Ivan Bohura - Oral History interview recorded on 3 July 2014 at Kovelo, Northern Province, PNG


Mr Ivan Bohura tells the story of his father, Mealo Iluvi and his uncle Kesia who worked as a carriers for the Australians during the Kokoda Campaign. Mr Bohura also speaks about the Lost Battlefield.



Warning: This site contains stories of war. Some of these interviews may include detailed and graphic descriptions of events and experiences that may be disturbing for some individuals.

My late father was in here (Alola) when the war came in here in 1942. My father and his eldest brother were both recruited at Isurava village to join the Australian soldiers in areas of supplying ammunitions. They both began in conducting their duties at Kokoda Station and were very uneasy with the sound from bomb explosion. The explosion caused so many deaths and they knew that they wouldn't survive in the next couple of days. The idea of escaping from their duties grew very strong that made them to escape out one morning.

The two brothers crossed Iora Creek and head straight up to the Lost Battlefield where they met their relatives and went out hiding from the war. They went hiding in a place called Etoa.The Lost Battlefield was formally set up by the Australian soldiers basically for supplying first aid and for providing medication for the wounded. The Japanese targeted the Australian soldiers in all corners of the entrance and blocked Abuari roads .The war moved further to Templeton's Crossing in which bridges were set up to gather for easy access movement.
The war lasted for fifteen months at Templeton's Crossing and at the end the Japanese soldiers got starvation from hunger. Our people supported the Australian soldiers and became their carriers. When the war supply plane dropped rations in the thick bush, our people usually went out looking for these supplies and took them to the camping site. The Japanese didn't have any proper food supplies to keep them last during the war. They were struck out with hunger and typical malaria. These issues affected their fighting and they couldn't withstand it but to withdraw from war. They were exactly pushed back at Ioribaiwa ridge. Mostly could not perform well in fighting at that time due to shortage of food supply, medication and has less or no ammunitions for use.
The war continued to Brigade Hill where there were so many casualties been undertaken at that location. At Brigade Hill the Japanese soldiers shot one of the Australian supply planes and it got crashed landed at a village called Manumu.This village is about two days of walking in and is out from the track. There were two Australian pilots involved in this incident. The pilots saw sloppy grassy land towards the eastern side of Manumu village and landed with the support from the easterly wind. Before the plane landed, the two pilots used their parachutes to jump out from the plane. One parachute safely landed on the grassland while the other was carried away by the wind and landed onto a big tree next to the garden house. The pilot who landed his parachute on the tree was an elderly man.
The branch of the tree caught him and made it impossible for him to come down. He forced himself to come down but couldn't manage it. At last the strong wind swung him to and fro and the branch broke and he fell off the tree with his parachute. He landed onto a sharp shortfall and hit his body onto the pool rocky stream. My father and his brother by the name of Kesia were there at that time. The pilot that landed on the rock was badly hit and they rushed him away to shelter him. There were only a few locals living at that time of war and they cooperated together to care for the two soldiers. Kesia taught that the pilots where Japanese soldiers and tried to killed them but my father said no to him. My dad told Kesia that look they totally look different from our skin and you mustn't be furious about killing them. Let's protect and accommodate them. The two local men with the support from their families collected bush leaves and tree juices (known today as bush medicine) to cure their wounds. These soldiers were under medication for two weeks and two days.
Kesia wasn't satisfied with his plans for killing the two soldiers so then my dad used to stay overnight even without sleep for 48 hours. After two weeks and two days treatment, my dad told the injured soldier to walk around and do fitness training. The soldier's joints and bodies all worked well and he said to my dad that by Wednesday we will leave this area for town (Port Moresby). On Wednesday morning, my dad took the two soldiers to Sogeri Depo Ward and later went over to Ela Beach to report the accident and how rescue being made to the two soldiers. My dad later returned back home. He was called again to report the full case matter on the treatment that Kesia has done and said that they haven't made any wrong to the soldiers while their stay at Manumu village with them. My dad's full name is Mealo Iluvi who has protected and rescued the two pilot soldiers from the accident.
Today on this track so many trekking companies come and go but they haven't seen this crash site. Few have heard this story but couldn't have time available to visit this site. Kokoda Spirit Company has approached me to give full details about this story and site but I replied saying that it's a long way from here. The crash site is based on my mother's land at Manumu.My dad is a Koiari man and he never contributed during the war but on the other hand, he has done something importantly in saving the life of a person. And today so many of our people talk about him and his brave leadership in taking the two soldiers to Ela Beach. This history is known from here (Kokoda side) to Ower's Corner in Sogeri area. And this is all about my story to you.

Thank you Ivan..After taking the two soldiers to Ela Beach and back to home at Manumu and Alola, did your dad made any attempt to help during the war?
My dad never taught of helping or becoming a carrier. He returned from Moresby and got married to my mum and stayed at home. However, after the war, he was elected as a councillor by our people and was awarded with a medal for saving the soldiers. The colonial government of PNG also gave him a short gun and advised him to look after the communities of Manumu. My dad used this short gun for hunting pigs and cassowaries to feed communities during big festivals or feast.

Thank you..After your dad got married and maybe visited Port Moresby after the war in 1945, did your dad say anything to you regarding doing help work on cleaning war debris or rubbish?
Yes, my dad got married and moved over to Isurava and later to Alola. He resettled firstly at Isurava and helped in cleaning the debris along the track with some of our people. They collected empty tins, bullet shells, helmets and even some dead bodies. They were told to dig very big holes to dump all these rubbish. In addition, dead bodies were buried separately from the rest of the ammunitions and other dangerous weapons.

Thank you Mr Ivan for this wonderful story and we really appreciate what you have shared with us today. Dr Jonathan Ritchie has insisted to know more about Lost Battlefield due that there is separate study going on for this area. Ivan you have mentioned something on the Lost Battlefield, can you further elaborate and say something which you have known regarding bombs and ammunitions in that particular area? And are the remains of ammunitions still in there?

All the remains of bomb shells, weapons, ammunitions of different kinds, helmets and even remains of skeletons of soldiers are still in there at Lost Battlefield. We want the Australian and PNG Governments to help us with some funds to put a monument over this historical site. We have an Australian guy who is very keen in helping us in discovering this area to set up a monument. He was being told to come this July month and we are expecting him to be here.

Very good to hear from you that all remains are still in there. Please I would like you and the typical landowners to look after that area properly because very soon there will be someone coming up to visit this area to help you guys with something.
Professor John Waiko queried why isn't ladies or women folks share what they have heard from their fathers about what they have seen and experienced during the war rather than only men who have done this interview..?
Ivan replied by saying that all these women whose fathers have helped during the war have passed away and only their children are here to share their stories. Some of the women are busy while others are out gardening and couldn't be available for this interview.

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“Ivan Bohura - Oral History interview recorded on 3 July 2014 at Kovelo, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed July 17, 2024, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/285.