Maiogaru Luke and Lydia Bernard - Oral History interview recorded on 30 March 2017 at Gabugabuna, Milne Bay Province


This is an interview with Maiogaru Luke and her sister Lydia Bernard. They tell the story of their grandmother Maiogaru who was a nurse 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 Lydia Bernard and Maiogaru Peter. They are both daughters of Grace who is the daughter of Maiogaru and we are interviewing them at Gabugabuna village on the 30th of March 2017. And they are going to talk about their bubu Maiogaru who was a Nurse during the war.
She was trained as a Nurse at Kwato and maybe she was there when the World War Two came. She was Kwato. She was staying at Divinai during the war and then the man that was the pilot his from Australia. He's an Australian man who was being wounded. His hands and legs were burnt by the aircraft. And then this bubu rescued him. So at that time when the Japanese were already around, she was on the canoe and she helped the man into the canoe and then she covered him with a mat. She covered him with a mat and she paddled him like they paddled down this way coming towards Giligili. She put Pandanus leaves and some vegetables. That's how she helped the man. And then they came to Watunou because the weather was rough. I'm not too sure about how many hours she paddled. The weather was rough so she couldn't make it to Wagawaga so she had to paddle all the way up to Watunou, spend the night there and next day the weather was calm and she paddled across to Wagawaga. Wagawaga on the Ealeba side.
She treated the wounded pilot. She was nurse so she has everything there, all the First Aid medicines there. She told us about how she ended up finding the wounded pilot but it's a long time and we can't remember the first story that she told us. But we love listening to her but when we grew up and started understanding then this bubu of ours died. He was in a plane and his plane crashed and he was the only one who survived the plane crash.
Bubu Maiogaru was a nurse and she had her training on Kwato Island. During the time of her nursing, the World War Two came. She rescued a man and within that time she was at Divinai. She was working at Divinai and that's where the aircraft, one of the aeroplanes was shot down. And this man stayed for about twelve hours with nobody's knowledge to nobody to rescue him. And then he has to drag himself down on the beach and that's where bubu Maiogaru saw this man so she helped him. She carried this man to the canoe and then she covered him with a mat and some other things and maybe some banana leaves or Pandanus leaves. And then she paddled. She was like helping him so she paddled him trying to go to . They were paddling on their way to Wagawaga. And then there was some waves or the weather was stormy so she couldn't make it to Wagawaga so she has to go into Watunou. So from there as soon as they arrived she continued to help this man, sponging him with hot water and also the wounds. She cleaned the wounds and she also dressed them. She has been dressing the wounds of this Australian man whose name is Bill Whetters.
They spent a night there at Watunou. And then they have to continue to Wagawaga. They continue the journey to Wagawaga by paddling across the bay. So she paddled and that's where she helped this man. So from what I know just a little bit is, the man was saved by bubu and then as soon as he was well or he got better and then when he flew back. He went and he sent bubu's bicycle that I can remember and there were other things uh nursing dress, some of her uniforms. Her dresses and some treatment medicines kit. This man sent these things together with her bicycle. A raincoat as well.
She was using the bicycle. That's where she was travelling and helping other people too. It's not only herself but she thought of others, the life of the Milne Bay people and the Australians. So that's what all I know about bubu. And after that the WW2, bubu continued her work and she went back to Kwato and she was also taking care of the orphans with other women, the other nurses there. So all these women nurses there were taking care of the orphans. It was a big hospital there. And they were working there.
And then they brought up so many children and they treated them as their children. Bubu Maiogaru then brought mummy Grace. Mum was born after three days and her mother died. My mother's mother is from Basilaki and her father is from Ware. When her mother died, bubu Maiogaru took care of mum Grace. And mum continued living all through the time with bubu Maiogaru. And she called her as her daughter without mum knowing her parents but otherwise bubu was honest woman that she took mum to Ware Island and showed her who are her parents. She told her that her mother if from Basilaki and her father is from Ware. And then after that when they came back, and she went down and she was here at Dago. Dago which is the school now, Maiwara Primary School. She was walking at Dago all through her life with mummy. Mum was also a nurse. And she was working with bubu.
And then mum had her first born child, a daughter who is Lydia and then she got married to our dad from Maiwara and there are five of us in the family. So mum continued to be with bubu and as bubu was growing old then she stopped work. She stopped her nursing work and retired.
My bubu is a brave woman. She works like a man. And like I said it was not only for herself but for the Milne bay people and the Australians that she helped. And looking at the history of my bubu's work is she was hero that no other woman can do. And we are proud of our bubu. But now it seems that our bubu's graveyard is in the bush and this is the thing that we are not happy about because the families are not oneness with us.
While she was working at Divinai as a Nurse, the soldier was her first patient. The war didn't go up to Divinai. It was just the plane crash. From Wagawaga, she had to walk all the way to Amau. From there, she went to Cecil Abel who was at Amau. So she told her story on how she saved the pilot. And from there Cecil Abel who was the one who wrote her story.
When she went out to rescue the wounded soldier, she was so brave. When she went to save the man, she was praying at the same time, praying for him. Because he has broken bones, and pus all over his body so she had dress him up with bandage and grease. During those times, they used to use grease. She applied grease on his wounds. And she continued praying for him to get well. Because during those times they don't have doctors, only nurses. Yes, the wounded man was aware that he was being treated by a Papuan woman nurse. He asked her to request for some things and that's what she requested, bicycle, raincoat and her nursing uniforms
The soldier came once in the 1970s to see her. We had already gained independence. We have photos of our bubu and one photo of the wounded soldier.
Before the war came, she was nursing at Kwato and then she went down to Divinai and stationed there. She was at Wagawaga, Ealeba side. She has to paddle all the way to Divinai to get the soldier. When the plane crashed the men couldn't, they were not brave enough to rescue him so she has to paddle all the way from Wagawaga to Divinai to rescue the wounded soldier. She was on her way to Divinai when she heard the news about the wounded soldier.
She kept the wounded soldier and stayed at Divinai for may be two days before paddling back to Wagawaga. She hid him in her house. If the Japanese happened to find that soldier maybe they would shoot him. She was hiding him from the Japanese soldiers. She paddled in the afternoon up to Watunou because the weather was so rough and she could not make it to Wagawaga so she had to spend the night at Watunou. The next morning, the weather was calm so she paddled all the way to Wagawaga. She was a strong brave woman. She was very happy telling us her story and she was proud of herself because she is a prayerful woman and her bravery comes from prayer. She is a woman who never forgets about praying. So that was her courage.
At Divinai there were some white female nurses there. When she was on her patrolling up and down, she saved some soldiers. Even the Japanese soldiers too, the wounded ones. She treated them. She enjoyed her work as a nurse. At that time she was working for the Red Cross so when she was on her own, she was free to walk up and down and treated the soldiers.
Thank you very much.

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“Maiogaru Luke and Lydia Bernard - Oral History interview recorded on 30 March 2017 at Gabugabuna, Milne Bay Province,” Voices from the War, accessed May 30, 2024,