(As told by Dan himself at the Kenmore Tavern – March 2012)
Dan Winkel was a Warrant Officer Class 2 at Murray Barracks from 1966 to 1969.
Dan, you have come through in many of the stories of the Chalkies as the organiser of many of the tours throughout PNG taken by the Chalkies.
These, in fact, were highlights of their time in PNG. Can you give us the story of these tours?
These were the circumstances where I came to be providing trips for National Servicemen and others to see parts of New Guinea that were not otherwise available to them.
The first lot of National Servicemen arrived in August 1966. One member of this group (whose name I cannot remember), was the son of a member of the Victorian Legislative Council. This man held a fairly senior position here and was a good mate of Malcolm Fraser who was the Minister for the Army at the time. There may even have been family connections. This young fellow wrote home to his dad and said, ‘This place is terrible. We have chicken coops for accommodation and we cannot go anywhere as there is no public transport. If we want to go to Port Moresby we have to walk. It really is terrible.’
The father took these complaints very seriously. He thought that they had taken his son up there as a sergeant and treated him really poorly when he could have been an officer. So, he rang up his mate Malcolm Fraser and told him how bad it was up in PNG. This would have been in late November of that year. ‘Hound Dog’ Payne (Lt.Col. Allen Payne – Assistant Director of
Army Education) had taken over by this stage.
I went up to his office one morning as I usually did and he said, ‘Come in, Dan and sit down. Look at this,’ he said and showed me this sheet of paper from AHQ instructing him to do something for these young National Servicemen. He told me that I had to go down to the Chalkies, get them to elect a leader, sit him down and find out what they wanted.
This I did and he was able to report to me that they wanted to do a bit of reef fishing, see native villages, visit a native school and finally they said they wanted to see a volcano.
So, instead of going back to see ‘Hound Dog’ Payne, I went up to the mess and found the skipper of the Army work boat in Port Moresby. He said he would be happy to take the Chalkies out if I could get approval and authority from the relevant officers.
Then, I went back to ’Hound Dog’ that afternoon and told him that they would like to go fishing and that I had talked to the skipper of the work boat and he was prepared to take them out. At that, ’Hound Dog’ said, ’I’ll be in a day’s fishing, no problem at all.’
I said, ‘We’ll take them out one Saturday‘.
‘No, no, no,’ he answered, ‘we’ll go out on Wednesday.’
I suggested that they all put in $5.00 each to cover the cost of meat for a bar-b-que and beer. Again, he said, ‘No, no. no. They are entitled to full rations and they should not have to pay anything.’
In the end, we did three or four of those trips out into the waters near Port Moresby. Anyway, then they wanted to see a volcano.
There was, at that time, a RAAF contingent in Port Moresby – a squadron leader, pilot officer, flight sergeant and so on. I was walking back to the mess one day and I happened to meet the Squadron Leader. I said to him, ‘I have a bit of a problem and I wonder if you could help me. You have Caribous down there at the airport and I have a bunch of National Servicemen who would like to do a flight to a volcano. Could you help us out?’
‘No, no,’ he said, ‘we couldn’t use the Caribous for that. There are, however, all of those DC-3’s sitting down there. Hire one of them and I’ll give you someone to fly them.’
So, I checked around and was able to get a hold of one of these from TAA. The organisation proceeded and we all assembled down at the airfield early in the morning ready for our flight. We could not believe it but the Squadron Leader turned up with a pilot officer ready to fly our plane!! He said that this would be the last chance he would get to fly a DC-3 and he was not going to let that opportunity go by.
So, off we went down the coast and then into the Owen Stanleys. We reached our volcano, Mt Victoria, and we must have flown around it half a dozen times! After that we went to Popondetta, landed, had breakfast and then later went down around Milne Bay. We landed again and had some tucker and a few beers. About 1 o’clock the Squadron Leader said that we would have to get moving because the storms were starting to build up. So we all filed back in again and away we went. It took less than an hour to come back to Moresby.
Later on, I did about four flights to Popondetta which included the volcano visit. Another popular one was the Goroka trip. We used DC-3’s with side-saddle seating and could take about 35 people. The cost of the flight was $20 to $25 each. On weekend trips, accommodation was occasionally made available at the drill halls of the PNGVR.
Over the three-year period I was in PNG, we used to do a trip around about one every month. There was even a trip from Port Moresby to Singapore using a British Airways Comet. However, it was not a success and I lost money on it.
Overall, we used to do about 10 or 11 trips a year covering a wide range of places such as Popondetta, Goroka, Mt. Hagen, Lae, Madang, Rabaul, Bulolo, Yuile Island, Kerema, Milne Bay, Kavieng, Tarpini and the Trobriands.
Before I left, I found a bloke at Taurama who indicated he would continue the flights. I gave him my book with all of the information needed to run them but it seems that further trips did not eventuate.
( Editor’s Note: We are aware that further trips were organised very late in the Nasho Chalkie period by Doug Rathbone, possibly 1971/72. If anybody would like to write about these, do not hesitate to contact us.)