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The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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May 4, 2016

A message from the webmaster:

It is perhaps not surprising that this blog and the Bougainville website are dying a slow death. However, as the numbers of ex-Bougainville employees are diminishing, it puts an even greater responsibility on those who are left to keep recording those times which were important to us as well as to the island of Bougainville.

An old Bougainville friend from those early days, who stayed until the very end of the construction phase, wrote, "I remember clearing up old files after Bechtel left. There were a couple of box files filled with letters from women, solicitors, lawyers etc., all much of the same theme, so-and-so was believed to be working on the project and was wanted for child support payments, etc. The standard reply clipped under the lid was to the effect that there were over fifty companies working on the project with a total of 10,000 workers, and if the writer would please care to contact the respective company. Of course, they knew that if they dobbed in one guy, they would instantly lose a big percentage of the workforce."

Camp 6 Loloho
Click on image to enter Bougainville Copper Project website

Back then, 'home' was a 9x9ft donga tastefully decorated with PLAYBOY centrefolds of girls waxed to the point of martyrdom, where one's wordly possessions easily fitted into a 2ft-wide metal locker and one's needs for comfort were satisfied by a red plastic chair on the porch.

Life was so simple then; we were so innocent!

Or, at least, some of us were. The old saying that Papua New Guinea attracted three types of men, namely missionaries, moneymakers, and misfits, had to be rewritten for the Bougainville Copper Project to include those running away from their wives, the police, or themselves.

If you have an anecdote to contribute or some old photos, please email me at riverbend[AT]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Goerman
PO Box 233
Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Email riverbend[AT]
Skype riverbend2

May 3, 2016

Red Dog


Louis de Bernières, probably best known for his book "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (and the movie by the same name), wrote the endearing true story about Red Dog which was later made into an equally charming movie.

As he explains in the inside jacket of the book, "In early 1998 I went to Perth in Western Australia in order to attend the literature festival, and part of the arrangement was that I should go to Karratha to do their first ever literary dinner. Karratha is a mining town a long way further north. The landscape is extraordinary, being composed of vast heaps of dark red earth and rock poking out of the never-ending bush. I imagine that Mars must have a similar feel to it.

I went exploring and discovered the bronze statue to Red Dog outside the town of Dampier. I felt straight away that I had to find out more about this splendid dog.

A few months later I returned to Western Australia and spent two glorious weeks driving around collection Red Dog stories and visiting the places that he knew, writing up the text as I went along. I hope my cat never finds out that I have written a story to celebrate the life of a dog."

I enjoyed the movie because the people in it reminded me so much of the people I met on Bougainville in the early construction days. Then I picked up the book - a mere hundred half-sized pages - and found some of the passages even more reminiscent of Bougainville. Listen to this:

".. the town was full of lonely men. There had been a few aborigines and even fewer white people there before the iron companies and the salt company had moved in, but just recently a massive and rapid development had begun to take place. New docks were constructed, new roads, new houses for the workers, a new railway and a new airport. In order to build all this, hundreds of men had arrived from all corners of the world, bringing nothing with them but their physical strength, their optimism and their memories of distant homes. Some of them were escaping from bad lives, some had no idea how they wanted their lives to be, and others had grand plans about how they could work their way from rags to riches.

They were either rootless or uprooted. They were from Poland, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Greece, England, Yugoslavia, and from other parts of Australia too. Most had brought no wives or family with them, and for the time being they lived in big huts that had been towed on trailers all the way up from Perth. Some of them were rough and some gentle, some were honest and some not. There were those who got rowdy and drunk, and picked fights, there were those who were quiet and sad, and there were those who told jokes and could be happy anywhere at all. With no women to keep an eye on them, they easily turned into eccentrics. A man might shave his head and grow an immense beard. He might go to Perth for a week, go "blotto on Rotto', and come back with a terrible hangover and lots of painful tattoos. He might wear odd socks and have his trousers full of holes. He might not wash for a week, or he might read books all night so that he was red-eyed and weary in the morning when it was time to go to work. They were all pioneers, and had learned to live hard and simple lives ..."

Sounds familiar? In case you've been wondering: I was the one with the odd socks ☺

Anyway, I'm sure Louis de Bernières won't mind me having quoted him; after all, you're all now going to rush out to buy the book, aren't you? ☺


April 26, 2016

Mike Macey emailed:


I was on Bougainville in the early seventies, working for John Hornibrook in his Loloho workshop, we were supporting the destruction of the mountain to build the power station, we were taken over by Bechtel, there were several incidents while I was there.

The beer container went missing off the ship. Anzac day, pub was open early for all day drinking, police closed it down before 11 am because of the fighting, riot team flew from PM to sort it out.

Riots in the camp because of the food, Chinese cook took a lot of stick because of that.

email mike[AT]


RIP Bob Dean

We regret to advise of the passing of Bob Dean, on the 16th April 2016. Our condolences go to all of the extended Dean families, from Tassie to Lao and beyond.

Bob was born on the 13th May, 1942 in Tasmania. From 1958 to 1965 he was employed by the Phoenix Foundry, In Launceston including to complete his apprenticeship. He them ventured to the mainland and spent time as a tradesman with John Brown, Bechtel, EPT and Eglo. In 1970 he commenced a long association with Bechtel. This was on the construction phase of the BCL Crushing and Milling facilities. Bob adapted quickly to the Bechtel style of operation. He was popular with the American management and, with his calm, unflappable manner, he was an effective buffer between the management and the men. Amongst the mass of workers who attended the site each day Bob was always conspicuous with his silver hard hat. In those days there were hats of all colours and makes but I can remember that there was only a single silver hat. After Bougainville Bechtel sent Bob to Freeport for 6 months. He was then snapped up by BCL to assist with the commissioning of the plant. He spent many years from Foreman to Superintendent, managing the mill mechanical maintenance department. John Schmiter preceded Bob in this role. Malcolm Calvert was the head of engineering, based in B60. Other managers who operated near to Bob include John Tynan, Bruce Machen, Rudi Wiess and Fred Kastner. Bob and Bruce were tremendous mates. They had an interesting management style and it was a style that proved to be most effective. I was a maintenance planner and trainer for several years around this time so I was fortunate to observe at close quarters their significant achievements. I reported to John and Bruce via the Chief Planner, Pete Martin. In those days we did not have computers. The planning works were extremely labour intensive. Training was a critical function at Bob`s level. He took a keen interest in all matters, mill training. In later years, even some of the senior roles were localised but the maintenance times and the work quality associated with our shutdowns continued to improve. Testament to Bob`s achievements in the sphere of training was associated with a visit from a group of maintenance engineers from BHP, from Mt Newman. They sought an understanding as to why our liner change shutdowns were so time efficient. Come the mid-80`s a Repairman by the name of Jack Wesley was the maintenance planner. Jack possessed quite minimal formal education but it did hold him back. From the Mill Operations Dept, Bob worked next to Ross Holborow, Peter Colbert, Barry Deans and others. For much of the time Bob was in the Bougainville concentrator, Ted Petherick was the Mill Electrical Superintendent. (thank you, Ted, Ross, Ray Knight and Bob`s brother for getting the sad news through to my desk).

Bob and family departed Bougainville in1988. There followed a 4 year stint in Tassie with Southern Aluminium and Comalco. There was a 5 year appointment at Weipa and 3 years at Ernst Henry. His career drew towards a close with significant senior appointments in Argentina, Eqypt and in Lao.

Whenever he could Bob would hire people from his old Bougainville team. Mr Ray, Graeme Talbot and the badger, Peter Koglin, were some to benefit from this.

Bob and Maxine enjoyed the expatriate lifestyle and Bob made every endeavour to continue in such roles.


April 22, 2016

Stuart Eccles sent these photos:

Hi, here are a bunch of photos my mum, Rita Eccles, who was a nurse on the mine, scanned recently. My dad, John Eccles, worked on the paper and many are shots of his trips about the island.

Stuart Eccles
email eccles.stuart[AT]



April 13, 2016

Phil Wilson emailed:

Love the blog. I worked in Bougainville from 1974 to 1977, firstly for Blackwood Hodge and then for Buin Earthmoving.

I still look back at those times as one of the highlights of my life so far, what a blast. I worked on the construction of the road from Morgan Equipment to Tinputz and had a camp on the Pienai River, widened sections of the road between Arawa and Kieta, worked up at Bonis and Dios Plantations and worked on the road from Buin to Kieta.

I met many a character whilst there and have fond memories of the fishing club and the Sports and Social club. I often wonder what happened to many of those guys like Warren Haig "The Watcher", "The Sheriff", Sally Jenkins, Vic Caruana, "Carrots and bananas"', "The Dog" Ian Forrester, Ted Ragowski, "Rags", Wyn Spur as they all liked a cold beer on a hot day.

I would like to go back to the Island one day and see if any of the local blokes I worked with made it through the war as most of them came from the Siwai, Buin area. Such a pity that this beautiful place was ravaged as it was. Hopefully it can recover.

Thanks again for your perseverance over the years. It is great to read about other people's experiences there.

Phil Wilson
email phil_w[AT]


March 29, 2016

David Dioth emailed from Brisbane:


Hello Peter,

I would like to add my details to the honour roll.

I was with the Commonwealth Bank in Panguna in 1973, living in the dongas at Camp 1 (up the hill above the Bank Branch that was near the entrance to the mine) and then to Camp 6 at Loloho.

My details are below.

Reading your blog brings back good memories of my time on the Island. I have been able to show my children and grandchildren my time on the Island with the pictures on your web.

Thanks for great effort,


David. AKA Chimbu.

David Dioth
Moneywise Mortgages
21 Billiard Street
Bracken Ridge. Qld. 4017
Phone. 0732614900
Fax. 0732614911
Mobile. 0419704605
Email. david[AT]
Web Site.


Taim Bilong Masta


Back in 1983 (or was it 1984?), when I flew into Adelaide from Saudi Arabia to finalise a grain shipment to the Middle East, I took time off to visit the local ABC Bookshop and discovered a couple of dozen cassette tapes of the ABC radio series Taim Bilong Masta, produced by Tim Bowden and first broadcast in 1981.

It was the distillation of 350 hours of tape-recorded interviews with Australians and Papua New Guineans who had been involved with Australia's colonial administration which ended with self government and independence in 1975. The result was a superb 24-program social history, so evocative of a time and place, revealed through a tapestry of voices from those who lived through it. These were first-hand accounts of the pre-war history in the early 1900s, the masta-boi relationships, the gold rush and the exploration of the highlands. In it, Australian men and women who spent so many years living and working in Papua New Guinea before independence in 1975 could be heard again, telling their own stories.

Of course, I bought the whole set and for years after I listened again and again to those tapes until they had worn out. If you ever see them on CD, please let me know as I would like to buy them.

Although nothing could ever replace those wonderful audio cassettes, I have found the book based on the radio series which contains 224 pages of informative text with many archival photographs, newspaper clippings and a detailed index. I add the book in pdf format to this blog for all of you to enjoy:

Click here to open TAIM BILONG MASTA in a separate window

Peter Goerman, Webmaster


P.S. During my time in Camp 6, the postcard shown below was one of the hottest sellers in one of those little "shops" run by some enterprising fellows in their dongas in Camp 6.

In one donga, they had even suspended both beds from the ceiling so as to have more floorspace in which to display their wares. And, of course, there were sly-grog places and others which showed flicks of both bad quality and taste (the term 'x-rated' had not yet been invented).

And a carpenter operated the ALI BARBER shop near the boozer which did a roaring trade as he was the only barber - well, hair-remover - in the camp. The photo below shows this webmaster BEFORE he had any damage inflicted on him.