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September 17, 2012

Graham (Blue) Rodwell emailed from Western Australia:

Hi Peter,
Quite sometime back I contacted you and said that I would send in some stories. I`m still getting round to that. What I am writing to you about is "The Ericsson Guy". I can only remember him as Hans, he was the last of the Ericsson radio blokes before Philips took over the contract (the first Philips fella was Trevor Neville). The radio techs shared a building along the road towards Karoona Haus (can never remember the road name) with Page Communications,Rolly Clark and Wilf Hunt who looked after the phones. I had seen an entry on your Website from Wilfs wife (Lily I think?) a while back, but going through it all now I cannot locate her email. While Hans and I lived in Camp 1, Wilf lived in Arawa with his family and Rolly in Panguna with his. I knew both Hans and Wilf fairly well having met them when I first arrived in Bougainville, July 1972. Hans and Rolly were pretty quiet blokes, while Wilf enjoyed a quiet drink with the boys. I can remember one occasion while playing cricket on the walkway between the dongas (last donga up the top on the boozer side of the creek). In those times it was a case of innovation so we used a rubbish bin for the stumps, a stick for the bat and a spare tyre from a Toyota ute for the ball. Needless to say the ball was a bit hard to stop when a Dennis Lilley came into bowl, this meant that the ball (spare tyre) the stump (rubbish bin) and occasionally the bat went out over the end of the veranda and down the road. As we did not have a lot of fieldsman it was usually the batsman's job to go and get everything back. This could take anything up to half an hour as anyone remembering the 3 metre drop off the end of the veranda can verify and trying to lift the cricket gear back up onto the veranda, by yourself (you let it go over there so you go and get it back) with a belly full of VB and Carlsberg is no mean feat. One night the "game" was going pretty well until a young Scotsman by the name of Jimmie Stewart came into bat. Jimmie was a pretty scrawny Scot and probably more of a Rod Stewart (sitting on footpaths singing songs) than a wood chucker. Anyway Wilf was bowling and sent a ripper down that cleaned up everything, it was a good ball one that even Lilley or Thommo would have been proud of. Wilf was pretty pumped up and ran down the "pitch" grabbed Jimmie and lifted him up, I don`t know if he was given a shot of strength by the VB or Carlsberg, but Jimmie kept going up out of Wilfs hands and nearly hit the roof. Then like most things he started coming down again, unfortunately Wilf had forgotten about Jimmie floating around "up there" as he was celebrating his wicket when Jimmie came down with an almighty thump landing on his shoulder on the floor. He lay there for a while then started to moan about how his shoulder hurt, well at that time of night we were not in any condition to understand what his problem was and all sat in a circle around him, drinking and telling him to he was out and should leave the field. This went on for a little while until we realized that Jimmie really did have a problem. Luckily we were able to get hold of an ambulance that took Jimmie off to the clinic, wherre he spent the night while we reminisced over Wilfs magic bowling. The injury turned out to be a very nasty upper arm or shoulder break and had it not been for the generosity of Ken and Wella Hooper, who took Jimmie into their house and looked after him during his recuperation, He would have had to go off the island to recover. Needless to say we did not play much cricket after that and most nights were spent drinking and listening to music of the day, which leads onto another story. After one pretty hectic night I crashed out in my chair. All was well until these bright lights woke me up, I opened my eyes and for a minute could not work out where I was until I saw that the bright lights were the headlights of a car coming up the Camp 1 road straight at me. My kind mates (one being Trevor Neville) had picked me up chair and all and plonked me down in the middle of the road. It is amazing how quick a bloke can move when you find yourself in a hairy situation, me and the chair were off the road so quick I don`t think my feet actually touched ground. There were other occasions during my stay in Camp 1 that were not so dramatic. I remember the first night I moved from up behind the mess to across the creek to the "other side". I had just got off to sleep when the whole building started to shake, I didn`t find out until the next day that I had experienced my first guria. Anyway after I had woken up I looked out the window towards the mess and could not believe it when one of the local kitchen hands came out the door at a hundred miles an hour, across the veranda and took off. He must have landed about 4 or 5 metres from the veranda and did not even stop, just kept motoring off down the road. Other such times when we put a heap of empties in the clothes dryer to get everyone going, or the times we got the security blokes at the boozer to shine their torches in a circle so we could see the coins while we were playing two up. I suppose that we were a bit of a rough crowd, drinking more than we should have, but the mateship that grew out of those times starting in Camp 1 and then Kawerong Haus and after up Kupei Road, continued for many years. Unfortunately we all went our separate ways and I have since lost contact with most of the blokes that I was privileged to call my mates. Other friendships still thrive until this day, something we are eternally grateful for. When I get the next surge I will send some more stories.
Cheers
Graham (Blue) Rodwell
gvrodwell[AT]westnet.com.au