Past times: World War II & Kokoda Feed

Where Papuans stood as brothers

| Ples Singsing

Papuan infantry on parade  World War II (Australian War Memorial)
Papuan infantry on parade,  World War II (Australian War Memorial)

In New Guinea's wild, where jungles breathe,
A tale of courage, weaved beneath the trees.
Papuan sons, with hearts so bold,
Stood as brothers, in tales untold.

Through dense green canopy, they tread,
Their spirits forged, their fears misled.
With every step, they held the line,
Bound by valour, their destinies entwined.

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Kokoda's Charlie Lynn is back in business

| Australian Associated Press

Kokoda Track - Generated with AI - 31 December 2023

SYDNEY - A major Kokoda Track tour company is back in action after a court overturned a ban on it taking groups on the historic pilgrimage.

Adventure Kokoda's commercial tour operator's licence was cancelled in April following a dispute involving trekking fees, legal documents show.

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Remembering the escape from New Guinea


CORINDA QLD - On Wednesday 17 December 1941, 10 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the USA into World War II, the Australian government despatched a large passenger ship, SS Katoomba, to Port Moresby.

Its main and urgent mission was to take on board Australian mothers and their children, dependents of Australian men who were working in Papua New Guinea.

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Of brave men & colonial bastardry


SAMFORD VALLEY, QLD - In late July, the Brisbane branch of the Naval Association of Australia, in collaboration with the DVA, hosted a public event to recognise the Coastwatchers of WWII.

This was held at Jack Tar Place on Brisbane city's South Bank, immediately adjacent to the Queensland Maritime Museum. Jack Tar Place is dominated by a statue of a sailor and the whole area is dedicated to honour all who served in the RAN, including the Coastwatchers.

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Support a Coastwatchers memorial in Oz


FRANKSTON VIC – After World War I, the Royal Australian Navy established a Coastwatching service comprising civilian volunteers. As time went on, the service was extended to include the territories of Papua and New Guinea using civilian planters and missionaries. 

With the outbreak of World War II, former naval officer and kiap Eric Feldt rejoined the Navy and one of his tasks was to command of the Coastwatchers from bases in Port Moresby and later Brisbane.

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The story of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles

| Australian War Memorial

NGVR     Members of B Company  New Guinea Volunteer Rifles  display a Japanese flag they captured at Mubo on 21 July 1942 (Australian War Memorial)
Members of B Company New Guinea Volunteer Rifles display a Japanese flag they captured at Mubo on 21 July 1942 (Australian War Memorial)

CANBERRA – Anyone glancing at the Nominal Roll of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) would be excused for thinking that Australia had maintained a Foreign Legion at its northern outposts in January 1942.

Such names as Lars Waldamar Bergstrand, Carlo Lugarno Cavalieri, Bruno Chou Lai, Alistair Stuart Fraser-Fraser, Francisco Trojaolo and Hubert Behrendorff appear and are an indication of the cosmopolitan nature of the volunteer movement.

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Photo Mission 49: After 7 months, rescue

| With gratitude to Graham King

King sub (Microsoft Bing Image Creator)
"Nogat masta,” the guide whispered, “Emi goomie bot!”  “Him he what?” I asked, seeing little cause for excitement.  But Townsend grabbed my arm excitedly“It’s a submarine,” he said tensely." (Microsoft Bing Image Creator)


SOMEWHERE IN NEW BRITAIN, 1943-44 - In another moment we had beached the canoe on a sandbar.  I stepped out and faced the first white man I’d seen in five months.

He quickly came forward and introduced himself as Captain Ian Skinner of the Australia Imperial Force.  He wore short khaki pants and knee length stockings and carried a carbine over his shoulder. 

He directed the natives to build a fire, asked me I’d like a spot of tea and offered me a cigarette. 

While we were having our tea and biscuits, I bombarded him with questions.  What was his mission on the island?  Did he think I could be rescued?  How was the battle for New Guinea going?

An American submarine had landed him on the island to establish a coast-watching station and to radio information about the Japs back to Port Moresby. 

The other two members of his party, John Stokie and Matt Foley, were back in the hills, setting up a watch post to spot enemy airplanes as they took off from Rabaul to bomb the allied bases on New Guinea. 

He told me he and his two comrades had walked across the island in ten days and were just about out of food, though a supply drop by parachute was expected any day. 

The plane was also supposed to drop a larger and more powerful radio transmitter than the portable set they had brought with them.

When I asked him again about my chances for being rescued, he smiled and promised to send a signal back to headquarters as soon as the radio was set up.  But he said, with apologies, that any attempt to evacuate me immediately would jeopardize the position of his party. 

I said I understood and then told him that, having been an amateur radio operator in peacetime, I’d be glad to lend him a hand operating the transmitter.  He was very pleased with this information, for Matt Foley was the only signalman in the party. 

As a matter of fact he thought it might be wise to set up a second station right here on the beach.  Then I could stay here and relay information about barge traffic to the main station back in the hills, which, in turn, would send it on to Port Moresby. It all sounded good to me. 

The next day Skinner set out from the beach to the station in the hills to get the portable radio set and some provisions.  Since I was still too ill to travel fast, it was decided I should remain on the beach. 

Before leaving, Skinner gave me some extra ammunition and a medicine kit with a good supply of quinine to suppress any malaria chills.

On the day he was scheduled to return, I paddled up the river a little way with Gabu and two other natives to meet him. 

The afternoon faded away into twilight and no sign of him.  I began to fear that his party had been overtaken by a Jap patrol when I remembered the extreme caution that Skinner had said he used in the jungle. 

He always sent one native ahead of the main body.  The native carried a spear and pretended to be hunting pigs in the event he met any suspicious people. 

If he met any Japs, he shouted something in his native tongue which the Japs couldn’t understand, and thus signalled the danger to Skinner and the party in the rear.

Just as we had given up hope of seeing Skinner that night and were turning around to go back, we heard a strange whistle and one of Skinner’s native boys appeared on the trail.  He said the others were close behind him bringing some cargo. 

Skinner, he said, had stayed behind but had sent a note saying he would come as soon as he and his comrades received the first parachute drop.  Bad weather yesterday had grounded the plane that was to supply them.

By the time the rest of the carriers had arrived and the cargo was loaded into the canoe, it was pitch dark.  But we made the trip back to the beach without incident, unloading the cargo quickly and stowing it in the chief’s hut. 

On opening the packages, I found a new uniform, some woollen socks, and a much need pair of shoes.  The pants of the uniform were size 40 and were large enough for me and several of the natives together.  But I kept them on and let the natives laugh. 

In the food boxes were several cases of condensed milk, cheese, honey, corned beef, tomato juice, sandwich spread and a tin of plum pudding.  There were also cigarettes, plenty of soap and shaving equipment, and a kerosene storm lamp.   I went to sleep that night feeling that Santa Claus had just visited me.

After an early breakfast, the next morning we moved the cargo to a hut on the outskirts of the village. 

The new location was on the edge of a bluff overlooking the river and could be reached only by wading.  There were no trails to give away the hideout, and the jungle around the lean-to was thick enough to swallow a man ten paces away from the door. 

In a few minutes the natives had constructed another lean-to several paces behind the original one.  It was to serve as a cookhouse and living quarters for the natives.

My first meal in my new home was quite a contrast to the snails I had enjoyed in my first lean-to.  ‘Cook-boy’ Gabu danced like a chef at the Waldorf when he saw all the different things he had to cook with. 

And he had a right to dance like a chef.  Except for an overdose of curry powder, his stew made from dehydrated vegetables and wild pig was excellent. 

Apparently Gabu had learned to cook from the Australians who use curry powder as Americans do catsup and it was some time before I could convince him that ‘Master belong America’ did not like his dishes so spicy.

After lunch I went to the creek, found a quiet pool, and sat down to give myself a scrubbing with real soap.  The first one in five months!  When I had finished digging the dirt out of my pores my body seemed pounds lighter. 

I had my first real shave in five months with a sharp blade and soapy lather.  Then I dressed in the clothes that Skinner had sent me.  Baggy as they were, they made me feel like a colour ad and I strutted proudly down to the village.

One morning Quali brought news that all ‘kanaka’ without exception were to assemble at a place called Buteolo to meet ‘number one Jap officer’.  Evidently the Japs were worried about the natives giving out information to the Allies in the event of an invasion. 

Lauo, the chief, afraid to put in a personal appearance for fear the Japs would torture him into informing on our coastal watching party, sent Gabu to the meeting with the message that he couldn’t come himself because of foot sores. 

When Gabu returned a few days later, he said that the chief’s absence had made the Japs suspicious and that they were sending a patrol to the village to investigate.  I scribbled a message to Skinner, informing him of the situation, and dispatched a runner.

Four days later Skinner appeared in camp, leading a line of natives carrying several boxes of supplies.  He told me that the supply plane had dropped some chutes the other night, one of them holding a box which my squadron had sent me. 

I rushed to open it, finding another uniform (only three sizes too large this time), a pair of GI shoes, two bottles of brandy (an attached note said quite plainly ‘for medicinal purposes only’), a carbine still covered with packing grease, and a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron.

After unpacking my own things, I helped Skinner to get the portable radio set out of its box and operating.  It had been set up only five minutes when a message from the Port Moresby Headquarters came through. 

Skinner appeared very nervous and excited as he decoded it, and when he passed it over to me, I learned that the Moresby Intelligence had word that the Jap patrols were searching for us.  The message further warned us to pack up and move inland until the danger subsided.

Immediately, we held a short conference with the chief.  It was decided to transfer all of our equipment to a spot back in the marshes. 

Loading a canoe as rapidly as possible, we left the beach, as we later learned less than an hour before a Jap patrol entered the village looking for us.  But by that time we were safely in the Bayou country, the thickest most impenetrable jungle I’d ever seen. 

Huge roots of sago palms stuck out of the water like octopus tentacles.  When the canoe passed close to shore, vines and branches swiped our faces, covering us with cobwebs.  Occasionally, a crocodile would glide off his resting place on the bank and come to investigate us.  The mosquitoes were so thick it was impossible to brush them away.

About midnight, the paddlers guided the canoe up to a steep bank and unloaded the equipment.  While some of the natives climbed tall trees to watch for patrols, the rest of us set up the portable radio and called headquarters at Moresby. 

When we told them our position, they sent word to move further inland and urged us to be extremely cautious, for our watching station, if successful, would aid the Allied impending operations greatly.

We broke camp early next morning and travelled quickly by canoe for several hours until we reached a spot where the rapids made further journey by water impossible.  We would have to go the rest of the way by foot. 

The natives set a fast pace and, because I’d wrenched my knee when I slipped on a single log bridge, it was impossible for me to keep up with them.  But I trailed along behind as best as I could, falling down on the slippery trail a thousand times and trying to forget the sharp pains in my leg.

Once when crossing the river at a particularly wide spot, we had to cut poles and form a long handrail to keep from being swept downstream in the waist-deep current.  Many times the trail led through patches of knife-edged kunai grass, and along the ridge tops the hot rays of the noon sun turned the jungle into a devil’s steam bath.

When we reached our destination late that afternoon, I was completely exhausted and numb from the pain in my leg.  But I felt better immediately when two white men and a cluster of natives came down the trail to meet us. 

The white men introduced themselves as Lieutenant John Stokie and Corporal Matt Foley.  By strange coincidence Stokie turned out to be the writer of the note that the native chief had carried when they found me. 

He explained that, as the peacetime superintendent of a coconut plantation, he knew the natives and the country well, and had stayed behind when the Australians had evacuated Rabaul at the beginning of hostilities. 

He had rescued the crew of a B-26 and escaped with them from the island in a Catalina flying boat.  Then he had returned with Skinner and Foley to set up the aircraft spotting system.

The spotting station was located at one end of a high ridge overlooking the valleys of dense jungle below. 

To the north lay the placid blue water of Open Bay where powerful field glasses could detect any Jap shipping en route from Rabaul to Cape Gloucester.  Enemy airplanes on their way from Rabaul to Allied installations in New Guinea had to pass almost directly overhead. 

At night we could see the searchlights across the sky as our own bombers unloaded over Rabaul.  Sometimes we’d hear a B-24 overhead on the return trip to Port Moresby and watch the tracers squirt out from the trail gun as Jap night fighters tried to intercept it.

The main hut at the camp housed the wireless set and provided living accommodations for us.  The roof covered with bundles of kunai grass, rotted quickly under the daily rains and had to be recovered almost constantly with fresh grass. 

Nearby two bamboo-covered lean-tos served as ‘house belong wash’ and ‘house cook’.  Shower baths were provided by a leaky bucket held by one of the native boys.  But because water had to be carried from a spring half a mile away, we could permit ourselves only two showers a week.

After supper Matt showed me the wireless set and explained its operation.  Transmission could be made either in voice or in code. A tiny gasoline generator supplied power for the batteries. 

That night we tuned in on short wave and I felt a tingling sensation along my spine when orchestra music from a nightclub in San Francisco came back along the airwaves and reached me here in New Britain.

As Matt and I were working on the radio the next morning, a line of strange natives coming up the trail brought an alarm in camp and sent Skinner out to meet them.  The visitors, who luckily turned out to be members of a friendly tribe, brought news of two Royal Australian Air Force men who were hiding with a tribe on the south coast. 

They had lost their plane through Jap ack-ack but so far had managed to evade capture.  The spokesman for the natives said that he didn’t know how long the airmen would be safe because the Japs, knowing they were on the island somewhere, were threatening the natives with torture unless they gave up the airmen. 

Skinner packed a few things immediately and left early the next morning for the south coast, accompanied by two of his own natives and the visitors.

The next day a message was received from Moresby, saying that a supply drop would be attempted that night, weather permitting.  We sent the natives out to gather dry wood for the signal fires and made the other preliminary preparations ourselves. 

Shortly before midnight we followed a guide through the jungle to a nearby garden where the drop was scheduled to take place.  The fires were arranged in a triangle with the apex pointing north.  Then we stepped back in the bush and waited.

At five before twelve we heard the tell-tale drone of a twin-engine Catalina flying boat.  I dumped a small tin of kerosene on one of the fires, and hastily stepped back.  The sound of the plane soon broke into a roar and the ship sailed over us, tiny blue flames leaping from the exhaust stacks. 

An Aldis Lamp blinked a recognition signal, and Matt answered in Morse Code with his flashlight.  The plane then made a wide sweeping turn and headed back for us, flying dangerously slow for such a lumbering old crate on such hilly terrain.

While I was shaking my head at the cold-blooded nerve of the pilot, a small dark box came hurtling out of one of the side blisters of the plane, disappearing in the darkness for a moment, then reappeared again dangling from the shroud lines of a parachute.  One of the natives let out a whoop and dashed for the spot where he thought it would land.

In the space of a few more minutes three more runs were made by the Catalina and thirteen parachutes were dropped. 

We accounted for all except two, which had been carried beyond the area by a gust of wind.  It would be impossible to find them until morning, so we quickly gathered the others while the natives worked feverishly to destroy any evidence of the operations. 

By the sunrise, if a Jap patrol wandered into the clearing, it would find nothing but an old native slowly working his garden.

We were busy all the next morning unpacking the boxes.  As we sorted out the packages, I found one from my squadron mates.  There was a camera, a case of beans and a bottle of gin (no attached message of irony this time). 

But best of all was some personal mail.  I was flabbergasted; here I was two hundred miles behind enemy lines reading a letter from my mother saying that the War Department had sent her news that my return to military control had been reported. 

Then there was some correspondence from Time magazine imploring me to take advantage of a new special subscription rate for servicemen since my subscription had expired.  It advised me to slip the enclosed card in the nearest mailbox and it would take care of the rest.

The next morning the sound of approaching planes interrupted our breakfast.  We identified the planes as Jap dive bombers, counting about eighty in all.  We estimated their speed and course and flashed the news to headquarters in Moresby. 

About three hours later we heard them returning.  It was a wonderful sight.  They appeared singly, by pairs, in no formation at all; most of them limping like wounded ducks.

One straggler puttering along with a knocking engine suddenly dropped its nose, plummeted out of control, and crashed in flames on the other side of the valley. 

Altogether less than twenty of the original eighty planes were accounted for.  Evidently our flash to Moresby had given our interceptors just the break they needed to send the Japs to hell.

A few days later Skinner appeared in camp bringing the two RAAF airmen from the south coast, Wing Commander Townsend and his gunner, Dave McClymont. 

They told us they had been on a raid at Palmalmal in a Boston A-20 when some lucky ack-ack [anti-aircraft gunfire] knocked out their fuel system and forced them down over the water a few miles from a Jap garrison down the coast. 

They got to shore in a rubber dinghy just a few minutes before a Jap patrol arrived on the beach.  They took to the bush and after wandering about for about ten days were picked up by some friendly natives who hid them until they could get the news to Captain Skinner.

On Christmas Day we got the news that our forces had landed at Cape Gloucester.  A few minutes later a huge flight of Jap dive bombers escorted by about forty Zeros passed overhead bound for Cape Gloucester. 

We radioed the information immediately to Moresby and then short-waved to the American fighter control center where we could hear the loudspeakers warn the P-38 pilots of approaching Japs. 

Then, tuning in to the American fighter beam lengths, we could hear their jubilant shouts as they spotted the Japs.  We kept track of the progress by marking up a score every time one of our boys knocked a Nip out of the sky.

A few days later we got word that another Jap patrol was out searching for us.  Apparently, the Japs were getting tired of sneaking in with their planes over American targets and finding that someone had tipped off the American interceptors. 

One of the natives told us that three pinnaces of Japs had landed at Ulamona, about eight miles from our station.  Inasmuch as it was only a question of a few days before they would stumble on our campsite, the two Australian fliers and myself started out with some guides and some supplies to find a new and safer hideout. 

Skinner was to remain behind and send us runners occasionally with messages about the proximity of the Jap patrol.  We set out with a heavy rain beating on our backs but, though travelling was difficult, we had the consolation of knowing that the rain would wash away our tracks and slow up any Jap patrols which might be in the vicinity. 

We spent the first night shivering under a leaky tent; the wood was too wet to burn, and smoke would give away our position anyway.  The next morning the rain had stopped but the jungle was so impenetrable we had to crawl on our hands and knees. 

However, in a few hours we slid down a two-hundred-foot drop and discovered a perfect spot to pitch camp.  We immediately put ourselves to work, cleaning rust from the guns, setting up booby traps with hand grenades, and stationing guards in strategic positions.  When we had finished, we felt secure and got our first good sleep in several days.

A full week went by before we got our first message from Skinner, back at the aircraft spotting station.  The message said the Japs had reached a spot about a mile below him but were afraid to cross the rain-swollen river and had turned back to the beach. 

We were congratulating ourselves when another runner appeared with the information that one of the other coastal watching stations near Gasmata had been captured by the Japs. 

One of the natives had turned traitor and directed a Jap patrol straight to the Allied hideout. 

I looked at the natives standing around us and searched their faces for a tell-tale Judas look.  But they were all smiling blankly, and I gave up my scrutiny.  Good or bad, we depended on the natives for our survival in the jungle.

We were three days returning to the aircraft spotting station and when we arrived I was so exhausted I had one of my malaria attacks.  That was soon over but was replaced by a sudden siege of dysentery.  It left me too weak to eat. 

I found a box of sulfa-gunandine, supposedly the remedy, but could find no directions for taking it.  So I radioed Moresby for instructions.  In a few minutes the reply came back – ‘Fourteen pills for the first dose’.  I looked at the huge pills and shook my head.  I sent back a query. 

Once more the answer came – ‘Fourteen pills for the first dose’.  I shrugged my shoulders, put my faith in radio and lady luck, and swallowed fourteen pills.  The radio was right.

One morning, when I was back on my feet again and standing the early radio watch, I heard the Milne Bay station calling us: BAKER, FOX, CHARLIE FROM WILLIAM, GEORGE, KING

Snapping on the transmitter switch I sent back an acknowledgement that we were ready to receive. 

A twenty-three-word message came whistling over the speaker in dots and dashes.  When I had finished taking down the code, Stokie sat down to help me decode it.  Letter by letter the words began to form: ‘AIR…ME…N……N…CA…N…BE…E…VACU…A…TE…D’

I didn’t wait to hear the rest of the message.  I walked to the door of the hut and stood leaning on its frame.  The tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Stokie came out a few minutes later with Dave McClymont and handed me the rest of the message: ‘AIRMEN CAN BE EVACUATED IF THEY CAN REACH MORH OF KORININDI RIVER BY FOUR FEBRUARY OTHERWISE TO REMAIN AT PRESENT BASE GOOD LUCK’.

I had no idea where the Korinindi River was, but I felt pretty certain that one person at least would be by it by February 4th.  Today was 30th January, leaving five days travelling time if we started the next morning.  I began at once to get ready.

Stokie brought out the maps and we searched for the Korinindi.  We couldn’t find it.  Perhaps we had made an error decoding the original message.  We checked and rechecked the code and the message.  But each time we got the answer KORININDI. 

Then Stokie questioned the natives asking them if they knew any such river.  But always the same answer, ‘Me no savee dispella water, Master Stokie’.  Finally, we decided to call Milne Bay and get the latitude and longitude. 

The reply came back – ‘FOUR DEGREES FIFTY MINUTES SOUTH…ONE FIVE ONE DEGREES FORTY MINUTES EAST’.  We grabbed the maps again and I ran my fingers along the coordinates.  My finger stopped in the middle of the ocean.

I began pacing the floor.  But Stokie and McClymont turned on the radio again and began calling Moresby.  In a few minutes came the word that our map was out of date.  “Could they drop us another?” Matt queried.  “Yes,” came the answer.  We could expect a plane at dawn with the usual signals.

Early the next morning we scrambled down to the drop site.  We waited for what seemed hours and then heard the distant sounds of an approaching airplane.  But it was coming from the direction of Rabaul and it might be a Zero on a morning patrol. 

What to do?  Should we put out the signal fires and take a chance on getting them started again? Or should we let the fires blaze away and cross our fingers and pray that the approaching plane wasn’t a Zero?

The steady cadence of the closely synchronised engines echoed across the hills, coming closer and closer. “Sounds like one of ours,” Stokie whispered.

The hum of the engines of the plane had increased to a staccato roar now.  In a minute we’d be able to tell.  The plane came out of the rising sun with a rush and hung, silhouetted for an instant, against the sky. 

Then Townsend grinned.  He had seen the high single tail, the twin engines and the short wing spread.  It was a good old Boston A-20, probably from his own squadron.

We heard the pilot throttle the engines back as the ship dipped to make a low approach across our signal fires.  A white parachute burst against the sky over the clearing. 

A native rushed across the clearing and grabbed the heavy black object hanging from the chute a minute after it had hit the ground.  He brought it back to us on the run.

In another second, we had a new edition of Gazelle Peninsula spread on the ground before us.  I spotted our camp site.  Skinner ran his finger out from the grid-coordinates. 

There it was in capital letters – ‘KORININDI RIVER’.  It was thirteen miles east as the crow flies.  Probably three times that distance by foot.  The sixty-four-dollar question was “Could we make it in four days?”

I thought we ought to start at once.  But Townsend wasn’t sure that going at all was wise.  He argued with me.

“Suppose we don’t make it in time and wind up on the beach without food enough for the long trip back?  What about the danger of being picked up by a Jap patrol?  I think we ought to wait in the hills for a better chance.”

“What the hell,” I said, “I’m not turning down any chance to be rescued.  Even if we don’t make it, it’ll be a nice walk.”

McClymont echoed my feelings and Townsend gave in like a good fellow.  Then Skinner went into a huddle with the natives and after some bickering about fees succeeded in getting some of them to act as guides for our trek to the Korinindi. 

We would have to rely completely on the natives as there were no trails.  We filled our pockets with extra shells and some chocolate bars.  Skinner and Matt gave me some letters to mail for them when I reached Australia.  They and Stokie were going to stay behind and operate the station.

I walked over to them and shook their hands in farewell.

“See you in Sydney,” I said.  Then I turned and started down the trail behind Townsend and McClymont and the rest of the safari.

That noon we paused at a spring to refill the water bottles and catch a few minutes rest.  Then we started the hazardous climb up the other side of the ravine.  Reaching the top much later we looked over to the other side – a stone’s throw away – and discouraged ourselves thinking of the trail over there where we had been four long hours ago.

Our present trail led along the ridge for a mile or so and then branched off.  Our guide seemed confused about which way to go.  A light rain was falling and, anxious to be on our way, we took one of the branches on a guess. 

An hour later we were back where the fork began.  Another hour wasted.  We took the other fork and just before dark stumbled into the middle of a clearing.  Our guide coaxed one of the natives out of a hut and sleeping accommodations were prepared for us.

The next morning, bolstered by a new guide picked up from the tribe we had stumbled onto last night, we set out for the beach.  About three hours later we came to what looked like an impassable stream. 

We questioned the possibility of crossing farther downstream.  But the guide shook his head.  When we got the answer through our string of interpreters, we learned that we would have been better off never to have come this way in the first place.  We retraced our steps back to the clearing where we had spent the previous night.  Morale dropped to zero.

That night, as we sat around the fire in our hut at our guide’s village, we heard the sound of running steps and a loud commotion outside.  I reached for my carbine and took a strategic position.

“Japs?” McClymont whispered.

A dog sniffed at the edge of the door.  We held our breaths as the sound of voices and footsteps came nearer.  A single voice called out,

“Mastah Freddie!”

“Hey Mac,” I yelled. “It’s Lauo, the old chief.”

We scrambled out of the hut.  There was my old friend Lauo and several others from his village.  They had brought some food from the beach up to John Stokie at the watching station and learning that we were on our way up to the trail for rescue, they followed in order to say goodbye. 

When I explained that the recent rains had swollen the rivers too much for safe passage and that our rescue would probably have to be postponed, they put their heads together with our guides.  The Chief then came over to me and said he was confident that he could find a back trail that would take us over the rivers to our rendezvous in time. 

They couldn’t start until morning, however, because they had been racing over the trail to catch us and were exhausted.

About an hour before sunrise a native came into my hut and told me it was time to be going.  At noon we reached the banks of the river where we had been forced to turn back the previous day.  It looked as swollen and dangerous as ever and I didn’t see how we were going to get across. 

However, Lauo began barking orders and in the space of an hour a log bridge spanned the roaring waters.  It was purely a makeshift affair and we had to use long poles in crossing to balance ourselves.  But we made it. 

The rest of the day we moved along at a swift pace, remaining on the trail for several hours in the evening.  When we finally did bed down, we had reached the sago swamp land and Lauo said we would reach the mouth of the Korinindi by noon of the next day.

King      Fred
Fred Hargesheimer on the hurried trek to the rescue point with two other downed airmen in early 1944

Sure enough, by noon the next day, we reached what we thought was the appointed spot.  A husky native policeman was on hand to greet us, having been sent by the other coastal watching station to guide us on the last lap.  The last lap, I thought! Isn’t this the last lap? 

Then I discovered that the exact place for evacuation was across the bay, two days journey by foot.  By that time our rescuers would have given us up and returned to their home base.  I knew we were going to have to get a canoe and paddle across the bay.  That was quicker. 

But none of the natives wanted to take a chance on carrying us across the bay in their canoes.  Too risky, they said.  Too many Jap patrol boats in the bay.  But I pulled some razor blades and knives from my pockets and began to barter.  The razors proved to be the necessary incentive.  In a few minutes we had a good canoe and some strong paddlers.

We were half-way across the bay when one of the paddlers spotted a sail in the distance and identified it as part of a Jap patrol boat.  We made some quick plans, finally deciding that Townsend, McClymont and I would lie in the bottom of the boat with our tommy guns ready. 

When the patrol boat hailed us down, the boys would come up alongside it and then, at the given word, we would spring up and clean the patrol boat out with our guns.  But for some strange reason, the patrol boat never hailed us down and we reached the other side with nothing damaged but our nerves.

We paid off the native paddlers and then sent them back across the bay, limiting our own party to the three white men and the native police boy who led the way.  The sun had disappeared by now and we began to speculate on the way we would be rescued. 

Thinking we would probably be picked up by a Catalina flying boat about midnight – the usual time for air operations – we took our time along the beach.  Suddenly the native policeman pointed to a large black object resting in the water several hundred feet offshore.

“An island,” I said.

No, no, mastah,” the boy whispered, “Him, he goomie boat!”

“Him he what?” I asked, still seeing little cause for excitement.

But Townsend grabbed my arm excitedly and I knew in an instant what a goomie boat was.

“It’s a submarine.” Townsend said tensely.

I looked again.  There slowly rising and falling in the water was a huge sub, its conning tower silhouetted against the sky.  We didn’t dare shout, but we ran as fast as we could to the beach opposite the sub. 

From there we could discern a small boat, not coming toward us, but slowly moving farther and farther away.  We signalled frantically, with our flashlight, but got no response.  Could it be that we had missed our rescuers after all, and by only a few minutes?  The lifeboat continued on its way.

Then Townsend took out his flashlight and, holding it horizontally by his side, pointed it straight at the sub and flicked it on and off several times.  He paused and we waited for what seemed hours. 

Then faintly but surely, came the answering flickers and we saw the boat turn and head back for the beach.  Ten interminable minutes later a rubber dinghy rolled up on the surf in front of us.  We ran into the shallow water, climbed aboard breathlessly, and helped turn it around back to the sub.

An American sailor holding an oar in the rear grinned and cursed mildly.

“Where in hell have you guys been? You’re a day late.”

Then we learned that somehow, we had got mixed up in our calculations.  The sub had been here since late yesterday afternoon.  They had finally given us up and were ready to leave when the crew caught sight of Townsend’s flashlight signals.  I was too overcome with the excitement to be concerned over any inconveniences we might have caused.

The trip out to the sub nearly ended in disaster when a huge wave broke over the bow and almost swamped the dinghy.  It seemed like hours before we finally pulled alongside the submarine. 

Welcome hands hauled us aboard.  Then they pushed us to the conning tower and told us to hurry down, as the sub made too much of a target and would have to get underway immediately.  I half fell and half slid as I scrambled to the bottom of the ladder.

King       Hargesheimer and Townsend
RAAF Wing Commander William Townsend and USAF Lieutenant Fred Hargesheimer pictured just before their rescue by USS Gato near the Korinindi River, New Britain, on 4 February 1944, seven months after Hargesheimer was shot down

A naval officer, in shirt sleeves, but wearing the silver leaf insignia of a commander, came over to us and shook our hands warmly.

“Welcome aboard,” he said.  I was too breathless to do anything but nod my head.  After eight months I was to see my own people again.

Now, eight years later, I have forgotten the hunger and the fear and even the loneliness of the weeks waiting beside the river; but I shall never forget the kindness and the brotherly love given to me, a stranger, in that savage land.  Chief Lauo and his friends are my people, too.

Photo Mission 49: Friends, food & Japs

| With gratitude to Graham King

Fred with villagers from Nantabu
Fred Hargesheimer with some of the villagers from Nantabu who found him in the New Britain jungle, nurtured him and protected him from the Japanese military


SOMEWHERE IN NEW BRITAIN, 1943 - The sixth of July was a day very much like all the rest; a swim in the morning, a hike in the bush to look for some dry wood, roasted snails for lunch, an afternoon nap. 

Just before sunset I went to the edge of the river to gather in some bamboo shoots for supper.  I had always been vitamin conscious and knew that vegetable greens were healthful.

Continue reading "Photo Mission 49: Friends, food & Japs" »

Fred Hargesheimer & Photo Mission 49


King   Fred
Fred Hargesheimer and a model of his Lockheed P4 Lightning


YUNGABURRA, FNQ - On my appointment as general manager of Hargy Oil Palms Ltd in 2008, part of the induction process was to call Fred Hargesheimer at his home in California and introduce myself.

Fred by then was 91 but still very alert and wanted me to assure him that I would continue to support the work of the Airmen’s Memorial Foundation which he had established to support education in West New Britain.

Continue reading "Fred Hargesheimer & Photo Mission 49" »

Rehabilitating the battlefields of Bougainville

Reg yates
Over the past 34 years Captain Reg Yates has explored most of the WW11 battle sites in PNG.  He is fluent in Tok Pisin and is well respected by village elders along the Kokoda Trail


IVANHOE, VIC – I recently made my third visit to Bougainville (my second funded by a research grant from the Australian Army History Unit) to prepare a World War II battlefield study tour guide for the Australian Defence Force.

The guide will cover the fighting against Imperial Japanese forces by Australian, American, New Zealand, Fijian and Papua New Guinean military personnel on Bougainville from 1942-1945.

Continue reading "Rehabilitating the battlefields of Bougainville" »

Remembering Laurabada, the pride of Papua

Kranz   Laurabada officers and crew Sydney trials 1924 ANMM
Laurabada officers and crew in Sydney for sea trials, 1924 (Australian National Maritime Museum)


MORRISET, NSW - This photo from the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney shows MV Laurabada on her trial voyage to test the engines in Sydney Harbour in 1924.

Her officers and Papuan crew, in Sydney for the sea trials, pose on her prow and bowsprit.

Laurabada was one of the last Australian government vessels to have a carved wooden figurehead on her prow.

Continue reading "Remembering Laurabada, the pride of Papua" »

Do you know about Fr Alfonse Mayerhoffer


NOOSA - PNG Attitude contributor Greg Bablis is back in Scotland completing his PhD, and needs some assistance from readers.

He’s seeking information on Fr Alfonse Mayerhoffer, a German Catholic priest who was stationed on Lamengi Plateau in the Baining area of East New Britain before and during World War II.

If you know anything of Fr Mayerhoffer, you can contact Greg through the Comments link below or email him here.

Continue reading "Do you know about Fr Alfonse Mayerhoffer" »

Researching PNG war legacies: Can you help?


LONDON - Greetings from England. I am a PhD student at King's College, London, and currently researching a project on the legacies of World War II across Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

I came across PNG Attitude a while ago when I wrote my MA thesis (‘Bougainville During the War’).

Keith Jackson's testimony about Sergeant Yauwiga (here and here) provided an invaluable source for me, for which I'm extremely grateful.

Continue reading "Researching PNG war legacies: Can you help?" »

Reg Yates to map Bougainville's battlefields

Reg Yates
Captain Reg Yates and the Australian Army History Unit want to locate and preserve the sites of World War II battles in Bougainville


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.

Continue reading "Reg Yates to map Bougainville's battlefields" »

Setting the record straight on Chard’s Kokoda

“I believe that those of us with a stake in PNG's history have a responsibility to call out this book. It is not history. I would ask that you consider publishing my review at PNG Attitude and reach an informed audience who may further spread the word” - Neil Gow



REVIEW - Presumably Daniel Lane’s book, ‘The Digger of Kokoda’, has been written and published to praise the qualities of the Australian soldiers involved in the Papuan campaign in 1942 and highlight these qualities through one man’s story.

These qualities are enshrined on the Isurava Memorial on the Kokoda Trail – courage, mateship, sacrifice and endurance.

Continue reading "Setting the record straight on Chard’s Kokoda" »

Rabaul has been left out of our national story

Six weeks later, on January 23, 1942, Japan invaded Rabaul, and within six months Diana's father, uncle, and most of the nearly 2,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who had been left behind were dead

Diana Martell
Diana Martell was forced to leave her father and uncle behind in Rabaul (Ian Townsend, ABC RN))

| ABC Radio National

SYDNEY - While Kokoda continues to loom large in the minds of Australians, Rabaul hardly resonates.

But relatives of the nearly 2,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who were left behind when Japan invaded the island of New Britain have not forgotten what happened in 1942.

Continue reading "Rabaul has been left out of our national story" »

The mountain cave that harboured Sgt Ryan

Ryan hid in a cave in the mountains of Sarewagat, 1,000 metres above sea level in a steep, densely forested valley with a fast flowing river

Peter Ryan - just 18 when called to war
Peter Ryan MM - just 18 when called to war


OLIN – This is my place, Olin; a little village in Nawaeb District, Morobe Province.

Some years ago, I was told by my great-grandfather about a World War II soldier who was assisted by the natives of this area to escape from the Japanese.

Continue reading "The mountain cave that harboured Sgt Ryan" »

Peter Ryan’s story of endurance & courage

Warrant Officer Ryan did not blame the Papua New Guineans for prevaricating about which side to choose when they sometimes preferred to help neither. Even when betrayed to the Japanese, Ryan understood that the same dynamic was at work

Overland - Ryan top
Peter Ryan - a young man, just 18, when he was called to war


Fear Drive My Feet by Peter Ryan, Text Publishing Company, new edition with introduction by Peter Pierce, 2015, 336 pages. ISBN: 9781925240054. Purchase from Booktopia: paperback $13.50 (ebook) $12.75

ADELAIDE - I have just finished reading Peter Ryan’s book ‘Fear drive my feet’, first published in 1959.

Ryan tells the story of his nearly two years patrolling in the mountainous country adjacent to the Markham Valley as an intelligence operative during World War II.

Continue reading "Peter Ryan’s story of endurance & courage" »

An elegy for an ended war & an uneasy peace

The resplendent rugged terrain of Oro does not easily reveal the stories of those ragged bloody heroes, foreign and local alike, who trudged across this landscape 80 years ago

Bablis - beach of peace

| Ples Singsing - A PNG Writer's Blog

GORARI ORO - I wrote this poem sitting in my house in the middle of Gorari village thinking about this beautiful land that is steeped in the history of World War II as well as its own traditional history.

The title of the poem, 'Oro to This Place of War and Peace', points to Oro as knowing war and continuing to know it through its lingering effects and consequent materiality even in this time of peace.

Continue reading "An elegy for an ended war & an uneasy peace" »

Rabaul-born Philip (Hooky) Street dies at 91

The government's insensitivity to the widows and children continued long after the war until, in 2009, a small group from the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia formed a task force to do address the long official silence

Rabaul's main street 1942
Rabaul's main street as it was just before the Japanese invasion in 1942


NOOSA – The family of Philip (Hooky) Street, who died recently in Sydney aged 91, was among the small Australian population of Rabaul just before the Japanese invasion in January 1942.

Most of those families lost their husbands and fathers, who stayed behind while the women and children were hurriedly evacuated.

Continue reading "Rabaul-born Philip (Hooky) Street dies at 91" »

Kokoda Trail fails when bureaucracy prevails

The legislation smacks of colonialism and will result in PNG becoming the only country in the world to manage its most popular tourism destination as an environmental resource

Kokoda trail

Adventure Kokoda | The National

SYDNEY - The proposed Kokoda Track Management Authority Bill is based on a false premise.

It is not a Papua New Guinea bill. It was developed in secret by an Australian aid official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra.

Continue reading "Kokoda Trail fails when bureaucracy prevails" »

Rabaul, Anzac & memories of war & peace

Anzac - dawn service rabaul
The RSL Cenotaph, a clear sky and a calm morning provided the perfect setting for this year's Anzac Day dawn service in Rabaul 


RABAUL – In a year that marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Rabaul, more than 80 people attended Rabaul’s Anzac Day dawn service this year, which was hosted by the Rabaul Historical Society at the RSL Cenotaph.

The battle saw a small Australian overwhelmed by Japanese forces in late 1942 and it became the as the main Japanese naval base for the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns.

Continue reading "Rabaul, Anzac & memories of war & peace" »

My story of Kokoda – blood & guts aplenty

Painting by U Ikara
Japanese troops manhandle a field gun along the Kokoda Trail (Painting by U Ikara)

| Writer, Artist, Former Patrol Officer

MELBOURNE – For eons the 96 kilometre Port Moresby to Kokoda bush track was used by the superbly fit local people who, encountering difficult terrain obstacles, climbed right over them.

The patrol post at Kokoda was established by Captain CAW Monckton (1873-1936), the “tough, efficient, quick-witted and ruthless” magistrate and explorer.

Continue reading "My story of Kokoda – blood & guts aplenty" »

Jumping into history with the 2/4th Light

Anzac - 5 September 1943   (AWM)
Markham Valley, New Guinea, 5 September 1943. Screened by dense smoke, paratroopers of 503 US Paratroop Infantry Regiment and gunners of 2/4th Australian Field Regiment with 25 pounder guns land unopposed at Nadzab during the advance on Lae by the 7th Australian Division


BRISBANE - ‘Jump, you bastards, jump!’ Ian George (Robbie) Robertson exited badly and plummeted head first downwards.

Then he heard a loud crack and was wrenched upright and upwards. His parachute snapped open and blossomed in the cool air.

For only the second time in his life, this young soldier experienced the exhilaration of floating above the earth.

Continue reading "Jumping into history with the 2/4th Light" »

Kokoda: Angels & Diggers begat bureaucrats

William Dargie  Stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys  1943  oil on canvas
Stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys (William Dargie, oil on canvas, 1943). That their legacy is bogged down in bureaucracy dishonours them

| Kokoda Treks | Edited

SYDNEY – In 1990, on the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, Australian prime minister Bob Hawke allocated $10 million so a group of 52 veterans and their carers could visit Anzac Cove in Turkey to commemorate the occasion.

25 years later, prime minister Tony Abbott allocated $100 million to establish the Sir John Monash Centre at Villiers-Bretonneux to honour the centenary of the Anzacs landing on the shores of Gallipoli.

Continue reading "Kokoda: Angels & Diggers begat bureaucrats" »

Track’s horror story unites the present

Lark japanese rabaul
Japanese troops parade after the fall of Rabaul, late January 1942. On 4 February 160 Australian Lark Force soldiers who escaped the invasion were captured and murdered in the vicinity of Tol and Waitavalo plantations

| Ples Singsing

TOL, NEW BRITAIN - The Lark Force Track is a little-known wartime walking trail with a big history.

Located in East New Britain Province, it runs from the Warongoi River in the north to Tol, Wide Bay, along the south coast.

The track is named after the 2/22 Lark Force Battalion, an Australian force sent to guard Rabaul and its important harbour.

Continue reading "Track’s horror story unites the present" »

The remarkable Doc Vernon, doctor to the troops

Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion  Kokoda campaign  1942 (AWM)
Soldiers of the Australian 39th Battalion,  Kokoda campaign,  1942 (Australian War Memorial)


NOOSA – After graduating with a BA in history and English literature, Adrian Clack spent six years as a history teacher and school counsellor.

He then served 12 years as a police officer before, in 2017, making his passion for military history a major pursuit.

Since then Adrian has completed 15 crossings of the Kokoda Track as a guide and historian for On Track Expeditions.

Continue reading "The remarkable Doc Vernon, doctor to the troops " »

The Kokoda Trail & the enemy within

Enemy-Within cartoonCHARLIE LYNN
| Adventure Kokoda

SYDNEY - A 1,400% increase in the number of Australians trekking Kokoda after the opening of the Isurava Memorial in 2002 would normally be hailed an outstanding result for Papua New Guinean tourism and our shared wartime heritage.

But for Canberra based envirocrats, lurking within the corridors of the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts (DEWHA), it had all the hallmarks of an environmental Armageddon.

Continue reading "The Kokoda Trail & the enemy within" »

Captain Happ & his New Guinea memento

Len Happ (R) of Park Ridge with local villager next to his fighter plane  Little Joe.
Captain Len Happ (right) with a fellow aviator and local villager alongside his fighter plane,  Little Joe, at Gusap

| Chicago Daily Herald

CHICAGO - In the early phases of the Pacific War, Captain and operations officer Len Happ was based at Gusap Air Base, just south of Lae.

From the war zone in 1943, Happ sent a rare native tribal bow set with several arrows to his home in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Continue reading "Captain Happ & his New Guinea memento" »

On winning whatever the price

World War II Japanese gun on Kangu Beach  south Bougainville
World War II Japanese artillery piece on Kangu Beach, near Buin south Bougainville

|  Edited

‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’ – Plato

KIETA - These are my thoughts from looking around Buin in south Bougainville every time I travel there. It is a great place, like other regions on the island.

It is also where I first saw, in 1964, the menace of war in the relics that all wars leave behind. The relics of Buin are from World War II, when Bougainville came under Japanese control.

Continue reading "On winning whatever the price" »

Don’t make history a fairy tale

Beach at Henry Reid Bay
Beach at Henry Reid Bay

| Edited extracts

TOL, EAST NEW BRITAIN - Cultures around the world have different concepts of history and of time.

The historicity of a people or place crystallizes in many forms etched in the environment, landscape, language, stories and material culture. Legends, myths, fairy tales, creation stories or origin stories are just some examples.

Continue reading "Don’t make history a fairy tale" »

The image that stunned our readers

Marina Amaral
Marina Amaral in her studio. An exceptional artist, 76,000 viewers can't be wrong


NOOSA - On Monday, PNG Attitude published a famous World War II photograph, newly colourised by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral.

It proved to be an instant hit with many thousands of readers.

Some 76,000 people viewed the image and the accompanying story. Nearly 1,000 engaged actively with comments, likes and shares.

Continue reading "The image that stunned our readers" »

Revisiting an iconic image of comradeship

Private George Whittington & Raphael Oimbari colour Private George Whittington & Raphael Oimbari b&wKEITH JACKSON & SOURCES

NOOSA – Marina Amaral is a self-taught Brazilian artist known for her colourisations of historical black and white photographs.

The process involves historical research to determine the colours of each object pictured with colourisation often taking more than a month to complete.

Continue reading "Revisiting an iconic image of comradeship" »

That Christmas Day, 1942

Carriers walked long distances
Carriers walked long distances carrying heavy loads of wounded troops supplies and equipment (Damien Parer,  1942)

| Compiled from Voices from the War *

PORT MORESBY -World War II meant that many young Papua New Guinean men had to leave their villages in the service of the Australian and American military forces.

They worked as carriers, medical orderlies, police, cooks and in other service jobs. Sometimes this service lasted until the war ended.

Continue reading "That Christmas Day, 1942" »

The story of Warrant Officer Yauwiga DCM


Thanks to Joe Herman in the USA who suggested this story to mark US Veterans Day in which we pay tribute to all Papua New Guineans who have served in war and those from other countries who have fought in PNG. This article is based on writing by Steven Winduo, Steve Rusbridge, Phil Fitzpatrick, Dennis Burns, the Australian War Memorial and the PNG Post-Courier - KJ

NOOSA – When Paul Yauwiga Wankunale, known as Yauwiga, from Kusaun village in the Kubalia area of the East Sepik Province came into view, he immediately presented himself as an unusual man.

“He was the only famous Papua New Guinean fuzzy wuzzy angel with a blue eye,” wrote academic and author Steven Winduo.

Continue reading "The story of Warrant Officer Yauwiga DCM" »

For God, country or what? Kumaniel’s war

Nepe Kumaniel and familyDaughter Nancy (PNG meri blouse & fedora) & Nepe with family members, 14 August 2015. Nepe is survived by 5 children, 19 grandchildren, 29 greatgrandchildren and 1 great-greatgrandchild (left of Nancy)


FIFE, SCOTLAND - The Oral History Project of Papua New Guinea’s National Museum & Art Gallery and the Military Heritage Project are essentially a national search for common identity and, dare I say, a national consciousness, in a country where divisive diversity is the norm.

The former participates in this search through a blending of different stories while the latter does so through the preservation of the materiality of World War II.

Continue reading "For God, country or what? Kumaniel’s war" »

It was a real labour of love

Artist Lisa Hilli
Artist Lisa Hilli paid tribute to the FMI Sisters through her art creating a large digital photographic collage of an image of the Sisters and 45 hand-embroidered cinctures.

| Australian War Memorial

CANBERRA - When the Japanese invaded Rabaul on New Britain in January 1942, a group of 45 Daughters of Mary Immaculate (FMI) Sisters refused to give up their faith.

Instead, they risked their lives to help save hundreds of Australian and European missionaries and civilian detainees who were held captive by the Japanese for three and a half years, first at Vunapope and then in the dense jungle of Ramale.

Continue reading "It was a real labour of love" »

A soldier’ story

Bren gun carrier fitted with Bren light machine gun and Vickers .303 sub-machine gun (Digger History)
Bren gun carrier fitted with Bren light machine gun and Vickers .303 sub-machine gun (Digger History)


MELBOURNE - Recently I have been involved in a project with a Papua New Guinean colleague to investigate the service history of some ex-servicemen buried at Port Moresby’s 9 Mile Cemetery.

During the course of this project, the history of one of the names evoked memories of my own father’s service in World War II.

Continue reading "A soldier’ story" »

In defence of the new world

Paul Keating
Paul Keating - "The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not in the defence of the old world, but the new world.  Their world"


The 1992 Anzac Day speech by Paul Keating at Ela Beach. Extract from Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, by Don Watson (Random House)

PREAMBLE BY DON WATSON - Keating strode gracefully to the microphone [at Bomana War Cemetery] and began: "This is ground made sacred by the bravery and sacrifice of those who lie buried here." It did have a ring to it.

Later that morning he delivered the big Anzac Day address outdoors in Moresby. It was mildly inflammatory. The Anzac legend binds Australians and "defines us to ourselves", he said. But legends "should not stifle us. They should not constrain us when we have to change".

Continue reading "In defence of the new world" »

What's with these new Kokoda 'kiaps'?

New kiaps
Charlie Lynn argues it's about time the Kokoda Track came under the management of locals not imported park rangers


SYDNEY – The Australian foreign affairs department (DFAT) 'Kokoda Initiative' has managed the Kokoda Trail through their surrogate Kokoda Track Authority for the past 11 years at a cost of more than $50 million (K105 million).

But in that time they have not been able to identify a single Papua New Guinean with the expertise to maintain the trail in a safe condition and protect the local environment.

Continue reading "What's with these new Kokoda 'kiaps'?" »

Want to do Kokoda; read this first

Rick Antonson
Rick Antonson's book on the Kokoda Track is praised for its insights and the historical research that went into its writing


Walking with Ghosts in Papua New Guinea: Crossing the Kokoda Trail in the Last Wild Place on Earth by Rick Antonson, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2019, 260 pages, ISBN:9781510705661, hardcover AU$39.89, eBook AU$21.99 from Amazon Australia

TUMBY BAY - Walking along parts of the Kokoda Trail in the early 1970s it didn’t strike me as being any more rugged or arduous than other tracks I had walked as a kiap.

A 200 kilometre long track between Port Moresby and Buna on the north coast had, after all, been in use since the early 1900s.

Continue reading "Want to do Kokoda; read this first" »

Executed for helping the wrong side

Binaru sawmill
The storyteller Otto Dirumbi stands on the right of this photo taken at the Binaru sawmill in 1968


NORTHUMBRIA, UK - Otto Dirumbi stands on the right of this picture which was taken in late 1968 at Binaru near Bundi in Madang Province.

Otto, from Karisokora village, was in charge of the saw. Beside him is Michel Waia with and Albert Atove on the left.

Otto was a storyteller and on many evenings after dinner led the recollections and musings of the 12 or so fellow workers who slept in the same communal hut.

Continue reading "Executed for helping the wrong side" »

The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator

Major Donn Young
Major Donn Young - who died with Major Bill Benn in 1943 when their bomber crashed in the Owen Stanleys


VIENNA, USA - A World War II Army Air Corps aviator has been buried at Arlington this week with full military honours — thanks to the dogged efforts of a Philadelphia businessman who made multiple treks to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

The remains of Major Donn Young were originally found more than 20 years ago by Fred Hagen, a Philadelphia construction company owner who originally went looking for the remains and aircraft of his great-uncle, Major Bill Benn in 1995.

Continue reading "The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator" »

Remains of US soldier killed in PNG identified & to be laid to rest

John E Bainbridge
John E Bainbridge - killed in PNG during World War II, his body remained unidentified for 75 years

KEITH JACKSON | Source: WMTV, Madison, Wisconsin

WASHINGTON DC - In 1942, John E Bainbridge from Sheboygan, Wisconsin in the United States was just 23 when he was killed in a World War II battle in Papua New Guinea.

According to the US government, efforts to find Bainbridge’s body failed but, in 1943, remains of an unidentified American soldier had been interred at a US Armed Forces Cemetery in PNG, where they were designated ‘Unknown X-135’.

After the war, the remains were moved to the Philippines and re- interred at the American Cemetery there.

In 2017, the remains were disinterred and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Continue reading "Remains of US soldier killed in PNG identified & to be laid to rest" »

Kokoda tour operators: Please improve your game

Lynn Morrison
Charlie Lynn with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison. Lynn was an MP in Morrison's home state of NSW

CHARLIE LYNN | Adventure Kokoda Blog | Edited extracts

SYDNEY – I’ve had documents forwarded to me that include some remarks made to a recent Kokoda Tour Operators Association (KTOA) forum in Port Moresby.

KTOA was established to look after the interests of a small but vocal group of Australian based operators of eco-tours in Papua New Guinea.

According to the documents passed to me, Association president Sue Fitcher told the forum:

“It is time to call out those who would choose to damage and destroy the industry for whatever warped vested interests they have – who would know.

“We have talked about some of the claims and accusations that have been made earlier; it is interesting to note that [these] are rarely, if ever, made in person but through others or from the safety of sitting behind a computer and ranting through social media.

Continue reading "Kokoda tour operators: Please improve your game" »

Trail bureaucrats hijack $5 million Kokoda trekker payments

Campsite toilet on Imita Ridge (Lynn)
Campsite toilet on Imita Ridge (Lynn)


SYDNEY - Over the past decade more than $5 million (K11.8 million) has been hijacked from Kokoda trekkers by unaccountable Australian and Papua New Guinean bureaucrats.

This money had been paid in good faith to meet trekkers’ basic needs in the form of adequate campsites and a safe trail. The fees were also meant to provide for shared community benefits for villagers along the trail.

However, since Australian government officials assumed control of the emerging Kokoda trekking industry in 2008, not a single dollar has been spent to improve campsites, toilets or management systems to meet the needs of the trekkers.

Nobody knows where the money has gone because the bureaucrats involved have never produced an audited financial report.

Continue reading "Trail bureaucrats hijack $5 million Kokoda trekker payments" »

The Kokoda shame: A continuing tale of a Trail of Woe

Rashmii and Tracie
Rashmii  Amoah Bell and Tracie Watson, general manager of Adventure Kokoda, which imposes standards Rashmii believes all trek companies should observe


BRISBANE, DECEMBER 2018 - His question came as I expected it would and as it echoed through the earpiece, I felt a movement of the boulders of anxiety wedged in my chest.

Shifting from one heel to the other, leaning back against the kitchen countertop to steady myself, I proceeded with the conversation.

DE was calling from somewhere along the road that snakes it way up to Sogeri. His calls were irregular but always brief and purposeful.

Seconds passed as my mind quickly arranged a response of uninspiring words. Words unworthy of the travel DE had undertaken from his village and his effort in borrowing a mobile phone from his cousin.

Unlike several of his Adventure Kokoda counterparts whom I ‘friended’ online, my trek carrier’s resistance to social media meant that I received a phone call. The boulders settled uneasily in the pit of my stomach.

Sensing my unease, DE’s kind nature moved him to banter. With Christmas approaching, he humoured me with instruction to not get carried away with indulgences and I playfully interrogated him about the shenanigans of his recent birthday in November.

Continue reading "The Kokoda shame: A continuing tale of a Trail of Woe" »

Air war over Papua New Guinea was like a fireworks display

Night skyKATRINA LOVELL | Warrnambool Standard

WARRNAMBOOL, VIC - The gunfire in the skies above New Guinea during World War II was like a fireworks display, according to Warrnambool's Keith Keilar.

The 99-year-old was first deployed to Palestine for 12 months before being send to New Guinea after signing up in 1940 at the age of 20.

Mr Keilar was a contractor in Woolsthorpe working on trucks building roads across the district when he joined the war effort.

He left Australia for Palestine aboard the Queen Mary which was part of a convoy of three ships including the luxury liners Aquatania and Queen Elizabeth which had been converted to troop ships.

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When World War II came to PNG: The 10 key battles of 1942

Anzac - Rabaul
Australian soldiers retreating from Rabaul cross the Warangoi-Adler River in the Bainings Mountains

CONTRIBUTORS | Military Wikia and Wikipedia

Battle of Rabaul (23 January – February 1942) Japanese victory

The Battle of Rabaul, known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on New Britain in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II.

Following the capture of Rabaul, Japanese forces turned it into a major base and proceeded to invade mainland New Guinea, advancing toward Port Moresby. Hostilities on the neighbouring island of New Ireland are also usually considered to be part of the same battle.

Rabaul was important because of its proximity to the Japanese territory of the Caroline Islands, site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk.

Battle of Port Moresby (3 February 1942 – 17 August 1943) Allied victory

The Battle of Port Moresby was an aerial battle fought between aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy over Port Moresby.

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Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death

Markus Lohtmann
Army Chaplain Markus Lohrmann - "a very compassionate and caring person; a very loving person; a very Godly man"

BRIAN ALBRECHT | Cleveland Plain Dealer (USA)

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Two years ago on an Easter afternoon, Marcia Luecke waded into the waters off a Pacific island beach where her father had died during World War II, and honoured the sacrifice of a man she never knew.

Luecke was only 18 months old when her father Markus Lohrmann, an Army chaplain, leaped into the waters off Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea on 6 March 1944.

Lohrmann had been aboard a small boat with other soldiers when the engine suddenly quit. They were unable to radio back to their base for help.

As the craft drifted, potentially toward Japanese-held waters, the chaplain offered to swim to their base on the island.

Two other men joined him, but when the soldiers reached the beach, the chaplain was not among them.

They swam back and found his body. Efforts to resuscitate Lohrmann on the beach failed.

Seventy-three years later his daughter stood on that very same beach, the highlight of a journey that included evading a crocodile, and a forced, emergency helicopter landing.

But it was important for her to be there.

“I was never able to be with him, so I wanted to at least be at the last place he was, where he was called to heaven,” she recently said.

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