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21 January 2018


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Chris Overland

My goodness! I will email you David.

David Vorst

Well Mr Overland, I would be happy to discuss PNG with you.

Arthur Williams

A technical point. The ‘303’ came with a 10 round cartridge and was the normal UK infantry weapon until 1957.

I managed to shoot a haphazard 30 rounds in about two minutes during a night-time fire-power display for Sandhurst cadets in 1958 up in the Brecon Beacon artillery ranges.

I annoyed the many sheep that grazed freely on the Ministry of Defence-owned risk-prone hillsides. My rifle number, which we had to memorise, I think was 29L7058

You guys are providing us with a fascinating discussion of early Oz-PNG events. One point they mentioned at ASOPA about inter-tribal warfare was that it consisted of much: name-calling, screamed insults, waving weapons and threatening movements. A bit like British soccer hooliganism which ‘kicked’ off in the 1960s.

Over the years I have noticed that many reports of riots - whether inter-clan, inter-tribal or urban events - indicate the relatively small number of casualties. Even the death toll in real nasty clashes are generally tiny compared to large numbers involved in the fighting.

In fact we were told by old hands at ASOPA that road traffic would be stopped for time while an inter-clan set-to occurred but a death on one side could lead to a cessation of fighting and traffic could then flow again along the road near the ‘fighting ground’ at least until next round started.

It is worth noting elsewhere in the world’s troubled areas often death tolls in just a few hour internecine fighting are into double figures.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Go see Russell Soaba when you're next in Mosbi Lindsay. He and John are great friends.

John was kicked out of UPNG and is on the bones of his arse - it's very sad.

Despite that he drove Trevor Shearston and me around when we were there for the Croc Prize in 2014. The one where we met up with you at the Weigh Inn.

Lindsay F Bond

As to "easily misinterpreted", can John Waiko be contacted to outline from his thesis how structured retelling of oral history tended to preserve rather than derail significant data in historical acts of recollection.

Bernard Corden

Wilfred Burchett when reporting the truth from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korean and Vietnam was vilified and subjected to inhumane treatment from the Australian and US governments.

His passport went missing in 1955 and he lived in exile for many years and was refused entry to Australia to attend his father's funeral.

His son George has written several articles on Counterpunch quite recently:

The late Philip Knightley's book The First Casualty is well worth reading.

In an era of universal deceit telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act - George Orwell

There are at least two sides to every story.

Peter Kranz

Yes there are conflicting reports of the activities of German, British and Australians in PNG. What cannot be denied is that many people were killed. But this was far worse in Australia. Consider this (admittedly from Tasmania).

At a public meeting in Hobart in the late 1830s, Solicitor-General Alfred Stephen – later Chief Justice of New South Wales – shared with the assembled crowd his solution for dealing with “the Aboriginal problem”.

If the colony could not protect its convict servants from Aboriginal attack “without extermination”, said Stephen, “then I say boldly and broadly exterminate!”

Chris Overland

Thanks for your comments Mathias.

On the matter of your research methodology, I think you have drawn a wrong inference from what I have been saying. I am not critical of your research methodology if for no other reason than I am not familiar with it.

What I am concerned about is that you will, acting in good faith, draw the wrong inferences from what you have been told.

For example, you mention in your comments an incident which "resulted in five tribesmen being shot in the back".

An inference that may be drawn from this is that the patrol members unnecessarily killed five men who were running away. This may well be true but there are other possible interpretations of the same incident.

As I have mentioned in my article, firefights with high powered weapons are an essentially uncontrolled outburst of aggression, fear and stress. Exerting effective control over these incidents is very difficult.

A real world example of this happened in South Africa in 2016. A large crowd of angry gold miners were confronting a line of police who were trying to prevent them from marching any further. Some of the miners apparently were armed with clubs and spears as they would have been traditionally.

The police are firing tear gas (I think) and slowly retreating before the oncoming crowd. The situation appears very tense but controlled until, suddenly and without any order from an officer, someone fires a shot at the advancing crowd.

Immediately, there is fusillade of gunfire from other police lasting for perhaps 10 seconds before the frantic officers are able to make them stop firing. In that few seconds more than 30 miners were killed outright and a larger number injured.

This incident (available for viewing on YouTube) is a graphic illustration of how difficult it can be to maintain discipline and control in a tense and threatening situation. If one person panics, it can trigger a massive and disproportionate outburst of fire.

So, bearing this in mind, the five people hit in the back could well have been shot within literally a few seconds before the kiap or police sergeant in charge of the patrol could reassert control.

I cannot stress enough just how fast these events can be before literally anyone understands what the hell has happened.

I want to stress that I don't say that something much more sinister did not occur. There are too many cases where this has been true to say that.

However, what I think is that it is much more likely that a very agitated, almost hysterical few seconds of furious firing is more than enough to explain an incident of the type you are referring to.

I guess we will never know for sure. It is rare to have these incidents fully documented on video. Even in the South African example I have mentioned, it is very, very unclear who fired the first shot and why so many police immediately opened fire in consequence.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing the detailed results of your work.

Paul Oates

In line with the points Chris has raised, I offer the following eyewitness accounts from Des Martin, an occasional contributor to these columns, who at the moment is gravely ill. I'm sure wouldn't mind me relating them.

Des described what it was like for him as a soldier in PNG during World War II and later as a Kiap leading patrols in the Sepik in the 1950s.

He suggests the rules of war were truly in operation in both cases. Three engagements Des spoke of come to mind.

The first was an ambush on the Sepik River with he and his police up to their armpits in the river and sheltering behind a canoe whilst he fired his pistol and the police fired their .303’s into the air to deter their unseen attackers.

The police NCO said afterwards that "the arrows fell like rain" (‘spia bilong bunanara ipindaun olsem ren’).

The second incident Des spoke of was when his patrol was confronted by an armed war party. Confronted by many men about to unleash arrows at him and the patrol, Des told his police not to fire.

Running forward with his NCO, Des fired a shot from his pistol at the ground in front of the fight leader who was about to fire an arrow at Des. The fight leader got a fright and Des grabbed the bow and threw it to the ground whereupon the rest of the war party ran away leaving the fight leader alone.

Eventually, the fight leader was convinced Des and his people were not going to kill him and friendly relations were established.

In the last example, Des and his patrol were confronted by another war party firing arrows. Des ordered the police to fire a shot over the heads of the attackers, who ran away.

But then, to Des’s astonishment, the police threw their rifles to the ground and tried to kick the bolts open with their feet. Des found the bolts of the issued .303 rifles were mismatched and had been stuck solid.

When he arrived back at the patrol post, Des sent a request for matching rifles and bolts. This request was apparently met with disfavour by district headquarters who inferred there was nothing wrong with the issued rifles and wanted to know why they were being fired.

An exasperated Des, who with his police had been in danger during the confrontation, wrote a sarcastic telegram requesting official house bricks be forwarded for use in the next engagement.

An official admonishment arrived not long after together with 20 properly matched rifles and bolts.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

Chris and Mathias, both of you have substantiated your arguments with logic and reliable sources.

We can do a comparative analysis when Mathias completes his write-up with available materials and find a middle ground.

In the meantime continue to write for us since we are learning as logical arguments keep coming forward.

Mathias Kin

Good morning Chris and ol arapela friends. This article is much better and sure I enjoyed every line.

The only issue with it is that you keep accusing me of not carrying out competent research that is based on facts and it seems you accuse me of not using proper historical research methodologies.

My article a few days back was only a glimpse, a couple of pages, of the project. I referenced the materials I drew from in my last article.

Dr Kituai's 'My Gun, My Brother' referred to the Kouno (Jiwaka) incident that resulted in five tribesmen being shot in the back. Kituai's research yielded details of how much effort Taylor and officers in the Administration and police put in to try to avert the course of justice.

The Australian minister responsible also gave the final order for the two suspended officer, young Craig Symonds and District Officer Taylor to return to work.

I have also used reports and writings from Roberts, Bill Gammage, John Waiko and others. Importantly I have interviewed very old people around Simbu who witnessed these killings.

I am getting good assistance from people who know Chimbu history and who understand that history must be told as it really happened, and fairly.

The history we have today was written by the 'invaders' who wanted people in my position 70 years later to read it the way they want.

I hope my project will provide you with the opportunity to read this other version, the New Guinean side of the story.

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