Goldie and beyond

John Morris (1970/71)

PREAMBLE

Like many Australians, I understood that as a result of our country’s participation in the Vietnam War, there was a National Service ballot conducted a number of times each year. I hadn’t given this matter much thought until July 1969 when I received a letter that indicated that I would be entering the army. Being in my first year of teaching in a one teacher school (Monia Gap Public School about eighty kilometres north east of Griffith), I took the letter to my next Parent and Citizens meeting to inform them that my tenure at their school of twenty four students would only be for twelve months. One of the parents wrote to the local MHR and I was allowed to serve out the year at their school. I later learnt that any teachers that were currently in schools were automatically deferred until the beginning of the next year.

John Morris today


In late January 1970 I boarded a Melbourne bound train at Yass Junction where I met other prospective National Servicemen all destined to commence their two years at 1RTB Kapooka. Fortunately, one of these was my mate Chris who I shared a room with during our second year at Wagga Wagga Teachers College so that made me feel somewhat relieved as I was unsure where my army time may take me. Within five weeks Chris was off to Officer Training but shortly after I learnt that I was successful in being chosen as one of forty-four teachers to teach the native recruits enrolled in the PNG army. Our one year in Papua New Guinea would start in October so after completing my basic training, I spent ten weeks undertaking infantry training at 3TB Singleton. To me, this was a real wake-up call as other members in my platoon were wearing a red lanyard, as opposed to my blue Education corps one, and many would be ‘shipped’ off to Vietnam soon after their training was completed.
Leaving Singleton I returned to Kapooka as Private Morris and was given the responsibility of teaching a variety of subjects to regular soldiers, as, at this time, the Army had made it a requirement that each non-commissioned rank required a specific educational standard to gain promotion. However, I felt I’d hit the jackpot when I was asked to develop teaching notes in the field of Australian history, a subject I thoroughly enjoyed during both my primary and secondary education. What I didn’t know was that I would have only one student, the RSM of 1RTB! Warrant Officer Class One Devine was a willing student but each time he walked into my classroom I would tremble as he was always dressed in his Sam Browne accompanied by his pacing stick. Referring to him as ‘sir’ each time I addressed him, I always felt there was a definite line of ‘separation’ between us (that’s the Army way – seniority) as opposed to my students the previous year.
My stint at Kapooka lasted four months before I caught the train for Sydney to be housed at ECPD (Eastern Command Personnel Depot) located on the southern side of Sydney Harbour at Watsons Bay. Along with other teachers, we spent the week receiving instructions about life in PNG and the army but of major significance was the awarding of our sergeant stripes. This went with the job and the real truth didn’t hit home to me until I reached my PNG home at Goldie River when I realised every European (we were often referred to as Europeans, not Australian) was granted the rank of sergeant, the lowest ranking white people at our Recruit Training Depot.
In October 1970 the forty four sergeants flew to Port Moresby to commence their tour of duty. We were taken from Jackson Airport in military trucks to 1PIR regiment at Taurama Barracks where we spent a week learning much about the culture of the recruits that would be seated in our classes as well as our roles and responsibilities as education sergeants. We were even given the security rating of secret! Each morning we were woken at 6.00am by the sound of regimental bagpipes. Our uniforms were issued, juniper greens, and we retained the wearing of our dark blue beret. Our ‘lines’ were three storeys high, up to eight in a room. We ate in the mess with the regular soldiers and this was my first contact with brown rice. The novelty soon wore off and it took me years after returning to Australia to even look at a bowl of rice! Due to the tropical climate, everything was green, with tall trees looking down watching our daily movements. Apart from being introduced to Pidgin English (more about that later) my ever lasting memory of my days at Taurama was the time we were all herded back into the military trucks and taken on a tour of the country’s capital. This was the first time that we had left the barracks and much that I had learnt about in honours geography at high school and seen on television materialised in front of my eyes. Koki Markets would become a regular stop on our weekends away from Goldie along with Boroko shopping centre. Along Ella Beach, the main beach that was popular amongst the non-indigenous inhabitants, was located the Kai Kai (food) bus from which we were told not to buy any food. Our journey continued through the CBD streets (looking like the size of a country town to me) until the vehicles pulled up at Hanuabada. The houses were built on stilts stretching out over the water. As army personnel I remember being told that this was a ‘no go’ zone. Within a day or two, the four Goldie River sergeants clambered aboard the now familiar military truck and headed east to where we would be domiciled for the next twelve months.

Goldie River Education Centre

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF GOLDIE
As the truck entered the Goldie River Depot (its name was spelt out in painted white rocks situated on the left) our eyes travelled every which way to enable us to take in the sights. A high hill overlooked the Depot and scattered throughout the precinct were the necessary military buildings that would become all too familiar to us. All the administrative buildings were two storeys (to gain the benefit of cooling) but it was the education structure that would be our place of work. Each classroom possessed fans to assist cooling of both teachers and learners from the oppressive heat with one of the upstairs rooms ‘decorated’ with heavy curtains that could be used for the production of creative arts activities or special gatherings. Apart from the four of us there were two officers, Captain Harvey (OC) and Lieutenant Fegent who I’d previously met at IRTB. The library was under the control of Private Mark Peni, a Buka man. When I first took a photograph of Mark inside his domain, the only part that appeared when the film was developed were his beautiful white teeth (no beetle nut for Mark or any PI army personnel!). When I left Goldie to return to Australia I gave Mark my slouch hat as he was keen to have something that his mates didn’t have. Next door to our building was the Administration Building housing OC Captain Nelson (a Duntroon graduate) and 2Lt Maric Malta, Scheyville trained (a pharmacist in civilian life but Nelson’s 2IC).
The main building was divided up into a number of sections –orderly room, duty room, pay office (with Sgt Luki from Madang in charge) as well as others that time has erased from my memory. Upstairs was located the Depot’s CO (again my memory lets me down here regarding the Major’s name). I’m not sure where his office was but Staff Sergeant Ellem, we were told, was ‘in charge of all reproduction at the Depot’! His wife also worked in this building in a civilian administrative role. As you drove further inside the Depot the Q Store was spied and the Transport Compound, under the control of Sgt Tabun, a Tali from New Britain with his pale coloured hair. Danny was the friend of ‘all Chalkies’ and there were a number of occasions that we were required to requisition a vehicle to take us into Port Moresby to complete ‘military’ duties. Our special line to Danny was that we always wanted the staff car but ultimately a land rover and driver would turn up to serve as our ‘wheels.’ Off to the left, prior to entering the Depot, were married quarters for the PIs (Pacific Islanders) plus a local T (territory curriculum) school as opposed to A (Australian) schools found throughout the capital. Somewhere in this entire infrastructure was a post office and small shop as well as a canteen (wet and dry) for the privates and corporals serving their time at Goldie.
At last we were taken to the Sergeants’ Mess, across the other side of the oval from the Officers’ quarters. This was a two storey building. All accommodation was upstairs while downstairs was the dining room, bar and lounge and a laundry. Outside was a large white screen where movies were shown each Friday night. That was one of my ‘duties’ during my time here – taking responsibility for the selection of movies (the old reel to reel style) from a supplier in Moresby. Whilst I endeavoured to cater for the needs of all (soldiers and their wives and children) on some Friday nights I was not the most popular person in the Mess! The building was surrounded by tropical vegetation with hibiscus bushes showing off their colourful flowers.
Ian Ogston (a Queensland secondary teacher) and I were housed in rooms next to each other overlooking a tennis court (our source of entertainment for the first three months after ‘knock off time’). Gradually as our bodies acclimatised to the heat we would stay playing longer and whilst I was reasonably athletic, my hand-eye co-ordination for tennis didn’t match Ian’s and I remember celebrating the day I took a game from him! The other two sergeants were Daryl Neal from Victoria (truly an AFL man) and Sydney based Zeno Jach. They were both married and lived ‘in town’ and were required to drive to and from Goldie each day. Later in the year a fifth sergeant arrived, Sgt ‘Jungle’ Jim McDonald, ex-Scheyville who apparently didn’t quite make the grade. He was a constant source of amusement for us all. When the four of us returned to Australia in October 1971 I heard Jim left the army and headed for New Britain.

A TYPICAL DAY
Not long after reaching PNG we were told that electrical equipment (turn table, speakers and tuner) could be purchased for prices far cheaper than in Australia. Like the others, I headed into town and made my purchase – Pioneer brand, plus a smaller radio and a tiny transistor. It was the radio that woke me at 6.00am each day (being so close to the Equator it was twelve hours of sunshine and the equivalent in darkness). A song in English crackled across the airwaves ‘Papua New Guinea, your day has begun, natives are watching the rise of the sun’…… that’s all I can remember after forty years! The news would be initially read in English, followed by Pidgin and to round off the broadcast Police Motu. By the time the news was over I could see the recruits lined up outside their barracks ready to be issued with their Paludrine tablets (designed to suppress any malaria in the body) by the duty corporal, supervised by a sergeant. My early morning journey was out of the room and down for ‘ablutions’ as it was referred to in the army. Returning from this task it was on with the juniper greens (ensure our boots and puttees were clean) and down for breakfast in the Mess. I quickly learnt that the only milk available was powdered milk so it was a cooked breakfast each day along with a cup of tea and my two tablets. The menu was written out using numbers so if you wanted scrambled eggs and bacon you would say ‘number 3′. Sometimes the menu would vary and having built up a good relationship with the serving boys I would ask them about the new menu item. If it was a good option they would nod their head but if you should give the food a miss they would reply ‘number 10’!. Back to ‘number three’!
Once breakfast was over we sometimes moved to the lounge to read the Port Moresby paper or the occasional Australian paper. Time for a brief chat to other breakfast ‘dwellers’ and back to the room, ready for a day’s work. If you were the duty sergeant for the day, you were required to wear a red sergeant’s sash and have your lunch and tea in the orderly room with the duty officer. Work commenced at 8.00am. The day worked on a high school timetable, fifty minutes teaching and a ten minute break. Whilst at Taurama, we observed some PIR soldiers wearing a badge that reflected the degree to which they could speak English. So it wasn’t surprising, in our initial months anyway, that we would forgo our cuppa and get the recruits to teach us significant words in Pidgin. This also assisted in cementing a good teacher-student relationship and I think it was Ian who suggested we develop our own Pidgin badges!
All lessons were taught using English as a Second Language approach. Each student had his own book and the necessary stationery while class sizes ranged from fifteen to twenty (again, going from memory!). As the only primary teacher, I was allocated the recruits who had the least understanding of the English language. My lessons in Social Studies and Mathematics were few and far between. It didn’t take long to work out the differing physical characters of the students and soon I could tell the boys from the Highlanders (Wabag, Goroko, Chimbu, Mt Hagan – all muscle!) from the tribes living close to the sea (Sepik, Lae, Rabaul and the Trobian Islands as well as people from the Fly River area.) Many of the Highlanders weren’t natural swimmers as compared to their lowland counterparts. Also the influence and time spent with Europeans reflected on their ability to speak English. With over 700 different languages (due to mountainous terrain and valleys) and dialects, the soldiers would often possess a tribal name and also a Christian name and, depending on their geographical location, many spoke place talk, Pidgin (New Guinea section) or Police Motu (Papuan side) with a smattering of varying degrees of English. Some early words of Pidgin I learnt were ‘how much Christmas belong you?’ That was a rough indication of their age.
During the Australian winter months, our classrooms were often visited by colonels and brigadiers to see how we were going. I felt it was more that they wanted to get away from the cooler weather so their visits were known as ‘swans’. With the top brass drifting in and out I had no fear when I returned to teaching after my discharge and having the principal or district inspector in my classroom!
The only real teaching aid was the advent of the Overhead Projector. Slide preparation did take some time and often my slides had smudge marks from the sweat off my arms. However, I was ‘privileged’ to use an epidiascope (a machine that would project the page of a book onto a screen – the forerunner to a data projector) as my classroom tended to be the one with the curtains.
During the luncheon break it was back to the Sergeants’ Mess and short breaks were taken in the Education building where our beloved George, a Wabag warrior, delighted in making us our tea or coffee as was our request. A gentle and shy man, with a sense of humour, George would do anything for you. At one stage during our year he disappeared, later to reappear as a labourer. Obviously both Ian and I developed great rapport with the man as he asked us for a loan to enable him to buy a car. We would have readily supported George if it were not for the ‘wantok’ system that operated throughout the country.
Our last lessons for the day finished at 4.00pm. For both Ian and I it was back to the Sergeants’ Mess to change for tennis. With the sun dropping behind the hill just before 6.00pm it was time for a shower and dress in long sleeves, plus a tie, and long trousers (as promulgated by the Army) to guard against the bite of the malaria carrying mosquitoes. It was the same routine for tea (order by numbers) and a chat in the lounge area that included a bar. Neither Ian nor I were interested in South Pacific green or brown so often it was a cool drink and a chat to Neville or the other barmen. Of major interest was the topic of independence as the Highlands barmen, whose villages had only had contact from Europeans since the 1930s, were keen to find out what this meant. Not an easy topic due to our language barrier! Usually, by about 7.30pm, it was back to our rooms to engage in writing letters to family and girlfriends. Both Ian and I enrolled in a correspondence course through the University of Queensland. I lasted one assignment in Economics while Ian demonstrated greater application and finished the year. If you wanted to telephone Australia it required a booking so these calls were saved for special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.
Friday night was the exception when the outdoor movies were shown. Families gathered for this regular outing and for the wives and children of the PI sergeants and WOs this was probably the highlight of the week. It was always a concern to me the percentage of the PIs fortnightly pay that was spent on alcohol especially on this night. Throughout the year there was also Christmas and ‘Territory Night’ where a pig was cooked in the traditional way.

DUTY SERGEANT
About once a month all sergeants were rostered on duty for twenty four hours with a duty officer. Meals were taken in the orderly room and both duty personnel were required to sleep there. Prior to 6.00pm we were required to change into our jungle greens and place striped epaulets (one of the PI sergeants told me that this was pek pek belong Goldie) on our shoulders as well as wearing the red sash. Usually it was a fairly routine duty, raising the Australian flag at 6.00am and lowering it twelve hours later and dealing with any arrivals after hours.
Our other duty was to observe the PI corporals issuing the Paludrine tablets at 6.00am each morning. For some reason, I missed one of my duties and had to answer to Captain Nelson. He was not a popular officer amongst the education sergeants but I proved guilty as charged. I knew this would result in two additional sergeant duties and I wasn’t surprised when they turned out to be Christmas and New Year days. Christmas Day was routine but New Year’s Eve was something else! The duty officer rostered on with me was a PI and I thought I would never see the night through as we both visited the Other Ranks wet canteen at about 11.00pm where most soldiers were ‘spark pinis algeta.’ (drunk). They had gathered anything that they could bang together to make a deafening noise (garbage bins and lids were plentiful). This was the first time I had confronted such a situation and I looked to the PI officer for leadership and my own survival. Somehow we managed the group and 6.00am I January 1971 couldn’t come quick enough for me. I never missed any duties again!
Discipline in the army in PNG required all NCOs to salute officers even when we were out of uniform. I remember carrying out some very hurried salutes around the Depot dressed in civilian clothes when Captain Nelson was about so maybe that was the reason my two additional duties fell on Public Holidays!

WEEKENDS/RELAXATION
Soon after we arrived in PNG Ian and I bought a VW Beetle and until about a week prior to our return to Australia it served us well (It didn’t have a fuel gauge and we ran out of petrol occasionally). We managed to ‘off load’ the vehicle to someone or other before leaving PNG. The car was reliable enough to take us into Moresby and back, both for leisure and for sport as both Ian and I played hockey, the only non PI members of the team. It was handy the day we brought our stereo gear home and set up in our rooms. Music cuts across all cultures and whilst we were interested in learning the lines of popular native tunes (Walkabout Long China Town and Taim Me Sick Long Number Nain ) and stories read by Superintendent Mike Thomas, the most popular being Tri Lik Lik Piks (Three Little Pigs) and Lik Lik Retpela Hat ( Little Red Riding Hood) each Sunday, the soldiers cleaned their gear ready for another week of training listening to English tunes. Daddy Cool was all the rage and Eagle Rock echoed around their ‘lines’. By the way, we didn’t have to wash clothes on the weekend, or any other times, as all sergeants were allocated a wash-iron boy. They certainly starched our uniforms as well as all our ‘civilian clothing’. By the time my twelve months was over my clothes could almost stand up by themselves so were freely offered to those who had looked after me so well during my time at Goldie.
Twice Ian and I took full advantage of weekends away with trips to Lae (on an Army Caribou – our numbers came up as the plane was flying over with spare seats) staying with our education equivalents at Igam Barracks. Port Moresby and its surrounds, which were situated in a rain shadow belt, contrasted with Lae which was tropical green. Using a car loaned by our hosts, we travelled around the area and ended up purchasing the usual souvenirs (spears, native figures, bags etc) before returning across the Owen Stanleys. The second time was a flight into Goroka, on a civilian plane, where we stayed in an army drill hall. Again, it was out and about in a hire car (green Mazda from memory) ‘sampling’ the native wares and bartering for the goods with mixed success. It was the only time I wore a jumper since leaving Australia and it was very refreshing.
In readiness of independence, a National Day was celebrated in the years leading up to this historic event. In 1971 Ian and I drove to Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in Port Moresby to witness a display of dances and rituals that characterised many areas of the PNG social fabric. We witnessed the appearance of the Azaro mudmen, inhabitants of the Highlands region as they took centre stage during the day. I still have the t-shirt I bought for the occasion. On the back of it is the PNG flag designed by a young girl from Yule Island while on the front are coloured red stick figures in a circle with hands joined with the words AHEBOU UNITE/BUNG WANTAIM plastered inside the ring.

KOKODA TRAIL
By far, the most exciting day happened soon after we arrived in the Territory. Prior to Captain Harvey’s arrival, Captain Robertson was Education OC and was keen on war relics. One of the recently appointed PI staff at Goldie had walked along the Kokoda Trail and located a 25 pounder artillery piece. As the first intake of soldiers (Goldie had two intakes each year) hadn’t arrived, the education sergeants, along with selected regular soldiers with local knowledge and/or muscle, were invited to join the search. Having read and heard so much about the Trail when studying at high school, it was almost like a school boy adventure come true! I remember the night before setting my alarm clock to ensure I didn’t miss out. Apart from our army gear, the most important piece of equipment was our camera. Whilst lunch was provided by the Sergeants’ Mess, the PIs were issued with ration packs. I was happy to exchange lunches for a pack to help me more fully understand what our troops experienced during their time on the Trail during World War 2.
Our transport that day was a military jeep and it was well before sunrise that the convey left the Depot and travelled along the dusty road and headed upwards towards Sogeri (past the South Pacific beer advertising signs) and Sogeri International School to our final destination at Ower’s Corner. Here the group left the vehicles and headed downwards towards the upper reaches of the Goldie River. The drop was steep and I remember thinking that I was headed into a war zone! I couldn’t see any bridges or a ford at the bottom of our descent so we entered the water wading waist deep to reach the other side. The cameras were clicking and in the dim light it looked like a scene out of a war movie. So much for keeping our new jungle boots clean! Heading away from the river we climbed up through Uberi Village with its thatched houses surrounded by the village gardens. If only I could find my photographs of the children, in their native attire, to include with my words! Apart from the children there was no one about – the adults were probably tending their gardens.
From the Village the trail was all uphill, with a mud track often only wide enough for one person. The terrain really tested your physical capabilities and we appreciated each rest stop when it was called. Looking around I felt that all those geography lessons I learnt at high school were coming to life. The various storeys of the rainforest were evident and often it was difficult to see the crowns of the trees that formed the canopy. The undergrowth made walking difficult as each step off the track would have been halted by a complexity of vines.
After what felt about four hours walking we had reached our destination, Imita Ridge. We called a halt here and were reminded that it was at this point that the Japanese forces were finally repelled during the World War 2 Kokoda campaign. On either side of the track we witnessed the ‘dug outs’, some overgrown with vines that were the home for the Australian soldiers during their time of fighting. Scattered inside the trenches were the spent cartridges of .303 ammunition. I remained at this point whilst a group was dispatched to look for the war relic. Unsuccessful in their search, we all ‘about faced’ and commenced our return journey. Whilst most of the trip was downhill to the Goldie River, care needed to be taken with our footing in the water and mud. Approaching Uberi Village we took time to rest. One of the regular soldiers walked off and returned with a fresh pineapple (20c – what a bargain!). With a machete, the delicacy was quickly trimmed and shared amongst the ‘tired travellers.’ We knew that once the river was traversed it was a steep uphill climb to where we hoped our vehicles would be.
Settling into the jeeps many thoughts flashed through my mind as we completed the last phase of our day’s journey. The beauty of the rainforest, the smell of the vegetation and the forks of light that penetrated the canopy ensured my memory of the area was complete. But what about the hardship experienced by the diggers during the war? Our day was a relative ‘picnic’ compared to the conditions under which these men defended Australia from afar. Wet clothes, constant rain, limited diet variation, always on the alert for the enemy and the constant buzzing of mosquitoes during the hours of darkness made me realise the bravery and commitment of the soldiers under such harsh conditions. Oh yes, and the leeches! We did share that experience with the diggers. I sprinkled the salt supplied in the ration pack to rid myself of these blood sucking creatures while others used matches. The shower back at the Sergeants’ Mess never felt so good as I climbed into bed drifting off to sleep with memories that are still with me today.

RTA (RETURN TO AUSTRALIA)
About two thirds of the way through our time of teaching at Goldie, there was a change of Prime Minister that resulted in the period of National Service being reduced to eighteen months, linked of course to the USA’s reduced commitment to the war. As a group, the education sergeants were prepared to complete our full year as a professional committed to this valuable task of training soldiers entering the PNG defence force to gain an education. Soon after our replacements arrived, it was necessary to take a course of medication that would kill any malaria that could have been present in our bodies. The daily Paludrine tablets were designed to suppress any spread of the disease. In conjunction with the medication was the need to refrain or significantly limit the alcohol intake. This was not as easy as it sounded for some! As the RTA deadline came closer, there was a check list for us to complete. Included in that was the packing of our green, steel army trunk that would be shipped back to Australia. Many of my souvenirs were placed here and survived the journey as it was about a month after setting foot back in Australia that I was advised that my trunk could be collected from Port Botany, Sydney.
One of the regular soldiers, and his wife, that operated the Depot shop, invited us for farewell drinks at his married quarters and this man (sorry, forty years has erased his name from my memory also but I can ‘see’ his face!) was so different from the majority of Australian sergeants and warrant officers who lived in the Mess. Not being a drinker was the first cross against my name. Army pay was based on your army and educational qualifications and after less than a year in the army, education sergeants were paid at Group 17 level (the top level was 21) while many of the regulars struggled to reach double figures! After a few beers, it was not uncommon for this resentment to be voiced. However, we lifted above this and devoted time to working with and understanding the various rituals and lifestyles of the native members in the Mess.
With a Mess farewell where we were given a pewter mug from which you were required to drink beer (did I struggle!) it was the final packing and farewells before experiencing our last trip along the dusty road, across the Brown and Laloki Rivers, into Port Moresby and out to Seven Mile, where the ‘jet balus’ would land from Australia twice each day. Farewell drinks, handshakes and final photographs were completed as we boarded our 727 plane. Both TAA and Ansett operated these aircraft and whilst the TAA flight took off about thirty minutes before Ansett, I was one of a small group who opted for Ansett as during our civilian flight to Lae, the luggage owned by Ian and I travelled via Poppendetta! As it turned out there was a delay and both flights took off one after the other.
Brisbane was our first port of call and a visit by Customs before completing the second leg of the journey to Sydney. As requested, we were required to open our bags for inspection. I was a little surprised when asked where I was hiding my souvenirs! Apparently, some of the sergeants on TAA had hidden some radios in socks along with other artifacts .What was the army trunk for? I produced my one small transistor radio (that still works and was great to have under the pillow to listen to the cricket from England prior to test matches being televised) and passed through. Once landing in Sydney we had to be officially discharged and for our intake this was to be completed at 151Signals Unit at Dundas. Here, I had the opportunity to catch up with many of my 1RTB colleagues and noticed some had earned one or two stripes. However, as soon as the regular soldiers involved in our discharge saw our sergeant stripes, they rostered two of us on duty. That was enough for us! Using our rank, we jumped to the head of the queues and asked for dental, medical and anything else that needed ‘checking’ before being discharged. In two days Graham Miller (from Murray Barracks I think) and I farewelled the army, caught the train to Central and this chapter in our life was closed (apart from the memories, friendships, artifacts, photograph etc.).
Looking forward to returning to teaching in NSW public schools, I contacted the Education Department and explained about my availability. As a component of repatriation, all teachers were offered a refresher course. Having been fortunate enough to have continued my teaching career during my time in the Army, I didn’t take them up on this offer. I asked to be sent to Cooma where my parents lived so I could spend time catching up with them. I was told by my District Inspector, whilst at Monia Gap, that as a national serviceman, I would be looked after once returning to teaching! I lasted one day at my old primary school at Cooma North before being told to go to Temora (back in the Riverina) where I would carry out relief teaching. No car – I was told I could hire a taxi to the schools where I was required to teach. This lasted three weeks until the end of term when I returned to Sydney to negotiate a more permanent position. But that’s another story!
I felt very fortunate to be able to continue teaching during my twenty months in the Army and my time as a member of RAAEC at Goldie River was a significant time (young and impressionable) where I experienced important lessons as a teacher and as a person that helped lay a foundation for a successful teaching career that ended in April 2009 as principal of a large primary school of 550 students.

One comment on “Goldie and beyond

  1. Ian Freeman on said:

    Hi John … Brings back memories! I was stationed at Goldie River a little earlier than you were but you were probably in the unit during the end of my stint. I was in the same OTU class as 2Lt “Gomer” Pyle who was the Education member in the officers’ mess. I was an infantry platoon commander.

    I am amazed at the formality we endured. I have since met quite a number of sergeants who were in Goldie River at the same time as I was … and I didn’t even know of their existence! What I find even more remarkable is the fact the Goldie was about 25 kilometres outside Port Moresby (therefore totally isolated) and the sergeants’ mess was only a hundred metres away from the officers’ mess and yet we lived totally different and completely contained lives.

    I am very pleased to have found this site and congratulate everyone who worked on its development.

    When a story presents itself, I’ll write an article too.

    Cheers,

    Ian Freeman

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