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Slides from John Baker’s Voluntary Service Overseas placement in Solomon Islands

  • AU PMB PHOTO 114
  • Collection
  • 1964-1965

This collection of 540 colour photographs was taken by John Baker in Solomon Islands in 1964 and 1965, while he was working there as a volunteer under the auspices of the British Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) organisation. He was 18 and 19 at the time and was what was known as a school leaver volunteer. There were 10-15 VSOs in the Solomons in 1964, with most working as teachers in mission boarding schools. However, John was attached mainly to two District Administrations to work on various local projects.

At the time, Solomon Islands was under colonial administration known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP), in which virtually all senior and technical/professional positions were still held by expatriates. Thus VSOs were working within and were very much a part of a colonial culture.

The photographs in the collection were taken with a Voigtlander Vito B camera on Kodachrome 100 colour slides. The camera was stored, including for many canoe trips, in an old Sunshine Milk tin with a bag of silica gel in the bottom. Captions for the photos were written in a foolscap notebook when the slides came back from processing. Thus the names of people and places were all recorded contemporaneously and so are likely to be accurate. These captions, written in 1964-65, sometimes have a colonial tone but have been left unchanged as they are an historical reflection of their times.

John Baker’s first work as a VSO was from August-November 1964 as a teacher at the Geological Department’s survey school in Honiara. Then he transferred to Western District headquarters in Gizo and worked during December 1964 and January 1965 as a surveyor on the Wagina Island Gilbertese resettlement scheme. In February 1965 he transferred to Eastern District headquarters in Kira Kira where he spent six weeks working on local election preparations. He then moved back to Gizo and spent April to August 1965 travelling round, organising the construction of concrete drinking water tanks in various villages in the Roviana and Wana Wana lagoons and subsequently on the island of Ranonnga.

Baker, John R.

A brief sketch of the fate of 3000 Indian pows in New Guinea

  • AU PMB MS 1249
  • Collection
  • 1943-1945

Captain Singh, of the Dogra regiment, relates that the Indians "left Singapore on 5 May 1943 in seven parties each consisting of about 600 - three of the parties went to New Britain and the other four came to New Guinea", ie. Wewak.

Professor Hank Nelson gave the PMB a cover note on Singh's 'Brief Sketch', as follows: "Singh wrote another brief account of his time in New Guinea as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, 'The Experiences of an Indian Prisoner of War in New Guinea", The Infantry Journal, Vol.1, No.1, July 1949, pp.56-62. In the journal article he notes that the 'irony of fate reached its climax' when of the eleven Indians who survived with the Japanese until the end of the War, nine were put on an aircraft to fly them out of New Guinea and it crashed, killing all nine. Singh, who was not on the flight, was then the only survivor. From the 3,000 Indians originally landed in the Sepik in May 1943 another 191 had survived, liberated by advancing Australians before the end of the War. One of these men, Sepoy Bachan Singh, provided evidence for the Tokyo War Crimes Trials."

Professor Nelson adds that “a copy of Chint Singh’s reminiscences written in Wewak is in the UPNG Library and (I think) the Australian War Memorial.”

The document is a roneoed typescript, 61ppp., dated 4 Nov 1945. It was passed to the PMB by Professor Donald Denoon, who worked at the University of Papua New Guinea. At the time, the author was unable to be contacted. The author's son, Narinder Parmar, has since been identified.

Singh, Captain Chint

Diary of an escape from Salamaua, Territory of New Guinea

  • AU PMB MS 1181
  • Collection
  • 22 Jan-19 Feb 1942

Robert Melrose was born in Hay, NSW, on 5 April 1890. He served as a Telegraphist in the Royal Australian Navy on HMAS Yarra in New Guinea waters. He joined the civil administration of the Mandated territory of New Guinea as a Patrol Officer on 9 May 1921. He served initially as an Assistant District Officer to Colonel John Walstab in Kavieng, New Ireland, 1921-1924, than became District Officer at Manus 1924-1926, Aitape 1926-1931, Kavieng 1931-1933, Rabaul and Salamaua until 1936/37, and then at Rabaul till late 1941, when the Department of District Services and Native Affairs was transferred to Lae with the Administrator. At that time Robert Melrose was Assistant Director, then Director, of the Department.
Robert Melrose returned to the Territory after the War as Government Secretary based in Port Moresby. He sufferred a massive heart attack and returned to Australia in April 1949. During his retirement, Melrose served on a Committee interviewing applicants for government posts in PNG and also served as Honorary Secretary/Treasurer of the newly formed Retired Officers Association of PNG till his death in September 1959.
<BR><P>(Note by Geoff Melrose.)

In January 1942 two parties evacuated Lae and Salamaua in front of the appoaching Japanese forces. One group of young fit people, led by Nick Penglase, went via Wau, Waria valley to Buna and Kokoda. The remaining group of 34, led by Robert Melrose, travelled by pinnace and canoe to Morobe and Buna and then overland to Kokoda.
<BR>Diary of escape from Salamaua, Territory of New Guinea. Ms (faint pencil and pen), 22 Jan-19 Feb 1942
<BR>Transcript of diary, 22 Jan-19 Feb 1942, by Geoffrey Melrose. Ms., p/c.
<BR>Notebook and letterbook (letters-out), Apr-Jul 1941, Feb 1942
<BR>Notebook: list of personnel, stores, provisions and expenditure, n.d.

Melrose, Robert (1890-1952)

Interview transcripts

  • AU PMB MS 1179
  • Collection
  • 1973

In June 1973, as Professor of Human Geography in the Research School of Pacific Studies at the ANU, Gerry Ward wrote W. F. Straatmans, a field researcher in Papua New Guinea, instructing him to carry out interviews with Danny Leahy and Jack Fox who were amongst the first Europeans in the Highlands of New Guinea. Pim Straatmans had had long personal relationships with both interviewees.
The interviewees recall pre-War and War-time conditions and tell stories regarding transport, airstrip construction, native labour, gold digging methods, sing sings in the Highlands, Edie Creek, Maprik, Bena Bena, Wewak and Sepik regions, including Danny Leahy's account of rescuing nuns and priests from Catholic mission stations on the Sepik during the War. They remark on some of Danny Leahy's photographs, recalling the deaths of Fr Mauschhauser and Br Eugene in the Chimbu, contact with Fr Van Baar, Fr Ross and Fr Schaefer, and the rivalry between the Catholic and Lutheran missions. They comment on the kiaps Robert Melrose and Jim Taylor and on the hanging of Ludy Schmidt in Rabaul.
In the transcript of a further interview with Chris Ashton of the ABC, Jack Fox, who had been in New Guinea with the Australian occupation forces in 1914, recalls the expedition and German resistance.

Transcripts of Pim Straatmans' interview with Jack Fox and Danny Leahy, November 1973, and Chris Ahton's interview with Jack Fox, also in 1973, together with related papers and a photograph of Jack Fox. See Finding aids for details.

Fox, John R and Leahy, Daniel

Monthly and quarterly reports and related papers

  • AU PMB MS 1178
  • Collection
  • 1939-1962

Laurie Bragge, who was a Patrol Officer in New Guinea from 1961, was posted to the West Sepik Distict from time to time where he collected these documents.

Aitape District patrol reports, 1944-45; Sepik District and Sub-District monthly and patrol reports, 1945; Aitape District Office and Sub-District monthly reports, native labour report, sing-sing report, 1945-46; Aitape Sub-District monthly and quarterly reports 1946-57; Vanimo Patrol Post monthly and quarterly reports, 1946-62; Aitape Sub-District correspondence, 1945-48; notations from Aotei Village Book, 1939-45; miscellaneous printed material. See Finding aids for details.

Sepik District Administration, Papua New Guinea

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