David Gill Ipumi - Oral History interview recorded on 24 May 2014 at Beama, Northern Province, PNG
Mr David Gill Ipumi tells the story of his father Ipumi who joined the police in 1935. During the War he worked in Wau and Bulolo, as well as behind enemy lines in Salamaua and Lae, reporting on Japanese movements. Later in the War he served at Oro Bay and Kokoda.
Interview number two, Beama village, Popondetta, Northern Province, 24 May 2014.
You might like to start of by telling us who you are, your age, the name of your village and introduce the person you are going to talk about.
Thank you officer. My name is David Ipumi.
I was born in May 11, 1959 where some of you might be living. I am here to tell the story that my father has told me. During Second World War.
Name of your father?
My father's name is Ipumi, and he's a policeman. My father Ipumi joined the Papuan police force at Ioma early in 1935. And was sent to Kokoda to join the other recruit before walking across Owen Stanley mountain to Port Moresby and then to Kila to his police training there. My father trained with other Papuan police recruits for 6 months. After training my father was posted to Wau in Morobe Province and he worked there until the World War II came to Papua New Guinea with the Japanese landing and occupation of Rabaul in January 1942.
After the Japanese occupation of Rabaul, Australian administration began evacuating all white people in Rabaul, Lae, Madang, Salamaua, Wau, Bulolo, Buna, Kokoda, Tufi, Samarai, Port Moresby, Abau, Rigo, Kaileku, Kerema, Kikori and Daru to Australia. Then in April 1942, the Australian administration was suspended and replaced with ANGAU which became responsible for policemen, soldiers and carriers.
But in March 1942, Japanese plane bombed at Lae, Salamaua, Wau and Bulolo. Many native labourers employed by the mining company in Wau and Bulolo, were suspended. And there was some looting of the stores and houses. And in those two towns, when they were broke down, only post office and the Bank of New South Wales continued opening in Wau. ANGAU appointed officer in Wau and Bulolo, to take responsibility for looking after the stores, hotels, houses, and to look after suspended native people. My father and other policemen assisted this white officer
to keep law and order in these two towns, and to look after the suspended mining labourers. A senior ANGAU officer, by the name of Townsend, came from Port Moresby to Wau to take charge of the administration of Wau, Bulolo and Salamaua town. As part of the monitoring Japanese movement to Lae and Salamaua, my father and other Papuan policemen name Poma was instructed to go to Lae and Salamaua to spy the Japanese movement and position. There they report back. The two policemen discover the Japanese defensive positions in the camp in Lae and Salamaua and they report to the senior ANGAU officer.
who is informed Port Moresby to launch the air attack on the Japanese. When after Japanese – sorry, Allies forces, bomb attack plane attack, Japanese position in Lae and Salamaua, these two policemen mission was complete, and they return to Wau. ANGAU then instructed my father, to leave Wau and guide some soldiers from Wau to Port Moresby via Kokoda Trail. The police party separately arrive at Kokoda, where ANGAU officer arrange the other policemen to guide the soldiers across Kokoda Trail to Port Moresby.
My father was instructed to go to Oro Bay, Dobuduru area to help other policemen and ANGAU officer to look after Papuan carriers and in helping Australian and American troops. One of the job given to my father was to arrest eight Japanese who was escaped and were living at Jababo, swampy land. Which is between Dombaba and Embogo. My father was joined by other Papuan policeman by the name of Gordon. These two policemen went and arrest these eight Japanese soldiers without responses. And brought them to ANGAU post at Kata Creek where ANGAU officer interrogated them. Kata Creek ANGAU camp, and the ANGAU officer thank my father and Gordon for the job well done.
Because of their good work my father and Gordon were ordered to help American sentry troops to look after the G.O.C of America troops. Which men cannot be recalled at the secret cave between Beama and Eroro. But only my father was granted access to deliver message from allied forces headquarter in Port Moresby, via signal unit at Eroro. To the staff of this American general every week until the Buna battle ended at the end of January 1943.
In March 1943 my father was sent by ANGAU from Oro Bay operation to Kokoda, on promotion to be the officer in charge of Kokoda police station. He work at Kokoda for five years and then posted to Higaturu Government Station where he worked for three years. In early January 1951, my father took his three weeks leave and went home. This escaping the eruptions of Mt Lamington, on January 21, 1951. The eruptions killed 36 Europeans, and more than 3500 Orokaivan people. After witnessing the loss of many human lives, villages and other properties in the twelve square miles area, my father did not return too eager to continue working as policeman, but stayed back to lead a village life.
[INTERVIEWER - JR]:
He'd seen enough in his time between the fighting and Mt Lamington. I bet he enjoyed coming back to the village.
Of course, he was scared of that eruption. Because that is the first time that the in Oro Province that the volcano erupted. Many people and properties and everybody killed. Including missionaries and the government workers. So my father was afraid to go back so he stayed back.
[INTERVIEWER - JR]:
He's very fortunate that he took his leave.
OK David, tell us when your father died, or how old was he when he died?
My father was died, just earlier this year, early on 2002. But I forgot the date.
Any idea how old he was?
I don't know.
Eight Japanese who you said they had escaped and your father was sent to arrest them. Where were these Japanese being kept when they escaped?
They were in the swamp land. They had only one knife, a bush knife. So they cut the bush, several leaves like this and made a small shelter. They live in the shelter when my father arrived. No shotgun.
Where did they escape from?
I don't know. Maybe they escape from Buna and run this way, nobody knows, but they were in that swamp. But information came from across to the, that time that the ANGAU officer was on that mountain there, so my father, they sits up there, so they instructed my father.
What's the name of that mountain?
Garawuji. So he instructed my father. 'Ipumi, go and arrest that eight Japanese'. So my father obeyed the order and went and arrest without any responses because they have no gun. No anything.
And where did he take them to?
He take them to Kata Creek. Where ANGAU post. Kata Creek where the plantation. That's the Kata Creek.
David you said your father went to Salamaua in Morobe Province. Did he tell you the names of the exact locations in Salamaua and are there any little stories about those areas that you are able to offer to us?
He went to Kara and Lagui in Salamaua and discover the army camp. The witness is still with me. There's a small bowl like this that's make out of clay, that's a Japanese tray, a small one, on officer's table, they usually put what, a smoking tray, ash tray or what. Still there with me, but it's my memory, I will keep it there, still there, the thing is still in the house. I always see that one and remember my father.
[INTERVIEWER - JW]:
Japanese men were drawing on that tray in Japanese language.
[INTERVIEWER - JW]:
This is a piece of paper of evidence.