PNG TRANSPORTATION SQUADRON Rather than wait for the QANTAS 707 which arrived in Saigon on a Wednesday, arrangementsweremadewithMovementsto flydowntoVungTauandflyhomeonaRAAF C-130 which would put me in Sydney on the Monday.
We flew to Butterworth in Malaya and stayedovernight, thence to Singapore and on to Darwin arrivingat2200.IhadwantedtogoouttoLarrakeyahbutour arrivaltimeprecludedthatand westayed attheRAAFBase.Wewerescheduledtoarrive atRichmondAFBbutthiswas changed to Mascot. On arrival atMascotwewereheldonthegroundforabout30minutesas Customshadnotbeenadvisedof our arrival and the aircraft wasabouttoleaveforRichmond whenweweregiventheOKtodisembark.Thispleased thefive ofuspassengersasNOKhad beenadvisedfrom DarwinofaMascotarrivalandtheNOKhadcomplainedtotheMascot people and all of a sudden they "found" acouple of Customs people to process us.
Iwasonleavefrom themomenttheC-130landedbuthadtogotoCanberrafordebriefing. 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 samestandard as the briefing I receivedbeforeIleftAustralia.Myheadwasburstingwithknowledgeandinformation gained, but nobody asked me a thing except "Did I have a good time" and "I can be paid 10% ofmytravelexpensestoCanberraimmediately,butifIdonotclaimtheremaining90% withinsevendaysthenIwillhavetorepaythe10%".Ihadnointerestineitherofthe 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.
IrememberedJim FletcherwhohadgonetotheStatesandwasattachedtothefirm building LCM-8'sinIllinoisandhadcomebackwithdetailsofrelevantmodificationswhichtheUS hadmade.Nobodylistenedand,hiswords"Itdoesn’t 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 CourseswerestillaccentedtowardstheLSM's.TherewasnotaGyroCompassplatform(nor aMagnetic),noRadarPlatformsandnoCommunicationsroom whichIhadsuggestedsome 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 wasforbiddentoteachanythingofwhatIhad learntandusedovertheyearsanditwas"stick tothewelltriedandprovensyllabus".TheNavigationCoursesweretoo shorttoadequately trainStudentsinthepresentSyllabusletalonethatwhichIwantedtoaddtoit.Something wasterriblywrongwiththeattitudetowardsthetrainingofOR'sinthefieldofNavigation andIdidnotknowwhatwastheproblem.I did,however,producealengthyPrécison "NavigationofSmallcraftintheTropics"whichIgavetostudentswhopassedthecourses, 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 theCommandwasheldbyacivilcertificated ForeignGoingMaster.InPNGitwasthe WarrantOfficerwhohadCommand, buthistrainingandexperiencewouldbeverylimitedin thisnew"BallGame".Iwantedtogivehim thattraining.Iwasnowconvincedthat"Younoa playadagamethenyounoamakeadarules".Analogiestothiswould be posting a Troop Sgt. from RAEtoapostingasaGunSgt.inArtillery ortoanInfantryPlatoonasaPlatoonSgt.In ThecaseofOfficersitwasanalogoustopostinghimfrom,asOCanRAEFieldSquadronto anInfantryCoy.Commander-hehadnever commanded an Infantry Platoon. In PNG the "Platoons"wouldbeupto1000milesfrom theCoy.Commanderandthe"Platoon" Commanderwould have full "Command responsibility". He deserved better training.
InApril1971IhadarrivedattheconclusionthataskingforapostingtoChowderBaywas not a good move. PNG Tn. Squadron in PNG was understaffed and could not get personnel postedtothetwoLandingCraftMasterpositionssoIappliedforapostingtoPNG.Although Iwasfedupwiththeattitude regardsTrainingatChowderBay,itwouldbefairtosaythat Chowder Bay was probably fed up with me, as a Posting Order arrived somefive days after I applied. I was going "home" to aposting where I knew that I would be comfortable in, happy in and above all, to be involved again in Long Range Operations of Smallcraft.
Iwasalsoadvisedbyletterfrom VictoriaBarracksthatIhadagainbeenselectedtoattendan OfficersQualifyingCourseat Canungra.Suzannewasforthe 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 endsthat I had collected over the years and one item thatIhadcompletelyforgottenwasacompletetwin12.7mmgunturretthatIhad removed from a 3ap "Betty" bomber at Alexishafen. I had "collected" it with AB2996 in 1965 andtookitbackhomein1966whileservingonthe"CLIVESTEELE".Theproblemwas whattodowithit. ItriedtogetridofittosomeArmyunitsbuttheydidnotwantitandIthen 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 thechildren to follow.
PNGCommandwasnowafullCommandin every respect with all Command departments beingthesameastheywereinAustralia.ItwasverydifferentfromthesmallbeginningsI had left in 1965. The Commanderof PNG Command was Brigadier T. Eldrige. PNG Tn. SquadronwascommandedbyMaj.PeterMorgan, afineOfficerandonethatIknewIwould beabletoworkwithwithoutanyproblems.TheWorkshopsTroopwascommandedby DennisCollinswhohadaveryefficientbunchof staff.BillSmyleyrantheWorkshopStores sectionandtheRQMSwasaS/Sgtfrom RAE.TheyettoarriveExecutiveOfficerwasJohn Sainsbury,whowascommissionedfromWO1(Movements)andwasbothveryproficientand a thorough gentleman.
Iwentdirect totheunitaftermyarrivalatJacksonsAirfieldandwasbriefedbyMaj.Morgan on what was going on. Things were rather bleak, particularly in regards to the other Landing CraftMaster,andIwasbookedonanaircraftthefollowingdaytoDaruwhereIwastobring
backtoMoresbyanLCM-8,AB1050,thatwasstrandedwithoutaSkipper. Afterreturningto MoresbywiththeLCM-8IwastogotoLae andrelievetheMasterofAB3000(ALC-50). ComplaintshadbeenmadebyHQLaeArea,toCommandinMoresbyalthoughIwasnot privy to what the complaints were.
I was rather surprised to find that AB2996 "Crumbling Biscuit" had been disposed of, only to findthatAB2996wasnowAB3001anditwasAB3000thathadbeendisposedof.Les DennishadtakenhertoCairnssometimepreviouslyand she wasthensold.I hadbeenatthe beginningofherlifeatDevonportandalthough I believe that AB2996andAB3000should 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 andapart from the factthatmodern aircraftcouldlandontheAirstrip,itwasprobablythesameas itwasin1939.Ibookedinat theDaruHotelwhichwasreallyworkinghardtobecomeahalf-star hotelandawaitedthe arrival of AB1050 which was coming down river. When it arrived the Engr., Cpl Barry Amos, cametoseemeandIwentdowntothewharfto determinewhentheLCMwouldbeableto departforMoresby.TherewasonlyamapoftheFlyRiveronboardand nochartsatall,the compass had an error of 23 W and the radio antenna needed replacing. The compass error was reduced to anacceptablelevelbysimplyplacingthe internalcorrectorbarsintheircorrect positionandtheantennaproblem wasfixedbyriggingatemporaryDipole.Thelackofcharts wasnogreatproblem asIhadbeeninthisareabeforebutit didprecludecrossingthePapuan 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 PurutuIsland,oneofthemanyislandsforming theFlyDelta,whereweremainedovernight. Wemooredalongsidethebanknext toavillagebutlateranchoredinthestream.Thisvillage had been here for probably a few thousand years but every Spring Tide there was nine to 12 inchesofwaterthroughoutthevillage.ThenextmorningweheadedNorthfortheKikori Delta and anchored at Goaribari Island around 1500.
We were now in what could be considered theworst delta area in PNG. FromGoaribari Island toCapeBlackwoodwasnothingbutamassof changingsand/mudbanks.Ihadthoughtof leaving Goaribari by the sameroute as I came inbut 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 wouldbecounterproductiveasIhadnocharts.Thereweremanychoicesofexitstodeep wateranditwasacaseof"Eenymeenyminymo"anditwasthewrongchoice.Iwasted somethree hours getting into deep water and instead of arriving at Keremaat 1600 the ETA wouldnowbe1900andthatmeantcrossingthebarinneardarkness.By1500theseawas now at a moderate state and we were being placed well behind schedule.
BythetimewereachedMcLatchiePoint,some 20milesfromKerema,Iknewthatentryover 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. WewereoffKeremaat2000 and although I could seethefiresatIpisivillageandsomeofthe lightsofKerema,whichwasaboveIpisiIcould notmakeoutthebarorthehinterlandbehind,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 methodthatIusedwhenIhadthe"FERN"yearsbeforeandalsoin theNorthernTerritory whenIhadthe"ARALUEN".Weapproached thebreakers atslowspeedwithaseaanchor trailing about 100 feet astern. The tail of the Sea Anchor had a light line attached and this was hauledinuntiltheSeaAnchorhadaneutraleffect.Atslowspeedapproachingthelineof breakersthechanceofbroachingwashighandaswewerepickedupandtheLCMbeganto
broach I had the light line let out and the Sea Anchor, now having full effect, pulled the LCM perpendiculartothebreakerlineandwewouldtheneithergoonuntilwewerecloseenough to determine if the entrance was there, or itwas a solid sandbank and we would retire very quickly using full power.
Wefollowedthis procedureafewtimesuntilIwassurethatwehad foundtheentrance.Ithen 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 oiloff both quarters as I wanted to nullify the breakers behind us.ItriedtokeeptheLCMjustasternofthewaveaheadandevenwithspotlightillumination 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 Amostoldhim togobelowashewasmakingeverybodynervous.Aswecrossedwe"bellied" twicein quicksuccessionandthenwewerein deepandstillwater.IfiguredthatIwastoo close to the Western sideof the entrance. We thenmadeourwayupchanneltothewharf.We leftKeremaearlythenextmorningandcrossing thebaronthewayoutwasapieceofcake, butIwasstillnotsurejustwherewehadenteredthenightbefore.Theseawaschoppy,but wewouldbeinsidethereefWestofMoresbywellbeforetheSEwindwouldpickup.We were alongside in Moresby at 1630.
JohnSainsburyhadarrivedas2IC oftheSquadronandIbecametheWaterTpt.Tp. Commander.TwodayslaterIwasonaplaneto Laeandhadtheunpalatabletaskofrelieving theMasterofAB3001,ifIthoughtitwasnecessary,andalsototakethe40'W/BoatAM442 to Madang for refit. The Senior NCO who was the Skipper of AB3001 (AB2966) knew of the complaintsmadeabouthim,butIdidnotrelievehimashewasdepartingforMoresby anywayandtohaverelievedhiminLaewouldinmyopinionbeperformingthedutyof Judge, Jury and executioner withouthaving 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 MateCourseatChowderBayandheshouldhavebeenreturnedtotheLSMs,wherehe wouldhaveservedadmirably.The"system",however,senthim tothe"LittleShips"inPNG 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 wasSgt. Suata who had been my Bosun on the "FERN" years before. The run to MadangwouldbeleisurelyastheW/boatwasnotinthebestof healthsoIstoppedinat Finschafen overnight. I moored at the little wharf and was met by Ted Foad who was living at thewharfareaandwastakenuptothehouseandIfoundoutquiteabitmorehistory.Tedhad beenaGoldmineratKainantubeforeWW2andalsointheBitoiGapareawherehelooked for ?BlackCat' gold,whichwasricherthanthegoldfoundintheEdieCreekarea.Tedhad workedforUSArmysmallshipsduringWW2andafterthewarendedhetookupresidence atFinschafen.TheUSArmyAirForcewerethe lastof the USForcestoleaveNewGuinea andthatoccurredin1947.MuchoftheUSequipmentleftbehindatthe endofWW2wentto 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 wasstillaJapshipof1500tonsintheharbourandlyingonitsside.Atthetimeofmyvisithe andhis'trustygang' wereremovingthecargoofammunitionthatwasinthehold.Theywere afterthebrassandthemethodof gettingitIcan nolongerremember,butitinvolveddrilling 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 rainfallingasmyapproachwasbeingmadeto Sio,soIoptedforWasu.Ihad,inthepast, often gone between Lae and Madang, but always used the "normal" route i.e. deep water and theshortestdistance,butIhadneverbeencloseinshorebetweenSioandMadang.Wasuwas a smallPatrolOutpostandhadanairfield,but whatwasmorestrikingwasthelabyrinthof reefsandthemanyanchoragesthatcouldbefoundalongthe'Rai' Coast.Thecoastalbeltwas relativelynarrow,acoupleofmiles,beforetheFinisterrerangebeganandtheseappearedto be vertical. The Mission influence in this area was Lutheran and a striking feature along the coastfrom SiotoMadangwerethewhiteMissionbuildingsonthehighground.Whenseen from seawardsthecoastseemed toriseimmediatelyfrom thebeachtoaheightof6-8000feet andhalfwayupwouldbeawhitebuilding,standinglikeabeaconagainstabackgroundof dark green.
ThesmallwharfatWasuwaswellprotected bythemanyfringingreefsandoncewehad entered the beach area the water was like a millpond. The PatrolOfficer was there to meet us andwewentuptohishousewhich overlooked the airstrip andhedidhaveaproblem.The airstripwasindailyusebringingnativesdownfrom thehighgroundoftheFinisterreRange andtherewasalwaysaproblem withpigsandfowlclutteringtheairstrip.Thevillagershad beentoldtokeepthelivestockofftheairstripwhichtheydidnotsothePatrolOfficerbegan toshootthemfromhishousewhenthelivestockappearedonthestrip.This,ofcourse,was thebeginningofaconfrontationandwasin fullswingwhenwearrived.Icouldnotreach Moresbyontheradioduetotheverticalantenna soIsettheF1radioupashoreanderecteda Dipole antenna and had no trouble reaching Moresby and advising them of my position and departuretime.IhadDinnerwiththePatrolOfficerandwasbackaboardearlyasIintended 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 ascloseaspossible,beforeheadingintoMadang.Atdaylighttheviewofthecoast wasoneofdelightcomparedtothemorefamiliarview,15-20milesfromthecoastwhichI had been accustomed to. There was no wharf atSaidor and if you blinked when near to Bogadjimyouwouldmissit,soitwasontoMadang.Onthewayinwecaughtakingfishand a Sea Pike which became breakfast immediately. We berthed at Madang Slipway and after bookinginattheCoastwatchersMotelIreturnedtotheSlipwaytosettlethe twocrewinto what work they would carry out until we leftby 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 waswhere the old hospital used to be. The wharf whereweberthedthe"TARRA"in1954-55-57wasstillthereandifoneclosedone'seyes you could almost hear the bagpipes and the noiseof a PIR platoon marching onto the wharf to board TARRA for the voyage to Vanimo as we so often did 20 years before.
ReturningtoMoresbybyair anothertaskawaitedme.TheALC-50wasnowequippedwith Radarandaftertryingtogetit formanyyearsitnowwas,an anti-climax.Theknowledgeand experiencegainedovertheyearswasfarsuperior tosittinginfrontofascreenandnavigating withoutleavingtheseat,butitwasausefulaid andIuseditassuch,particularlyonlongruns atnight.Itwasnotmuchuseinsomeoftheareasweworked,such ascloseinshorebetween Finschafen and Madang, as the coastline on theground was not always the same as the chart.
TherewasarequirementforGovernmentcargo(BulldozerandGrader)tobeupliftedfrom Lae to Cape Hoskins and then to Rabaul, Pomio, Misima before returning to Moresby. I did nothaveaMateonthis tripastherewasnoneavailable,buttwoW02'sweredueinMoresby laterfrom Australia.IcannotrememberthenameoftheEngrbuttendtothinkthatitwasone ofthetwoPICpl'sfromWorkshops.IhadwantedtotakeBarryAmosbutIthinkhewason
leavefrom thetripuptheFlyRiver.OnthewaytoCapeHoskinswestoppedoveratCape Gloucesterandbeached atthespotwherethe US1stMarineDivision hadlanded in1943. Therewasnovisibleevidencethatanylanding had taken place as the jungle had reclaimed everything,buttherewasstillthesamemassivesurgecrashingdownonthebeachandour stay was very short lived.
AfterdischargingatCapeHoskinsweloadedasmallamountofcargofor Rabaul. At Rabaul thereweresomevehiclestobetaken toPomioinJacquinotBay.WedidnotstayinJacquinot 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.ReturningtoMoresbyIfoundthatahousehadbeenallocatedtomeanditwasontop ofThreeMileHillwheretheview totheSouthandEastwasmagnificent.Theexcellent visibility the view afforded began to play a partin the control of our craft as, if a vessel was returningfrom theNorthsideofPNG,thenIwouldseeitatleastfourhoursbeforeit'sETA MoresbyiftheETAwasoutsidenormalhours.IfIdidnotseeitthenI wouldbeontheradio tofindoutwhyitwaslate.TheonlytimethataqueryastoalateETAwasrequiredhappened in1973andonthatoccasionmyfamilyandIwere in Australia on leave. On that occasion we lost the AS3052 TAROOKI and very near lost the whole crew.
IreturnedtoAustraliainaC-130andsoldthehouseinCarlingford andwereturnedto MoresbybyAnsett.Wenowhadfivechildrenandtheeldest,Karen, returnedtoIpswichto attendboardingschool.Aftersettlingintothehouseitwasnowtimetohaveagoodlookat theunit.WhenIleftthe"FERN"in1965weweresharingfacilities with the Dept. Civil AviationCrashBoatattheoldSeaplanerampandthisrampwasusedbytheTAACatalina and TAA also had a maintenance workshop in the 'complex'.
A new Marine base had been built for the Armynext 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/Femaletoilets/showersandGeneralPurposeRoom.Thewharfwassome
250feetinlengthandcouldaccommodateanLSMoneitherside.TheWesternsidealsohad a ramp at the shore end but the effectiveness of the ramp was doubtful. The whole area could befloodlitfrom highlights.Comparedtothesmall shedthat"FERN"usedasashorefacility, thenewbasewasaparadise.PeterMorganreturnedto AustraliaandthenewOCwasMaj. TomSawyerwhowasoneofthedirectentryofficersfromtheUKbutasyethadnotserved on the LSM's. My position in the Unit was Water Tpt. Tp. Comdr. and until two more W02's arrivedIwouldbedoing allthetasks.Ibegantolookupoldfriendsfrom1954and1963and 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.
OverthenextfewyearsIwastoacquiremanytasksfrom thePNGAdministrationusingthe simpleexpedientofmentioningtotheseoldfriendsthat"ifyouhave acargoortaskthat cannotbecarriedoutbynormal contractorsthenputinasubmissiontoCommandanditwill come down to me sooner or later."
At Murray Barracks the scene was very different from 1963-5 and it was now a full Commandinitsownright.WhenIfirstarrivedatMurray Barracksnearly20years beforethe entireHQwasinanoldbuildingwithMasonitewalls.Thebuildingwasnowdevotedentirely
toRecruiting.Theoldcompositemesshaddisappearedandinits placewasaverylargeSgts. Mess.TheoldCommandershouseof1954hadbeensplitintotwoin 1963andbecamean Officers Mess and Sgts. Mess. It had been demolished and a new Officers Mess erected on the spot.AnOR'sMesshadalsobeenconstructed.In1954thenumberofMarriedQuarterswas
12-itwasnowcloseto80with flats being leasedoutsidetheBarracks.ThewholeofMurray Barracks was similar to Victoria Barracks in Sydney in that if you did not know exactly who youhadtoseeandwheretheywerecouldresultinamazefrom whichitwasdamnnear impossibletosolve.Anyonewhoworkedthereknewwhereeverybodyandeverythingwas butforsomereasonfoundithardtoexplaintoavisitorjusthowtofindwhotoseeorwhere to go. Times had certainly changed.
Onetaskthatweweregiven wastopositionAvgasatKikorifor the RAAF Caribou aircraft that were to operate on a separate task in the Erave area. There would be no problem transporting theAvgastoKikori,butbetweentheriverbankandpositioningitontheairstrip, couldbeaproblem.IflewtoKikorionacommercialaircrafttohavealookatthesituation andalsotogoupriverfrom Kikoriona'recce' aswewerescheduledlatertodoaJoint Intelligence Bureau operation in the Purari and Kikori area.
OnarrivingatKikoriitwasobviousthataproblem wouldbeencounteredastheAirstripwas bytheriverbutwassome40feet higher and separated by densefoliage.Iwentandsawthe ADOinresidenceandtoldhim oftheimpendingoperationandthematterwassoonsettledas hesimplysaidthatlabourwouldbesuppliedbytheinmatesofthelocal"Calaboose".I bookedinattheKikoriTavernandnotonlywastheTaverntheonlyhotelinKikori,Iwas alsotheonlyguest.Myroom wasamakeshiftaffairunderthemainbuildingandIhaddinner withtheproprietors.Thelightswentoutpromptlyat2200andIthen wandereddowntothe riverbank and the sightwasmagnificent.
Therewasamistrisingfromtheriverandmillionsoffireflieswereintermingledwiththe mistandtheeffectwasoneofadullsilversheen over the river and fadingintothepitchblack of night. There were no mosquitoes and, in the still of the night there were the sounds of insectsandanimals.Thepeaceandsolitudeof KikorithatnightwassuchthatIhavenever 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.
InJuly1971theannualRugbyLeaguegamebetweenPapauaandNewGuineawasheldand itresultedinariot.Theriotersthenmarcheden-masse throughBorokoanddownto Konedobu. A curfew was put in place and we watched from our house on top of Three Mile Hillas theriotersmarcheddownthe highwaybelowus.Bynotusingforceto stoptherioters marchingwasagoodideaasitallowedthe"steam"toescapeandreducethetensionand anger. The whole thing collapsed the following day.
SuzanneandIwereinvitedtogotoSalamauaforaweekend.Afriendfrom Moresbyin1954 andLaein1964hadahouseattheSW endoftheSalamauaIsthmuswheretheIsthmus narrowed to about 150 metres, having the sea on the Eastern side and the sheltered waters of SalamauaharbourtotheWest.Weflewoverwith all the children on the Friday morning and weremetbyKeithandAlmaBradford.TheirhomeinLaewasonthecoastattheendof Lae airstrip and the day was spent in preparing for the weekend.
KeithandAlmahada30'BertramcruiserandweleftforSalamauathatafternoon.Salamaua is19milessouthofLaeandintheBertram ittook35minutes.Salamauawasthecommercial and Administrative centre for the Morobe district before WW2 but was virtually destroyed duringWW2.Itwasneverrebuilt,notbecauseofthedamagesustainedbutbecauseofthe
airstrip,whichcouldonlytakelightaircraft andthefactthatSalamauaitselfwassmall, whereas Lae had a huge area which could bedeveloped into alarge 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 JapaneseshipontheEastern sideof theSalamauaheadland.ThemainstreetofSalamaua whichwas,pre-WW2,namedLaguiSt.andwasnownothingmorethanatrack.Aswe walkedalongthe"mainstreet"Icouldnothelp butthinkofwhoweretheinhabitantsof Salamauain1941,whereweretheyandwhatwastheirstory.InTP&NGin1971wewere all living in the "materiel age" where we could buy the same goods that were available in Australia,buyfreshfoodthatcouldbekeptforweeks,haveinstantcommunicationsfrom 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 environmentthatwashygienicallyclean.TheearlyAustralianinhabitantsofSalamauaand Laewereahistorythatshouldhavebeenpreserved, but like the historyofArmyWater Transportin Australia,waserased andthememorieslostforeverbutremainedin themindsof thosewhosurvivedWW2.Iknewthattherewere peoplelivinginLaethatwereinLaeand SalamauabeforeWW2.Ihadreadonebookon lifeinTP&NGpriorto1941andthatwas writtenbyG.TownsendwhowasintheAdministration as a patrol officer,from1923to1941 and with ANGAU during WW2.
Iwasdelightedto seethattheIngersolRandScraperwasstillsitting in thebushandIwas 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.
OnSaturdaywewentfishingforbreakfastontheEasternsideofSalamauaandabouttwo milesfrom theFranciscoRivermouthina"secret"holeandinabout15minuteshadthree large"Reds".Laterthatdaywewentouttoa spotthatIhadcompletelyforgottensince1964. WhenIhadtheFERN andwasinLae,Keith hadaskedmeifIknewwhere"BenallaBanks" were and, although I had seen themon 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 couldfindtheBanksbutIcouldnotunderstand whythelocalscouldneverfindthem.One afternoon I took Keith, the manager of Ansett-MAL and the local bank manager out on the FERNtolookforthe"lost"banks.IsimplywentSouthfromLaeuntil I picked up the correct bearing of Salamaua and then turned onto that bearing. Then on a time run until another point southofSalamauawasontherequiredbearing andthenturnedontheechosounder.Wewere 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. Latertheybuoyedthecentreofthe Banks and the fishing thereprovedtobefantastic.Itwas another case of not telling anyone else about this secret, but it was not long before everybody In Lae knewabout this "secret fishing spot".
WecaughtsomeMackerelandDolphinfishonthebanksandwerecookedfordinnerthat evening.Keithhadalocalcaretakerofthehouse duringtheweekandheinturnlivedina village across Samoa Harbour. He was present during the Japanese occupation and remembered the tunnels in theSalamaua 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 futurewhenwehadnothingonintheareaand werehavingabreak,thenIwouldbringsome of that plant over and openthe 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 showSuzanneandthekidsaP-40KittyhawkfromWW2.IhadfirstseentheP-40in1963 and it was still standing proudly above the high- water line and pointing towards Lae. The storyastold byOlim,Keith’s caretaker,wasthattheP-40hadcrash landedonthereefafter beingdamagedoverLae.Thepilot,anAustralian,wasinjuredandpulledfrom theaircraftby villagers.Theyweretryingtogethim intothebushbutthepilottoldthem toleavehim ashe 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-40waspulledoff thereef bythe 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, howeveritcouldhavebeenaPilotlistedasMIAoranAmericanPilotbuttheP-40 wasand probablystillissittingproudlyasareminderofWW2.Thereweresmalltreesgrowing through the wings and the paint workhad completely deteriorated.
TherewereonlytwoEuropeanresidencesatSalamauaatthistimeandapartfrom Keithand Almatheother"residence"wasoccupiedby RalphandRhondaPhillipsandGraham and MargaretGoudie.AfterathoroughlypleasantweekenditwasbacktoLaeonSundaynight and then on the aircraft back to Moresby on the Monday.
OnreturnIfoundthatthesingleoperationtothePurariandKikorisuddenlygrewtotwo tasks and then a third. As I was still the only Master on strength I asked the OC, Peter Morgan foranotherWOtobepostedquicklybut,intheinterim W02"Snow"Hiderwassentupon detachment, to assist until full postings were arranged and Barry Amos would be our Engineerforthetrip.ApartfromtheoriginalAvgasdeliverytherewasalsoarequirementfor aRecce.ofthePurariRiver.TheEngineersweretobuildawharf,acrosstheriverfrom the main wharf, at Keremaandwanted Landing Craft support.
I decided to take two LCM-8's (AB1051, AB1053) andleaveSnowHiderwithoneatKerema whileIwentontothePurariRivertodoaseriesofdepthsoundingsattherivermouth.Then IwouldpickSnowupatKeremaandleaveAB1051atKeremawiththePICoxswainand then with AB1053 go up the Purari as far as possible, before swingingacross the Delta to Baimuru and then Kikori.