SIR Colman Michael O’Loghlen, who had a long association with Papua New Guinea as a soldier and a jurist, will be buried today after dying peacefully in his sleep in southern Queensland last week.
Colman and Margaret O’Loghlen were close friends of the Parer families pre-war Wau. “They had eight children all educated at best schools in Melbourne,” says Rob Parer, “so you can imagine all the organising Margaret had to do to keep an eye on them during the school holidays.”
Sir Colman’s forebear, Sir Michael O’Loghlen (1789-1842), was a distinguished Irish lawyer who was awarded a baronetcy. Two of his sons Colman and Bryan became the second and third baronets and both were also prominent lawyers, Colman in Ireland and Bryan in Australia.
Sir Colman became heir to the Irish title of baronet in 1943, when his elder brother, Flying Officer Ross Bryan O'Loghlen, was executed in Rabaul while a prisoner of the Japanese.
When World War II came to Papua New Guinea Margaret was evacuated but Sir Colman, by now a lawyer in Wau, stayed on and joined the army (NGX303. NGVR and ANGAU), rising to the rank of Captain in Kanga Force, the nucleus of which was drawn from the peacetime militia, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles.
Sometimes identifiable by gorgeous bird of paradise plumes stuck in their decrepit felt hats, the NGVR included bush-wise gold prospectors, government officers, miners, lawyers and clerks, including Col O'Loghlen who (as Sir Colman) was to succeed to an Irish baronetcy.
“The majority of Kanga Force troops were commandos, drawn from Australian independent companies,” Peter Ryan wrote in The Australian in 2007. “They were tough, well trained and apt at learning the special skills of New Guinea jungle fighting.
“No flight of enemy aircraft took off to raid Port Moresby from Lae or Salamaua unobserved by scouts, with warnings flashed to Moresby,” Ryan wrote. “Kanga Force also monitored Japanese movements along the Markham River Valley and barge supply traffic around the coast from Madang.
“Based in hinterland posts around the peacetime goldfields of Wau and the Bulolo Valley - perpetually threatened but never dislodged - Kanga Force remained a thorn in the enemy's side, a pebble in his shoe, a menacing and mysterious distraction whose shadowy presence held down many thousands of his troops.”
After the war, Sir Colman became a magistrate in Lae and an acting judge of the Supreme Court.
He later moved to the small Gippsland town of Trafalgar where he practised as a barrister. In March 1952 it was reported in the press that he had succeeded to the baronetcy as the sixth baron some eight months previously and had tried to keep it a secret from his friends and colleagues.
His wife Margaret predeceased Sir Colman and he is survived by their eight children and many other descendants.