VALE: Sergeant Ben Moide CBE . . .

Ben Moide 7We were saddened to learn today (30 December 2013) of Sergeant Ben Moide’s passing in Port Moresby.

However we will be eternally grateful that Ben’s heroic story has been captured by Mr Lahui Ako in his book ‘Nameless Warriors’ published by the University of Papua New Guinea Press and Bookshop in 2012. Lahui Ako wrote of his race against time to complete the book. He was aware ‘that God could call the old man to rest at any time while I laboured on. So in between writing, prayers went up to the Almighty to allow the old man to live longer in order to personally witness the completion of this project.’

We can only thank God his prayers were answered because Ben Moide’s story is a vital contribution to our understanding of the complexities of the war from a Papuan viewpoint. This aspect has been neglected by recent authors and publishers on the Kokoda campaign because of their own lack of empathy with PNG. Lahui Ako discovered this when he was advised by a potential Australian publisher that Ben Moide’s version of the Kokoda campaign ‘was not recognised in Australia’. [Read more…]

Network Kokoda helps to make ‘PNG Hep B Free’

Alice LeeOur Kokoda networks have been engaged to help Dr Alice Lee achieve her goal of making ‘PNG Hep B Free’.

Chronic hepatitis B, the world’s second most potent carcinogen, is a life-long illness and prevalent throughout PNG. Hepatitis B is chronic if it has been in the body for more than six months. It occurs when the body cannot get rid of the virus, so it stays inside the body and can eventually lead to severe liver disease and liver cancer if left untreated. Chronic hepatitis B usually has no symptoms and that is why it is so dangerous.

A/Professor Dr Lee, MBBS (Hons), FRACP, PhD (University of Sydney) is a human dynamo. She is a Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist; Senior Staff Specialist, Concord Repatriation General Hospital; Head Gastroenterology, Macquarie University Hospital; VMO, The Canterbury hospital; Co-founder and Director: Hepatitis B free (non for profit charity to improve health outcomes to disadvantaged communities); President: Korean Australian Medical Association; Chair: Korean Health Committee; and Vice President: World Korean Medical Organisation

With generous support from Sue Huntley of Huntley Clinical Research Services they have formed a group with the primary aim of improving health delivery to Oro Province in PNG, up skilling the local health care workers through education and sourcing of ongoing training tools. They also plane to explore ways to improve nutrition and reduce preventable parasite infestation, i.e. worms. [Read more…]

RIP: Ovoru Indiki – Wartime Carrier, Naduri Village

Ovoru Indiki Naduri Village April 2003

Kokoda trekkers who had the great pleasure of meeting Ovoru Indiki in Naduri village will be saddened to learn of his passing on 15 November 2013.

Ovoru was a respected chief of Naduri Village which is about halfway across the Owen Stanley Ranges east of the Kokoda Trail. I believe he would have been in his early 60’s when I first met him in 1991 however it is difficult to substantiate his exact age because of the lack of records in PNG at the time of his birth.  He would therefore now be in his late 80’s.

Ovoru was a teenager when war came to PNG with the bombings of Port Moresby in 1942.  Like many Papuans at the time they did not understand the war and did not know what was happening. Like many others he fled back to the safety of his village from the city. It was a long trek and he recalled to me that he was very frightened at the time. He was later recruited to help carry desperately supplies forward for the Australian troops fighting on the trail.

On his return journeys he often came across wounded Australian’s who could struggle no further. Ovoru and his friends would always stop and build a stretcher to carry the wounded digger back to ‘the care of doctor’s at the bottom of the track’ on the Sogeri Plateau.  It was a slow and tortuous journey which took up to three weeks to complete.  Ovoru was always proud that he was able to help our diggers in this way. There sacrifice on our behalf was immortalised by Sapper Bert Beros in his tribute poem, ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels’. Beros wrote it in the field hospital at Sogeri whilst he was convalescing after being carried off the track.  His grandson and great-grandson have followed in his footsteps with Adventure Kokoda. [Read more…]

PNG: Wouldn’t it be great if ……

Charlie Lynn Kokoda Web

 ”PNG is one of our three top-priority foreign policy challenges, along with China-US relations and the future of Indonesia. The deep nature of the problems in PNG makes it perhaps the toughest we face. It is the one which probably places the biggest demands directly on Australia, and the only one we face largely alone”.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Wouldn’t it be great if, during the current election campaign, our political leaders took time out from faux debates,  shopping centre strolls, kindergarten raids and baby-kissing and and let us know what their plans are to address the challenges our Melanesian neighbours face within our ‘arc of instability’.

Wouldn’t it be great, if, they were to announce:

  • The establishment of a ‘Minister for Melanesia’ with a Department of Melanesian Affairs to focus on our relationship with the island nations in our region.
  • The introduction of ‘Melanesian Studies’ into our education system at Primary, Secondary and Tertiary level to provide a deeper understanding of the range and complexities of Melanesian culture.
  • The introduction of ‘Pacific Military History’ to encourage young Australians to visit the battlesites that helped forge our identity during World War 11. Build more bridges!
  •  A ‘Seasonal Work Plan’ that would marry up PNG ‘wan tok’ communities with Australian ‘Wan Tok’ farming communities e.g. Koiari with the Mallee; Orokaiva with The Hunter; Sepik with the Barossa; etc. etc. Included in the plan would be a compulsory educational component and a system of saving through remittance.
  • A ‘Melanesian Exchange Program’ for public servants in all portfolio areas to assist in changing the culture of poor governance in Melanesia.
  • Introduction of a ‘Melanesian Kiap Scheme’ to provide an opportunity for Australian graduates to live in villages and work in selected areas in partnership with PNG graduates for periods of up to two years.
  • A ‘Melanesian Peacekeeping Force’ which included provision for long term exchange programs with the Australian Defence Force.
  • Acceptance of a PNG National Rugby League Team into the Australian Rugby League competition (nothing would do more to unite the various PNG ‘wan-tok’ cultures than this initiative). [Read more…]

2014 ANZAC Trek across the Kokoda Trail

1942 Kokoda BadgeThere is no more memorable way to commemorate the sacrifice of our veterans than by linking a trek across the Kokoda Trail with the official ANZAC Dawn Service in Port Moresby.

Bomana War Cemetery is the largest in the Pacific with 3779 graves. The cemetery lies in a serene tropical garden 19 kilometres north of Port Moresby off Pilgrims’ Way. The cemetery was begun by the army in 1942 and formally dedicated by the Governor-General of Australia, Field Marshall Sir William Slim, on 19 October 1953. Those who died fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried here.  The official ANZAC Day Service is attended by veterans and dignitaries from across the Pacific.  The Australian Defence Force provides the Catafalque Party at the Cross of Sacrifice and Papuan soldiers form a Guard of Honour. The service includes a martial band and the angelic voices of a local school choir.

The solemn silence of the pre-dawn is a time for quiet reflection on your trekking experience.  The first glint of light on the endless rows of polished marble headstones is a humbling reminder of the price of freedom and the sacrifice involved to secure it.  The candle-lit faces of more than a thousand Anzac pilgrims bow in silence as an army bugler sounds Reveille. A lone bagpiper then moves among the headstones  to the haunting tune of Flowers in the Forest which bids farewell to the dead.

Our ANZAC treks follow the original wartime trail and include authentic historical briefings at all battlesites and other significant areas. They also include a moving battlefield Dawn Service at the Isurava War Memorial and a Remembrance Service at the 21st Brigade Headquarters position on Brigade Hill.

At Bomana the Cross of Sacrifice, the Memorial to the Missing and the Stone of Remembrance are built of a particularly beautiful golden-coloured sandstone.  The graves are marked with polished marble headstones and dressed in uniform rows on sloping lawns between the Stone of Remembrance and the Cross of Sacrifice.

On a rise at the rear of the cemetery is the Port Moresby Memorial to the Missing which consists of a rotunda of cylindrical pillars enclosing a circle of square pillars with bronze panels engraved with the names of 703 Australians as well as Papua and New Guinea local forces listed as missing-in-action. The names of the battlefields on which the men died are carved on the entablature above the pillars. In the centre is a topograph with a bronze compass showing the direction of the distant New Guinea battlefields. [Read more…]

BOMANA DAWN SERVICE – The only place to be on Anzac Day in PNG

Anzac Day Dawn services are traditionally held at cenotaphs, shrines, war cemeteries and local  monuments around Australia.

The Service has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for attacks, the stand-to was repeated at sunset.

After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they had felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn. A dawn vigil, recalling the wartime front line practice of the dawn ‘stand-to’, became the basis of a form of commemoration in several places after the war.

Today dawn services include the presence of a chaplain, but not the presence of dignitaries such as the governor general. They were originally very simple and followed the military routine. In many cases, attendance at the dawn service was restricted to veterans, while the daytime ceremony was for families and other well-wishers. Before dawn, the gathered veterans would be ordered to “stand to” and two minutes’ silence would follow. At the end of this time a lone bugler would play the Last Post and then conclude the service with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up. [Read more…]

War Cemetries in Papua New Guinea

Cross of Sacrifice, Bomana War Cemetery

Wartime journalists wrote that our diggers often feared the jungle of Papua and New Guinea more than they feared the enemy.  It was a hell of place to die.There were times when the badly wounded were given morphine and a gun and left to the mercy of the enemy to cover their mates escape. ‘Goodbye cobber, may God Bless You’ was whispered as a farewell salute.

Others had to be left where they fell. When time and circumstances permitted they were given a burial service and the site was recorded on crude sketch maps for recovery at a later time. Many were never to be found.

‘I have seen the time when you dig a number of holes in the ground and bury your dead’
wrote Laurie Howson of the 39th Battalion.  ‘Nothing would be said, but you think ‘maybe it will be my turn next.’

Seventy years on our veterans of the war in Papua and New Guinea are at rest in three beautifully manicured cemeteries in Port Moresby (Bomana), Rabaul (Bita Paka) and Lae. [Read more…]

‘Kokoda70’ launched by PNG Prime Minister, The Hon Peter O’Neill MP, on 70th Anniversary of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbour

‘Kokoda70’ is an initiative of Air Niugini and Network Kokoda.  The commemorative period was lanunched by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at Parliament House in Port Moresby on the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbour.  The occassion was attended by The  Hon Sir Mekere Morauta MP, Minister for Public Enterprise; the Hon Benjamin Philipp MP, Minster for Tourism, Culture and Arts; Governor of Eastern Highland Province, Mal Smith CMG, MBE, DFC, MP; Dame Carol Kidu MP; H.E. Ian Kemish, Australian High Commissiner, representatives of the PNG RSL, the Kokoda Track Authority and the Kokoda Initiative (AusAID).

The Prime Minister’s speech was delivered by Governor Mal Smith:

‘Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

‘Seventy years ago today Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbour, Honolulu.

‘The attack triggered a military tsunami that spread across the Pacific and reached our shores in Rabaul six weeks later.

‘Papua New Guinea would never be the same again.

‘Although our Melanesian Island had been colonised by the Dutch, the British, the Germans and the Australians, few Papua New Guineans knew much about the world beyond our tribal borders in 1942.

‘We were not equipped for a war with modern weapons. We didn’t know anything about the new ‘invaders’ with guns, warships and planes from Japan, America and Australia.

‘It was not our war but we were quickly engulfed by it. [Read more…]

2011 Kokoda Day commemorated in Sydney

Chairman, Network Kokoda

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered here today to commemorate the raising of the Australian Flag at Kokoda Village on 3rd  November 1942, 69 years ago today by Major General George Vasey, the Commander of the Australian 7th Division.  This event symbolised the turning of the tide in the war against Japan and was warmly acclaimed by both the Australian soldiers present and the group of PNG carriers and Kokoda villagers in attendance.

Japanese plans for a seaborne invasion of Port Moresby had been thwarted bu Australian and American naval forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942 and the battle of Midway in early June 1942.  This left them with the only option of a land assault over the Owen Stanley Ranges via the Kokoda Trail.  Their infantry forces started landing on the beach at Gona on 21st July 1942. [Read more…]

Wartime tourism in Papua New Guinea

Seventy years after the war in the Pacific the Kokoda Trail has become a gateway for a wartime tourism industry in Papua New Guinea.

Over the past decade 30,000 Australians from all walks of life have taken up the challenge of trekking across the arduous trail that connects remote mountain villages between the north and south coast of the island nation.  Their reasons for trekking are varied. Most have an interest in the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign, some want to experience the rawness of village cultures and the pristine jungle environment while others do it simply ‘because it’s there’!

Whatever the reason the journey dispels many of the myths of travel to Papua New Guinea and opens eyes to opportunities for adventure travel within the land of the last adventure.  Over the years various writers have tried to caption the essence of the ‘PNG experience’. It has been referred to as the ‘land of a thousand cultures’ with a ‘Parliament  of a thousand tribes’. Others refer to it as the ‘land of the unexpected’. [Read more…]