Anniversary of Battle of Milne Bay

This week is the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay.  Far less known to the average Aussie than Kokoda in the annals of our military history, it was a vitally important victory against the Japanese Forces.

This is the approximate location at which the Japanese landed: very difficult to get a good photo when bouncing along in a banana boat.

This is the approximate location at which the Japanese landed: very difficult to get a good photo when bouncing along in a banana boat.

You can read what I wrote about it for last Remembrance Day, not long after we returned from visiting Milne Bay, as well as the memorial stained glass windows in the Catholic church.

This excellent link provides an interactive map of the battle field, and progress of the battle itself.

Facebook fans might be interested in liking the Milne Bay Memorial Library and Research Centre.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

An army marches on its stomach

Sepia Sat 180It seems that my uncle Pat Farraher is determined to have his moment in the Sepia Saturday sun. Pat appeared back in Sepia Saturday 166 and today’s topic is tailor-made for him.

The World War II nominal roll only gives bare details but it lists Patrick Joseph Farraher enlisting on 15 September 1942 in Enoggera, Brisbane at the age of 34. He was attached to the 4th Field Bakery (AASC) as a private. His next of kin was my Aunty Mary.

Among my aunt’s estate were some old family photos including some of Uncle Pat’s military service, including those mentioned above. Today we start moving into the field and the Australian War Memorial’s photographic collection places Pat’s photos in context. I knew he’d served in Papua New Guinea, and immediately recognised some of Pat’s place photos from his time there, but knew nothing about these service photos of his.

It may be this is field training prior to departing to Papua New Guinea -it looks like Australian scrub in the background.

It may be this is field training prior to departing to Papua New Guinea -it looks like Australian scrub in the background. Photograph from Pat Farraher collection.

The cook "train" -you can see this photo links with the one above.

The cook “train” -you can see this photo links with the one above. Photo from Pat Farraher collection.

I could see this was an Army Dukw (amphibious vehicle) photographed, I suspect, at Enoggera army camp by Uncle Pat but what relevance did it have?

Perhaps they were heading off to the ship to PNG.

Perhaps they were heading off to the ship to PNG. Photograph from Pat Farraher collection.

But the AWM website makes it clearer in its caption for this photo: A FIELD BAKERY BEING ESTABLISHED ON THE NORTHERN BANK OF THE BUMI RIVER. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS MEMBERS OF THE 4TH AUSTRALIAN FIELD BAKERY PLACING SHEER LEGS IN POSITION ON TWO “DUKWs” PREPARATORY TO UNLOADING THE BAKERS OVENS.

Photograph 61074 from the AWM Collection, taken in the Finchhafen area of PNG.

Photograph 61074 from the AWM Collection, taken in the Finchhafen area of PNG. Image in the public domain. Men from the 4th Field Bakery.

Armies need food as well as ammunition so the army bakers were kept busy making bread, rolls, meat pies and who knows what else. I don’t suppose that with people being shot at, any concerns for health regulations went out the window. I was lucky to find so many great photos of the 4th Field Bakery in the AWM collections.

Image 061258 AWM. 4th Field Bakery men preparing bread rolls.

Image 061258 AWM. 4th Field Bakery men preparing bread rolls. Image out of copyright.

In a hot and humid region, working in the bakehouse must have been incredible sweaty work though they were probably well-served by their bush-materials bake house. In the bigger scheme of things I guess the Diggers probably didn’t care too much about a salty addition to their bread rolls.

The AWM states on one picture “with improvised ovens and huts and the help of native boys, the men of the 2/4th Field Bakery baked thousands of bread rolls each day to supply the Division”.

Some bakers from the 4th Field Bakery heading back to quarters after a busy day’s work. The contrast between the featured image today and the men in this image is amusing, I think. No wonder the British officers complained about the casualness of Australian soldiers during WWI.

AWM Image 061613 of the 4th Field Bakery men leaving the bush materials bakehouse at Dumpu in the Ramu Valley, PNG.

AWM Image 061613 of the 4th Field Bakery men leaving the bush materials bakehouse at Dumpu in the Ramu Valley, PNG. Image out of copyright and in the public domain.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 26 Going Finish

4 x 7UP collageGoing Finish was a pivotal point in the life of those who had worked in the administration of Papua New Guinea. Some of the old-timers left prior to Independence, as did those who were convinced “we’d all be ruined”. Others remained for a number of years after Independence. Some left as their jobs became handed over to Papua New Guineans as they gained the skills and competencies for their newly formed country. Others left before then, knowing that otherwise they might never leave the ties were so strong.

Kaye and Les going finish

So the ritual of going finish was a significant cultural event. As nearly all those who left the country permanently departed through Port Moresby, where were living by then, we have many photos of groups of people going finish. This photo is an important one for our family, showing Mr Cassmob’s family leaving PNG after 23 years. Never ones to wear their emotions on their sleeves, they look quite calm but I imagine that inside they were feeling very sad.

One of our going finish parties.

One of our going finish parties.

A few years later we would join the trek to the south where we learned to be Australians in our own country all over again. Strangely we have no photos of our departure though it’s likely our friends have one, so I must put out a query on that. What we do have though is this picture of one of our many farewells, this one by our gang of Gerehuligans (Gerehu was the suburb where we lived). As we flew out of Jackson’s airport I know I had tears in my eyes, mitigated only by the champagne handed to us, and the camera lending some emotional distance.

 I’m going to leave you with a special poem written for Mr Cassmob’s parents when they left Milne Bay (but not going finish). Written by the local teachers it’s a very touching tribute.

Kaye and Les farewell Milne Bay

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 25 Behind Independence

4 x 7UP collageThe theme of this collage was the events and experiences of my first 28 years so how could I not include a photo which related to the Independence of Papua New Guinea. Regular readers will have read other posts on this topic here so for this story I needed a different angle. It occurred to me that while I’ve talked about the celebratory events, I haven’t actually talked about what it meant on a day to day level.

As with any celebration, there was a certain amount of waiting around on 15 Swept 1975. The high school kids were in colourful costumes and some were wearing traditional dress.

As with any celebration, there was a certain amount of waiting around on 15 Sept 1975. The high school kids were in colourful costumes and some were wearing traditional dress.

I asked Mr Cassmob for his thoughts on this last night and to an extent we were surprised at how little practical difference it made to our lives: we went to the same workplaces, we got our pay in the same bank account (even though the bank’s name had been rebadged), we did the same social things and lived in the same government house. For sure the structures and legislation underpinning all of this had changed, and there were more brown faces than white at the top level, but that didn’t bother us as it had been an emerging trend throughout out our then-short careers. We were neither senior enough to be displaced from our positions, nor were in positions which gave us any real power. We just kept on doing our jobs to the best of our ability.

Prince Charles arrives for the flag lowering ceremony.

Prince Charles arrives for the flag lowering ceremony.

There were some changes to consider at work: the need to consider the implications of a changed currency, from the dollar to the kina or vice versa, on the payment of school subsidies (Pauleen), or the practicalities of helping to establish the diplomatic training corps program at the Administrative College (Peter).

The Australian flag was lowered formally for the last time "with respect".

The Australian flag was lowered formally for the last time “with respect”.

After I moved from Education to Finance I suppose I was involved in minor administrative ways with the new bank Board structures as well as some organisation for visiting delegations from the International Monetary Fund which came to assess PNG’s financial status. We worked with local colleagues who were developing their skills and experience preparing for more senior roles within the public service over the years to come. Working in Finance was the only time I ever got to use the theory I’d learned in my economics degree.

The Police Band looked very smart in their sulus/lap laps with Bird of Paradise emblem.

The Police Band looked very smart in their sulus/lap laps with Bird of Paradise emblem. Independence Hill 16 September 1975.

Many Australians did leave after either self-government or Independence. Some of the more colonial types couldn’t handle the relinquishing of power to those whom they’d once had power over. Others, like Peter’s father, left because their jobs were superseded or had been localised. Over the years between self-government and Independence one of the employment trends was the departure of these Australians and the increased reliance on recruitment from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Philippines.

From the Prince to the Bishop and the warrior, everyone was in their finery.

From the Prince to the Bishop and the warrior, everyone was in their finery.

We were pleased to stay for another few years and in the end decided to relocate to Australia so we could re-start our careers there before time got away from us. We were also determined our children would not go to boarding school.  Although there were jobs for us in PNG and we loved being there, it was time to go despite our sadness. We had contemplated taking out citizenship but decided against it. Peter had already been challenged that he wasn’t a Papua New Guinean by some over-eager student, to which Peter simply replied “I’ve lived here longer than you’ve been alive”. And so the next stage of our lives began, back in our country of birth, but forever changed by our experiences in that amazing, challenging and exciting country, PNG.

Michael Somare arrives at the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for the church service.

Michael Somare arrives at the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for the church service.

It’s appropriate that the collage photo I chose for today was one of Michael Somare walking towards the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for an Independence service. Lots of dignitaries were there from Prince Charles to Australia’s Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and former Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock.  Apart from being the inaugural Prime Minister Somare was one of a select group of men who were chosen to fill the most senior roles in the country. Among the public service heading departments were Mekere Morauta (Finance), Charles Lepani, Rabbie Namaliu and Tony Siagaru, the commonly named “Gang of Four”, two of whom we worked for either closely or indirectly.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 20 Papua New Guinea

4 x 7UP collage

Imagine if you will a country with spectacular, awe-inspiring scenery from fierce mountain ranges clothed in almost impenetrable jungle to deep aquamarine seas with an abundance of tropical fish.

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Imagine a country with hundreds of tribal groups, languages and specific cultures. Imagine the potential for clashes between those tribal groups, the payback[i] and potential for inter-clan fighting, and the translation of traditional sorcery into the recent horrors of witch-burning.

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

Imagine the variety of costumes and sounds when thousands of warriors come together from diverse places for a sing-sing, or music and dance. Where even other clans and tribal groups look on astonished at what they’re seeing. This can either be in a traditional environment or replicated from traditional practices into a form of performance for visitors eg the Goroka Show or the Kenu and Kundu Festival which we recently visited.

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

This truly unique place is Papua New Guinea, venue of A Million Different Journeys. When I moved there only weeks after my marriage it was still the Territory of Papua New Guinea, under the jurisdiction and administration of the Australian government.

What an amazing experience, so incredibly different from suburban Australia, and where sights and sounds are like nothing ever before experienced. For close to a decade, this country was home. For my husband it will always be home as apart from his earliest years, and school absences, this was his place which very much shaped who he is and how he sees the world.

Memories of coastal villages, mountains and mountain valleys and passes, semi-naked people dressed in elaborate costumes. The unique smell of pig-grease spread on the skin to keep out the cold, blended with smoke from a chimney-less hut. Women loaded down with kau-kau[ii] in their bilums[iii]. The blood-red stain of buai spit on the ground. The sounds of the kundu and the ululation of chanting during a sing-sing.

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

I feel very privileged to have lived in PNG and come to love it. In my heart it’s like a good friend who I’ve lost contact with, and from whom I’ve grown apart, but is treasured for how it shaped my view of the world, and myself, turning me into a very different person from the one I’d have been if I had stayed in Australia. I’m privileged too that it’s enabled me to understand my husband’s formative years.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge


[i] The practice of exacting punishment from another person or clan, for injury to the pigs or people of another clan or village.  Punishment may be exacted by payment of fines or by physical violence.

[ii] Kau-kau is the Tok Pisin name for sweet potato.

[iii] A bilum is a string bag worn by women with the strap over the head, and carrying the load (or the baby) leaning against their back.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 14 Young Love

4 x 7UP collageI just had to rejig my sequence of photos so I could accommodate Valentine’s Day!

In the 60s and 70s, Valentine’s Day was a non-event in Australia but as a devoted reader of Seventeen magazine from the USA I’d caught the “love bug”! Of course having titled this post “Young Love” I also had Cliff Richard on my mind –ironically our children are even greater fans of his movie, Summer Holiday. Who knows why?!

Wasn't he cute?

Wasn’t he cute?

Mr Cassmob and I met during my first year at Uni, and after that for various reasons we spent long blocks of time apart. Having distracted each other enough to need to repeat part of Year 1 at Uni, he returned to TPNG to supervise the labour line at Gili Gili Plantation. As I said previously I’m sure they loved being under the supervision of a teenager.

During his year back in PNG and sometime after his family relocated to Alotau, the new district headquarters, Mr Cassmob sent me the featured collage photo. I’m sure you can see why it promptly became one of my treasured items.

Photo of Mr Cassmob's family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Photo of Mr Cassmob’s family home in Alotau taken from much the same place as the old one. P Cass 2012

Hearts and flowersI also couldn’t resist the self-indulgence of including this photo of us out to dinner at a theatre restaurant (remember when they were in vogue) in our “courting” days. We’d planned to go a couple of years earlier but we did eventually make it there. Haven’t a clue what the theatre aspect was, or indeed the food, but obviously the company was worth it <wink>. Were we young, or what?!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr Cassmob!

Out to dinner.

Out to dinner.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 12: Cousins, aunts and uncles

4 x 7UP collageI’m not going to change the image I’ve posted in this collage but I am going off on a lateral tangent yet again. I had thought to write (even more!) about Magnetic Island but then I thought “why? I’ve done that to death”. Then in another of my midnight mental rambles I was thinking about relatives and so this post is about cousins and aunts and uncles.

Kunkels and Farrahers Cairns

My aunt and uncle, my parents and I, Cairns, Qld.

In the collage photo we were standing outside the Sunlander train, probably leaving Cairns for Brisbane. Earlier we had visited my aunt and uncle and cousins in Cairns where they were then living at the time. My uncle had something of a habit of changing bosses jobs and they moved from out west (Augathella comes to mind), to Far North Queensland, Tugun on the Gold Coast and Brisbane where my grandfather lived with them. At each move my uncle would chuck out my cousin’s toys and dolls…not exactly a therapeutic way of dealing with relocation.

army friends

Why is someone always doing rabbit ears?? My uncle is the cook in the middle (and possibly Mr Rabbit Ears).

Uncle Pat had been an Army cook for some time and been in Papua New Guinea during WWII. I’m lucky to have some of his photos which I found after my aunt died and without looking on the reverse (not all were annotated) I quickly realised they were from PNG. I hope to put these on my Tropical Territory blog in the near future.

My aunt and cousins

My aunt and two of my 8 cousins

His wife, Aunty Mary, was my favourite aunt. Sweet, kind with a quirky, cheeky sense of humour I always liked her. Mary’s daughter predeceased her and her son was far from well for many years and is now also deceased. As the eldest daughter, Aunty Mary was also privy to some of the family stories and shared (some of ?) them with me. Both before and after Mary’s death I was able to get scanned images of many of the family photos as well as my grandmother’s address book. As I cleared Mary’s house after her death I was able to ensure quite a few family “heirlooms” did not end up in the skip.

 Are you close to your cousins?

My grandchildren are enamoured with their cousins, and will hug and greet each other as if they haven’t seen each other for months, rather than only days before, regularly saying “I love my cousin.”

 My cousinly relationships are rather more haphazard. I was close enough to Aunty Mary’s daughter though she was a fair bit older than me. She used to paint my nails (purple) and let me have sleepovers at her boarding house when I was about 12 or 13.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

My cousin Patsy (Patricia), named for her father.

Two of my cousins I have probably only seen three or five times. I wouldn’t recognise them if they walked through the door tomorrow. Their mother I would have seen only a few times more, though I would have recognised her if I came upon her. Her husband, again, I wouldn’t know from Adam.

But it was my male cousin from another aunt, with whom I have the closest long-term relationship rather than with his sister who was a year younger than me. We used to go ice skating together with our spouses and kids, and I’ve forgiven him for deconstructing my childhood Xmas toys to see how they worked. <smile> Their two much younger sisters, for one of whom I was the godmother, I also know a little, but life has taken us in different directions and to different places.

My non-cousin, daughter of my uncle’s widow’s second marriage, lived with us for medical reasons for about six months, but again we never persevered with our relationship. In many ways I think our longish time in PNG affected many of these family bonds.

(I do have photos of these cousins, but I don’t have permission to use them here as they are still alive).

Among my cousins, I was the only one of the first-born not named for their father.

For similar reasons Mr Cassmob has an even worse track record in the cousin stakes. In the decades that I’ve known him we’ve seen one of his cousins twice, some others only once: a consequence of his living far away from them. Another we met up with in Dublin years ago: they both thought “how will I know him” and found it no problem because both so resembled their fathers!

 Did you have close relationships with aunts, uncles and cousins? Are you still friends rather than just relatives?

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Trove Tuesday: Christopher Robinson

While we were visiting Samarai in the Milne Bay District (PNG) a couple of months ago we saw the memorial which appears on Tropical Territory today. Apparently there was quite a lot of conflict over it when it was erected, and couldn’t be placed anywhere else so it was eventually placed on Samarai even though there was no specific connection.

Mr Cassmob remembers his father saying the miners (why??) wanted to have the comment “killed by the missionaries” on the memorial and that the Robinson issue was about the killing of some “natives”. Now plainly this was all quite intriguing so I turned to my good friend Trove to see what it could tell me about the background event.

My Trove reading suggests that there were a number of complicating factors surrounding this event:

  1. In 1901 Australia became an independent federation and nation.
  2. In 1902 Papua, or the British Protectorate of New Guinea, had become the responsibility of Australia
  3. In 1905, it became the Territory of Papua.
  4. Australia’s federal election in December 1903.

The events we’re looking at straddle this time frame and affect how they was seen.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/918589. The Advertiser 19 March 1903.

Early in 1904 Christopher Robinson, a Brisbane solicitor, was appointed acting Administrator and Judicial Officer of British New Guinea, pending the implementation of legislation formalising the Territory of Papua under Australian control. Soon afterwards Robinson set sail on the ship the Merrie England, to the Gulf Province (west of Port Moresby) where two missionaries, Rev James Chalmers and Rev OF Tomkins, had been massacred on Goaribari Island (now in the Gulf Province, PNG) in 1901. On the face of it this was not unreasonable, but in the event, the local people approached the ship, firing arrows from their canoes, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of some of the men believed to have taken part in the killing of the missionaries. Shots were fired from the ship and an undefined number of “natives” were killed. This “Goaribari incident”, as it was euphemistically called, occurred in March 1904. While one could hardly expect the ship’s crew to ignore being fired at, it appears that the response was ill-considered and due to panic.

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Robinson’s reputation was under a very dark cloud as a Royal Commission of Enquiry was instigated, of which Judge Murray (presumably Sir Hubert Murray) was in charge. Shortly before the enquiry commenced, Christopher Robinson put a gun to his head and killed himself, leaving behind a note which was not released (according to the papers). It is through the reports of the enquiry that we learn that at least eight men were killed, three possibly by Robinson.

Perhaps the simple fact is that, with no prior experience of New Guinea, or of the risks associated with working there, he simply panicked and imagined himself massacred as had been the missionaries in 1901. This in no way excuses what happened, whether by him or by others, but he was also human, and perhaps in fear of his life after the decision to capture some of the locals who may/may not have been part of the original massacre.

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

Western Mail, 17 September 1904 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3767552

When we lived in Papua in the 1970s, 70 years later, there were patrol officers who had encountered tribes meeting their first white men, and where cannibalism still occasionally occurred. From the local side they felt betrayed by what had initially seemed like a positive interaction with the Europeans. In short, a major conflict of culture and loss of judgement, with consequent loss of life.

Discussions around the event were very much focused on Australia’s image, and the need to see it as not condoning the hapless killing of the very people under its protection.

Christopher Robinson’s body was returned to Australia on board a boat accompanied by a missionary Mr Jekyll, who had been present at the killings, a coincidence which seems quite ironic to me.

The mystery of why the “miners” blamed the missionaries remains unknown, as does the question of why the memorial to Christopher Robinson is on Samarai Island many miles from where the “Goaribari incident” occurred, but, also ironically, not far from Killerton Island where missionaries had been cannibalised. It’s also ironic that it remains on an island which is now entirely settled by local Milne Bay people yet they tolerate its presence.

The full story behind this event would merit further investigation as well.

Some Further Reading

The Queenslander 28 May 1904

Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld) 23 June 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA ), 24 June 1904.

Kalgoorlie Miner 5 May 1904

The Register (Adelaide, SA) 14 September 1904 “The Merrie England began it”.

The Mercury (Hobart) 14 September 1904

Home again

In case you’ve been wondering why my responses to comments have been a bit slow lately it’s because we’ve been having a great adventure: our first return to Papua New Guinea since we left in August 1978.

We had an absolutely fantastic time and met lots of people including some who knew Mr Cassmob’s parents or his brother and one lady who he knew on Samarai.

We spent most of our time in Alotau in the Milne Bay Province which I wrote about back in the alphabet series in April here. It was such fun we’re wondering why we haven’t been back before.

I’ll be sharing some of the stories and photos soon on this blog or on Tropical Territory 

but for now I just wanted to say I’m back in Darwin and looking forward to catching up on other people’s blog writing from the past couple of weeks.

Talk soon.

Pauleen

Mapping family places in Papua New Guinea

I’ve been talking about a few places in Papua New Guinea as part of the A to Z challenge but not making allowance that their location is probably all “Double Dutch” to most people. For those who are interested this is a tailored map from Google of the places I’ve mentioned plus a few more. You can click on each blue pin to see what it says, drag the map right or left, or click on “View Larger Map” on the bottom to enlarge it.