Excerpt from “New Guinea Recollections” by C.A.W. Monckton ~~Surprise Attack~~

picture-NewGuineaRecollections-CAWMoncktonThe Governor came to my tent.

“Monckton,” he said, “I have just seen a man, and my servant has seen him as well by a sudden flare of the fire. I have told the Commandant, but he thinks I am mistaken, as his sentries have reported nothing?”

“I am not surprised at that,” I replied. “Bruce is a soldier, new to the country, and has got his sentries posted in as plain view as those outside BuckinghamPalace. These people we are among are night fighters. Bruce’s sentries and men are all from the Western Division and unaccustomed to night fighting.”

“Do you think there is any danger?” he asked.

“I don’t know. If you really saw a man, which is highly probable, he is quite likely one of several scouts from a large body locating our position; in which case we may expect an attack shortly before dawn.”

“Why just before dawn?” queried Robinson.

“Men sleep heaviest then, and also it gives the attacker light to pursue any who might escape in the dark.”

Robinson went back to Bruce; then Bruce came to me.

“Why have you been putting the wind up His Excellency, and talking about my sentries?”

“I only replied to his questions, and I don’t like the position of your sentries,” I said.

“You know more about it than I do,” sneered Bruce, fresh from the South African War.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.

Barigi came. The Norther-Eastern detachment of my men were lying under flys, close to my tent.

“Bia went out with ten Kaili Kaili with tomahawks just after dark,” he said, “and before these bushmen would have had time to creep up and see them. He told us to fire in any direction from which a Kaili Kaili alarm came, but to aim very low. The Kaili Kaili and Bia will be safe enough, but ask the Commandant, in the event of an alarm, to order his men not to fire, but only to fall in.”

I went to the Governor, and found him sitting up talking to his private secretary, Manning; both were uneasy.

“All right,” said Robinson, when I made my request. “It shall be as you say, I am still convinced I saw that man, and Manning fancies he saw one too, but is not certain. That flickering light was puzzling to the eye.”

It rained early in the night, but about half an hour before dawn it cleared. Then we heard a bird calling, which was answered by another, and then a third.

“Those were Kaili Kaili,” whispered Barigi; “the bushmen are coming from three directions. When they mass, Bia will call to my men. Fall in kneeling and make no noise; make ready to fire low in the direction from which a Kaili Kaili calls.”

We waited; and just as the very first peep of dawn broke, there came a roar from Bia no sound from the Kaili Kaili; Bia yelled:

“Here now at the foot of the big tree!”

Then came the crack of Bia’s rifle and yells from the Kaili Kaili. Crash went a volley. Then came howls and the sound of men rushing through the jungle and forest in headlong flight. Bruce’s voice came like a bellowing bull ordering his men to fall in; his sentries in the meantime had fallen back in bewilderment into camp.

“What does it all mean?” asked the Governor.

“What it all means, sir, is this,” I said. “The man you and your servant thought you saw was a real man, also the man Manning saw. They were studying our camp. I was quite certain, so was Barigi, that these people were planning a night attack. Now the essence of a night attack is surprise, and also to suddenly throw a solid body of men on to the victims of the surprise, so they are slaughtered and struck down before they are half awake. Isolated attacks from several quarters, when some men come into action before others, are useless. The defence of the camp was left to Bia. Bruce, his force and sentries, were not taken into consideration. Bia took out the Kaili Kaili after dusk, and planted them up trees. The Kaili Kaili are mighty snarers of birds of paradise, and know their calls. Bia located the spot at which the concentration of a night attack would most probably take place, and there climbed a tree. An attacking night force does not come in a body, but assembles by twos and threes and little groups at one place. Bia’s Kaili Kaili scouts by bird calls notified the arrival of the night raiders, and when they were grouped under Bia’s tree, my men fired. The surprise party were therefore themselves surprised, and fled. None of them were killed, but some wounded, how many I don’t know.”

“Clever,” said the Governor.

“Yes.” I said. “Bia and his ten Kaili Kaili are wise men. They did it all. The only fear we had was lest the Commandant and his men might kill some of my Kaili Kaili. Hence the reason for my asking that they be forbidden to fire.”


1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “New Guinea Recollections” by C.A.W. Monckton ~~Surprise Attack~~

  1. Charles Arthur Whitmore Monckton was born in Invercargill, New Zealand on 30 May 1873 and died in London, England on 1 March 1936, aged 62 years. He worked as a Resident Magistrate in New Guinea in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and recounted his adventures in books, of which ‘New Guinea Recollections’ was his last, written in 1934.

    Christopher Stansfield Robinson was, at the time of this event, the Acting-Governor of British New Guinea, having been appointed in June 1903. He was quite young, born in 1871 and about 32 years of age. Later in his term, in March 1904, he led a contingent responsible for the murder of a number of natives. This led to an inquiry in the form of a Royal Commission, which he avoided by taking his own life on 20 June 1904.

    William Cunningham Bruce was the commandant of the armed native constabulary, and Assistant Resident Magistrate in the western division of New Guinea.

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