PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Recollections Of A Patrol Officer

 A.L. (For Lloyd) Hurrell was a young man with a vigorous mind and a strong body that moved well in a football jersey, but the job of school teaching on the South Coast of New South Wales, where he was born, fitted him like a starched shirt two sizes too small. He gave up school teaching and became a professional footballer up north with Maitland United. Physically that was better, but it didn't satisfy his mind. Then the letters of his brother Leslie, who was a Patrol Officer in New Guinea, seemed to give the answer. Leslie Hurrell was right. It was just the life for Lloyd.

           

Lloyd Hurrell had hardly begun to patrol when the war came and he was, at one, a soldier. The war killed Leslie, in the buna campaign. In the fighting against the Japanese on Bougainville, in some of the toughest guerilla-war of the jungle the Pacific campaign inflicted on men, Lloyd Hurrell won a Military Cross.

When the war was over he went back to District Services, which was very glad to get him back as he had been recognized from the start as "just the type". And there was so much to be done after the war: the damage to native morale and the physical damage, all the compensation payments, and the re-establishment of contact and confidence. District Services could have used a hundred Hurrells - not that his type comes in quantity; D.S. wished it did. He could not even be spared to "go to School" - meaning the training courses that had been established in 1946 with the setting up of the Australian School of Pacific Administration. There is, as the old-hands say, no school like experience. The Cadet - who is usually aged between eighteen and twenty-five when he enters "ASOPA" for a grounding in such subjects as Colonial Administration, Law, Anthropology - gets experience soon enough. And if he goes into the field with a bright-eyed idealism, it is a good gleam for him to carry. Authority can so easily turn into arrogance - and even the Cadet Patrol Officer is at once in a position of considerable authority over natives.

The School also represents Australian realization that well-administered and well-assisted colonial peoples do not revolt, and side with the governing nation in war. Dr Warren Thompson, who was General MacArthur's demographic adviser, said in 1949, that, in the face of growing Asian populations, Australia could hope to hold New Guinea for only twenty-five years. New Guinea's strategic importance is obvious. The School of Pacific Administration added a modern training to a pre-war tradition. About this tradition there is nothing pukkah or military or old-school-tie. It was made-in-New Guinea, and with it goes a spirit of belonging to something that belongs to New Guinea; and that means going through with a job when there would be reason enough to give up or turn back by ordinary standards - but not by New Guinea standards, of what men can do, or forbear to do, if they have enough of staunch wisdom and courage. It is a tremendously respectable thing in the eyes of the native people, this tradition. So it should be in Australian eyes and, indeed, in the eyes of a world which will have difficulty in pointing to anything quite like it anywhere else.

If I seem to have left Lloyd Hurrell half-introduced and gone off down an ideological garden-path, try to view this as a quick circuit of the background it is necessary to see him against, at a point where he is setting out to do something he did very well indeed. He was sent out to do it by District Commissioner "Horrie" Niall, Morobe District. Niall is one of the men who have made that New Guinea tradition. When the officer originally chooses to go out and establish a station at Menyamya broke his arm at Wau and could not go, and the District Commissioner said to himself at Lae, "Who else?" and then "Harrell", even at that stage some part of the job was done. If you were one of Horrie Niall's officers, and he picked you, you would be unlikely to come back from half-way and say, "The maps were out to blazes, and I couldn't get guides", or "I couldn't buy food for the carriers", or "They scared and cleared out", or "There was just too much hostility to get through" - because you would know damned well that the man who sent you had made worse journeys with no maps, that he would have got guides, he would have got food and he had kept scary carriers carrying a hundred times, and the wily old so-and-so had had more arrows whizzed at him than you were ever likely to see.

Not that you would put yourself in Horrie Niall's class because you would know that he has a capacity not many men acquire in even as many years as he has had in New Guinea. He can think kamaka. He knows what natives will do next and knows what they are talking about in languages he doesn't understand. You don't reach that stage at thirty-four, the age Assistance District Officer Lloyd Horrell was when he went out to Menyamya. Lloyd Hurrell is tall and well built and he has just that pleasantly capable manner you expect from his looks, which are fairer than in the photograph of him. He was on patrol at Siassi, which is a picture-postcard place where beautiful canoes are built on an island off the coast, when he was called in to Lae for the Menyanya job. When he went out to establish this station he had never been in Kukukuku country before, in fact he had never seen the kind of people he was going to bring under control.

On the last day of October 1950 the big patrol party was ready to move from Slate Creek on the Watut. One hundred and fifty-seven carriers lifted two and a half tons of gear and food on to their backs or in galvanized-iron patrol boxes slung on carrying poles of bush timber between two men. Many of the carriers were from the Buang tribe. McCarthy, when he set out in 1933, had no interpreter, but this patrol had one, a Watut man: the Watut language is very similar to the Menya.

A.D.O. Hurrell was accompanied by Cadet Patrol Officer Garry Keenan, of whom he said later, "They don't come any better." Thirteen native police each had a .303 rifle and a bayonet in the scabbard on the leather belt, bandoliers of ammunition against the red-piped navy blouse-shirts they wear with a short navy wraparound, bare feet, hard heads and hands. They were under Sergeant Angi. "Fifteen rifles for a hundred-and-seventy-two party - mightn't be good enough," Hurrell said and issued four shotguns to four trustworthy boss-boys of the carrier line. He He checked his portable radio transceiver, found the low-impedance serial useless, radioed for another to be flown u from Lae, and had to wait for it. Keenan set out with the calvalcade. The line was nearly a mile long. Next day Hurrell followed and caught up. That day and the next day the track was good. The good track was due to Sergeant Angi, of whom Hurrell wrote, in his diary: "The area patrolled by him is enormous, his method of approach is friendly, and the work he gets done, in country where the natives are timid and jittery, amazing. He adopts various young natives on his trips and keeps them till they can talk pidgin. Thus he has a nucleus of interpreters he knows intimately wherever he goes."

Next day they branched one of Sergeant Angi's area, and there was no track of any kind. "We entered most precipitous timbered country. It was impossible to follow compass because of the cliffs. The track had to be cut all the way. We spent the day crawling up and sliding down cliffs." Kobakini was where Naylor and Clarius and seven of their Buang carriers were massacred in 1933. The Busing carriers with the patrol found the place where the other Buangs were buried. The Buang leader came to the Kiap and said they would like to hold a wake, and they did that night, crying and singing their mourning songs for the Buangs who had been killed there seventeen years before. Next day the patrol was coming down through the awful country that leads to the Langinar River (the steepest country I have ever flown over, in New Guinea or anywhere else) when cries came from the rest and Hurrell went back and found the carriers had seen natives "shadowing" in the bush and were very scared. He distributed more police among them and ordered them to close on the head of the patrol.

On the sixth day the patrol rested at Wauwai village on the Langimar and the carriers' sore shoulders, and any other ailments, were attended to. Hurrell wrote in his diary, "I am proud to say that not one shoulder had the skin broken." Food came in freely in exchange for salt as about four hundred people visited the camp in five groups. To the leader of each food-bringing group the A.D.O. gave a large bush-knife. One old headman was almost overlooked. The Kiapgot a knife and tossed it to him. The old man picked up the knife and ran at Hurrell brandishing it, shrieking with rage. He felt greatly insulted at not being handed the knife in dignified manner. Hurrell pacified him and explained that no insult was intended.

"We ended up patting each other under the chin, as is their custom, but it have me an inkling of their volatile nature."

A sing-sing was being held in Wauwai village, and when Hurrell heard that it was for some Wapis - visitors from the Wapi River, a Tauti tributary that comes in near Menyamya-he immediately sent friendly messages for the Wapis to come and see him. No Wapis came down. But that afternoon a pig arrived, cut in halves, a present to the Kiap, sent by the Wapi fight-leader. Hurrell expressed appreciation - but said he could not accept the pig unless it was brought in by the Wapi leader himself. About an hour later the most impressive looking bush-native Lloyd Hurrell had ever seen came striding easily down the hill carrying, effortlessly, half a pig across each shoulder. "He was almost six-feet tall, light of skin and with a beautifully proportioned body. As he approached me, he looked not only physically fine but intelligent. I thought, 'If the Menyamya people are all like this chap - wonderful'. But I was later disillusioned.

"What is your name?" The Watut interpreter conveyed the Kiap's question. The question was repeated several times without answer. Finally the Wapi fight-leader said his name - Antonis. Then he turned and went away back up the hill. Hurrell sent for him again. Not for about an hour did Antonis reappear. He seemed tense and excited but he was obviously not afraid. Hurrell asked why he had gone away and why he had been reluctant to return. "The last time you sent for me, you asked me my name," Antonis replied. "It is not right for a man to speak his first name and you made me do that." Hurrell said he had not known of the name tambu. He used his own first name freely. Antonis understood. "How will your people receive us at the Tauri," Hurrell asked, "as friends or as enemies?" The Wapi fight-leader considered the question conveyed to him, then replied, "Which are you? If you come as friends that is all right, we will be friends. If you want a fight you can have it. Make up your mind."

Hurrell said he wanted to be friends, but his party could fight if occasion demanded with their rifles, a weapon Antonis had doubtless heard of but in all probability had never seen. He demonstrated to Antonis and the Langmar people the power of a rifle by firing at rocks so that pieces were chipped off by the .103 bullet and then by shooting a neat hole through three wooden shields placed together. Hurrell bought three more shields and called for a shotgun. The shotgun blew a large hole through the shields. "They were impressed," he wrote, "but they were by no means frightened." Antonis agreed to guide the party to the Tauri. Hurrell said he would give him a steel tomahawk when they got there. Sergeant Angi was against it. He said that Antonis and the Langimars who accompanied the patrol would lead it into an ambush. But the next morning they were on the track shortly after six o'clock and Antonis was in front, leading them. They came to a large group of hamlets. This waqs a settlement of Wapi people: in fighting between their own clans, these had suffered severely and had finally moved to the Langimar country.

Angi's warning in mind, Hurrell saw that when the patrol got in among the hamlets, it could easily be ambushed by bands of warriors hiding in the huts. He followed closely behind Antonis with four police. Antonis met a man - it was his brother - and they went off together. Hurrell thought, "They are probably teeing up an attack," and sent his police scouting round the huts for any signs of a trap. Antonis returned, carrying another pig.

I would not accept this, saying to him that his pay and our friendship depended on how he guided us to the Tauri River. He understood, and we went on. After a while Sergeant Angi disputed the road - he kept insisting that Antonis would lead us into an ambush, and I had to bear in mind that his knowledge of these people extended over many years and I had never seen them until a week ago. I agreed that we seemed to be heading too far south. We took a more westerly track, much to the annoyance of Antonis who told us we were headed for cliffs. After an hour we struck impossible country, which confirmed Antonis's story, so I called him to lead us again.

They camped that night in heavy rain. A sing-sing could be heard from a ridge village, and though no one came near the camp, Hurrell knew they had been seen. Trees were felled along the track and sentries posted. Antonis had disappeared and Sergeant Angi thought they would be attacked. From 4 a.m. - a dawn attack was the likeliest - everyone with a gun stood to. Then Antonis and the Langimars re-appeared. They said he had been sing-singing with some friends. Hurrell went off to drink a breakfast mug of tea. He heard a commotion.

Sgt Angi had disbelieved the Langimars and told his police to beat the truth from them. I was furious and stopped it, but not before some had run away, including our guide Antonis. Angi wanted to send the rest of the Langimars away, I insisted that they proceed at the head of the column. We got going and, after an hour, found Antonis waiting by the track. he led us again as we pushed on, passing through many hamlets that were deserted at the approach of our big  party which looked very long and colourful as it wound down the kunai ridges.

Next morning, Antonis led them down a razorback ridge in fog so dense that visibility was only about five yards. The fog lifted, the sun broke through, and -- 

... suddenly the slopes on either side were alive with men from two villages we did not know were there - men yelling and screaming and racing round and jumping u and down, waving their bows and arrows and, according to our interpreter, shouting threats to take our knives and tomahawks - like two great packs of dogs baying at us, one on each side. The carriers, who had been straggling, closed-up, in their fright, like a concertina. ... When the natives saw the full extent of our line they simply headed for the bush, changing their threatening cries to promises to bring food.

Antonis pointed down to where the Tauri River wound through a long valley of the green grassed mountains. He said he wished to go back now, but Hurrell told him to remain. Several of the Langimars, apparently afraid of being in hostile country, disappeared. Hurrell camped his patrol that night on an eastern branch of the Tauri. He broke camp at 6.30 a.m. knowing that his goal was just around the green corner of a mountain.

I caught Antonis trying to sneak away. If he had to go I wanted him to go in friendship and properly rewarded for his very good services. I grabbed his arm and led him to my tent. I gave him a sweater, a tomahawk and a large bush knife. Then I motioned that he was free to go.

He suddenly clasped me to him. Tears flowed from his eyes - I have never in my life seen a man so emotional: he surely must have expected, when I brought him back, to be killed. ... He said that he would return to see us as soon as he could, and he'd bring his young brother to stay with us.

At 8.30 a.m. on thursday, 9th November 1950 - after a journey of about 80 miles, which he had estimated, correctly, would take nine days - A.D.O. Lloyd Hurrell reached the drome site on the Tauri River. White authority began to encamp itself again, after seventeen years, in the heart of the Kukukuku country. And this time it had come to Menyamya to stay.

Though the name Menyamya means a place of the Menya people, Menya village is miles away. It was not owned land, this roughly triangular flat at the fork of the Tauri River and its foaming tributary, the Yakoi. Hurrell's inquiries confirmed that. This was a routine measure, for the Government never "squats" on or takes land. If it is native-owned it must be purchased, usually in trade goods to the value of one pound an acre. Land-ownership is as established with the Kukukukus as it is with other tribes. A man not only owns his garden-land but he may own hunting areas of the kunai grassland, and even the betel-nut palms in the hamlet environs have their recognized owners, and the sons inherit land and palms from the fathers. Yet nobody owned the Menyamya flat, which was not only the one piece of land in all that region where an aircraft could land but was the spot of which any white settler coming into the district, if he had all the country to choose from, would say, "This is the place for me." But the Kukukukus did not use it, would not live there.

The reason was not that, apart from the dark line of casuarina trees along the banks of the Tauri, the flat is bare of trees and bamboos for building. No Kukukuku would live there because the flat was, in their eyes, a fatal place to live, it was vulnerable to attack. True, enemies from two of three directions would have to cross a river. But there had to be log bridges across the river or whoever lived on the flat penned themselves in. Kukukuku bridges are seldom more than a log or two, and these would appear easy to defend. But the defenders could be fired down on from the steep slopes across the rivers. Just across the Tauri the ridges buttress a 7200-foot mountain. If you are a Kukukuku you live up on a ridge. This may mean that your garden is tilted at an angle of thirty degrees and, though the rain waters your garden, all your other water has to be carried zig-zag up precipitous paths, in lengths of the big green bamboo which are heavy when filled. A good half of your walking life is spent climbing, with loads of vegetables and firewood and water, especially if you are a woman. Well, you accept that. That is life, and how you stay alive. That is the way life was always been.

Establishment of the Government station at Menyamya followed quickly on A.D.O. Hurrell's portable-radio message to Lae: "Objective reached. Awaiting airdrop. Expect have strip ready DCA Auster one week."

In the patrol-diary he would send back to Lae, Hurrell wrote straight after "We set up camp" on the first day:

Until some gardens are under way it will be necessary to have a regular plane for supplies. However, before long almost any crops could be grown. I request Agriculture Dept send immediately Okinauwa kau-kau seed, paw-paw, grass suitable for drome, any shrubs and citrus trees available I will be able to handle anything sent in for I have 156 labour, and good labour at that.

The carriers were now labourers. By the evening of the second day Hurrell had a temporary camp constructed of tents for himself and Keenan and the police, and grass huts for the carriers, with latrines and garbage pits, a drome site 800 yards by 100 yards, pegged for clearing; a ricketty but serviceable timber bridge across the Tauri. He also had mail and a welcome freezer-bag of fresh beef dropped by a Moth plane sent out from Lae.

Next morning a greater and louder-roaring Dragon Bird came out, beggaring all descriptions given by the men who had lived through seventeen Kukukuku years - they were not a great number - and who remembered Tommy O'Dea's DH 50. The big sleek silver Douglas did not, of course, come to earth on the Menyamya strip. The Kukukukus who had gone flat down in the grass on the ridges raised their eyes and saw the great bird-thing begin to lay eggs. Twenty-five "storepedoes" were dropped. Picks and shovels and crow-barfs plummeted into the grass. Of the food supplies, only ten per cent of rice, flour, sugar and salt was lost. Hurrell wrote, "The pilot and myself were in constant radio communication for the two hours of the drop, which I consider most successful. It was a great thing for the local natives, too. About 400 saw it from nearby and many more from the hilltops." Work began on the aerodrome. In three days the grass and stones were cleared to make a good-enough surface, and a Department of Civil Aviation inspector came out in an Auster, landed, and passed Menyamya as fit for Dragon-type aircraft.

"We had about 20 planes in during the next fortnight, plenty of supplies, and we were able to get ahead with the building of the houses." Timber and bamboo had to be brought from miles away. The Kukukukus brought some in - ten poles of bamboo for a knife. This time civilization was not only pitching a few tents and flying its flag and swooping through the skies. It was raising up better houses than Kukukukus had ever seen as it worked its transformation scene on the Menyamya flat. It was not only bartering steel implements the native people had, seventeen years before, learnt to appreciate, it was settling itself right down among them. And it was announcing that it was there for their benefit. When a group of Kukukukus came in with food to trade, or with bamboo, or simply to sit and stare out their curiosity, Hurrell would give them what he called "the lecture". The interpreter told them what the Kiap said to him in pidgin, and the correct pidgin would be this:

Gauman i sitrongpela tumas tasol i no laik aitim yupela i laik sikam; (Government he strong-fella too-much that's all (but) he no like fightim you-fella, he like shake-hands). Gauman i pren bilong olman bilong haop; (The Government is the friend of all people in this place). Gauman i bringim planti kago gutpela moa; (The government brings a big cargo of better things). This last would be explained not only in terms of the steel and shells and salt they could get in trade, but that seeds of new food-crops such as corn, peas, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, melons etc. would be issued to them and that later on the Government would bring in a Medial Assistant and set up a hospital.

There was, of course, a "catch" to it from the Kukukukuy viewpoint, as soon as they heard the translation of Gauman i tok: Yupela no ken kilim i dai arapela. Pait i mas pinis! (The government says no man can kill another man. fighting must finish!) A prohibition against feud-fights and killings sounded not only presumptuous, it run contrary to the law of Kukukuku life and was against Kukukuku nature. The Kukukuku, chewing over the new situation on his betel-nut, saw two things that mattered: firstly, this Gauman had boong-guns that were deadlier than arrows, secondly, this Gauman had steel and other trade which it was a good thing to get. Lloyd Hurrell did gain the impression that "Some of them seemed glad to see us there". None, though, would respond to the call for labour to work on the airstrip, which would have been paid for in knives and axes.

All seemed friendly (Hurrell wrote in his diary). The only thing that makes me very cautious is Sgt Angi. He brings continual reports of strange behaviour. A pig brought in is painted, some natives talk bockis, etc. I think he's unduly apprehensive, but in view of his long and successful work in neighbouring areas I must heed him. He things a general attack on the station is likely, but I don't. In fact I am very pleased with the friendly beginning. 

Then, one morning, the Kiap heard distant yells and he looked across the river and there were about four hundred Kukukukus running up and down the zig-zag paths, as they do when they are working themselves up to a fight, and dancing up and down on the ridge and shaking and strumming their bows. He saw them coming down from the crest of the kunai and he called to Garry Keenan to get the police in position at the log bridge across the Tauri. His description to me of what followed is casual enough: "They'd come down to do us over, all right. About twenty had got across the river when the police rushed down. A few shots were fired over their heads and we blocked off the end of the bridge. Then those who'd got across fought to get back. We grabbed a few and sort of explained to them that they'd done the wrong thing. Across the river their mates yelled and screamed for hours until they gave it up as a bad job. They came down about a week later and put on another show."

At the end of the first week a few had volunteered for work at the station and several had accepted medical treatment. "In six weeks," Hurrell said, "my own house was fined and the situation was well in hand - to the extent that I had sent word for my wife to prepare to come out with the children. They were flown in just before Christmas." The most notable building on Menyamya station is not, however, the House Kiap. It is the House Paper, the office. It is not a large structure but it is a very well built, cane-walled and grass-thatched, and it is perfectly round. Lloyd Hurrell had seen, in the villages he passed through, that the house of a local headman was a round house. With these Kukukukus a round house was symbol of authority. He was going to be the new headman, the new authority, so he made his place of authority - round.

          --From Colin Simpson: Adam with Arrows (1951). 

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