Gauri Kumaina - Oral History interview recorded on 06 April 2017 at KB Mission, Milne Bay Province


Mrs Gauri Kumaina was just a little girl when the war came. She tells the story of her family and their involvement in 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 Gauri Kumaina taped on the 6 of April 2017 at KB Mission.
I was so small so I couldn't remember but I can vividly remember when we were growing up and our .. They took us and put us together with the orphans in a Mission just across the bay, Kwato Mission at Bisimaka. We were staying there with a teacher and the perso,n a lady who looks after us I don't remember their names. The war started and the army were coming in and that night they were guarding us. Some of them were sitting under the mango tree or coconut tree that night. When the war started coming into the bay the Mission boat had to take us right down to the bay and from there at night they have to carry us because we were too small. They carried us right up to the mountain where the Kwato Mission is at the top, the mountain range is. We sat there and watched as the war came in. we just sit there and were watching the war, the planes and the warships and whatever. And the war was getting stronger so they had to take us down to the valley, Buhutu Valley. And we stayed there until the war finished and we came back. They took us back to our parents.
But some of the stories which our parents were telling us is like my father was a manager at one of the Kwato plantations right up to the point Kanakope and that's where the big machine gun was put up there and the little bay where . that's their base. What do they call them, the little boats? Anyway while he was there and they shot one Japanese plane and the pilot of that plane survived and was hiding in the bushes while stealing village people's garden vegetables and the boys found him so they took him to my father and he looked after him for a while.
At the same time one Australian plane was shot down too and the pilot, they took the pilot and they told my father about the Australian pilot. Anyway he got the Japanese and fed him and gave him change to put on. And after that he was just talking to him and he hand him his pistol so my father got the pistol and told the boys to look after the Japanese guy and he also did the same thing to the Australian guy, the Australian pilot. He looked after him also fed him. And he asked the boys to prepare a canoe, dugout canoe to take the prisoners down to Giligili where they have quarters. Anyway he told the boys to put the Japanese guy first to sit in front and after that he put the Australian guy to the canoe and he put the Australian guy to sit at the back and then he told the boys to take off but then he took the pistol and gave it to the Australian guy. And when the Japanese guy sitting in front saw his pistol he was really mad. Anyway they brought the two prisoners down to Giligili. And that was my father's story.
But after that we were living up at Kwato when the Americans took over Milne Bay. They took over Milne Bay and Australians were hiding up at Kuiaro or somewhere there. But that's what I can only remember. I can remember only that story.
The story about the KB mission is it was in the Battle of Milne Bay that I gave the copy to Post Courier and it's in the Post Courier if you can get a copy, the Battle of Milne Bay. That's when we start knowing about the war in Milne Bay because they don't talk about the war in Milne Bay until when I saw that it was in the Sydney Morning Herald in Sydney I took the copy and gave it to Post Courier .. It was in the 1990s or late '90s. No, not '90s, it was in 2000 something when I was still in Moresby before I came up here. About the Battle of Milne Bay, how they fought or they start fighting here but if you want you can get a copy still with Post Courier. I saw the CD, with one of my friends when I was in Sydney uh Cairns. And he showed me the CD and I asked him, where did you get this CD and he said in Toowoomba. There's an army library in Toowoomba. And there's Milne Bay section. So that's where I think you can get all the information.
No, I only know about my father and that's all. But otherwise when we talk about this Milne Bay, this area here where the Japanese were .. My father was a missionary I mean he was looking after the coconut plantation up at Kanakope. The mission's plantation. It was not written or included in the document or newspaper. They only talked about the general, in general about the battle in Milne Bay. From up there at the place is . and down here they fought too. But everything is in that Battle of Milne Bay copy at the Post Courier. I had a copy but I left it up at Kwato. There's a lot lot to be recorded about the local people but no one to do it. Because they have been only concentrating on Kokoda and Milne Bay is the turning point and peace came. They defeated the Japanese here. And the Australians, the fighters here are all small boys they call them 'Chokos'. In that newspaper, they were young boys, mostly from Queensland. One of them, his memorial is up at Wagawaga [Ahioma], Corporal French.
My father was a Pastor and at the same time he was looking after the plantation and the Australians were up there, right at the point there Kanakope. He was there like looking after the soldiers or so. I don't know what he does but he was a caretaker there and when the war broke out, he was there.
The soldiers' relationship with the people was good, the Australians. They were all young boys but I think because of the war so everybody looked serious. What they call them straight face army.
My mother, they had to shift them back because the war was getting strong so they had to move back to Kwato. But there's lot of Milne Bay people who experienced the war but nobody recorded their stories. My father's name is Peter. His name is like . I don't know because he works with the mission . my grandfather, he works with the . he's Suau, part Suau and part Hanuabada so he was down at Hanuabada, he was married to a Hanuabada lady. But his name is Kabilide but that name is so, they can't pronounce it so they called him Jackson so we were using Jackson. But I prefer Kabilide, it's a Suau name.
Okay. Thank you.

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“Gauri Kumaina - Oral History interview recorded on 06 April 2017 at KB Mission, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed June 16, 2024,