Sinehile Doilegu and Tohoa Doilegu - Oral History interview recorded on 10 April 2017 at Divinai, Milne Bay Province


This is an interview with Mrs Tohoa Doilegu and her sister Mrs Sinehile Doilegu. They tell the story of their father, Mr Doilegu Peni, who was a PIB 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 taking place at Divinai and it's taped on the 10th of April 2017 by Anne Dickson-Waiko, Keimelo Gima and Elizabeth Taulehebo. And it's an interview with Sinehile Doilegu and her sister Tohoa Doilegu and they are going to talk about their father who was a PIB soldier during the war. And his name was Doilegu Peni.
Our father was 19 years old when he was recruited to join the PIB in 1942. He trained up at Samarai for not a very long time, only a short time. There was a man sent in from Moresby to recruit, he was teaching the other boys up in Samarai but our daddy was not recruit yet. He was just that man's house boy. And the Boss went teaching, training the boys down at the oval and when he look and saw him, he said, ''I want to be like that too.'' So when the Boss goes he practises in the house himself too. The gun and how he calls and how they march. He was imitating them. And one fine time, he did it wrongly and the boss found him. When went up, he did not make any noise but he could hear his footsteps, the way he calls, march and gun. From there then the boss knows and he told him, ''do you want to become a soldier?'' He said, yes. So what he did he has to take him down to the oval and he joined the other boys down there. So that's where he learnt and he joined the Force with them. When the World War came he just went in without training anywhere. There were twenty-five of them recruited at Samarai all from Milne Bay area.
I cannot remember the name of my father's Boss at Samarai. He mentioned the Boss' name but I can't remember.
They were sent down to Moresby. From there we do not know how did they sort them out. We don't know if he did some further trained at Moresby. But he was their spy that's what he told us.
When the war started they went up to as far as Popondetta, Buna. He was the only man that they sent him up in the night when the warships were there. He was the one they sent to cut the barbed wire to let the Australian armies and his friends from here they have to go through that barbed wire to go up and attack the Japanese. While they were eating in their mess they [Australians] went up and sit on their big machines, they started bombing the place and when they [Japanese] got shock there's Australian armies are there already, they were very late. That's what he was telling us.
[He stayed for] one year and seven months in the war. He did go there [Bougainville] after attacking there [Buna] they went to Bougainville. And at Bougainville they shot him on the back and on the side here, he showed us the marks. But somehow Lord was so good so our father did not die. He returned back home. They shoot for a few weeks [at Bougainville] then he got shot. They took him to the hospital and after three, four days he was cured again before he has to come back and join in again. He did not lose hope of going with his friends. He was in the mountain trying to shoot the other Japanese and he did not see the one that was hiding at the back of the tree that's where he got that accident. He was lucky that he did not die. [He was shot and] the truck . the ambulance for them went and took him to the hospital with one of his Bosses and some boys. [He must have gone with some of the soldiers] yeah from Milne Bay. What they call them, uh 'black dogs'. They say 'Papuan dogs' that's what they called them. He did say that [why they call them Papuan dogs], they were very strong and when they went in, the Australian Forces they say that's very true that they are strong enough and brave enough to go through this War.
[He went with some of the local from Milne Bay], yeah. Like some that helped in the War like Willie . and some other people but we don't know their names. Only him, himself he told us his history. [one year seven months was the period that he served in Popondetta and Bougainville], yeah, yes. From there they moved up to Buka and Rabaul.
[At Rabaul] he was their spy so he had to spy for the enemies and then he called his troop to go in and send them out where will they shoot their enemies. He directed them where to go. [.], he did he says they were very close to them but he was smart enough to see them and he will call to the boys [soldiers] and they will move up, move close to him and he will tell them, they are there, here, here and when he says, 'start off firing,' they do what he says. [He was communicating in English], yeah.
My father did not go to school. He was speaking in like broke English, yeah and the man yah the Boss of him yah, he understands what he talk about, or in Motu, he speaks in Motu [with the others].
[. Use of black magic .] maybe because of his sister, that's what he says [who was looking after him]. So he was shot twice and did not die but he return safe home. When we heard that we were so proud of our daddy. Because the war . he said my children, 'the war, we don't stay properly. We don't eat properly. We carry very big packs and all inside chewing gum and everything is there. Heavy rains, windy but we still go .' Day and night they don't rest.
[Japanese mistreatment of Papuans, Bougainvilleans .], in Milne Bay here, he only tells us about Maiogaru the way she saved that Australian Army yah. he says she was very brave woman that she could go through very short distance the boats were close together, the warships but somehow she just passed through. He says we were people from these areas, they ran over to the other side, they ran away and went to Guga. Nobody was in here. After the war finish they all came back to their places. He cannot think of some other important things that he done.
His mother died before the war and his father died. He was still young and came up to Samarai and he works in the shops like scaling [weighing] copra, helping this Corporative what . From there he decided to go and work for . when they recruit he hears and he went and ask if he could be a house boy for that man.
He said when they were fighting inside the bush, on top of the mountains. He said when they make us like angry he got up and shoot one of them, Bosses. [Australian officer].
They were walking and him, he was underneath like this [gestures] spying around and their Boss roll a very big stone, it went down and cut one of his foot [toe] off. He turned back, he just shot him. He [Australian officer] did not die. He got into trouble for shooting the officer. His Boss, he said, he did not get angry. He did not say anything bad to him but he just comforted him when he said, war is going and we have to walk quickly and go over. If anything happens to us by accident we don't blame each other. They got their medicines so they just plaster their boss leg and they took off.
They were issued these khaki shirts and long trousers. Boots too. And gun. He brought his belt and his gun but his own people got them. So we cannot go and argue for those things.
Civilian but they were cut here, the what [clothes] he was wearing. He uses those but as we have said his sister is protecting him so when he goes they don't see him. [The Japanese don't see him], No. he go really close to them but they won't see him. Close to the Japanese like, [estimates distance] they are there and he'll be here, when they look they won't see him. So he will send his boys up tell them, there this one surround the place and we'll start shooting. So they follow his instructions. [Even during the daytime they will not see him], No. he said plenty of us have different 'powers' to use in the war. So I cannot say no, all of us have. That's why they call them, 'black dogs'. 'Papuan dogs'. [The power that he has was protecting the Australians as well .], Yes. Yeah, he's protecting all of them like Australian and them.
[After the war when he returned home], his mother passed away but only his sister and she was smiling away to the brother. When he made him cross, she get up and say, ''just because of me, you are alive. If I were not there you will be killed already because twice the gun landed on you, the bullets.'' So he said that its very true that because of my sister. Yeah, the sister knew what was happening to her brother.
No he did not say that to us [whether he came across American soldiers], only shooting yeah. He said they killed plenty, they shot plenty, yes plenty Japanese soldiers. They like we shot and after the war like we feel sad for our friends very young guys but war comes we just shoot because the Australians are the ones took us and we went we follow their . No [he did not see any Papua New Guineans fighting for the Japanese]. They were all Japanese not Papuans. Only Australians and Papuans by themselves. Japanese by their own.
They went to Buna [he did not serve here at Giligili]. [When the Japanese landed at Wahuhuba], they were in Moresby then they came up. They came back here and then they went out in the warship. [They didn't land they just took them to Buna]. [Around the Bay], he said ships came in, the warships for Japanese and for us [Australians], they cannot what together. They will just send their submarines or what to what [bomb] their boats down, they ships down. And them, they were out in the oceans there, not to come close to them [submarines].
Yes, [he was awarded with] three medals. His medal plus . Yes [we still have them]. In 1975, I was working for Sir John Guise, Governor General and he told me to . Queen was coming up so they told me to come up [home] and get him down. So I took him down and this is the badge [shows photo of it], our brother lost the badge already. I took him down and she [Queen] present him for whole Milne Bay War Carriers and what [.] he's the only one that she presented the badge to him. After giving it to him, they told us to take him to RSL Club in Moresby so they will accommodate him, his pocket money [allowances], food and everything paid for. I came and took him down. Queen was there coming close so Sir John Guise told me, 'your father is a ex-serviceman'. He was chosen to go and meet the Queen to represent the whole Milne Bay [people] that attended [participated in] the war. At the RSL Club. [he represented Milne Bay]. To give him these medals so when he goes anywhere in the country, this badge will lead him to go, allow him to enter the RSL Club . as a member. A very nice little badge. My sister gave it to our brother to go for his marching or whatever on ANZAC Day, he lost it. We have been asking him, he cannot remember where he put it. This is his photo [shows photo]. The bigger one we don't know, our younger daughter got it, clear one that we got. Yeah [he actually used it to go to RSL Club in Moresby and they allowed him in]. we went with him after presenting the badge, she told us to take him to the RSL Club for lunch and Boroko RSL, we take him for dinner there in the night. In 1975. Yeah Sir John Guise was in the arena and she came up. Retiring [John Guise] was resigning as Governor General.
In 1984, they were awarded with some money, only K2, 000.00 each and that was all. Not sure by which Government [Australian or PNG].
After the war he came up to Logeia with his father's brother and [got married there] to the Fred family. To the Fred family and was with them and he met our mother there and married her. My mother is younger than our daddy. She was born before the war. She saw the war but she was small, maybe about four or five [years old]. Because she told the story about people running away. Planes coming and going at Logeia. She said very very ... our didn't mention anything about it [Samarai being bombed] because she was very small.
[what he thought of the war], to him he says its good but only thing he was worried about, the people they lose too much blood they walk into the blood, the height is this [measures with hands] When they shoot the people and in the bush in the water [maybe because it was raining]. He said, 'I felt sorry for the very young boys, soldiers that they were shot in the war. That's the only problem that I used to think of. He said because of us and now they are gone. We are living happily. But he said if we don't go to the war then we don't know what would happen todays. [the soldiers] some were middle age some were very young. He thought of one, that was nineteen years old in Bomana War Cemetery. After visited going to Queen for his badge, then they drove us up to see, he showed us the boy that was buried there. He remembered him. Australian man. His name was Andy somebody [surname]. He was just in front of the War Cemetery.
He said only sad story that I'll tell you is, you look at the people, they are just like animals lying everywhere. We step on them and go. We wash in the blood of the people. the only thing I was really sad about is that one but war I didn't care, I really want to show how the war is.
[what he thought about the Japanese], he said when I look at them I just smile, smile at them and say, 'today I will finish all of you.' No [he didn't put any magic in his rifle] he just shoot but the sister is the one there, protecting him. That how he will tell the Australian soldiers that they [Japanese] are there, and they are there and when they shoot, they shoot this way and they surrounded the place properly that they won't see them. Like they hide them or what so their enemies won't see them. He what them [he makes them like invisible]. He said, me I'll be walking straight of the road but them, they won't see him but only the soldiers that are coming behind him, he has to protect them. So he said there's five of us that we do any miracles [magic]. One one got their own miracle to protect . [all of them from] Milne Bay. To protect all the Australian soldiers plus them. No [the Australians didn't know that they were using black power]. No.
Yes, he went to Rabaul. He said when they what them, they were wild. When they see their warships or planes, they go wild. They start bombing the place and bombing the warships. But him, he was saying, 'I was brave enough that I didn't care if they shoot a warship or the plane, I have to be safe. That's what he was saying. No. Only themselves. He didn't say that to us that Australians knew that they were using black magic. They have their own protections but they protect the whole lot of them. No [he didn't tell us stories about the Japanese mistreating the village people, women especially], No.
Only one lady with the child, they were running away. When he went he met them on the road but the Japanese, some of the Japanese have gone first, the soldiers. He said, when I was going close to them, I saw that lady with the child, they shoot her with the baby. And she just went on top of the road. Blood was bleeding and I went and lifted her up and our carriers came and they took them away. [They were] shot by the Japanese. That was up in Rabaul.
He says only biscuits and PK [chewing gum]is the most one they were chewing. They don't stay still in one place. They will just come and sit down for a couple of minutes and they heard a call, they just take off again with their big long what . He said, 'we don't eat properly, we have to [move on time]. He said, even though rain, PK is the one making us hot so that our what [jaw] won't go numb.
The boss for the RSL [Club in Moresby] was I think somebody Osborne. Norman Osborne.
Yeah, after the war when the peace was handed, they came back and he says they dug a hole . The peace ended and they were shooting these Japanese down in Moresby and he said, they have to shoot them. My father and some of his friends and the Australian soldiers, they pick them to shoot those Japanese. When they were going to shoot, his friends they have strong mind to shoot the enemy, the soldiers. And he said me, I'm the last one to shoot that young guy. He said they tie their eyes with cloth [blindfold] that they mustn't look at them. When they shoot them, they go into that hole they dug. And he was the last person to shoot that soldier. He walked up and he stood there, when they blow the whistle for him to fire, he just went and hold the boy and he said, 'the peace is over!' There's no more shooting. The war is finish. And why are we shooting? He say we, we don't want, peace is already over and we shooting people for nothing. The war is already finish. We should let them free to go back to their countries. And we Papuans, this is not our war. It's your war but you came and got us to join in. so what we say, you listen to what we want and we order you that peace is already over so we are just cutting man's life. So he didn't shoot that boy, he let him free. But most of their friends were shot down already. Twelve Japanese, they were shot after the war. My father was the last one to shoot that . He said, this is fight for you White Eagle but Black Crow yah, they took over and they help you to join this war. And now the peace is already over and we are back already and we should just stop and send them home free because we have lost plenty of lives. So that's what he says and they said, that's very true.
What he said was he was in the PIB. He was discharged from the Australian Military in 1946.
Thank you very much.
We like listening things like that because how many times they called us to go for this what yah . go and register so they can come and give us money, awards. Three times a group came. We went and registered three times and they never gave us anything. We pay to register. We paid to register K25.00, [to the Defence?] we don't know. The last one was this Tuwehu Kakei from Rabe that was the last one.

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“Sinehile Doilegu and Tohoa Doilegu - Oral History interview recorded on 10 April 2017 at Divinai, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed July 17, 2024,