The Forgotten



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The Forgotten Fleet PNG Transportation Squadron




PNG TRANSPORTATION SQUADRON
Rather than wait for the QANTAS 707 which arrived in Saigon on a Wednesday, arrangements were made with Movements to fly down to Vung Tau and fly home on a RAAF C-130 which would put me in Sydney on the Monday.
We flew to Butterworth in Malaya and stayed overnight, thence to Singapore and on to Darwin arriving at 2200. I had wanted to go out to Larrakeyah but our arrival time precluded that and we stayed at the RAAF Base. We were scheduled to arrive at Richmond AFB but this was changed to Mascot. On arrival at Mascot we were held on the ground for about 30 minutes as Customs had not been advised of our arrival and the aircraft was about to leave for Richmond when we were given the OK to disembark. This pleased the five of us passengers as NOK had been advised from Darwin of a Mascot arrival and the NOK had complained to the Mascot people and all of a sudden they "found" a couple of Customs people to process us.
I was on leave from the moment the C-130 landed but had to go to Canberra for debriefing. With Suzanne and the children we drove to Canberra and after the debrief we were to spend a week on the NSW South Coast. The debriefing was of the same standard as the briefing I received before I left Australia. My head was bursting with knowledge and information gained, but nobody asked me a thing except "Did I have a good time" and "I can be paid 10% of my travel expenses to Canberra immediately, but if I do not claim the remaining 90% within seven days then I will have to repay the 10%". I had no interest in either of the questions and left Canberra as quickly as possible. I did submit a written report but that was based mainly on what they would like to read.
I remembered Jim Fletcher who had gone to the States and was attached to the firm building LCM-8's in Illinois and had come back with details of relevant modifications which the US had made. Nobody listened and, his words "It doesnt matter a damn what you do", were well remembered by me .
Arriving at Chowder Bay I found that nothing had changed and the Seaman and Navigation Courses were still accented towards the LSM's. There was not a Gyro Compass platform (nor a Magnetic), no Radar Platforms and no Communications room which I had suggested some years before and had been received with some signs of a favourable decision. The "little ships" had been forgotten again.

The syllabus for the Navigation Course was good but the "Art" of Navigation was missing. I was forbidden to teach anything of what I had learnt and used over the years and it was "stick to the well tried and proven syllabus". The Navigation Courses were too short to adequately train Students in the present Syllabus let alone that which I wanted to add to it. Something was terribly wrong with the attitude towards the training of OR's in the field of Navigation and I did not know what was the problem. I did, however, produce a lengthy Précis on "Navigation of Smallcraft in the Tropics" which I gave to students who passed the courses, just in case they were posted to New Guinea or Darwin.


Our people were being trained in the fields of Navigation as applies to the "Big Ships" where the Command was held by a civil certificated Foreign Going Master. In PNG it was the Warrant Officer who had Command, but his training and experience would be very limited in this new "Ball Game". I wanted to give him that training. I was now convinced that "You noa playa da game then you noa makea da rules". Analogies to this would be posting a Troop Sgt. from RAE to a posting as a Gun Sgt. in Artillery or to an Infantry Platoon as a Platoon Sgt. In The case of Officers it was analogous to posting him from, as OC an RAE Field Squadron to an Infantry Coy. Commander - he had never commanded an Infantry Platoon. In PNG the "Platoons" would be up to 1000 miles from the Coy. Commander and the "Platoon" Commander would have full "Command responsibility". He deserved better training.
In April 1971 I had arrived at the conclusion that asking for a posting to Chowder Bay was not a good move. PNG Tn. Squadron in PNG was understaffed and could not get personnel posted to the two Landing Craft Master positions so I applied for a posting to PNG. Although I was fed up with the attitude regards Training at Chowder Bay, it would be fair to say that Chowder Bay was probably fed up with me, as a Posting Order arrived some five days after I applied. I was going "home" to a posting where I knew that I would be comfortable in, happy in and above all, to be involved again in Long Range Operations of Smallcraft.
I was also advised by letter from Victoria Barracks that I had again been selected to attend an Officers Qualifying Course at Canungra. Suzanne was for the move as she knew I was not happy at Chowder Bay and we put the house at Carlingford on the market. Before leaving for PNG I spent some time in packing odds and ends that I had collected over the years and one item that I had completely forgotten was a complete twin 12.7mm gun turret that I had removed from a 3ap "Betty" bomber at Alexishafen. I had "collected" it with AB2996 in 1965 and took it back home in 1966 while serving on the "CLIVE STEELE". The problem was what to do with it. I tried to get rid of it to some Army units but they did not want it and I then tried neighbours and friends and it appeared nobody wanted it. I finally took it to the Council dump at Castle hill. I then left for PNG, with Suzanne and the children to follow.
PNG Command was now a full Command in every respect with all Command departments being the same as they were in Australia. It was very different from the small beginnings I had left in 1965. The Commander of PNG Command was Brigadier T. Eldrige. PNG Tn. Squadron was commanded by Maj. Peter Morgan, a fine Officer and one that I knew I would be able to work with without any problems. The Workshops Troop was commanded by Dennis Collins who had a very efficient bunch of staff. Bill Smyley ran the Workshop Stores section and the RQMS was a S/Sgt from RAE. The yet to arrive Executive Officer was John Sainsbury, who was commissioned from WO1(Movements) and was both very proficient and a thorough gentleman.
I went direct to the unit after my arrival at Jacksons Airfield and was briefed by Maj. Morgan on what was going on. Things were rather bleak, particularly in regards to the other Landing Craft Master, and I was booked on an aircraft the following day to Daru where I was to bring

back to Moresby an LCM-8, AB1050, that was stranded without a Skipper. After returning to Moresby with the LCM-8 I was to go to Lae and relieve the Master of AB3000 (ALC-50). Complaints had been made by HQ Lae Area, to Command in Moresby although I was not privy to what the complaints were.


I was rather surprised to find that AB2996 "Crumbling Biscuit" had been disposed of, only to find that AB2996 was now AB3001 and it was AB3000 that had been disposed of. Les Dennis had taken her to Cairns some time previously and she was then sold. I had been at the beginning of her life at Devonport and although I believe that AB2996 and AB3000 should never have been designed let alone built but it was with a tinge of regret on learning of her demise. For all its faults and abominable design it had served well, particularly in PNG.
Daru "Gem of the Pacific" was exactly as I had last seen it and apart from the fact that modern aircraft could land on the Airstrip, it was probably the same as it was in 1939. I booked in at the Daru Hotel which was really working hard to become a half- star hotel and awaited the arrival of AB1050 which was coming down river. When it arrived the Engr., Cpl Barry Amos, came to see me and I went down to the wharf to determine when the LCM would be able to depart for Moresby. There was only a map of the Fly River on board and no charts at all, the compass had an error of 23 W and the radio antenna needed replacing. The compass error was reduced to an acceptable level by simply placing the internal corrector bars in their correct position and the antenna problem was fixed by rigging a temporary Dipole. The lack of charts was no great problem as I had been in this area before but it did preclude crossing the Papuan Gulf to Moresby direct so it would be coastal. We refuelled and left Daru as I wanted to go through Parama Passage on a rising tide. Passing across the mouth of the Fly we headed for Purutu Island, one of the many islands forming the Fly Delta, where we remained overnight. We moored alongside the bank next to a village but later anchored in the stream. This village had been here for probably a few thousand years but every Spring Tide there was nine to 12 inches of water throughout the village. The next morning we headed North for the Kikori Delta and anchored at Goaribari Island around 1500.
We were now in what could be considered the worst delta area in PNG. From Goaribari Island to Cape Blackwood was nothing but a mass of changing sand/mud banks. I had thought of leaving Goaribari by the same route as I came in but to keep Cape Blackwood in sight I would still have to encounter the sand banks and to go further South to deep water to avoid them would be counterproductive as I had no charts. There were many choices of exits to deep water and it was a case of "Eeny meeny miny mo" and it was the wrong choice. I wasted some three hours getting into deep water and instead of arriving at Kerema at 1600 the ETA would now be 1900 and that meant crossing the bar in near darkness. By 1500 the sea was now at a moderate state and we were being placed well behind schedule.
By the time we reached McLatchie Point, some 20 miles from Kerema, I knew that entry over the bar would be in complete darkness. There were no navigation lights on this part of the coast, the only one West of Moresby was at Yule Island and that was 90 miles South East of McLatchie Point and was a nine mile light. We were off Kerema at 2000 and although I could see the fires at Ipisi village and some of the lights of Kerema, which was above Ipisi I could not make out the bar or the hinterland behind, let alone the entrance. Rather than go out to sea and spend a miserable night I decided to find the entrance. To find the entrance I used a method that I used when I had the "FERN" years before and also in the Northern Territory when I had the "ARALUEN". We approached the breakers at slow speed with a sea anchor trailing about 100 feet astern. The tail of the Sea Anchor had a light line attached and this was hauled in until the Sea Anchor had a neutral effect. At slow speed approaching the line of breakers the chance of broaching was high and as we were picked up and the LCM began to

broach I had the light line let out and the Sea Anchor, now having full effect, pulled the LCM perpendicular to the breaker line and we would then either go on until we were close enough to determine if the entrance was there, or it was a solid sandbank and we would retire very quickly using full power.


We followed this procedure a few times until I was sure that we had found the entrance. I then retired out to sea a 100 yards or so and then came in again with the Sea Anchor in the neutral position and disposing engine oil off both quarters as I wanted to nullify the breakers behind us. I tried to keep the LCM just astern of the wave ahead and even with spotlight illumination it was difficult and we had to use the Sea Anchor once to prevent broaching. The PI Engr. was on deck and had, in his mind, the apparition of disaster and was moaning and groaning. Barry Amos told him to go below as he was making everybody nervous. As we crossed we "bellied" twice in quick succession and then we were in deep and still water. I figured that I was too close to the Western side of the entrance. We then made our way up channel to the wharf. We left Kerema early the next morning and crossing the bar on the way out was a piece of cake, but I was still not sure just where we had entered the night before. The sea was choppy, but we would be inside the reef West of Moresby well before the SE wind would pick up. We were alongside in Moresby at 1630.
John Sainsbury had arrived as 2IC of the Squadron and I became the Water Tpt. Tp. Commander. Two days later I was on a plane to Lae and had the unpalatable task of relieving the Master of AB3001, if I thought it was necessary, and also to take the 40' W/Boat AM442 to Madang for refit. The Senior NCO who was the Skipper of AB3001 (AB2966) knew of the complaints made about him, but I did not relieve him as he was departing for Moresby anyway and to have relieved him in Lae would in my opinion be performing the duty of Judge, Jury and executioner without having any knowledge of the situation.
The ALC-50 was a mess and it was obvious that Alcohol was, or may have been, the problem. This Senior NCO was one of the best Bosun's to have ever served on an LSM and had spent quite a few years aboard LSM's. His progression in rank would mean attendance on a Ships Mate Course at Chowder Bay and he should have been returned to the LSM s, where he would have served admirably. The "system", however, sent him to the "Little Ships" in PNG and in this role he was miscast. He was one of the casualties of the "Big ship philosophy".
Lae had no craft repair facilities hence the reason for going to Madang. The Coxswain of the W/boat was Sgt. Suata who had been my Bosun on the "FERN" years before. The run to Madang would be leisurely as the W/boat was not in the best of health so I stopped in at Finschafen overnight. I moored at the little wharf and was met by Ted Foad who was living at the wharf area and was taken up to the house and I found out quite a bit more history. Ted had been a Gold miner at Kainantu before WW2 and also in the Bitoi Gap area where he looked for ?Black Cat' gold, which was richer than the gold found in the Edie Creek area. Ted had worked for US Army small ships during WW2 and after the war ended he took up residence at Finschafen. The US Army Air Force were the last of the US Forces to leave New Guinea and that occurred in 1947. Much of the US equipment left behind at the end of WW2 went to Chiang Kai Check in China, but much still remained and Ted acquired salvage rights to the Finschafen area. His 'junk' shed was a historical picture of the Finschafen area in WW2. There was still a Jap ship of 1500 tons in the harbour and lying on its side. At the time of my visit he and his 'trusty gang' were removing the cargo of ammunition that was in the hold. They were after the brass and the method of getting it I can no longer remember, but it involved drilling a hole in the shell casing and burning the cordite.

I had decided to call in at Sio and Wasu, which were about 12 miles apart but there was heavy rain falling as my approach was being made to Sio, so I opted for Wasu. I had, in the past, often gone between Lae and Madang, but always used the "normal" route i.e. deep water and the shortest distance, but I had never been close inshore between Sio and Madang. Wasu was a small Patrol Outpost and had an airfield, but what was more striking was the labyrinth of reefs and the many anchorages that could be found along the 'Rai' Coast. The coastal belt was relatively narrow, a couple of miles, before the Finisterre range began and these appeared to be vertical. The Mission influence in this area was Lutheran and a striking feature along the coast from Sio to Madang were the white Mission buildings on the high ground. When seen from seawards the coast seemed to rise immediately from the beach to a height of 6-8000 feet and halfway up would be a white building, standing like a beacon against a background of dark green.


The small wharf at Wasu was well protected by the many fringing reefs and once we had entered the beach area the water was like a millpond. The Patrol Officer was there to meet us and we went up to his house which overlooked the airstrip and he did have a problem. The airstrip was in daily use bringing natives down from the high ground of the Finisterre Range and there was always a problem with pigs and fowl cluttering the airstrip. The villagers had been told to keep the livestock off the airstrip which they did not so the Patrol Officer began to shoot them from his house when the livestock appeared on the strip. This, of course, was the beginning of a confrontation and was in full swing when we arrived. I could not reach Moresby on the radio due to the vertical antenna so I set the F1 radio up ashore and erected a Dipole antenna and had no trouble reaching Moresby and advising them of my position and departure time. I had Dinner with the Patrol Officer and was back aboard early as I intended to depart Wasu at 0200 in the morning for Madang.
Leaving Wasu I decided to follow the coast as close as possible as I wanted to pass Saidor and Bogadjim as close as possible, before heading into Madang. At daylight the view of the coast was one of delight compared to the more familiar view, 15-20 miles from the coast which I had been accustomed to. There was no wharf at Saidor and if you blinked when near to Bogadjim you would miss it, so it was onto Madang. On the way in we caught a kingfish and a Sea Pike which became breakfast immediately. We berthed at Madang Slipway and after booking in at the Coastwatchers Motel I returned to the Slipway to settle the two crew into what work they would carry out until we left by air the following day. I had not been to Madang since 1967 when I was on the LSM "Brudenell White" but it had not visibly changed. The only real change was that the new wharf was where the old hospital used to be. The wharf where we berthed the "TARRA" in 1954-55-57 was still there and if one closed one's eyes you could almost hear the bagpipes and the noise of a PIR platoon marching onto the wharf to board TARRA for the voyage to Vanimo as we so often did 20 years before.
Returning to Moresby by air another task awaited me. The ALC-50 was now equipped with Radar and after trying to get it for many years it now was, an anti-climax. The knowledge and experience gained over the years was far superior to sitting in front of a screen and navigating without leaving the seat, but it was a useful aid and I used it as such, particularly on long runs at night. It was not much use in some of the areas we worked, such as close inshore between Finschafen and Madang, as the coastline on the ground was not always the same as the chart.
There was a requirement for Government cargo (Bulldozer and Grader) to be uplifted from Lae to Cape Hoskins and then to Rabaul, Pomio, Misima before returning to Moresby. I did not have a Mate on this trip as there was none available, but two W02's were due in Moresby later from Australia. I cannot remember the name of the Engr but tend to think that it was one of the two PI Cpl's from Workshops. I had wanted to take Barry Amos but I think he was on

leave from the trip up the Fly River. On the way to Cape Hoskins we stopped over at Cape Gloucester and beached at the spot where the US 1st Marine Division had landed in 1943. There was no visible evidence that any landing had taken place as the jungle had reclaimed everything, but there was still the same massive surge crashing down on the beach and our stay was very short lived.


After discharging at Cape Hoskins we loaded a small amount of cargo for Rabaul. At Rabaul there were some vehicles to be taken to Pomio in Jacquinot Bay. We did not stay in Jacquinot Bay long enough to have a look around but it looked like it would have looked in 1939 - the jungle had reclaimed all. We then proceeded South about 190 miles to pick up the Trobiand Islands and then another 180 miles to Misima where we loaded a few Toyota Landcruisers to be taken back to Moresby. We called into Samarai to refuel and then proceeded to Moresby direct. Returning to Moresby I found that a house had been allocated to me and it was on top of Three Mile Hill where the view to the South and East was magnificent. The excellent visibility the view afforded began to play a part in the control of our craft as, if a vessel was returning from the North side of PNG, then I would see it at least four hours before it's ETA Moresby if the ETA was outside normal hours. If I did not see it then I would be on the radio to find out why it was late. The only time that a query as to a late ETA was required happened in 1973 and on that occasion my family and I were in Australia on leave. On that occasion we lost the AS3052 TAROOKI and very near lost the whole crew.
I returned to Australia in a C-130 and sold the house in Carlingford and we returned to Moresby by Ansett. We now had five children and the eldest, Karen, returned to Ipswich to attend boarding school. After settling into the house it was now time to have a good look at the unit. When I left the "FERN" in 1965 we were sharing facilities with the Dept. Civil Aviation Crash Boat at the old Seaplane ramp and this ramp was used by the TAA Catalina and TAA also had a maintenance workshop in the 'complex'.
A new Marine base had been built for the Army next to the Catalina ramp on the Konedobu side and it was impressive. The base had its own slipway and a very credible workshop, complete with a mobile crane. The Admin. building was two story with the Q Store taking up the lower floor. The top floor contained a large Orderly Room, OC's Office, XO's Office, Classrooms, Male/Female toilets/showers and General Purpose Room. The wharf was some

250 feet in length and could accommodate an LSM on either side. The Western side also had a ramp at the shore end but the effectiveness of the ramp was doubtful. The whole area could be floodlit from high lights. Compared to the small shed that "FERN" used as a shore facility, the new base was a paradise. Peter Morgan returned to Australia and the new OC was Maj. Tom Sawyer who was one of the direct entry officers from the UK but as yet had not served on the LSM's. My position in the Unit was Water Tpt. Tp. Comdr. and until two more W02's arrived I would be doing all the tasks. I began to look up old friends from 1954 and 1963 and quite a few of these were now in senior positions within the PNG Administration while some of the private enterprise people I had known many years before now had their own companies.


Over the next few years I was to acquire many tasks from the PNG Administration using the simple expedient of mentioning to these old friends that "if you have a cargo or task that cannot be carried out by normal contractors then put in a submission to Command and it will come down to me sooner or later."
At Murray Barracks the scene was very different from 1963-5 and it was now a full Command in its own right. When I first arrived at Murray Barracks nearly 20 years before the entire HQ was in an old building with Masonite walls. The building was now devoted entirely

to Recruiting. The old composite mess had disappeared and in its place was a very large Sgts. Mess. The old Commanders house of 1954 had been split into two in 1963 and became an Officers Mess and Sgts. Mess. It had been demolished and a new Officers Mess erected on the spot. An OR's Mess had also been constructed. In 1954 the number of Married Quarters was



12 - it was now close to 80 with flats being leased outside the Barracks. The whole of Murray Barracks was similar to Victoria Barracks in Sydney in that if you did not know exactly who you had to see and where they were could result in a maze from which it was damn near impossible to solve. Anyone who worked there knew where everybody and everything was but for some reason found it hard to explain to a visitor just how to find who to see or where to go. Times had certainly changed.
One task that we were given was to position Avgas at Kikori for the RAAF Caribou aircraft that were to operate on a separate task in the Erave area. There would be no problem transporting the Avgas to Kikori, but between the riverbank and positioning it on the airstrip, could be a problem. I flew to Kikori on a commercial aircraft to have a look at the situation and also to go upriver from Kikori on a 'recce' as we were scheduled later to do a Joint Intelligence Bureau operation in the Purari and Kikori area.
On arriving at Kikori it was obvious that a problem would be encountered as the Airstrip was by the river but was some 40 feet higher and separated by dense foliage. I went and saw the ADO in residence and told him of the impending operation and the matter was soon settled as he simply said that labour would be supplied by the inmates of the local "Calaboose". I booked in at the Kikori Tavern and not only was the Tavern the only hotel in Kikori, I was also the only guest. My room was a makeshift affair under the main building and I had dinner with the proprietors. The lights went out promptly at 2200 and I then wandered down to the riverbank and the sight was magnificent.
There was a mist rising from the river and millions of fireflies were intermingled with the mist and the effect was one of a dull silver sheen over the river and fading into the pitch black of night. There were no mosquitoes and, in the still of the night there were the sounds of insects and animals. The peace and solitude of Kikori that night was such that I have never seen anything like it before or after. I was picked up by a RAAF Caribou the following morning and flew to Erave before returning to Moresby.
In July 1971 the annual Rugby League game between Papaua and New Guinea was held and it resulted in a riot. The rioters then marched en-masse through Boroko and down to Konedobu. A curfew was put in place and we watched from our house on top of Three Mile Hill as the rioters marched down the highway below us. By not using force to stop the rioters marching was a good idea as it allowed the "steam" to escape and reduce the tension and anger. The whole thing collapsed the following day.
Suzanne and I were invited to go to Salamaua for a weekend. A friend from Moresby in 1954 and Lae in 1964 had a house at the SW end of the Salamaua Isthmus where the Isthmus narrowed to about 150 metres, having the sea on the Eastern side and the sheltered waters of Salamaua harbour to the West. We flew over with all the children on the Friday morning and were met by Keith and Alma Bradford. Their home in Lae was on the coast at the end of Lae airstrip and the day was spent in preparing for the weekend.
Keith and Alma had a 30' Bertram cruiser and we left for Salamaua that afternoon. Salamaua is 19 miles south of Lae and in the Bertram it took 35 minutes. Salamaua was the commercial and Administrative centre for the Morobe district before WW2 but was virtually destroyed during WW2. It was never rebuilt, not because of the damage sustained but because of the

airstrip, which could only take light aircraft and the fact that Salamaua itself was small, whereas Lae had a huge area which could be developed into a large populated town.


The only remnants of pre-WW2 were the remains of the freezer plant and a large bank vault which were now difficult to see with all the undergrowth. There was also the wreck of a large Japanese ship on the Eastern side of the Salamaua headland. The main street of Salamaua which was, pre-WW2, named Lagui St. and was now nothing more than a track. As we walked along the "main street" I could not help but think of who were the inhabitants of Salamaua in 1941, where were they and what was their story. In TP & NG in 1971 we were all living in the "materiel age" where we could buy the same goods that were available in Australia, buy fresh food that could be kept for weeks, have instant communications from New Guinea to Australia or anywhere else, travel to anywhere in the country in hours instead of weeks, medicine that was undreamed of in the early days and were living in an environment that was hygienically clean. The early Australian inhabitants of Salamaua and Lae were a history that should have been preserved, but like the history of Army Water Transport in Australia, was erased and the memories lost forever but remained in the minds of those who survived WW2. I knew that there were people living in Lae that were in Lae and Salamaua before WW2. I had read one book on life in TP & NG prior to 1941 and that was written by G. Townsend who was in the Administration as a patrol officer, from 1923 to 1941 and with ANGAU during WW2.
I was delighted to see that the Ingersol Rand Scraper was still sitting in the bush and I was going to get it - sooner or later. In the early evening mosquitoes began a merciless attack that lasted for about 30 minutes and then a Katabatic wind came down the Wau valley and the mosquitoes disappeared. The wind dropped later and the night became cool.
On Saturday we went fishing for breakfast on the Eastern side of Salamaua and about two miles from the Francisco River mouth in a "secret" hole and in about 15 minutes had three large "Reds". Later that day we went out to a spot that I had completely forgotten since 1964. When I had the FERN and was in Lae, Keith had asked me if I knew where "Benalla Banks" were and, although I had seen them on the chart, had never actually crossed them. He said that most of the boat people in Lae were convinced that they were non- existent. I had said that I could find the Banks but I could not understand why the locals could never find them. One afternoon I took Keith, the manager of Ansett-MAL and the local bank manager out on the FERN to look for the "lost" banks. I simply went South from Lae until I picked up the correct bearing of Salamaua and then turned onto that bearing. Then on a time run until another point south of Salamaua was on the required bearing and then turned on the echo sounder. We were in five fathoms and I said "We are here - drop the anchor". They could not believe that it was so simple. They were just as amazed that I had found it as I was that they could not find it. Later they buoyed the centre of the Banks and the fishing there proved to be fantastic. It was another case of not telling anyone else about this secret, but it was not long before everybody In Lae knew about this "secret fishing spot".
We caught some Mackerel and Dolphin fish on the banks and were cooked for dinner that evening. Keith had a local caretaker of the house during the week and he in turn lived in a village across Samoa Harbour. He was present during the Japanese occupation and remembered the tunnels in the Salamaua headland. On the Sunday we went to where he said the entrances were and, as Keith also had Earthmoving plant I suggested that sometime in the future when we had nothing on in the area and were having a break, then I would bring some of that plant over and open the tunnels. We were to do just that two years later.

That same day we all went over to the point on the Western extremity of Samoa Harbour to show Suzanne and the kids a P-40 Kittyhawk from WW2. I had first seen the P-40 in 1963 and it was still standing proudly above the high- water line and pointing towards Lae. The story as told by Olim, Keith’s caretaker, was that the P-40 had crash landed on the reef after being damaged over Lae. The pilot, an Australian, was injured and pulled from the aircraft by villagers. They were trying to get him into the bush but the pilot told them to leave him as he needed medical assistance. The Japanese then arrived and he was taken back to Salamaua. He was subsequently executed on the beach at Salamaua.


Either the P-40 was pulled off the reef by the Japanese, or by the natives, or Australians, was not clear. The only Australian that I know of that was executed by the Japanese at Salamaua was a RAAF Pilot who, as the history records, was the Pilot of a "Boston" A-20 Bomber, however it could have been a Pilot listed as MIA or an American Pilot but the P-40 was and probably still is sitting proudly as a reminder of WW2. There were small trees growing through the wings and the paint work had completely deteriorated.
There were only two European residences at Salamaua at this time and apart from Keith and Alma the other "residence" was occupied by Ralph and Rhonda Phillips and Graham and Margaret Goudie. After a thoroughly pleasant weekend it was back to Lae on Sunday night and then on the aircraft back to Moresby on the Monday.
On return I found that the single operation to the Purari and Kikori suddenly grew to two tasks and then a third. As I was still the only Master on strength I asked the OC, Peter Morgan for another WO to be posted quickly but, in the interim W02 "Snow" Hider was sent up on detachment, to assist until full postings were arranged and Barry Amos would be our Engineer for the trip. Apart from the original Avgas delivery there was also a requirement for a Recce. of the Purari River. The Engineers were to build a wharf, across the river from the main wharf, at Kerema and wanted Landing Craft support.
I decided to take two LCM-8's (AB1051, AB1053) and leave Snow Hider with one at Kerema while I went on to the Purari River to do a series of depth soundings at the river mouth. Then I would pick Snow up at Kerema and leave AB1051 at Kerema with the PI Coxswain and then with AB1053 go up the Purari as far as possible, before swinging across the Delta to Baimuru and then Kikori.



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