tapini, will almost certainly have been filed under confidential label and could therefore still be hidden from public light.

If it is contemporary researchers will most definitely be missing out.

Perhaps the most puzzling feature of my peep into these archives was that I had no recollection, none whatsoever, of a patrol conducted ahead of a mining company’s initial exploration to secure nearby villagers’ permission.

Proof of the visit was obvious. The report was written in my style and under my signature, but I could not remember a thing.

That must be why archived records are so important.

Peter D Dwyer

And Ross was probably never called Rick. Don't know how that snuck in. Thanks everyone, and pardon Ross....

Philip Fitzpatrick

William Cawthorn was commonly called Wal Cawthorn for some reason Peter.

Daniel Kumbon

Thanks Peter and Ross. I am sure this will help.

Peter D Dwyer

Hi Daniel and Rick - The major problem with downloading patrol reports is that the files are huge because they are compilations of scanned images.

An older computer or problematic internet connection (which is likely in PNG) will make downloads difficult. And without a good data plan, downloading could also be expensive.

Rick - We described Ken Brown and Jack Worcester as administrative officers, rather than as kiaps, because at the times we were writing about they were no longer serving in the field as kiaps.

Thanks for providing the first names of several kiaps who we knew of only by their initials.

- Peter & Monica

Peter Salmon


"They" won't send you copies of the patrol reports. You'll have to explore the link and download the reports you want, you will not see Enga Patrol Reports as Enga was never a district/province in those days. Instead, look at the Western Highlands reports, refer .

Ross Wilkinson

Hi Daniel,

you shouldn't need to subscribe. I've been reading and downloading patrol reports in a kiap-related project I've been working on for several years now. Try this link in your browser and it should take you to the entry page for the reports

Names listed above include Jack Baker, Charlie Brillante, William Cawthorn and Jeff Ransley. The two administrative officers are, in fact, kiaps Ken Brown and Jack Worcester.

Whilst the Papuan reports go back into time, many of the New Guinea reports only go back to the Second World War as the pre-war records were destroyed by the Japanese as they occupied areas or by well-meaning administration officers retreating as the Japanese advanced.

Daniel Kumbon

Thanks for this, Peter and Monica. I will ask for copies of the reports from my email address.

I certainly need early patrol reports for Enga Province.

I could not access the reports from the University of California at San Diego from here in Wabag due to various reasons: one being to subscribe to have access to the reports.

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