Reg Yates to map Bougainville's battlefields
21 February 2023
NOOSA, QLD - Flights booked, visa in hand, logistics in place, retired Army Captain Reg Yates arrives in Bougainville late March to study the battlefields of one of the biggest campaigns the Australian Army fought during World War II.
A veteran expeditioner in Papua New Guinea, Reg has been wanting to trek the Numa Numa Trail ever since he read Karl James’ book, The Hard Slog - Bougainville 1944-45.
In his book, Dr James – an historian with the Australian War Memorial - writes that the arduous Bougainville battles against the Japanese involved more than 30,000 Australian troops, 500 of whom were killed.
Reg has received a grant from the Australian Army History Unit to write a World War II Bougainville Battlefield Study Tour Guide which will identify and describe the battlefields along the Numa Numa Trail and plot them on SatNav.
He estimates that this initial trek will take over a week (his study is due for completion in October) and a later expedition - to clear overgrown battlefields, identify landowner boundaries and ensure fair payments - might take a month.
It’s not the first time Reg has tried to access Bougainville’s battlefields.
Earlier attempts in 2016 and 2022 included being turned back at Topiriaka after walking with guides from Torokina on the west coast of Bougainville.
This time, after walking and SatNaving the Trail, he plans a four day trek to Mt Balbi (a site overlooking one of Coastwatcher Jack Read's observation posts) and then visit battlefields near the Soraken Peninsula, Marawaka and Kero Creek.
Reg also plans to visit Paul Mason and Read's Coastwatcher sites near Kieta and Tinputz, and Admiral Yamamoto's crash site near Kahili in the Buin area.
He’s asked community government chairman Juneas Repiriri and his associates to assist identify battlefields along the Numa Numa Trail, to facilitate meetings with landowners and to cut tracks where necessary between the Uruavi River, Wakunai and the Laruma River, Torokina, including the Sisivie arm of the Numa NumaTrail.
He is prepared to hire carriers and pay landowners to ensure they are compensated for their efforts.
On a visit last October, Reg met Leonard Fong Roka, the poet and author well known to readers of PNG Attitude. He tells me Leonard’s wife had just given birth to their fourth child.
He also met with other Bougainvilleans to discuss the battlefield project with them.
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.