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05 February 2017


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Jack Butt, a Tol Plantation massacre victim was a great friend of Harold Griffiths, a former president and rower in the Bendigo Rowing Club.

They competed together for a number of years before enlisting.

This year 2018 we are presenting the Butt Griffiths Cup to a winning men's pair oared crew at our annual regatta in their memory.

I am writing a book for the two survivors of the 2/22nd Battalion still living and those who have sadly passed away.

There are many stories of the Japanese in Rabaul. How do I know if they are factual? Stories differ, perhaps over time, some details are forgotten. It is the 'why' I am interested in.

Why were the 2/22nd left languishing in camp for so long thinking they were heading for Egypt when the plan was to head for the South Pacific? Uniforms worn were meant for desert warfare.

WW1 guns both big and small were wrong guns for the jungle. But that was all they had to fight with and hardly any ammunition.

There is so much more that went wrong. But what is the correct story? I have stories from some who were there but is the truth of what they didn't know I am after. The 'why' of everything.

Japanese Atrocities,
The Tol Plantation Massacre needs more recognition, here in Australia
Lest We Forget

My father Thomas Webb, NX45161, a medical soldier lost his life on 4 th February, 1942 during the Tol Plantation massacre. I spent a week in Rabaul for ANZAC commemoration ceremonies to remember the massacre 70 years on. This was in 2012. Not many of the men were married so not a lot of children to remember them. I seemed to be the only one. I was very touched by the stories of the children of the civilians who were evacuated to Australia with their mother’s while their fathers remained. When they returned home after the war they had no homes or possessions and still don’t know what happenedto their fathers.

Thankyou for this article. My grandfather, Wilke 'Bill' Collins, was one of the survivors of the Tol massacre. And I've read various versions of the story over the years.

He was part of the 2/10 Ambulance... yes, merely an ambulance driver, and was pretty severely injured during the event. Bayonet wounds, and a bullet lodged near his spine.

He never mentioned his experiences, and was a very quiet man in his later life when I knew him. And it was really only after his passing that I heard the story. The injuries he sustained back then were problematic for the rest of his life.

After his ordeal, and recovery back in Sydney, he re-enlisted (he had to lie about his birth date to do so) to help further with the war effort here in Australia.

I wouldn't be here if he hadn't survived...

Well said Chris. You have risen well to the occasion.

I shared an Admin house with Ataturk's distant cousin in Lae in 1969.

Who I proposed for and who was accepted for social membership of Lae RSL.

And Slim said nice things about kiaps - bless his soul.

While I agree that the veneration given to the Anzac landing is, at times, overdone, it is not entirely true to say that Kemal Ataturk was the only "bright star" to arise from that appalling conflict.

It is fair comment to assert that many of the commanders of the Anzac force suffered from the same startling lack of intelligence, imagination and insight that was apparently endemic during World War 1.

That said, Gallipoli was the crucible from which at least three very important Australian generals were to emerge, all of them scarred by the experience and determined not to repeat it.

First, and foremost, was General Sir John Monash, undoubtedly one of the outstanding generals of World War 1. Monash deserves much greater recognition than he has received for his major contribution to the eventual allied victory.

The failure to make Monash Australia's first Field Marshal reflects very badly on an Australian government that apparently could not quite get over his Jewish and German ancestry.

Second, the Anzac landing was a formative experience for Field Marshall Sir Thomas Blamey, who commanded the Australian Army during World War 2.

While not an admirable character in many ways, Blamey proved to be an outstanding "political" general and made a very important contribution to the war effort.

Third, was Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead, who master minded the successful defence of Tobruk against the then rampant Afrika Korps, commanded by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, perhaps Germany's best field commander of World War 2.

Morsehead was a desperately underrated general who probably suffered because he was only a "colonial" officer and hence not fit to be in the first rank of commanders.

Also worthy of note was British Field Marshal Viscount William Slim, who was seriously wounded at Gallipoli and ultimately went on the lead the successful British offensive in Burma, operating under incredibly difficult conditions to defeat a hitherto undefeated Japanese Army.

Slim was a true fighting soldier, deeply concerned about the welfare of his troops, who went on to become a very respected and popular Governor General of Australia.

While inadequate commanders do tend to be in relatively great abundance during the initial stages of both world war 1 and world war 2, they tend to be replaced by the grimly competent fairly rapidly.

So, while I freely acknowledge that Ataturk was far and away the most important military figure to emerge from the lethal cauldron of Anzac, there were others who are worthy of merit as well.


Considering that the FW's end up in charge and by en large have done so again, I sincerely doubt we'll ever see that particular National Day of Mourning being gazetted.

Sapos bai yumi bin girapim traipla haus krai olsem em yet bai inoinap lo stretim dispela aswa bilo ol.

We really need a special day to remember all the fuckwits Paul.

Better start making a list.

National Fuckwit Day?

Anzac. The only bright star out of the Anzac fiasco was the defending Turkish commander, Kemal Ataturk, who went on to greatness as the founder of modern Turkey.

Not withstanding John Monash, who also went on to greatness as a general and a knight of the realm, being knighted in the field of Flanders by the British king.

What we apparently don't remember however Peter, is the fools that allowed these travesties to happen in the first place.

Lest we don't forget those people especially and yet we continue to do so again and again.

The Japanese committed similar atrocities all over Asia and the Pacific.

Ones that never get a mention are the fate of the 3-4,000 Indian troops that were done away with in the Sepik or the New Guinea Islands men who made up most of the Japanese initial cargo boi and carrier lines in their Papuan foray and who never went home, or the more than 500 Royal Artillery gunners exterminated on Balele Island off Buin. And so many more.

Vale Lark Force and the other battalion that went 'into the bag' at Ambon.

We do remember them.

And still wondering Keith - it's not a question easily answered.

That line up is quite unique in itself and doesn't bear much relation to newspapers and magazines. PNG Attitude is certainly not the 'Daily Telegraph' nor the 'Melbourne Age' of the blogosphere.

I've quite often read something and then discounted it, especially when I've been compiling the Crocodile anthologies, and then come back to it after it has racked up lots of 'likes'.

The odd sporting piece seems to do well, especially around State of Origin time. Be interesting to see how sex and violence goes. Or maybe a page three pin-up (any volunteers?).

Maybe we should just concede that PNG Attitude, by intent or not, is unique and in a class of its own.

500 'likes' and counting Bernard and William.

I've never been able to figure out what actually appeals to PNG Attitude readers - and I've tried a few ideas out.

This military stuff seems to have wide appeal for some strange reason.

Perhaps dwelling on disastrous wars is a relief from our current politics.

It's a question you've asked a few times previously, Phil, so let me look over the last couple of months and see what has done well (cut off = more than 50 likes in a slow part of the year).

PNG celebrities who write provocative pieces are well regarded. Tanya Zeriga-Alone (324 likes), Martyn Namorong (200), Winnie Kiap (129) and Elvina Ogil (59) performed strongly of late.

Dramatic history does well - especially if it reaches a broad reader catchment in PNG and beyond. The Tol piece (505) was, as you've observed, certainly a hit with our readers.

Tangible issues that immediately impact on PNG readers usually do OK. A recent one concerned the corrupt diversion of funds that eabled the Highlands Highway to become a goat track (78 likes).

Stories of personal hardship, inspiration and success get up there. Like Caroline Evari's recent 'Run Hard' (64).

Factual stuff on the Croc Prize - a matter of great interest to many reader/writers has done well. A piece by Manu Peni chalked up 74 a few days back.

The best we ever did was 1.6K (over a thousand likes the stats are rounded out this way) for Alexander Nara's 'Silent Tears' - a true story about the Bougainville civil war that had plenty of drama, tragedy, bravery, tears and hope. Our PNG readers loved this. And that's a pretty universal formula - KJ

Yes -my father was a volunteer rifle who with others escaped. He managed to get away with one other who I I believe stole a boat from a mission down the south coast of New Britain.

They begged the missionaries to come with them but they believed the Japs would not harm them because of there faith.

He was physically in a very poor state with only a ragged pair of pants to his name. He was sent back to Australia then joined the Australian airforce and went to the Northern Territory working in the bush with a group.

His notes on the escape are held in Camberra and he is mentioned in Ian Townsend's book Line of Fire.

Your report could explain why we found it hard to get information about him from Camberra - my brother was told it was classified information.

He later went back to Rabaul as officer in charge of public works for the rebuild of Rabaul - we lived on Namanula Hill. His name was George Ian MacLennan - mac with an a not Mc as every one tends to do .

My grandparents went to New Guines in the early 1900s and owned Arawa plantation - they also went back to Arawa - we would go to the old homestead that was bombed remains and have picnics - it was in a beautiful spot.

What a horror story. The fate of those soldiers is heartbreaking.

Dear Phil and William,
There is an interesting book entitled What's wrong with Anzac? -The militarisation of Australian history byMarilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds.
It is somewhat controversial and suggests that the Anzac obsession distorts our understanding of the past and replaces historical fact with mythology.They investigate official sponsorship of Anzac through the funding of commemoration and education and expose the ways it has been mobilised as a conservative political force. It also questions whether nations are really made in war and whether the deaths and loss on foreign shores have been justified.
A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end.
It is well worth reading.

Good on yer Philip. Circus being the operative word. Pomp and ceremony. Inherited from good old Blighty. Paid for by yours truly, the good old taxpayer.

"Constant public breast beating by governments or individuals may eventually wear thin and ultimately debase the events".

Just like Gallipoli and the Kokoda campaign and the whole circus ANZAC Day has become.

It is not correct to say that details of the massacre were suppressed. There were widespread press reports of the massacre in most Australian newspapers from April 1942 onwards as well as an official army report from Port Moresby in 1942.

In 1945 Justice Sir William Webb released a report into Japanese atrocities which again led to nationwide press reporting, calls for revenge and manifest expressions of horror.

As the New Guinea campaign wound up in New Britain there were many reports stating that most of the perpetrators of the Tol massacre had probably died in battle or had committed suicide.

I think the lack of knowledge or interest in the Tol massacre, the Montevideo Maru tragedy, the Sandakan Death March and dozens of other incidents is a function of time and a different generation of Australians.

The descendants of the victims of these tragedies will never forget and will always honour those brave and unfortunate men and women.

Constant public breast beating by governments or individuals may eventually wear thin and ultimately debase the events.

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