Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Excerpt from “Further Adventures of a New Guinea Resident Magistrate” by Captain C. A. W. Monckton ~~Rain-makers~~

Sorcery among New Guinea natives may be divided into two kinds: the sorcerer practising the first kind belongs to a class of wicked, malevolent assassins, doing evil for the sake of evil; he is prepared to perform his devilry, administer poison, or commit any crime for any person paying him to do so. This class of sorcerer does not pretend to perform anything but black magic, or to work anything but harm; and the shadow of the fear of the brute is over the whole tribal life. Sorcerers practising the second kind are men who make use of a benevolent and kindly magic for good only. These pretend to possess powers of rain-making, wind or fish-bringing, bone-setting, the charming away of sickness, or charming the spot upon which a garden is to be made to render it productive. They understand massage to a certain extent, and are usually highly respected and estimable members of the community to which they belong; and to interfere with this second class in the practice of their arts, would be not only cruelly unjust but decidedly unwise.
Once I had a frantic row with a Missionary Society over a member of the class of rain-makers. This old fellow I knew to be an eminently respectable old gentleman, and famed for many miles as a rain-maker; in fact, I had more than a suspicion that upon occasions my own police had paid for his services in connection with the Station garden. Well, to my amazement, I one day received a complaint from a European missionary, that the old fellow was practising sorcery and levying blackmail. I knew the charge to be all nonsense, and my village constables laughed at it; in fact, they regarded the story in much the same light as a London bobby would a tale to the effect that the Archbishop of Canterbury was running a sly grog shop in Wapping; but missionaries always made such a noise that I had to investigate. I found that there had been a drought in a Mission village, miles away from where the old boy lived, and the natives’ gardens were perishing: the local rain-makers tried their hands, but with no result; the missionary turned on prayers for rain, no result; then the people got desperate, and decided that the services of my estimable friend must be engaged. Accordingly, to the wrath of the missionary, they collected pigs and a varied assortment of New Guinea valuables, and sent them with a deputation to beg him to save their gardens. He accepted the gifts, and oracularly replied to his petitioners, “When the southeast wind stops, the rain will come.” They went off home satisfied; as a matter of fact, the wind had dropped before they got back and the welcome rain set in. Having ascertained the facts, I of course refused to interfere with the rain-maker; whereupon the missionary complained to Headquarters that the R M. was undermining the work of the Mission by encouraging sorcery, and I was called upon for the usual report. I reported that my time was already so fully occupied that I had none to spare in “attending to harmless disputes due to the professional jealousy of rival rain-makers.” The missionary choked with outraged and offended pride at being put on the same plane as a native rain-maker, and Muzzy squeaked about “contemptuous levity” in official correspondence.

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Excerpt from “A Fortunate Life” by A. B. Facey ~~Gallipoli~~

We left the harbour – Mudros Harbour I had found it was called – on the afternoon of the twenty-fourth of April. We were nervous and excited, knowing that we were finally on our way into action. We sailed all afternoon through a calm sea. That night we turned in to sleep in hammocks. I was very tired and despite the excitement, went to sleep.
The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake by a corporal. The ship was moving slowly, some lights were on, and everyone was busy packing up and getting into battle dress. I noticed that stripes and rank markings had been removed from uniforms. One of the sergeants said, ‘It’s not far now. All portholes are blacked out and no lights on deck.’
The officers and sergeants were called to report to the Company Commander. Now excitement ran high. A few minutes later they returned and told us that we were to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
When we were called to our sections our officer gave us a briefing on the proper instructions for landing. We were told that our ship would move as close as possible into shore but would keep out of range of the enemy’s shelling. He said, ‘They will throw everything they’ve got at us as soon as they wake up to what we’re doing. Now when the ship stops you will be called to the side and lined up. On the side of the ship is a rope net already in place. A destroyer will come alongside and you will climb over the side and down the rope onto the deck of the destroyer when ordered. When the destroyer has enough men it will pull away and go towards where you are to land. Close to shore you will be met by a small motor boat towing rowing-beats. You will climb into the rowing-boats and the motor boats will take you as close to shore as possible. There will be sailors in the rowing-boats and they will take you into the beach. Now you are to get ashore as best you can and then line up on the beach and await further instructions.
This was it. We were scared stiff – I know I was – but keyed up and eager to be on our way. We thought we would tear right through the Turks and keep going to Constantinople.
Troops were taken off both sides of the ship onto destroyers. My platoon and other “D” Company men were on the same destroyer. All went well until we were making the change into rowing-boats.
Suddenly all hell broke loose; heavy shelling and shrapnel fire commenced. The ships that were protecting our troops returned fire. Bullets were thumping into us in the rowing-boat. Men were being hit and killed all around me.
When we were cut loose to make our way to the shore was the worst period. I was terribly frightened. The boat touched bottom some thirty yards from shore so we had to jump out and wade into the beach. The water in some places was up to my shoulders. The Turks had machine-guns sweeping the strip of beach where we landed – there were many dead already when we got there. Bodies of men who had reached the beach ahead of us were lying all along the beach and wounded men were screaming for help. We couldn’t stop for them – the Turkish fire was terrible and mowing into us. The order to line up on the beach was forgotten. We all ran for our lives over the strip of beach and got into the scrub and bush. Men were falling all around me. We were stumbling over bodies – running blind.
The sight of the bodies on the beach was shocking. It worried me for days that I couldn’t stop to help the men calling out. (This was one of the hardest things of the war for me and I’m sure for many of the others. There were to be other times under fire when we couldn’t help those that were hit. I would think for days, ‘I should have helped that poor beggar.’)
We used our trenching tools to dig mounds of earth and sheltered from the firing until daylight – the Turks never let up. Their machine guns were sweeping the scrub. The slaughter was terrible.
I am sure that there wouldn’t have been one of us left if we had obeyed that damn fool order to line up on the beach.

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Excerpt from “Record of Service” by Bruce Robinson ~~R.A.P.~~

The following event occurred during the Sanananda campaign in Papua New Guinea around December 1942.

On the morning of our first action I left most of my gear at our overnight camp, and set up a temporary R.A.P. at one of the near corners of the oblong, and was soon kept busy dealing with incoming casualties. Later on the scene of battle changed, and I moved with my staff to join forces with Captain Jim Fotheringham, who was the R.M.O. of the other battalion that was in action with us, and we occupied a joint R.A.P. just inside the jungle beside the road. We were soon very busy, as the casualties were numerous by now. In fact, “Dum” Norris, the senior medical officer of the division, who had come up and was lending a hand, said he had never seen a busier R.A.P. in this war, or the last.
In jungle warfare there is no real front line as in more orthodox wars, and the scene of battle fluctuated throughout the day. We would hear firing on our left, and this would die down. Then it would break out to the right, and next it would be close alongside us, wherever, in fact, an enemy machine-gun post or sniper was found by our lads. On one occasion during the mid-afternoon we heard firing close at hand, and we were disturbed to see some of our green-clad boys falling back through the trees towards us, and eventually through us and past us. “Look out, there are the Japs,” cried one of my boys, pointing to shadowy figures in the undergrowth across the clearing. We had no arms, so we jumped into nearby holes. There were four of us in mine as tightly packed as on a half-past-five city bus. Lead was flying over our heads from both directions. I thought, “This is a fine way to end my military career; some blasted Jap will throw a grenade into our hole, and then good-bye.”
However, our boys rallied and held their ground, and the firing died down in a few minutes, so I thought I would crawl out and try the air, if only to get some weapon and my tin hat which I had taken off when we were busy. Nothing happened when I emerged, so I called my boys and we hastily collected our gear and made an orderly, if rapid, withdrawal. Jim Fotheringham and his boys appeared later, having had a similar experience, and together we selected a new combined R.A.P. site a couple of hundred yards farther back – our fourth for the day. This one was to become my permanent home during the next few weeks, though Jim Fotheringham had several other moves. By this time we had passed the busiest part of the day, but a trickle of casualties kept arriving all through the evening and night.

*R.A.P. – Regimental Aid Post
*R.M.O. – Regimental Medical Officer

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Excerpt from “Throwim Way Leg” by Tim Flannery ~~Swallet~~

The flight from Wamena to Kwiyawagi is unforgettable. As the aircraft climbs slowly to the west, mountains rise sharply from the valleys, their upper slopes clothed in beech forest of the darkest green, while their summits stand out above the vegetation as pointy limestone peaks and spires. Below, the Baliem River rushes through yellow grassland, past hundreds of settlements and gardens. There is something very ‘Irian’ about the view with its round houses and limestone topography. I could never mistake it for somewhere in Papua New Guinea.
Soon the aircraft enters a narrow valley where the river becomes a foaming torrent. At the head of the valley stands an abrupt limestone wall. It was astonishing to see that huge river we had been following was issuing from a fissure at the base of this cliff.
Our aircraft struggled to gain elevation to clear the 3,000 metre-high limestone crest above the fissure. It did so with the barest of margins, and we swooped over tree-tops and spires of jagged, grey limestone karst which seemed to be just a few metres below us.
The conical limestone towers and dark trees soon dropped away abruptly at yet another steep cliff-face. Beyond it lay a glorious, undulating valley, stretching away to the east and west. This great, isolated valley is a gentle and fertile land dotted with hamlets. Two vast rivers cut their way through it. Even though the rivers are at nearly 3,000 metres of elevation, they are lazy, meandering and muddy, resembling the type more often seen at sea-level than at such altitudes.
These are the East and West Baliem rivers. They converge just a few kilometres from the base of the cliff we had just passed. Looking back, I saw one of the most extraordinary natural features ever encountered in a lifetime of travel – the Baliem swallet – a vast hole in the earth which lies at the cliff’s base. Into it disappears the entire combined flow of the East and West Baliem rivers. To see such an enormous volume of water disappear from the face of the earth, as if it was entering some great plug-hole, is awesome. The water swirls furiously sending up great spurts of spray as the river and all it carries enter an underground cavern. It exits on the other side of the range, at the great spring we had flown over.
The swallet is made all the more striking by evidence that this sink-hole occasionally clogs up. Around it, in ever wider concentric rings are ridges which mark the shorelines of old lakes. These form whenever debris, such as trees, boulders, and mud, temporarily clogs the entrance. The water forms ponds until the blockage is breached. Then the lake is emptied by a vast, sucking whirlpool in what must surely be one of nature’s great spectacles.

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Excerpt from “The Eureka Stockade” by Raffaello Carboni ~~Southern Cross~~

picture-eurekastockade-carboniON that Thursday, November 30th, more memorable than the disgraced Sunday, December 3rd, the SUN was on its way towards the west: in vain some scattered clouds would hamper its splendour — the god in the firmament generously ornamented them with golden fringes, and thus patches of blue sky far off were allowed to the sight, through the gilded openings among the clouds.
The “SOUTHERN CROSS” was hoisted up the flagstaff — a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length, and straight as an arrow. This maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self-overworking gold-diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the “Southern Cross” of the Ballaarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot, Bakery-hill. The flag is silk, blue ground, with a large silver cross, similar to the one in our southern firmament; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.
CAPTAIN Ross, of Toronto, was the bridegroom of our flag, and sword in hand, he had posted himself at the foot of the flag-staff, surrounded by his rifle division.
PETER LALOR, our Commander-in-chief, was on the stump, holding with his left hand the muzzle of his rifle, whose but-end rested on his foot. A gesture of his right hand, signified what he meant when he said, “It is my duty now to swear you in, and to take with you the oath to be faithful to the Southern Cross. Hear me with attention. The man who, after this solemn oath does not stand by our standard, is a coward in heart.
“I order all persons who do not intend to take the oath, to leave the meeting at once.
“Let all divisions under arms ‘fall in’ in their order round the flag-staff.”
The movement was made accordingly. Some five hundred armed diggers advanced in real sober earnestness, the captains of each division making the military salute to Lalor, who now knelt down, the head uncovered, and with the right hand pointing to the standard exclaimed a firm measured tone:
“WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS TO STAND TRULY BY EACH OTHER, AND FIGHT TO DEFEND OUR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES.”
An universal well rounded AMEN, was the determined reply; some five hundred right hands stretched towards our flag.
The earnestness of so many faces of all kinds of shape and colour; the motley heads of all sorts of size and hair; the shagginess of so many beards of all lengths and thicknesses; the vividness of double the number of eyes electrified by the magnetism of the southern cross; was one of those grand sights, such as are recorded only in the history of “the Crusaders in Palestine.”

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Excerpt from “War Cameraman – The Story of Damien Parer” by Neil McDonald ~~Wau~~

picture-warcameraman-mcdonaldBy February 1942 it was clear Australia itself was in peril. The decision that they were to return to Australia must have been a relief to Parer. His parents and his eldest sister, Doreen Owen, were in New Guinea which was likely to come under direct attack from the Japanese.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

While the two correspondents rested in Wau, Parer located his parents’ hotel and his brother-in-law’s house. Both had been hurriedly abandoned at the first news of the Japanese invasion.

The three fine billiard tables were all that was left of Dad’s hotel . . . I walked into the home where Dor [Doreen Owen] and Jock were living and picked up some cloth animals – now sorely battered – they were some I had sent them from Palestine last year – also the big leather cushion affair I had sent mother from the Mussky bazaar in Cairo! Bending down and opening a camphor wood box I found an envelope addressed to me! Mother had written, made a mistake in the spelling and put it aside – then the family album – photos of all of us – some I took myself. What a strange war it seemed to me. From the far sands of Egypt – I had come home to see my own people’s homes struck by the enemy.

Damien was deeply moved by this experience. For the first time, he was meeting people who had known his family in New Guinea and seeing places he only read about previously. He incorporated what he felt in a re-enacted sequence showing Bob Nesbitt of the NGVR returning to his bomb-shattered home in Wau. ‘CU [close up] He bends down and picks up a cloth animal – a symbol of the happy life of peace time and he looks over to photos on the wall of wife and children’. The cloth animals and the pictures were the same ones Parer had found in his sister’s abandoned house. He described this sequence as ‘Australians are here fighting right in their own homes.’

 

Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt surveying the damage
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Bob Nesbitt handling a cloth animal
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

 

Camera pans to photographs on the wall “War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

Camera pans to photographs on the wall
“War in New Guinea” Pathe Gazette Newsreel Issue 43-47

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Excerpt from “The Hundred Days of Lt. Machorton” by Ian Machorton ~~Lal Bahadur~~

picture-hundreddaysltmachorton-machortonFrom that ominously silent jungle across the railway track whence most of the firing had come, would there burst forth another charge? Or, even as we lay low waiting, were the Japs in the jungle behind us massing silently to complete the encirclement? An ammunition clip rang like a bell on the night air in the midst of the silence as someone to me left re-loaded his rifle. Someone to my left! Kulbahadur, I knew was by my right-hand, but who was at my left? My next duty as an officer was suddenly urgent. We must close up and keep contact. Whoever was on either side of me must be formed under my command into an integrated fighting force.
“Kulbahadur!” I whispered: “Eh! Kulbahadur!”
“Huzoor!” he answered softly.
“Is there anyone on your right, Kulbahadur?” I asked.
There was a pause of some seconds and then, having peered into the darkness: “I can’t see anyone, Sahib. Shall I go and look?”
“Yes. But very quietly” I said.
There came the clink of his empty cartridge cases, dislodged by his movements, striking the flints as they rolled down the embankment. Then silence again. A few minutes later, with a stealthy scuffling, he crawled up beside me to whisper in my ear. “I have found no-one, Sahib. Except four or five dead men.”
So I turned left to the Gurkha soldier lying immediately to my left to find out from him who I had with me on that side. “Pass the word down,” I told him. “Make contact with the man on your left!”
As if lost in thought the Gurkha soldier continued to stare fixedly at the impenetrable shadows of the jungle ahead of him across the embankment. His honey-coloured hands held his rifle in readiness, the taut readiness of a trained soldier ready for the next Jap attack. His obvious vigilance gave me an added sense of security. What better fighting soldiers could a young British officer wish for on each side of him than Gurkhas? For all his eagerness to be ready should another Jap charge come, this Gurkha must do what he was told. Impatiently I repeated my order, and when he still took no notice I exclaimed: “Eh – timi!” and stretched out my hand and pushed his shoulder roughly. He rolled over languidly and, amid an avalanche of small stones, slithered to the bottom of the embankment. He lay there in a crumpled heap, his upturned young face glistened in the moonlight. I lay paralysed.
The hasty hot words of reprimand were never said! I could only stare in horror at the smiling Gurkha boy who was younger even than I. I knew men were killed in war but it had never occurred to me that those I knew and liked would be killed. And killed beside me at that! Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa would never answer to my orders again.
Lal Bahadur had been close to me from the day I joined the Chindits back at Jhansi. Somehow or other he had always seemed to be there. All through those days of marching since we had crossed the Chindwin I had been somehow aware of his smiling young face, his virile young presence, marching onwards close to me. He was I knew little more than sixteen years old, and it was almost impossible to reconcile the grinning, tireless, Lal Bahadur with that body, which I could now see had a ragged hole the size of half a saucer in the back of the head, lying grotesquely at the embankment’s foot.

Rangoon Memorial within the Taukkyan War Cemetery ... Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa

Rangoon Memorial within the Taukkyan War Cemetery …
Rifleman Lal Bahadur Thapa

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