FOUR SCHOOL BOYS - two Foi, two Huli - and I walk from Lake Kutubu to Mendi via Paguare, Ewari, Augu, Halalinja, Nipa, Egenda and Iore.
Before I leave my school, Murray Rule of the Unevangelised Fields Mission in Inu, who has also walked this route, gives me a letter for District Commissioner David Marsh in which he offers his opinion regarding the suitability of the route as a future vehicular road.
Upon arrival, I give the letter to Marsh, who seems a very pleasant man.
“What do you think?” he asks.
I naively give an opinion: “If there is a great need for a road into that area, no doubt it will be built; otherwise the route is far too difficult.”
When I step out of the aeroplane on my return to Mendi in February 1967, David Marsh and District Education Inspector Albert Baglee greet me.
This is most unusual and the reason quickly becomes apparent when Baglee tells me I am to be in charge of the Primary ‘A’ School.
“But I’m not qualified to teach European children!” I protest.
“You are experienced in multi-class teaching and will be quite capable of teaching in the school,” Baglee maintains.
His comment also explains Marsh’s presence. He has two young daughters, Susan and Dianne, who attend the school.
During the year I marry the new Primary ‘A’ School teacher.
I meet Ida St Roche Kent, a friend of my wife’s family, who had been a Church of England missionary in Papua before World War II. She was fortunate to have been evacuated.
The ‘heroic’ Bishop Philip Strong (like the equally heroic General 'Dugout Doug' MacArthur, the ‘Hero of Bataan’) fled to escape the all-conquering Japanese after exhorting his field staff to remain to help the villagers during the coming difficult times.
David Marsh, who went to TPNG in pre-war days as a mining engineer, is closely associated with the Anglican Mission and, I am told, gives Sunday School lessons.
Ida St Roche Kent very likely knows of David Marsh. She certainly knows the other missionaries.
Now back in Australia, I am appointed to the staff at Woodridge State School in Queensland. One of the female pupils is a mixed-race ex-TPNG girl, Louise Artango. I teach her brother the following year; he is a promising boxer.
It is now many years later. I chance to read, Alan Powell’s book, The third force: ANGAU’s New Guinea war 1942-46 (Oxford University Press). David Marsh had been in ANGAU.
The author mentions Marsh as being one of the first to reach the site where Strong’s Anglican missionaries were last known to be. He found their graves. The mission party had been massacred by the Japanese.
War correspondent Raymond Paull wrote of the Buna massacre:
The rapid [Japanese] advance inland trapped many of the Europeans at the hospitals, missions and plantations on the Buna coast [of east Papua]. Few succeeded in eluding the enemy and crossing the [Owen Stanley] mountains to the south coast.
Lt Louis Austin and an Anglican mission party travelling from Ioma to Tufi were betrayed to the Japanese by the natives of Perembata village. [The group consisted of] Miss Margaret Branchley, Miss Lillian Lashman, the Rev Henry Holland, the Rev Vivian Hedlich, Mr John Duffill, two half-caste mission workers, Louise Artango and Anthony Gore, and Gore's six-year-old son.
A surviving Japanese POW described how the youngest victim, the adolescent mixed race girl, Louise Artango, had been murdered.
I immediately think of that girl in my 1976 class who was a few years younger than the bayonetted girl. I ring Dale Artango, the brother of the girl I had taught.
He tells me his sister, Louise, had been named after an aunt killed by the Japanese in Papua.
So it was that the Artangos had a long, close, emotion-filled if unknown connection with David Marsh.
This is the end of my chain of Marshian irrelevancies.