The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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June 23, 2014

Guy Thornton emailed from Spain:

It's a bit like a horror movie, where the protaganist suddenly remembers some deep seated memory that he's obviously tried very hard to suppress. And then the word "Panguna" and suddenly the shrieks and screams erupt. Panguna.

Actually, for this pom the missing 5 years started in 1966 when my dad got a contract for a year as a chopper pilot with Crowley Aviation in Lae. We travelled a lot as a family. I'd just dropped out of high school in UK and as an 18 year old, New Guinea sounded interesting. In those days you could get a job in Lae in less than 5 minutes and I spent 3 years with Comworks earning very good money doing stuff like driving/flying around TPNG counting Govt inventory - chairs, filing cabinets, cutlery, etc. I seem to remember taking a six-month sabbatical in Buenos Aires. Then in 1970 I was sitting on a plane going back to Lae when the chap next to me offered me a job at Panguna. They were electrical contractors, ODG-FMIC, sub-contracted to Bechtel. So I lived at Panguna for nearly a year and then as we'd finished wiring up the ball mills, rod mills, concentrator, etc the contract wound down and we worked at Arawa for a short while on a sort of pipe and conveyor belt that brought the copper down from Panguna. The money was very good but I earned more than my pay playing cards. We used to take a company bus down to Kieta at weekends and visit the new hotel at Arawa, which was owned by the uncle of my then girlfriend (whom I knew from Lae).

The night before I was due to catch the Electra out to Sydney at the end of my time, I lost my entire year's pay & winnings on one hand of cards only 10 minutes after the game started. I went back to my room which I shared with a mate who was also a sly grogger. He asked what was I doing back, wasn't I going to play cards. I said I'd lost all my money. He was so concerned, he took his big bag of grog takings, several thousand dollars, and said go and lose this as well or else I'll come back and find you swinging from the ceiling. So I did and within a couple of hours I got my money back and even a little bit more, and the next day I left for Sydney as planned. And immediately on to pastures new..

For what it's worth, I live with my wife of 35 years (Rhodesian) on a smallholding in Extremadura, Spain.

Memories, yikes!

Kind regards, Guy

May 29, 2014

24th Bougainville Reunion Wrap-Up


Our 24th Reunion has come and gone. We were treated to yet another beautiful autumn day. Surprisingly our numbers were down but, on the positive side, for the first time, we were able to get around and to speak to most of the attendees.

There were several attendees from the veteran class including 93 year old Pedro (Amigo) Saavedra. Pedro was delighted to catch up with several old workmates, from B16. Harry Cislowski was there with his wife, Marlene. Ted Rogalski again travelled from Perth. Pedro was in the custody of his daughter, Clara and his grandsons, Michael and Daniel assisted with the mobility scooter. Errol Ryan also enjoyed a chat to Amigo. Of course, Errol`s son, Craig, is another regular who is always there, helping the cause. Ken and Dianne Mills, from Mackay, were first timers. With Ted, they travelled onto Bundaberg where they caught up with ex-B16 / B24 celebrities, Nev Brewer, Keith Widt and Kevin Groom. I understand they had a big night out at the Brothers Leagues Club. We must take care as to the amount of hospitality we lavish on Raggles. He is threatening to return to Perth via Brisbane !

Ray Chadwick was again down from Cairns. Also from Port Services there was our good captain, Barclay Ross, looking spritely and content. For many years Stephanie has journeyed from Sydney without Barclay and she has been one of our most prolific reunion photographers. This year it was Harry who marshalled the troops for the camera. In our next transmission we will share some shots with you. Another one of our most consistent attendees is Rolly Cornell, down from the “Sunny Coast”. Ray Leddick continues to work in distant lands but this does not stop Fran from getting out and about. It was good to see you, Fran.

There were the usual stalwarts, on parade. George and Rhonda never miss and neither does Keith Sherwood. John McLeod, also from Cairns, is becoming another regular. A reunion newcomer was Joan Whitham. I promised her a teacher to chat to and I was so pleased to see Barbara Knox and husband, Ross arrive. They were with John and Annette Barr. In this circle there was also Jill Ferguson and Eddie Boast. Jill has been busy gathering equipment for the Buka and Buin hospitals cause. A big thank you to Jill ! Sadly the other Gill did not make it this year. “Fenella`s husband” (it is Derek, I believe) called in , , , , , , , Gill is not mobile enough for such an outing these days.

Speaking of Fenella , , , , , if you find any Arawa Bulletins or copies of the Concentrates newsletter tucked away in the back of your garage then please treasure them. Under no circumstances are they to go to the dump. The day will come where we will be seeking such material for the reintroduced Bullie.

Marie and Joanne Hoskins also came from NSW. Graham and Colleen are keeping well. Also there were Elaine and Kathy Devereux (Moore). Elaine, if you ever need a lift just give us a call. Ross and Wendy Colvin are regulars and it is always nice to catch up with them. Valerie rarely misses, unless she is travelling. David is now based in Aussie but John is still resident in the UK. Structural Engineer, John has been a Project Manager on the world acclaimed Shard development, in London. Chris Hatherley again journeyed from Toowoomba. It was so nice to connect with Jeanette (Brophy) twice in a month. The same goes for Shirlene and her husband, , , , , , , they have moved from WA to Bribie. He is a top bloke. He comes from the West ! Also from Bribie, came Gerald Clark and his family. Sorry to everyone whose names I have forgotten. My memory is not quite what it was. I was lost this year without James. I will be looking for a couple of volunteers to assist us for the 25th. We already have a volunteer , , , , , , from the Ryan family.

We were delighted to see Con Papamihail make a dash across from Perth. When the mine closed there were about a dozen of us who had alternate employment in PNG. Con completed several years with the PNG Electricity Commission prior to returning to Australia. We are grateful that Con has been quite diligent in keeping track of all matters, Bougainville. Thanks, Con. Another I T guru in John Mowatt was with us , , , , , , with his better half, Shirley. John has offered to assist me with some of this correspondence, going forward. Horst was the first to arrive (from the Sunny Coast) and he put in another long day. Gwen and Billy Koch were with us again. Bill`s surgeon is more than content with his progress. As usual we compared notes.

Fergus Keane drove 5 hours from NSW to attend. We look forward to seeing Fergus, each year. Thanks for the effort, old mate. Kiwi McDonald has returned from China. We will see more of him going forward. Tony attended with his son Justin. Rae and Lisa Smart have experienced the toughest of months yet they still made it to the picnic. Thanks to the Nix family, Otto, Anita and Ricky for attending for the first time

Next year, for No 25, we will endeavour to do something special. We would like to bring together some of the teenagers who were raised on Bougainville and then travelled from there to various boarding schools across Australia and New Zealand. There is no doubt that there is more and more tourist type travel taking place into Bougainville. Reunions there are a probability within the medium term. Darrell Cox, Ted and George are speaking of a fishing venture in the New Year. Watch this space.

Special mention is justified for two of our favourite people, Reg and Pam Givney. A huge thank you to the youngest of their beautiful daughters, Anona and her daughter Sharnie, who facilitated the day for them and for us. We were so lucky to have Reg and Pam living, just around the corner, in Arawa when our kids were infants.

For future picnics please keep in mind that if your esky and picnic furniture does not have wheels then there will be a trolley or two available to assist you. If there is anyone who cannot drive and wishes to come then just give us a call. Anne and Father Barnham have been on the sick list but yesterday John sounded in good form. They are fortunate to have all of the billy lids living close by. Errol has already paid them a visit with some photos from Sunday.

The catering was completed in expert style by Luke Kuhia and his team from the Brisbane Bougainville Community Group. Included in Luke`s team there were Monica Larcombe, Veronica and Les Henderson, Chrissie Davidson and Lucie Beagrie, to name a few. We very much, over catered but it is always better to have too much rather than too little.

I have probably gathered only half of our picnickers here. Monica has recalled for me the attendance of Kerry Mullins. Kerry, if you are not receiving our newsletter then please send us a note. This goes for everyone who has changed address or who otherwise has slipped from the mailing list.

The next important date on your social calendar should be Saturday, the 14th June, see below. In addition to the goodies listed herein Monica advises that the Lucky Door Prize is dinner for two and a night at the Mercure. If you do not have enough for a table then just advise Monica or Lucie and they will see you right.


May 23, 2014

Dinner & Dance for Arawa and Buka Hospitals - Saturday 14th June 2014 - Mercure Hotel, Brisbane


For tickets please contact:

Monica: 0413 495 919

Luke: 0498 215 291

Lucy: 0404 941 410



May 6, 2014

Darryl Robins emailed from Carramar in Western Australia:

G'Day Peter

Great site. Thanks

I was with Bechtel during construction around Oct 70 to March 72. In the telecommunication field. My daughter Nikki was born at the Panguna minesite hospital Feb 72. She spotted your website & has the urge to return for a look around.
Is that a possibility these days?

I have a bunch of slides scanned to jpegs. If you are interested, I could put them on a disc & mail it to you. Still in contact with a few, Brian Dodd, area kiap (Known as Boots then). During a pissy Wednesday night at Brian's, we formed the Bougainville Ski Club - see badge below. Neville Dipell who was Bechtel comms at Loloho. A brief slide description also available. Have a few stories if you are interested.

For starters, here's the badge of the Bougainville Ski Club:

I can't quite remember the significance of the badge items but think it was as follows: Skis - for the snow that we know will come one day but "for today we rest"; cup - grog, obviously; extended stem on cup - the symbol for woman of which we dreamt; yellow disc - sun.

Darryl Robins
Carramar, WA
0427 186 771

April 24, 2014

Greg Mulhall emailed from Mackay:

Good morning I was in Bougainville from December 1969 to July 1971 employed by Hastings Deering as a storeman. During this time I lived at camp 5 for a short period of time before moving to the camp 6 at Loloho. The time spent on Bougainville was something special and I will never forget it and I thank you for the info you have provided.
I will look through my old photos and forward to you any that i feel are relevant to Bougainville.

I am retired now and have been in Mackay for the past 21 years


Greg Mulhall

April 9, 2014

Alan Lymbery emailed from Wagga Wagga:

Good morning,

I just came across your web site whilst doing a bit of reading on WW2 and Bougainville.

Could you add me to your honour roll please. I worked for Hastings Deering from 1969 till late 1970. Our first facility was at MKs site near camp 5. We then moved into a large warehouse at the new industrial estate. I lived in camp 6 at Loloho.

I am retired now and live in Wagga as you can see below. Bougainville was my first overseas job, straight from Talbingo Dam in the Snowy. I spent 27 years in Indonesia with short periods in Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

Alan Lymbery.
10 Eyre St. Lake Albert.
Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.
Australia. 2650.
Tel. Home: 61-2-69264192.
Mobile:61- 0412 380339 or 61-0450 389737
Skype: lymbery001
email lymbery001[AT]

April 8, 2014

Col Burns called in at "Riverbend"


When I set up the Bougainville website way back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I had in mind the four-thousand-plus expat workers who built the mine, the mine access road, the port and powerhouse, and the Arawa township, and who cooked the meals, ran the camps, bashed away on typewriters or, as I did, ticked and flicked the hundreds of progress claims by contractors working for the construction managers Bechtel Corporation.

Given that all that work was done in the early 1970s when the workers' average age was around 30 which, if they haven't succumbed to the booze and other occupational hazards, would make them now octogenarians, I shouldn't have been surprised when many, if not most, visitors and contributors to the website turned out to be the much more numerous and much younger permanent mine workers that passed through the employ of Bougainville Copper Limited from the start of mining phase in April 1972 until the first pylon was toppled on 15 April 1989..

I was therefore delighted when an "oldtimer" from those early construction days turned up yesterday (7/4/2014) at the gates of "Riverbend". It was Col Burns who had been draftsman with MINENCO and later Bechtel Corporation from 1969 to 1972. He had rung me some years earlier from his acreage way, way west of Nerrigundah which, while only some 60 kilometres south of us, is closer to Cooma than the coast and in serious four-wheel drive country which our little FORD Focus could never negotiate.

We talked and talked about Loloho, Camp 1, the early days of the mine access road, the then seemingly metropolitan delights of Kieta, and forty years disappeared in a cloud of memories. We felt we were again in our twenties when it was always morning, when time was endless, and we and the world were young and full of hope. We agreed that those years on what was then the world's largest construction project to become the world's largest open-cut mine had been the best years of our lives when we gained experiences and formed friendships that would last us for the rest of our lives.

Thanks for calling in, Col!

P.S. If you know Col Burns and want to contact him, his phone number is (02) 44779306. His mailing address is 3682 Belowra Road, Belowra NSW 2545. Alas, you can't email him as he has no internet.


March 26, 2014

Johannes van der Linden emailed from Austinmer near Wollongong:

Johannes in Mongolia

Johannes in Indonesia (he's the one on the left ☺ )


Hello BCL Friend,

I was on Bougainville for 19 years and the last GM on site.

Could you please add this to your blog:

Click here to open in separate window

I am interested to assist our Bougainvillean Friends and restart the Panguna operation,

Since leaving Bougainville I was involved in planning, commissioning of Kelian Equatorial Mining in Indonesia, Phu Kham of Panaust in Laos and Consulting for several Mining Companies in Mongolia, Indonesia, PNG and even in Australia.

Presently semi-retired and trying to get support to re-open the Panguna Operation which is needed to assist the people of Bougainville to become economically independent and achieve their full potential.

Love your blog.
Johannes van der Linden
email vanderlindenjohanne[AT]


March 3, 2014

Just like his donga at Loloho (except for the white shit outside)


My old mate Chris, who spent time on Bougainville and also worked all over Australia and who, missing his snowshoes and the taste of whale blubber, returned to his native Canada, has recreated that certain "Camp 6" je ne sais quoi feeling inside this beautiful Hansel & Gretel house in his backyard in Kamloops.

Just the sort of place in which to indulge your passion for poetry, Chris, but I can't see a red plastic chair anywhere!



January 16, 2014

Tonga calling!


I've just had a call from Horst Berger in Tonga! He and his family survived Cyclone Ian but with nothing more than the clothes on their backs! Their house is gone, their belongings are gone, and so is everything else on the tiny island of Uiha.

I've told him that I am right now sending AUS$500 to WESTERN UNION's office at Pangai on Ha'apai's main island of Lifuka. He thanked me profusely! I couldn't see his tears, but I could hear them!!!

Despite the far from overwhelming response from my friends, I shall try to collect more donations as I want to send another $500.

You may feel smug to have that $20 (or whatever) still in your wallet but let me tell you, you don't feel anywhere near as good as I do. I know I have helped another human being in his darkest hour and it makes me feel very, very good! You should try it one day!