THIS is the story of Patrol Officer George Charlton Tuckey, who was born at Monkseaton, United Kingdom, on 21 June 1913 and died in Kundiawa in 1946.
Tuckey enlisted in the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles as a Sergeant, probably in Bulolo, just before World War II. On 22 January 1942 he re-enlisted at Bulldog with the wartime CMF (Citizen Military Forces) with the rank of Lieutenant and serial number NG2247.
He was transferred to the Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) on 13 January 1943 also with the rank of Lieutenant and serial number NGX309.
At some point, Tuckey, along with several hundred Army personnel, was assigned to the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit, ANGAU, where he served with the District Services Branch which included Kiaps, pre-war field officers and some military personnel.
He continued in military service until 17 April 1946 when he was discharged from the AIF and transferred to the Department of Native Affairs.
At the time, he was serving in the Central Highlands and simply took off his officer pips and continued doing his job but now as a post-war Kiap.
In late 1946, whilst establishing Kundiawa station, he was assigned the job of making sure that some cattle were moved from Bena Bena, near Goroka, to Kundiawa to establish a livestock project,
But after he got to Kundiawa with the cattle he was tragically gored to death by a bull. He was buried in Kundiawa.
The township slowly grew up around his grave, which was in the Assistant District Commissioner's front garden marked with a white cross. The house later became the Provincial Police Commander's residence.
George Tuckey’s matmat was periodically cleaned up and the cross renewed.
Sometime during my sojourn in Simbu (1977-86), George’s sister made enquiries about her brother’s grave and was reassured that it was being respected and cared for.
Today, the gravesite is overgrown and few people have any knowledge that a former Australian serviceman and Kiap is buried there.
More recently, the Port Moresby RSL Sub Branch has taken on the job of ensuring that George Charlton Tuckey is not forgotten and is pursuing efforts to re-establish his matmat with a suitable headstone.
The Simbu Provincial Government is also alert to the fact that one of the early Simbu Kiaps is still with them and it is keen to commemorate not only Tuckey but to honour the contribution of field officers who contributed to the region’s history and development.
Keith Jackson writes:
In April 1965, 50 years ago – under the headlines ‘Corporal’s Ghost Claim’ and ‘Tuckey’s Ghost Contacted?’ - I wrote two stories for the Kundiawa News about George Tuckey.
Here are a few paragraphs to give you a taste:
The ghost of George Tuckey is walking the streets of Kundiawa nearly 20 years after his death, a Kundiawa policeman says.
Ageing Corporal Arambi of the Kundiawa police detachment heard guitar music coming from the vicinity of police sub-inspector Graeme Breman’s house.
As he walked through the darkened grounds of the police station, he wondered whether the music could be coming from the lonely grave nearby.
He walked fearlessly to the grave and, as he reached it, the eerie music ceased.
There’s more – a lot more – the mysterious sound of a typewriter, the school teacher who was a medium, a shuffling apparition wearing white shirt and shorts and a cadet patrol officer gamely defying the supernatural by sleeping beside the grave.
Photo reconstruction: Mathias Kin