KUNDIAWA - I must commend Peter Krantz for his recent article ‘The bloody early years of outside engagement with the Simbu’.
I believe the stories Peter related are an important part of Chimbu and New Guinea history that must be told to our younger generations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Commenting on this article, Fr Garry Roche mentioned the Chimbu Valley shooting of Fr Karl Morschheuser SVD and Br Eugene Frank SVD but did not tell the Chimbu side of the story.
In early 1935, the press in Australia mentioned only the killing of the two white men. The fate of the Chimbu people who died was not considered to be of interest. I guess nothing much has changed.
So here’s the other side of the story from the Chimbu Valley, where an estimated 100 or so men were killed in the days following the shooting of the two missionaries.
A big number that never got a mention in the Australian press. Not even the Pope knew of those souls that perished by the guns of Christian men whose fifth Commandment said, “Thou shall not kill”.
Assistant District Officer (ADO) James Lindsay Taylor was in-charge of the government patrol that went into the Chimbu Valley on 16 January 1935 to investigate and arrest the men who shot the missionaries.
However, this task of identifying the culprits who shot the two missionaries from an estimated 10,000 natives in the valley was challenging.
On 11 February at the present day Gembogl station, 35 Mauglak and Inaugl warriors were shot dead by the Taylor patrol. At the time the two tribes were engaged in warfare on opposite sides of the Chimbu River.
A government officer reported that only five men had been shot. But this was a mass killing, by definition a massacre, and it happened in comparatively modern times.
Part of the Taylor team was a young Danny Leahy, younger brother of gold prospector Michael, who was made a special constable for the purpose of this expedition. He was included in the contingent of 12 New Guinea Police Force (NGPF) men.
A month after this, 70 Chimbu Valley men were marched 700 kilometers to Salamaua on the Morobe coast. One could only imagine the atrocious conditions these men, many of them tribal chiefs, endured.
First, they suffered in a notorious pit prison at the Chimbu-Wahgi post for 30 days and then, during 26 days walking tied to the hand of the next prisoner, they suffered through the highlands cold and the lowlands tropical heat treated less as men, some of real standing, and more as sub-humans.
While held in Salamaua for many months, many died of coastal diseases and were buried far away from their loved ones. Sometime later, many of the remaining men who returned to their homes also died of these diseases. The world did not know of these tragedies.
An earlier killing on 21 August 1933 at Waingar, two kilometers from present day Mingende Catholic Mission Station mentioned by Peter Krantz, occurred on the return trip from Mt Hagen by the Taylor-Leahy patrol and involved Taylor himself, surveyor Ken Spinks and two NGPF men.
Taylor reported that one man was killed by the patrol but in my findings, supported by anthropologist Paula Brown and others, five men of the Waugla Muguaku tribe were killed after a knife was stolen.
In September 2014, I wrote in PNG Attitude of another massacre among my Keri Golen people at Sua in late 1946 when John Amery ‘Jack’ Costelloe was Assistant District Officer at Kundiawa. Robin and Carolyn Hide later provided an addendum to my article.
Costelloe’s presence at the shooting in Sua was uncertain but, in ensuing days, my article generated a lively discussion which included denials from some writers that this could have occurred and, sadly, personal accusations of bias against me.
In my studies, and as I progress steadily through my sizeable ‘History of Chimbu’, I have come to realise that the work by kiaps to assert control of the communities might have been seen as taking too long.
So, to hasten efforts in areas where there was rampant tribal fighting, the kiaps decided upon big impact shooting so the tribes would see and learn from them and hopefully cease their warfare.
In other words, the kiaps intended to teach the kanakas a lesson. This style of shooting happened at Gembogl, at Sua and also in other parts of Chimbu.
One area of mutual practice among these early Australian colonial officers in charge of patrols, was that they did not accurately report their killings of indigenous people to their superiors. Often they would understate the deaths and sometimes they did not report them at all.
In the years between 1933 and 1948, these premeditated killings by officers did achieve their aim for quickly controlling the tribes. However these intentional acts - or for that matter any killing by a government patrol - should always have been investigated and, of warranted, the officers disciplined.
As shown clearly from the Kouno incident in Jiwaka Province in July 1947 involving a young Patrol Officer Craig AJ Symonds, the authorities at the time were corrupt - from Taylor at district level as far up as EJ Ward, the Australian federal minister responsible.
Six months later Symonds, who was charged with manslaughter, and Taylor, who was charged with attempting to pervert the cause of justice in shielding, Symons were both exonerated and returned to their posts.
Historian Dr August Kituai discusses the Kouno shooting in d etail but did not investigate further the killings in Chimbu. If he had, he would have exhumed mass graves in many parts of Chimbu, including the Chimbu Valley.
Finally, I believe authorities in Australia and in PNG must acknowledge the atrocities that occurred on those highlands frontiers between the early 1930s and the post-war period.
This is a side of New Guinea history that has been concealed and not investigated as thoroughly as it should have been in the past. I hope my 'History of Chimbu' may change that.