My father served in PNG in RAAF Beaufighter 30 Sqn in World War II, so it was a bit of a coincidence that I was posted to Port Moresby as a RAAEC T-Sgt during my period of National Service in 1970-71. In another twist of fate, while Dad was servicing Beaufighters at Ward’s Strip, my wife’s father was defending the airfield as a member of a searchlight battery, though the two men did not actually meet until decades after the war.
In recent times, my father – now 91 – has shown keen interest in revisiting historical things referring to that period of his life, and while reading the Victorian RSL magazine ‘Mufti’ came across the article about your efforts to record the RAAEC’s role in the development of the PNG armed forces. He was quite excited about the prospect of me passing on my recollections of this time.
I was called up in 1966, was deferred until the beginning of 1970 while completing my teacher training, and went into the Army a week after returning from my honeymoon. While in recruit training at Puckapunyal, I gambled on getting a position in the RAAEC in preference to applying for officer training at the Scheyville Unit. Luckily, I was one of the smattering of young conscripted teachers to be picked for the PNG assignment. After recruit training we were sent to Singleton for infantry training. There could have been several reasons for this move, but it’s unlikely that any of them will be successfully explained to me. I then had a stint at Army Apprentices School in Balcombe, Vic, before being flown to Moresby to begin my year in PNG. in November 1970.
From Murray Barracks, I was ‘detached’, along with a Melbourne Uni baseballing mate, to teach about Year 9 level Maths and Science to Army Apprentices at Iduabada Tech, a ‘civilian’ school which the technical wherewithal to handle mechanics, electricians, cooks and so on. So for most of my time, I was furthering my fledgling teaching career, and wearing civvies! My wife followed me to Moresby, when I’d managed to find some accommodation for us, and our daughter was actually born at Port Moresby General Hospital in May 1971. The year was a very interesting experience, being part of a new nation coming to life, and the group of ‘chalkies’ formed a great social network. Many of us were involved in sports and also traveled to local villages to meet the families of some of the PNG soldiers in our units.
By scouring through some letters and papers that have been in boxes for forty years, I should be able to come up with some names and tales of people I served with, if you’d like some further information.
Another extraordinary coincidence occurred this very week, when ‘The Age’ Good Weekend magazine ran a lengthy article about the rock legend ‘Doc’ Neeson of the Angels, mentioning service in the RAAEC in PNG, probably in 1969 or 1970, judging by other dates in the article.
Formerly T-Sgt DA Jenkins 3797….(removed for privacy reasons) some things just stick in a corner of your brain.