The Origins of the ‘CHALKIES’ Scheme

LIEUTENANT COLONEL ROGER JONES (Assistant Director of Army Education, PNG 1967 – 1969)

Lt Col Jones and his children in Port Moresby 1967


I believe the scheme originated about 1965 and was promoted and developed very rapidly not long before the first National Service Chalkies appeared in PNG in late 1966. While I had argued earlier that the scheme was mainly another outcome of Australia’s early-1960s drive to increase the defence capabilities of the PIR in the light of uncertainty about Indonesia’s intentions ‘over the border’, I now believe that there were more complex issues at work.

A bit of necessary background: in the 1960s, it was not just Indonesia that was causing some concern in Australia. There seemed to be a growing instability in the whole of South-East Asia. We already had troops involved in the ‘Malayan emergency,’ and in the first half of 1965, the Australian Government had announced: that some of those troops would be re-deployed to Borneo; that an Australian battalion would be committed to Vietnam; and that defence needs required the National Service Act to be amended to make National Servicemen liable for ‘overseas service’. Indeed, the first National Servicemen were to leave for Vietnam only about three months before the first National Service Chalkies arrived in TPNG.

But there was already a not-insignificant regular element of the RAAEC in PNG, clearly as part of the reformations introduced after the outbreak of indiscipline in the PIR in January, 1961. 2PIR was authorised to be raised in September 1963 (actually raised in 1965), although a later authorised third battalion was never eventuated. Also, indigenous officers were coming through Portsea. (There were some 30 in PIR by 1970.)

While there was a need for a further increase in indigenous officer production (being addressed through the pre-officer programs at Goldie River and later at Igam Barracks in Lae), the much broader civics program made possible through the Chalkies scheme is evidence of another ‘driver’. It is my belief that it arose primarily out of the recognition within the Army of the rapidly-approaching PNG self-government and later independence – which the Australian government and PNG Administration were denying – and the need to ensure as far as possible that the indigenous army in such a nation would be less tempted to follow the path of so many armies in ‘broken-backed’ post-colonial states elsewhere.

It seems, then, that the Chalkies scheme had its origins in mid-1965.

Earlier that year, Brigadier A. L. MacDonald (whose background included command of an RAR battalion in Korea, Director of Military Operations in Army Headquarters and service in Bangkok as SEATO Planning Officer) had been appointed Commander in the newly-established PNG Command. He later became Chief of the General Staff and, on retirement, General Chief of the Defence Force Staff.

In mid-1965, an RAAEC Regular, Major Henry Keppel Dachs, was posted to HQ TPNG Command as DADAE. Henry was a Queensland-trained teacher who had worked in TPNG in Administration schools before joining the RAAEC and had subsequently served frequently with the Corps in PNG prior to his DADAE appointment under MacDonald in 1965.

Henry was not popular in the RAAEC, having the reputation of being rather ’difficult’, and he retired early as a rather disgruntled member, but he certainly had strong views on what he believed both the Army and the Administration were doing wrong in TPNG. He believed that the Army’s education program should be expanded for the future benefit of the Territory. He also seems to have ‘had the ear’ of MacDonald, both when the latter was in TPNG and later in Canberra.

None of this, of itself, would necessarily lead to the supposition that MacDonald and Dachs between them ‘hatched’ the Chalkies scheme but for what happened shortly after MacDonald departed on promotion to Canberra – being followed in PNG Command by Brigadier Hunter.

In early 1966, Brigadier Maurice Austin headed a small team which visited TPNG with the object of reviewing the case which had been made for a substantial increase in RAAEC staffing. He interviewed Dachs and is understood to have recommended the ‘diversion’ of trained NS teachers to TPNG. That recommendation was clearly acted upon very rapidly and at a time when the Army was struggling with both Nationl Service training and its operational requirements. Indeed, I am sure that such a ‘diversion’ would have had to have been ‘cleared’ at a much higher level, and possibly the DCGS and Adjutant-General themselves.

All of those mentioned above have now deceased so we cannot seek personal confirmation of this supposition. However, I submit that a strong case does exist for a belief that the Chalkies scheme originated with MacDonald and Dachs in TPNG and was largely ‘driven’ by MacDonald and Austin in Canberra. As well, I cannot help feeling that somewhere behind all of this lurks the strong possibility of an indirect influence on the whole process by the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) at Middle Head in Sydney.

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