The Military Cadet School (Lae)

Andrew Dalziel (1971-72)

The Military Cadet School (MCS) in Lae was established in the 1960’s as the initial officer training school for PNG officer cadets. Cadets entered the school having either successfully completed Year 10 at high school or having already shown leadership qualities as NCOs in the PNG forces. The age at entry of cadets was between 17 and 23 years, the variation largely depending on their means of entry.

The MCS OC was an Australian infantry major who was assisted by other training staff including a PNG lieutenant and several NCOs. In 1972, the educational side of the school consisted of a RAAEC captain (Ken Jorgensen) who was a regular army soldier and six National Servicemen, one of whom was a second lieutenant who had completed the officer training course at Scheyville in NSW. The other five were sergeants from the 1/71 National Service intake. All of the educational instructors had teaching qualifications and most were university graduates.

The Military Cadet School (Lae) -
MCS Chalkies in 1972 (Andrew is second from left)

A primary focus of the MCS was to enhance the cadet’s existing educational skills and knowledge to enable them to cope with the intensive one-year officer training course at Portsea in Australia. Cadets spent 18 months at the Military Cadet School, 6 months in each of the junior, intermediate and senior classes. There were 15-20 cadets in each class with approximately 50 cadets in total at MCS. Having successfully completed this course they then proceeded to Portsea to hopefully complete their officer training course and graduate as a second lieutenant. As with any fairly intense cadet training programme, they were constantly assessed and at any time could be exited
from the MCS and of course, Portsea.

Given the focus was on improving their education skills, cadets spent four days per week in the classroom and one day per week on military training. They studied four subjects -English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. I taught the latter which was interesting as it involved some conceptual work on topics such as democracy and communism. The classrooms were very good as the buildings were new, clean and light. The pattern for a normal week was interrupted from time to time when one or more of the cadet classes ‘went bush’ for military/endurance training. At these times, in addition to the military instructors who led these activities, the education instructors who taught the classes concerned, went bush as well.

I taught the senior and junior classes and there were two significant occasions when I went bush with them.

1. Wau-Salamaua walk.
This was a forced march from Wau in the highlands to Salamaua in the northern coast of New Guinea. It had to be completed in five days to replicate the feat of World War 2 troops. Although we were not being shot at, it was still very physically demanding. Superficially, one might think you would be going downhill all the way but in reality, we spent four days walking up mountains and valleys and then dropped down some 1200 metres in the last five or six kilometres to the coast. Points of interest included the inability to take photos for much of the time because of the tropical canopy restricting the amount of light, walking carefully and quietly for 500 metres across a rock fall which disappeared down the side of the mountain at a very steep gradient, receiving a great welcome from isolated villagers who would only see white people rarely and, near Salamaua, Japanese war graves. We spent a pleasant day at Salamaua resting and recuperating and then returned to Lae by a military transport vessel.

The Military Cadet School (Lae) -
MCS Cadets on Wau-Salamaua walk
The Military Cadet School (Lae) -
MCS Cadets on Wau-Salamaua walk

2. Madang for tactical bush manoeuvres.
The native Papua New Guineans were very skilful in their own bush environment. The Madang exercise, as I remember it, was an infantry training exercise based on the standard training methods for tropical warfare. Chalkies spent much of the time acting as enemy under the command of a PNG lieutenant. On one memorable occasion, he led us at night, in pitch black, some 800 metres through the rainforest to where the cadets were in a defensive position and obviously tired from the day’s activities and nodding off to sleep.The only way we could move forward was to hold hands as we could see absolutely nothing. However, with more highly-developed senses and bush instinct, the lieutenant knew exactly where both we and the cadets were. When we were near the cadets we opened fire on instruction. When they returned the fire, we were astonished to find the nearest one was no more than 5 metres away. How our lieutenant managed to navigate through the jungle in those conditions had to be experienced to be believed.

Other Activities:
1. Each year, the Highland Show was held alternating between Goroka and Mt Hagen and the cadets always attended as it was a cultural awareness raising activity. In 1972, the show was held in Goroka and we accompanied the cadets driving up the beautiful Markham Valley from Lae on the Highlands Highway -the longest road in PNG. The show was an interesting cultural event for all concerned as many different Highland tribes attended and there were a variety of activities over the weekend.

2. One mid-week afternoon, the OC of the MCS whose father fought in PNG in World War 2 and who was interested in military history, announced that he was taking a four-wheel drive trip into the hills surrounding the barracks to look for military relics. Any one of the staff who wanted to accompany him could do so. Armed with maps, he had pinpointed the area where he believed we would find a lot of Japanese material and he was absolutely right. The area we went to was only an hour or so from the barracks. We drove as far as we could and then walked. When we reached the designated area, the instruction was to dig. The digging was quite easy and the amount of gear we unearthed in a very confined area in no more than an hour, was astonishing -helmets, weapons , regimental badges, food canisters etc. This indicated that many Japanese had perished in the immediate area having been pushed back by the Australians and lacking food and supplies. I think an American parachute regiment had also landed nearby to help finish them off. I took an amount of material back to my room including a Japanese marine’s helmet and it is to my great regret that I left it there and did not bring it back to Australia.

3. The mess. The sergeants’ mess was an interesting experience for young national servicemen who received privileges it took regular soldiers years to obtain. Considering the situation, we were accepted well by the regulars, most of whom were considerably older than us and in one or two cases, were World War 2 veterans. I also had a local native named Festi who was my wash-iron boy. We had to use them and pay them the standard rate of $2 a week. He was a lovely fellow and presented me with a bilum bag, which the natives use to carry various items in, at the airport when I was leaving.

I had a wonderful experience in PNG at the MCS which although I may not have realised it at the time, was one highlight of my life. I often wonder what happened to the cadets who went through MCS during my time there and how many had successful careers in the PNG forces after independence.

The Military Cadet School (Lae) -
1972 MCS Cadets. Sgt Andrew Dalziel centre rear.
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17 Comments

  1. Am More than very interested in cadet officer and I’m also being happy too to surf this site!
    Can be contacted on mail provided.

    Yours in Action!

  2. G’Day Comrade, My name is John Kinai and I was in the 1/1976 Recruit intake. I am seeking your assistance to locate the March out Parade of the Recruit Company Intake around June of that year . MAJ Press was the last Australian OC REC Company at the PNGDF Training Depot.. In the photos taken by and Australian Army Education Officer and published in the Australian Army News paper bulletin, a picture of myself chatting with late Sir John Guise the first Governor General of PNG post 1975 Independence, who was parade reviewing delegate accompanied by MAJ Press. Thank you, JK

  3. hallow there,
    I have been trying to find information on the PNG School Cadet Program which was shelved after the RAAF Caribou Crash in 1972. I believe this school cadet program was run along the same lines during this same period as the MSC in several schools in PNG at that time.

    If you have any information including pictures, it would be great historical information for our appreciation. I believe this program played a vital role in shaping PNG in the early Independence years.

    With many thanks,

    Brian

  4. The experiences stated was interesting. however,if you can issue applications i think there will be many interested one. frankly, you are not associated with PNGDF, that i know but at least some of us have that passion of joining military so am just saying. no offense, its just suggestion because i am a big fan too here who trying to lodge in my application to PNGDF so I’ll wait for their reply patiently. thankyou

  5. Andrew, would the NS Offr from OTU Scheyville you mentioned be either: Laurie Mobbs, Ian Harvey, Ian Fegent or Len Henderson? All were posted to PNG in the 1971/72 era. There are many others from OTU who were posted to PNG, but none that are on my OTU database that were there in that period that don’t have particular posting locations on the database. Neil Leckie, Editor (and by default the association Historian), The Scheyvillian, the OTU Association Newsletter 0400 573 802

  6. My name is Hillary Adams Mahaut, I am 24 years old. I have a diploma in Electrical engineering (power) from the national polytechnic institute of PNG. I am Desperately needed to join the military cadet.. please email me details of how n when to apply for cadet training programs for the png military.
    Thanks

    • This Australian website is not part of the PNGDF.
      We are unable to help Applicants for the PNGDF.

      However, If you wish to join the PNGDF you can:

      visit their Website: http://www.defence.gov.pg
      OR
      write a Letter to:
      The Recruiting Officer
      HQ PNGDF Murray Barracks
      Free Mail Bag, Boroko
      National Capital District
      We are not able to help you any further.

  7. A great article and images, well done.

    I am the Curator of the Army Museum Duntroon (Formally the Army Museum of Officer Training) and I would very much like to get in contact with former Staff and Cadets of the MCS to record their stories as part of our shared history. Anyone interested should contact the administrator of this page for my email address.

    Regards

    Paul

  8. So the whole story about the military cadet school is indeed super real and awesome . I mean my father was once an army cadet back then in the late 70’s, more than a million times he would repeat the same stories about the school and the fun adventure he has gone through. Like how to handle a gun, the 21 gun salute formation, they even learn how to survive in the jungle and during that time Hercules was still in operation (the biggest Australian war plane) which they board in it and take annual trips to Igam barracks for conventions.

    Thumbs up for this article???. It really is a great memory???

  9. Were the naval cadets (hope I used the right term) trained in the same location or were they trained somewhere else?

  10. I’m have completed my grade 12 at maprik secondary school with good results in 20015.However,I have not accepted for an offer and i’m very interested to be a papua new guinea defence soldier.If i’m given the chance and opportunity I will give the best of my ability to serve the force.

  11. I have completed my grade 10 and because I dream to become a PNGDF soldier.
    I almost to be continued to do my grade 11 and 12 but financial problem and my parents push me into an institution [MEGA ELECTRONICS AND IT ASSISTANT.]

    Further more,if necessary I will send you any requested details.
    Best Rgards.
    Sylvester.Nandre.

    • Rodney,
      Unfortunately, this website is about events and experiences that occurred over 40 years ago. We have no contact with the current PNGDF and so, we cannot help you.

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