Rima Doboela - Oral History interview recorded on 24 March 2017 at Gamadoudou, Milne Bay Province
Pastor Rima Doboela was 10 years old when the war reached Gamadoudou. He and his family were evacuated from their village until the end of the war. His uncle Mr Gauluwe Weneko was recruited as a carrier for the Australians.
Good afternoon. This is a recording done by Elizabeth Taulehebo for Pastor Rima Doboela dated 24 March 2017 held at Gamadoudou ward.
How old were you Ps Rima when the war reached Gamadoudou?
I was about ten (10) years old. I was born in 15 March 1934.
I was not scared of the war when it reached my home. I was excited about it because to me, the war was like a game. The war was on the other side at Giligili, Hagita and Waigani, that's where the armies were living but only coloured people, many coloured people they came and occupied this place here. They occupy this one.
And their storeroom was at Wagawaga. All their rations were there, their cartridges, everything, bombs were stored at Wagawaga. At their store and this place was occupied by only coloured people.
With the new faces in my place, I was not scared or anything. I felt like we were staying at home, we didn't get scared because the war was over at Tawala side.
My parents told us that the war came to Milne Bay Province but we were still living here in the village. We didn't go anywhere. I was living my normal life when the war came. . not scared or something like that. I was living my normal life.
The soldiers came to my village only to occupy this location here. And because of the women so the government told the people that you have to be moved to Sivalai, Suau side, Sivalai. So one army boat like a barge came and took all the Gamadoudou people, take us. I was ten years old, I know. I see the World War Two. And take us to Suau and location at Sivalai village. In 1942 we went there, 42, 43, 44, 45. '42 to '44 government supplied our rations yeah looking after our rations and from the 45 no rations they closed it. From there each one of us we moved back to here.
When we went to Sivalai, it was like we were staying in the village, same as here, like we stayed at Sivalai. While were living there, government provided us for the rations from '42, '43 and '44. Government provide our rations for the people. And from the '45, no rations. So from there all the people moved back. We didn't come with the boat but walked over the mountains.
When the soldiers came, we leave this village, they come and burn down all the houses, damage everything. All the houses and everything they damage it.
My mother and father looked after us; they take care of us while we were there. Both of my parents, all of us went there. My sisters, all of us were there. We were staying at Sivalai.
As I said when the war came, my mother and father didn't get scared. They were not scared; they were like living a normal life in the village. As I said the war is over that side [Giligili].
After the war and when we came, we didn't come down here, we stayed in the mountain because the [American] Army were still here. they were here still staying. 1945 we came over and were living on the mountains. Nobody came back here because the Army is still here, 1946 and . 1946, somewhere in December, I can't remember maybe 1946 December and they all went away. They went back. And from there 1947, we came down and occupy this location here. When we came everything was damaged, houses, pigs and dogs and chicken and everything gone. Breadfruit and everything. Orange and everything damaged.
Because this place [Gamadoudou] was like a city, this one you can see now trees are coming up but when we came back it was like a city. No trees, no nothing. When the Army left, the Government was already here to control everything, to look after everything. It was ANGAU already here. And then we came down from the mountain and location here. And after that Government paid us compensation.
Every individual was paid for the damages done to their properties, war damages. The ANGAU paid war damages to the people. But I can't remember how much they paid us because my father got the money and not me. I can't tell you because he was the one who got the money. So I can't tell you how much he got. All of them. My father got the money but I don't know how much money he got. That time it was pound.
During the war, they [Army] came and spoilt everything, they made the road, and damaged everything, houses and water and everything they spoil it. My hamlet was used to build a hospital, the one I am living one, they made hospital. Americans build the Hospital. They ones [American Army] who lived here. But as you can see there are many cements here and where I am living was their general hospital. And the Mess house is . And the coloured people [Black Americans] were living down that side there, the road leading down. That side of the cement the black people they occupy that side, American blacks.
The Negroes, they can't mix together. The blacks were separated from the whites but their location was on that side there. The black Americans were friendly people and I associated more closely with them than the white Americans. I don't know why the black Americans were separated from the white Americans. Blacks were on that side and the whites this side. But when it comes to eating, they share one Mess house and eat together but their bases were separated. I can't tell what was the reason [for their separation].
It was similar to the colonial times where whites were separated from us the native ones. Before the war, it was same. I think it might be same idea [separation].
Now I'll tell my uncle's story, my uncle's name was Gauluwe Weneko. He was a war carrier. He went to Giligili, Waigani and Hagita side to help as war carrier, like labourers and they work there. One day they were traveling by truck and his hands were hanging down, and another truck passing by cut it off. His right hand.
They came and recruit them, my uncle voluntarily offered to help just like his other friends who were recruited. It was a personal decision they made to be recruited. He was not told of anything when he was recruited to work. They were not told that if you become a war carrier you'll be paid this or that, they were not told. He just joined as a war carrier to help.
I can't tell if they were paid. I only remember him telling me about the rations. But for payment as a carrier I don't know. If only he told me then I would tell you.
From 1942 to 1946, he was working as a carrier and after the war he came back to the village. When they left this village, they came back. They people returned to their village. When they depart in Milne Bay, all the people return to their villages. When they came they didn't complain about anything . they just lived their normal lives.
After that government came and but by then some have passed away and some were still alive. They came and asked us to pay a fee. First time, we paid K7.00 . that money about the war carriers to get their compensation. Nothing was done and later they came back and asked us to pay another amount of K25. There has been no result since then. All these war carriers have passed away. No one got compensation for being war carriers. I am not happy that he was not compensated because my uncle become a labourer and hard work and there was nothing given to him. And I am still thinking about it that I should get something for my uncle because he was one of the workers during the war, but he got nothing. So we are still thinking that we should get something.
They did hard work all the time without any proper rest every day and night. Because, you know war so they had to work hard. His work was carrying supplies. He was based at Giligili. Has not married at that time. He was still single.
I can't tell if his mother was sad about him but his mother went to Sivalai and passed away there during the war and was buried there.
The rations given were tobacco, rice and other things. You know, Army so everything was there, supplied them because of the war. They supplied anything they can. They were not hungry; they were satisfied and liked it there because they were eating good food. War so everything was free and came from overseas and they ate. So their minds were settled and they worked. They only work and eat.
They were staying at Giligili so yeah they did experience the actual war. When the Japanese came, they put a horn and everybody ran away to shelters but only the fighters were on standby. We were still staying here when the Japanese came like this, in line. I saw them coming but I didn't get scared. I was standing and saw them coming. They [Japanese] were trying to throw bomb to Giligili or Waigani but not enough because the [machine] gun was already positioned, very big machine gun. I saw some planes shot down and they sank into the sea but some went back.
I can't tell his intentions for working as a war carrier and if he ever thought as to why he was not compensated. I don't know about his compensation or wages, I don't know. I don't remember him complaining that he was not paid wages or something.
He didn't share his experiences of the war to me but he only told me that he was a labourer during the war.
Mewaga Yamui is my other uncle, also a war labourer and his story is similar to Gauluwe Weneko. His role was same as my other uncle. People recruited from Gamadoudou did the same job as war carriers/labourers.
Thank you, Pastor Rima.