Margaret Cardigan - Oral History interview recorded on 27 March 2017 at Ladava Elementary School, Milne Bay Province


Mrs Margaret Cardigan tells the story of her father Mr Teboina Togilei who was recruited by the Papuan Infantry Battalion as a soldier during the war.



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 an interview with Margaret Cardigan taped on the 27 of March 2017 at Ladava Elementary School and she's talking about her father Teboina Togilei who was a PIB soldier.
I'm not too sure how old my father was when he joined the PIB but he must be about 18 or 19 years old. I also do not know how he was recruited but I'll have to find out from my brother. He's holding all the documents. He has his service star, Pacific Star. I think and other service medals with my brother in Moresby. My brother has all these documents with him. I was not too sure in what year my dad was in the army. Okay, from pictures and from my mother's stories my dad joined the PIB. and he joined in as a driver and they used to ship all the army things to and fro. He continued on until he joined in the PIB I think it was the infantry he joined. From experience, they got him to join the PIB because from one of his photos, I saw him bending down with a gun. I think maybe this was in Milne Bay. From my mother's stories of my father, they lived along Murray Barracks area so it could be in Moresby.
One of the things he did was he fought with some of his friends so they had to lock him up in the police army . And then many times he was like with his other friends the Maiwara ones, they always share their ideas together until I don't know what year he finished from the army. I was too small to know that but from his medals he obtained some awards and the medals. One of them that I can remember is the Pacific Star. And some sort of like ribbons. He had some ribbons to go with the medals and he shared some of his things with his other Maiwara friend like uncle Asalio and the others.
I'm not too sure if he actually went to war. Could be during the war he took part or not, I'm not too sure. Like I said I was five years old when my dad passed away. So only stories of him being a soldier is all I hear. And also looking at the awards he could be part of being a soldier. I mean why would he earn those medals when he is not a soldier?
I have never heard of where he served during the war. But mostly I think he served around Milne Bay area or Port Moresby.
I was five years old when my dad passed away so at five years old you would not keep still to hear stories. After growing up my mother told me stories about my father. Stories like my dad was in the Army and also I saw some of his photos in the Army, just this like the khaki trousers and he had the gun so looking at those photos knowing that he was a soldier. I still got I think one or two photos stored away somewhere just to hold on to that. And also to get hold of his medals to from my brother.
We don't talk about those stories or hear stories told by our mother about our father. My brother was much older so may be so my dad could tell stories with him. My brother was already about fifteen years old so my dad would have told some stories to my brother. He lives in Moresby and he goes around to Murray Barracks. My brother is the one who designed Papua New Guinean currency, Will Stevens. He was much older than me so he would know much about our daddy. I was little so all I hear is that my dad was a hero but not knowing he fought where and when. My brother is keeping the medals.
This is where my mother and her family lived. When the war came they had to leave this place and go to the inland place at Balaga. They had to go and live there. My mother had already borne my elder sister at that time. My mother had two separate marriages: with her first marriage she had our elder sister. And with my big sister they went further inland. They went to Balaga and it's between Hagita Estate and Naura. That's where the villagers took shelter during the war. People from Ladava. Our grandfather was a mix race Allen Dien so they could not keep them around here. They were thinking the Japanese might come and use these people to do some work for them so the Australians had to remove these people further inland. They left them in the bush where these Japanese could not reach them because the Japanese were already coming down this way and the fear of them using these people so they had to remove these people to take them inland. They went to the western part of Gurney. The Army built camps for the people to live there.
My mother was telling me the story saying the sites were not so good. At that time of war the place was full of smoke, rain, mud and she said we could not withstand it. Some kids died because of the weather. She said the weather was bad. She tells the story she says, you people are very lucky but during the war many kids died because of the weather condition, cold and we had to flee right into the bush.
My mother said they were not hungry. They had plenty of food. She said ANGAU supplied us with a lot of food. She said they gave us tins of food, biscuits, chocolate. There were plenty, plenty to eat. She said the only problem was the weather conditions, it was very bad. Continuous rain. Some of the people died of pneumonia because of the cold. Malaria as well.
My mother was a teenager at that time. And there was one time that they were crossing the river and my grandmother makes beautiful grass skirts. And my grandmother made a very nice looking grass skirt for my mum to wear and she was wearing it and they always wear double grass skirts. So my mother wore one in and one on top. When they were walking and they came across the soldiers and they looked and saw my grandmother's grass skirt and they liked it. My mother was a teenager at that time so maybe they liked her so they put their hands and they got her grass skirt. They just held the grass skirt but my grandmother just pulled my mother and they continued walking. They could not stand. They crossed the river.
There were a couple of people who got carried away by the flood. There was one lady who was crossing the river and her half-sister was carried away by the flood. Those are the stories that I hear from the people about the war. They could not help her because they have to leave the place on time.
And one of the stories my mother told too was about . they built a house in the bush just a short distance away from Balaga and when these soldiers come up sometimes to this house, under the house they used to tell stories with my uncle, my mother's brother whose name is Bill. They used to say, ''oh Bill we are drinking tea together but maybe tomorrow or the next day, we will be in heaven drinking tea with Jesus.'' Those are some stories they tell with my mum and her brother.
My mother was a teenager too and old-fashioned people, they don't like their daughters to sit around where the men are so she has to hide away. But the soldiers used to chat .
My uncle's name is William Temi and he was a teacher at that time when the war came so he knew how to speak the English language and communicated with the Australians soldiers. He said the soldiers were very young. Some of them were very young soldiers, young as seventeen and eighteen years old.
The Japanese never reached this end. The Japanese came as far as Kainako and stopped. This place Ladava was a US Marine Base. Most of these cement blocks that we built buildings belonged to the US Marine Base. They had everything here. The Japanese never reached the Huhu area. They only came as far as Rabe, Kainako where that War Memorial is. That's where they were defeated. They never came this way but only their aircrafts flew over or their ships firing bombs or whatever. But they did not reach this area by foot in person. This was concentrated with the Americans and the Australians.
One of the things that my mum said was, the US were very good in the air, and the Australians were on the ground. They did a good ground job.
She talked about nice things like they were given chocolates and a lot of things. She said during the war we were never hungry. They were lucky. She said, we were never hungry there was always food. There was plenty of food available. She said there were tins of meat, six-pound meat. They had chocolates, lollies. She sometimes said we would find this food in the bushes everywhere.
She said, after the war when the Army all left, this place was one of the areas that had everything left just as it is. They never pulled down the houses or whatever. They were all given to the Catholic Mission. And this place here is the one that helped the Catholic Mission to support those other Catholic Missions outside from the materials they left. That's what my mother said, from all the materials of the war left the houses, everything as it is. They had a very big Catholic Church here which was called Saint Terese and this where the soldiers attended. Before the war, Ladava was an established Catholic Mission. When the Americans came in they built the Church and they attend Service. So they did not leave God alone, He was with them.
There's one cement pad on that side there. When the Army left after the war and my grandparents returned, my mother's parents, they built their house on the cement pad because this is their land. And they lived here. So my mother and my uncle and my other friends, they witnessed the war and what it was like and the Base and the wharves.
My aunty and her husband were here too. Her husband is a white man but my aunty is my mother's sister. Her husband joined the Australian Army and fought during the war.
I don't think so local women from here were recruited to help in the war. During those times, ladies were guided by cultural beliefs and customs and their mothers were protective and parents restrict them. They keep to themselves.
My aunty married a soldier, white man during that time. My aunty is dead but the husband is still alive and living in Australia. They had two children but one died. There's only one with the father now. He was born after the war. I'm much older than him. He would be in his late forties. My aunty's name is Aimee Sonders and husband is Norman Sonders. My uncle the white would tell you some very good stories about the war I think. He would tell you a lot. He was much older and he would tell you some very good stories. Because after the war, they had a parcel of land down this way and they transformed it into a reclaimed land and that's where they lived. The white man and my aunty. He's alive but my aunty died in 2011. He's in Australia, could be in Brisbane. His son is in Melbourne.
Alright, thank you very much.

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“Margaret Cardigan - Oral History interview recorded on 27 March 2017 at Ladava Elementary School, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed June 20, 2024,