This is an interview held at Bou village on 12th of April 2017 and the first interviewee is Lolo Tubaiyodi, and he will be telling the story about his elder brother Eiya Kaitolewa and also Lolo will talk about his war experience.
My brother was recruited by the Australian government to work as a labourer. He was already married at that time of the war. He was working at Balaga during the war. He was on the boat working with his boss so they always go on patrols to check on the machine guns by providing supplies. See that small islet there (outside of Divinai), that's where one machine gun was planted so they usually go on patrols to monitor it and offload supplies. They check on that one then go to the next and the next machine guns. That was his main job with one Australian man, and several other local men with him. There were a lot of local men working as labourers.
My brother was working with other local men on the boat with that white man. Like I said, they were monitoring and supplying the machine guns that needed supplies. Most of the times he was on the boat. They visited the machine guns and checked if they were okay, and this was mostly done by the white man while they watched. There were a lot of machine guns they use to monitor along the coastal areas. That was his main job until the war ended. They usually check on the machine guns after every three days because they were war equipment.
I don't know what his experiences were like so I do not want to exaggerate here. All I know was that he was helping with other village men by monitoring the machine guns and supplying war materials. He was not handling the machine guns but was monitoring them on patrol times. Those are white man's things so they handle them. He was only assisting the white man. Most of the times he remained in the boat whenever they go on patrols. Very fast boats, speed boat. War equipment.
They were like supplying the machine guns with bombs. So when there's fighting the machine guns are used by other men and they go in to supply them. So they go in to check and supply the machine guns. He started working when the war started here. When the recruitment came, his other friends were working as drivers, some on other boats, and he was also working on a different boat. There were many men recruited as labourers.
He was scared when he saw Japanese soldiers because its war, but they were protected well. He returned home after the war.
I was ten years old when the war came and I witnessed it. I heard of the war but did not experience the real fighting. We returned here when war ended. I witnessed one plane being shot down here when we returned home after the war.
We had to desert this village when the war came so we ran away to the North coast side. Before the war, the government came and warned us about the war and told us to run away elsewhere because a war was coming. The government sent us away. We were still here when the war came so we ran away and left all our things here. I ran away with my parents. It's war so we ran away carrying only what we could carry. On the North coast side, we went to live at Hiliwau with the village people there. We just made friends and lived with the people as family. The people there were providing food for us and also this barge was also supplying us with rice as part of the government supply. When the barge comes, they used to supply us with food by rationing the rice on laplaps for each family because there were many of us. So that continued until the war ended. We lived for almost a year and returned to our village.
After the war when we returned all our things here were destroyed. Our houses were burnt by the soldiers. All our domestic animals were killed, pigs, dogs and chickens. All our food gardens were destroyed also because we ran away and stayed for one year there. There were no animals left in the village.
I saw white men carrying guns and walking around. I was a small boy so when I saw them with guns, I was really scared. Because they used them to shoot people.
We returned and were living here. I was here and watched a plane being shot down into the sea there. I was watching it. It was a Japanese plane.
Yes, the Japanese would wear grass skirts and carried clay pots over their heads and they were walking like our village women pretending to be them so they would fool the Australians to think that they were the village women so that they won't be shot. I saw a few of them acting like that. They were running away this way, the Japanese. They wore grass skirts and put clay pots on their heads and were running away this way after the war. They were trying to walk up this way and go to Dogura. They went up to Kehelala (East Cape) and went. Some of them were caught and shot on the way by the Australians because that's their enemy. Only a few of them who were escaping after the war.
I saw two who were shot down in the plane here. Their plane was shot down there into the sea. Around seven o'clock, that was time for fellowship, when they swam ashore at that headland there. These were two Japanese. They swam ashore and were staying there and Pastor was going for fellowship and he found them and told the people. He said, ''there, two people swam ashore and they are lying there.'' So they were brought to the village and they removed their wet trousers, shirts and left them in the sun to dry. They were given food to eat but their favourite food was pawpaw so they gave them ripe pawpaw to eat.
The next day, my elder brother brought them and left them at the barrack, down there. He was looking after them there. My elder brother was the one taking care of them and not the Pastor. He knew that they were the enemy but he was the law man, the police man at that time so he had to look after them. You know those old time police men; he was one of them so he had taken them under his care. They were living in that house. And without his knowledge, one of the villagers went and reported about the two men. He said, 'there are two Japanese men kept in the village and living with the people.' That's what he reported to the Australians. So they came up to shoot them.
They came up and surrounded the house, along that way. And the two men were sitting with my brother. One of the Japanese man peeped out to look and he saw the Australians so he opened the door that was made of coconut leaves woven-mat and stepped out. They already knew that their enemies were around. As soon as they stepped out, there were gun shots and one of them was hit, while the other one ran away into the bushes. They ran away and went down to that big tree Likalili and took cover by hiding behind it and the Australians kept on shooting at them. They also had pistols so they were shooting at the Australians also. See that place there, there was a betelnut plantation but they were all destroyed from the shootings. They continued shooting until they ran out of bullets. And they dived into the sea and started swimming. One was shot here (shows where he was shot) and . There was a man named Poi who went down and carried the dead soldier up and there was a mat spread and he was laid on it. The one swam to the other side and went on land to escape when he was shot so one of the young man here, this Kolobe man went over and carried him back here. They (Australians) shouted and said, 'Hey! Leave him there.' But he brought him instead. They carried him like this, like how they used to carry dogs. They carried him like that and dragged him over and threw him down, and said, 'let him be.' But the Pastor had pity on them but what else could he do. It was already late in the afternoon so they rang down to Giligili using their device for talking and a boat was sent up to the village. The boat came right up here and the front went all the way up to the shoreline. And they carried them (Japanese) like this; they held their hands like dogs being carried with legs dangling and threw them onto the boat. They were already dead. They loaded them and sailed away. The Australians took them away and I don't know what they did with them or where they buried them.
Eh, the village people here saw how they were treated and they really really cried for them. Very sad. Very sad but we had to follow the law. My mother Sapua really cried because she was an elder and a teacher at that time. Very sad because they are human beings like us and we felt sorry for them. They were two brothers and one already shaved but the other one not yet. The younger one did not shave yet while the elder one already shaved. The Japanese men were communicating with their hands to the people because who knows their language, and they don't know ours. They were making signs with their hands because they don't know our language and I think they did not go to school. Their plane was shot down by the Australians. They chased them at Giligili and it was shot and it flew all the way here and went down into the sea. The plane is like this and they were struggling to control it but it went down in the sea.
The man who looked after them was my brother, the one who worked as a labourer during the war (battle of Milne Bay). He was the one taking care of them. The Australians did not do anything when they found out that he was harbouring the Japanese soldiers who were their enemies. They did not punish or arrest my brother. Nothing.
I witnessed that incident that I am telling it. I have no other stories to tell.
The village people here ran away when the Japanese and the Australians were exchanging gun fire. We saw guns and heard gun shots so we all ran away into the nearby bushes. I was hiding in the canoe and one man came and carried me and we ran away. People were in the village but when they heard that the Australians were coming for the Japanese men so the people got scared and ran away. Because they lined up here down to the shoreline and were shooting. They surprisingly attacked them. My brother was sitting on the steps when the Australians surrounded the house so he had to make signs to the two Japanese men to escape. He was using his hands by making signs and arguing the Japanese men to run away but they were too late. But you know, they were soldiers so they already knew what was happening and about their enemies. My brother quietly slipped out of the house and went up that way (mountain side) and past the Australians from behind while the two men prepared their pistols and walked out. And the Australians started shooting at them but they ran down to the beach and hid behind the Likalili tree.
I was a child when the war came and I think too much gunshots and numerous deaths. A lot of people were killed. The war is bad because they might shoot and kill us.
I was sleeping and one old man came and carried me, by then they (Australians) have already surrounded the place all the way down to the beach, and they blocked the area off. This old man came past and saw me sleeping so he carried me and left me further away from where they were fighting. That happened during the day.
There was main road all the way up. This main road was existing before the war came. The road was along the beach before and now it's on this path. This new main road was constructed by the soldiers with assistance from the village people when they were preparing for the war. The soldiers were very smart. Yeah, the local men were used as labourers. The main road came and stopped here, down there where that tree is, that's the mark. The main road stopped at Bou. The government used to come on patrols and some men were arrested and they helped to build the road.
The soldiers used to dump the army things but we were not allowed to collect them because they said to arrest us because that was stealing. Village people from the other side used to come over and steal those army things. They used to try to shoot them but they steal and run away back to their villages. They used to be very careful because if they will be shot if caught by the army. There was plenty food at the army camps and they did not have enough food there so they used to come over and collect food. They did not think of it as stealing. The army used to come and dump lots of things down there where the tower is currently standing, there was a very big hole dug and the things were dumped, and food was also dumped there. The village people from the other side used to come and collect food from that dump. There was leftover food like bread and tinned chicken. You know those times, . big tins like this, meat tins, there was surplus.
They used to come and steal and sometimes some of the soldiers were good towards them so they used to give them the leftover food to take when they meet them. The soldiers used to give stuff like cigarettes to the men, elderly men who came to steal food for their families. They used to give them food too. At times the local cooks used to give them food and tell them to leave. They used to take them into the bushes and eat and take some home.
The local people were mostly making friends with the Australians and not with the Japanese men. I don't really know about the Japanese soldiers' relations with the local people and I never heard of relations with the village women. It was war so the people here were afraid to go near them or make friends with them at their own wish. They were scared of them. The men were making contacts with the soldiers while the women were kept away from them. Only the men used to come over to search for food.