Gai Able Bonga - Oral History interview recorded on 24 May 2014 at Beama, Northern Province, PNG


Mr Gai Able Bonga tells the story of his father, Able Bonga who was a policeman during the War and his uncle Uticus who was the housekeeper for Captain Hall.



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.

This is interview number 9. The interviewee is Gai Bonga, he's from Busega village, Oro Bay, he'll be talking about his police father, his name is Able Bonga, who was a policemen during the war and then later during the post independence period.
Gai Bonga it's a pleasure having you on our interview this afternoon. Will you be able to relate to this program your father's story?

Thank you very much for this time. I'm here to present the brief summary history of my late dad, which is known to be Able Bonga. In the year 1939, he was attending Eroro Primary School doing his grade 3. Just before the Japanese invasion at the time Father Reverend Luscombe Newman was at the time priest in charge at Eroro. So he then saw my dad fit, and he also encouraged him to go and sign up in Buna, to serve his country and his people. So he then went and got signed up in Buna. And he was posted to Awala, to be stationed up there in Awala.
So during that time he was carrying mail and patrolling from Awala down to Buna, up to Awala, up to Kokoda and then some others taking whatever was taken through the Kokoda trail to Port Moresby. And on the year 1942, January, he was stationed at Awala at the same time he encountered the first gunshot and he too participated in the contact.
Whilst doing that, he thought it was hell that was breaking loose, and he was in fear, and was taking back to his home where he had freedom, and he wanted to escape but then the thoughts of what Reverend Luscombe Newman had told him, that encouraged him to continue, to endure the situation, up until the beginning of 1943, he was seen fit to be sent to Tufi, to be stationed at Tufi under Captain Hall.
So he then moved to Tufi and served under Captain Hall, doing surveillance towards Milne Bay border up to Tufi, until such time the Japanese bombers bombed the torpedo boat that was stationed at Tufi harbour when the whole Tufi station was almost burning down. That time, he was sent by Captain Hall to do search on those bombers that were shot, and he made two arrests, just up Kabuni, place called Kabuni and Abda creek and there was a waterfall.
Unfortunately it was one against the two, with the village policemen, they were elderly people, and these guys were armed, so he had to shoot one and wound one, and took back the one that was wounded, and he kept him as a prisoner at the time when the torpedo boat was bombed, and it was still on fire. They had fuel station at the same time, fuel drums were there, himself and the Americans, the Allied forces, had to keep shooting at the fuel drums to get them released before they explode.
Up until Father Luscombe Newman was sent back, Reverend Luscombe Newman, was sent back to Australia and he was been sent back as a Captain when he met my late dad and my uncle, which is called Uticus ]?] Gorare, who happens to be my father-in-law. He was then, my uncle, was serving as a housekeeper for Captain Hall at the time, and they both were from Eroro, the best guys, favourite guys to Father Luscombe Newman, so eventually Father Luscombe Newman met the two and was excited to see that what he said came to pass.
So as the war was continuing along the coast towards Morobe, Salamaua and that area, at the time when my old man, my dad, late dad was seen fit, so he was told, just before he was sent out of Tufi, there was no soul living on Tufi station at the time when it was on fire. It was him, his brother and my late uncle, who happens to be my father in law, Uticus, they both were there with Captain Hall, they were the only people left behind at Tufi station at the time. That was the ninth month of year 1942 when Captain Hall told them and everybody who fled into the bush to come out again and go on parade.
On the ninth month of year 1942, when everybody went on parade at Tufi station, that's when my late dad was promoted to corporal after his service within the nine months, and when the war was exceeding towards Lae and Salamaua, Morobe Province, he was seen fit to be sent to Bisitabu training depot to be an instructor. As the war, while he was the instructor at the time, when the war was almost ending, he came home on his break, his two weeks break, and he went into the hiding place where my grandmother and my grandfather were up towards, place called Kopura, that's when they engaged a woman for my dad to marry.
From there when the war was still continuing towards Bougainville he was sent to Samarai, to look after police patrol post to serve under ADC, District Administrator called Cecil Crawley. He then continued his service as a loyal Australian policeman. Up until 1963 he got retired. And he's been a villager, served as a village court magistrate for couple of years, but otherwise been a villager until his death caught up in the year 1997, August 24.
After his services as being a war hero, one of the war heroes, we been longing to see such opportunity as this. Hopefully, we hope, not only me, but my comrades, are hoping to see that this project will do something bright and our remarkable memories of our late fathers who have been heroes. After all we believe that our dad, our fathers and our late grandfathers who fought in this war, they fought in Australian war. And they served with dignity. They served Australian government with dignity. Thank you very much indeed.

Gai, before you go, do you think your father's contribution with all the other young men at the time, helped to create Papua New Guinea to what it is today?

We strongly believe that and we are proud of it. There's no such remarkable memories, but we can be proud of our war heroes until today this project has been initiated. I still hold my father's, my late dad's Pacific Star medals and King George medals with me but the Stars and some of the stuff have gone missing during the Guba disaster. I was also one of the victims, my home got washed off unfortunately.

When you made reference to your dad talking about his Tufi experience, he said Tufi was on fire. Was the fire from the torpedo boat that was bombed or did it also affect the station at that time?

It also affected some of the houses, residences in Tufi station. The fire was caused by the torpedo boat that was bombed. They had fuel drums that were stationed at Tufi for that torpedo boat to run along doing surveillance around Milne Bay waters, because they believed that at that time they believing that the Japanese can make a break through this way to Port Moresby, that's why they were doing surveillance at that time. He was seen fit to serve under Captain Hall through there.

What was your father's role actually? Was he maintaining law and order or was he also assisting the army?

He was a soldier, a policeman soldier.

When he was sent to Bisitabu to be instructor did he only train policemen or also the PIB soldiers?

Some of the PIB soldiers were trained as well.

Apart from the name Kokoda Trail that has always been in the limelight, do you think names like Gona, Buna, Eroro, Oro Bay is also mentioned? So much emphasis has been placed on Kokoda.

I don't so much hear about our place here, but our bay here, which is known to be Oro Bay was known to be Base B during the war, and this was where the support company was stationed, most of the support company. That's what I was told.

Any other concluding remarks you'd like to make?

I think that's about all.

Thank you, thank you for your time.

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“Gai Able Bonga - Oral History interview recorded on 24 May 2014 at Beama, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed June 16, 2024,