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« Key PNG issues 3: Education & training | Main | Key PNG issues 4: Region, defence & China »

23 January 2011


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It would appear that many of the Army problems lay with Colonel Scanlan. Lack of preparation and no planned escape route with supplies.

Wonder what happened to him Keith.

WGCDR John Lerew was a personal friend and what he wrote in late years and told me saved all but four of the RAAF personnel. In fact he was brilliant. On the escape some of his men were discarding equipment which he would pick up and then catch up to them and hand it back.

I still have some of John's original letters to me.

Leadership in crisis is a rare diamond.

In June and July 1942 two drafts of Australians captured on New Britain embarked for Japan. One draft, containing about 60 officers and 19 Australian women (including 6 Army nurses) led by Colonel J J Scanlan, reached Japan safely.

Scanlan, along with other officers from the POW camp, were later taken to Nisi Asi-Betu on Hokkaido to work in a coalmine.

Post-war, in 1946, Scanlan took up the position of governor at his former workplace, the Hobart Gaol, a position to which he was appointed while a prisoner of war. He died of a stroke on 6 December 1962 in hospital at Kingston, Tasmania.

[Information from Australian War Memorial & Wikipedia]

Thanks for this information, Keith.

My father was Ron Symons, a machine gunner with the 2/22 at Rabaul. He escaped along the north coast with others whose names I do not know.

I would like to learn who they were, as Ron was very ill with malaria during the weeks and months after the escape and survived thanks to their help.

Ron died on August 1 1996.

Remembering the men who were lost 69 years ago...thank you Keith.

If there is only one lesson to be learned from this debacle, it’s summed up by that old saying, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

Canberra had been warned for at least two years previously that PNG remained grossly under-defended from a potential Japanese attack. It did nothing but declare that the Territory’s miniscule defence was ‘adequate’.

Given the expenditure of probably billions of dollars and a huge cost in Allied dead and wounded which was needed to reclaim PNG, those in Canberra who sat on their hands in 1939, 1940 and 1941 and declared PNG’s defence ‘adequate’, ought to have been those who ended up being shot. Instead, they probably died of old age.

In the past 70 years, what have we learned? 3/5’s or 5/8’s of SFA.

“There are none so blind as those who will not see!”

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