by Sgt. John Meyer
I was among 30 soldiers sent on a Civic Action Patrol up into the Gulf Area of Papua New Guinea in January/February 1970. Two Landing Barges were sent on the month long assignment to a remote village called Kikori and the purpose was to assemble a new Medical Aid post that we transported with us.
The journey lasted four days as we slowly sailed up into the Gulf country from Port Moresby. Our first stop was Kukipi where we stayed the night. Because we had arrived early in the afternoon Dave Roxburgh and I visited the local Primary School where we spoke to a number of Classes. Both Dave and I were based at Murray Barracks in the Education Corps. The following day we stopped at a “Trade Store” at a little settlement called Ihu. Our third stop-over was at Kerema, a much bigger village.
After hours of travelling through miles of water in the low lying parts of the Gulf District we finally arrived at Kikori. Massive amounts of water were pouring out of the Highlands and I have never seen so much water in all my life.
A major problem arose when the task of assembling the building began as the site selected for the Aid Post became covered with water at “high tides”. A Reconnaissance party from the Engineers had flown to Kikori from Moresby prior to our trip and had chosen the site at “low tide”. The only other site available was on the side of a hill so a “labour line” had to be organised by the local “Kiap”. The labour line started levelling the area but this was a massive task. By the time of our departure the hill was still being excavated so we left the building in pieces on pallets beside the wharf.
Among the troops on the Patrol were Engineers and Medics. Not only were the Engineers to help with the assembly of the Aid Post but they also repaired tools and equipment from villagers in the area. The Medics were busy too helping out with minor medical ailments so it was a busy time for all.
Dave and I were Projectionists and it was our task at night to show films to the villagers. We had collected material from Government Departments in Moresby and various Companies based there too. The films ranged from sporting material from rugby league, rugby union and Australian Rules, travel, the life of Jesus Christ, and other promotional material. The highlight was any music, especially Country and Western music. The favourite clip was a song called “I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande” so we would play this at least twice a night to the “hoots & hollers” of the locals.
There was a short film clip of the Patrol made at the time and it is stored at the Australian War Memorial and can be viewed by clicking here. (It is at the end of the article). This article (without the film clip) from the AWM website is re-produced here as it lists many of the names of the men who manned the Patrol.