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18 January 2018

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I have been asked why I made such a mess of my explanation of some events in Chapter 16. Was it a factor of old age? Maybe, and maybe the paragraph below will clarify some of the confusion.

The long-held plan to eradicate all outsiders was activated the previous day during a meeting at Ankavip village. Purely by chance, part of that plan was derailed by two unrelated events: Baptist missionary Norm Draper had woken bright and early on the day of the murders and walked from the mission to the government station to use the teleradio to order some stores from Wewak. A little while later a Norseman aircraft landed on the airstrip.

To avert any suspicions or forebodings, the Telefomin villagers had visited the station with food for sale earlier that morning. But after those two events they did not follow through on their other allocated tasks. They did not kill the government station personnel. They did not place logs across the airstrip to prevent aircraft from landing. And they did not kill Draper.

Now to the query of how Draper became aware that the patrol led by Harris had been attacked.

Tegori, Harris’s mankimasta carried the news from Terapdavip to Telefomin. He had discarded his shirt and shorts to avoid detection and was wearing the traditional phalocrypt when he reported to Lance Corporal Sauweni, who was already on the alert. Constable Yendabari’s wife had told Sauweni she had been warned of an impending attack and that groups of armed men had been seen near the station.

Sauweni organized Draper to transmit the news to Wewak and despatched Constables Yendabari and Lego with four rifles and spare ammunition to relieve the Harris party. He then bluffed 50 or so armed Telefomin men into surrendering. Those men were later flown to Wewak, convicted of minor charges and gaoled.

In the investigations over the following months, it became clear that practically everyone could have been arrested, because everyone was involved. The kiaps involved - Crellin, Jones, Nolen, Wearne and Zweck - only apprehended the 135 most culpable and, of them, only 37 were committed to stand trial.

I was never accompanied on any patrol by a senior officer, neither my first or last. Some of those were contact patrols. I had a vague idea of how patrols should be run and made up the rest myself.

I think this was a lot more common than people think.

Just great Bill.

The nominal restrictions on what CPO's or APO's were allowed to do were of interest to me.

My first two patrols as a brand new APO in 1969/70 were in the Kukukuku country north of Kerema. This area had been officially declared "controlled' only a couple of years earlier, but that control was still fairly tenuous at best.

On neither of those patrols was I accompanied by a senior officer, other than by ADO John Mundell for the first week of a 32 day patrol surveying a road between Kaintiba Patrol Post and Murua Agricultural Station.

John was recalled for some reason and I was left to my own devices under the wise guidance of the redoubtable Father Alex Michelod, who was helping survey the road.

The second time I was dropped off by helicopter at a remote mountain village in the same area to coordinate efforts to deal with the Hong Kong influenza epidemic of 1969/70. On that occasion I was accompanied by two very capable Medical Assistants and two experienced RPNGC constables.

The patrol was threatened at one point, being accused of working black magic and causing the epidemic which, in a way, was partially true. After all, if PNG had been left undisturbed, maybe the flu would never have got there.

Anyway, that was the only time I felt obliged to carry a loaded revolver (a very inaccurate .38 Smith and Wesson) and a much more dangerous .303 Lee Enfield Carbine. Happily, the threats amounted to nothing but it was, I think, an act of faith by DC Bob Bell to hope and believe that a very inexperienced officer would not get into strife.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that he was scraping the bottom of the proverbial staffing barrel to get the job done and an 18 year old novice was the only resource available to do it. There seem to me to be echoes of the situation at Telefomin in the mid 1950's in what happened to me, although perhaps I am drawing too long a bow in saying this.

In any event, it must have been contrary to policy to send me off alone, so Bob was taking a risk on me both surviving and not managing to do any harm as well.

So, I guess not as much had changed since the opening up of Telefomin even 15 years later.

Thanks Bill. It made me tired just reading it all. What an extraordinary time for TPNG.

I have posted your account on various Sepik Facebook Forums... including the Telefomin Forum, so will wait to see what sort of comments we get.

I collected various great photos from the region, usually taken by geologists or other mining people but my computer crashed and I may have lost them. Will have to go and see if they are still there.

Great to know the history at Telefomin. I knew Oksapmin,Tekin, Bimin as an agricultural officer. Was Tony Friend the last expatriate district officer in Telefomin?

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