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Piecing together the history of Tol plantation


St Paul Tol High School (THS) which is run by the Catholic Education Agency
St Paul's High School at Tol, run by the Catholic Education Agency, is also named after the troops of 2/22 Lark Force Battalion, many of whom were massacred by Japanese at Tol Plantation in 1942  


PORT MORESBY – I’ve been scouring through old patrol reports to find more information about the story of Tol Plantation in East New Britain.

Many readers will recall that the plantation is infamous as the site of a massacre of Australian troops attempting to escape from the Japanese invasion of Rabaul on 4 February 1942.

As well as the patrol reports, in trying to give the colonial context of the plantation I'm working through some of the oral histories I collected from people at two field sites at Oivi-Gorari and Tol.

The Catalogue for Expropriated Properties for the Territories does not list Tol Plantation in 1926, although it lists five plantations in Pomio at the time and notes heavy logging in the Henry Reid Bay. 

I don't have access to patrol reports for Kokopo (covering Rabaul and Pomio) from 1926 to 1941, but by 1942 one GA Naess was in possession of Tol.

After World War II, the Australian New Guinea Production Control Board wrote to Naess setting down the conditions for his return to continue running the plantation in 1946.

Naess maintained ownership while Henry Allan Reynolds most likely was the manager.

In a patrol report of 1951 by kiap RW Born, a ‘Mr Reynolds of Tol Plantation’ is cited as having a boundary dispute with Marunga villagers.

But a Department of Lands gazette in 1960 lists GA Naess as owner of Tol Plantation with $AUS639 (K1,500) outstanding annual rental payment.

On 9 October 1967 the New Guinea Land Title Restoration Ordinance declared absolute ownership by the Administration of Papua New Guinea.

Over the period 17-19 November 1967 this decision was read to the Bainings people but they disputed this, saying the land had never been purchased from their ancestors.

On 5 August 1968 the Simbali Bainings of Kauvademki and the Mali Bainings of Marunga were claimants in a court hearing in Rabaul but the results of the hearing weren't made public.

Naess continued to run the plantation until Reynolds took over at some point.

Later, I could not establish the exact date, but it was after 1968 that Reynolds was replaced by Engelbert Schmidt, who is buried at Tol near his old house.

And after Schmidt came Freddy Chan Kiang Chin of Rabaul, which triggered a dispute between the two men,

What Baining and Sulka leaders have been disputing is the ownership of the two land portions occupied by the old plantations.

The land title was controversially awarded to Tol Port Services Ltd sometime between 2007 and 2012.

This was orchestrated by Paul Tiensten when he was Pomio MP and Minister for National Planning and District Development.

An interesting story I heard from the Simbali Baining people was how the logging camp at Tol got the name ‘Masarau’.

It was named after an Australian they called Master Ross which became rendered as Masarau, although I’m not sure whether Ross was ever a previous owner of Tol Plantation or even a kiap.

Gregory Bablis is Principal Curator in the Modern History Department of the PNG National Museum & Art Gallery


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Karen Johnson

Replying to Margaret and Jason - George Naess was my great uncle.

I know a bit about Tol and his life. If you want to contact me we can have a chat

[email protected]

Margaret Whitfield

I too have an interest in George Naess as he is a close relative.

I have only just come across this article and hope that one of the previous commentators, or anyone else, might be able to help me to find out more about his early life and his time in Papua New Guinea.

If anyone does have any information please contact me on [email protected]. Thanks.

Ross Wilkinson

The photograph online is a World War One photo. He suffered a concussion wound at Gallipoli in 1915 and then suffered shrapnel wounds in France in 1916. He was evacuated to Australia and medically discharged in early 1917.

In 1918 he re-enlisted for Home Service and was posted to the Holdsworthy Prison Camp. In October 1918 he transferred his enlistment to the Tropical Force in Rabaul where he was attached to the Police Detachment. In 1919 he became a Patrol Officer until the Military Administration ceased in 1921.

With the creation of the Civilian Administration he transferred and was serving as a Patrol Officer at Waitavolo when his service was terminated in 1923.

Please contact me by email [email protected] but make it quick as I have to change this address in the very near future.

Jason Edwards

Hi, George Alexander Naess is the brother of my great grandmother. George died on 1 November 1942 and is buried at the Lae War Cemetery and Memorial, Morobe, PNG.

He died as a civilian, but there is a picture of him in uniform on the net. I am looking to find out more information about him and his time as owner of the plantation which was of bananas. If anyone can contact me that would be great.

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