The ougainville Copper Project

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Peter Goerman from Batemans Bay:

Perhaps it is the result of having read Coral Island and Somerset Maugham at an impressionable age, but the South Pacific islands have always evoked a powerfully romantic image with me. Mention the South Seas and I conjure up a vision of waving coconut palms and a dusky maiden strumming her ukelele. Silhouetted against the setting sun, Trader Pete (that's me!) sits in a deck-chair in front of his hut sipping a long gin and tonic while a steamboat chugs into the lagoon, bringing mail from home.

In truth, I came to the then Territory of Papua & New Guinea as an audit clerk with a firm of Chartered Accountants in Rabaul (and thereby hangs another tale). When the local newspaper, the POST-COURIER, began carrying ads for audit personnel on the Bougainville Copper Project, I applied and was invited to fly across for an interview in October 1970. In those early days, all incoming traffic stopped at the transit camp at Kobuan where one had to wait for transport to Panguna where Bechtel's "top brass" had their offices. The road to Panguna was still something of an adventure and it was some time before I could present myself to Sid Lhotka, Bechtel's Manager of Administrative Services. He hired me on the spot and I returned to Rabaul to give notice and get my things and within a few weeks I was back "up top" only to be told that I would be working at Loloho, senior auditor in charge of several large contracts such as the construction of the harbour facilities (built by Hornibrook), the Power House construction (built by World Services), the Arawa Township (built by Morobe-ANG), and the haulage services (provided by Brambles-Kennellys.) Des Hudson and a string of time-keepers, amongst them Neil Jackson ("Jacko"), Bob Green, and "Beau" Players joined the team later.Kobuan Transit Camp

We all lived in Camp Six which was idyllically situated on Loloho Beach. Every day (and often even before going to work), we would go for a swim in the beautifully warm and clear waters of Loloho Bay. Except for one: Bill Avery, our telephone operator who was ex-Navy and claimed he had a pact with the sharks: they wouldn't come onto his land, and he wouldn't go into their water. I'll never forget the day when we had a prolonged power failure and no running water in camp, and the whole camp population washed and shaved in the surf! Ever since I've been keeping a cake of soap which lathers in seawater. The camp had a certain hierarchy with "oldtimers" occupying the front row of dongas facing the beach, also known as "Millionaires' Row." Twice a week was film night to which viewers brought their own plastic chairs and victuals and liquid supplies and watched whatever was being offered (the Natives were crazy about Cowboy movies), against a backdrop of stars twinkling through swaying palm fronds and with the surf as background music. Payday was the big night in Camp Six with gambling tables such as Snakes & Ladders doing a roaring trade. Flick shows (with little to be seen across the tops of a dozen boisterous guys, all drinking and smoking, crammed into a 6-by-10ft donga) were also highly sought-after.

The "boozer" (or Wet Canteen in the official language), set right on the beach of Loloho, was a great place for an evening out! Offshore, across the dark waters, several small islets marked the outer limits of the reef. We named them "Number One Island", "Number Two Island", and so on. On some night, after a sufficiently large intake of SP (also known as 'Swamp Piss'), heated debates would develop as to whether they were ships coming into port!

Sometime in 1971 I transferred to Panguna where I was put in charge of the General Accounts Department with Brian Herde doing the Accounts Payable and Gaskill keeping the General Ledger. Neil Jackson somehow found his way "up top" as well and became offsider to Brian Herde, imitating one of the Three Musketeers by attacking all passers-by with a long wooden ruler until the day the booze got the better of him and he didn't turn up for work at all. Sid Lhotka visited him in his donga at Camp 3 and rumour has it that "Jacko" told him to f%@# off! He was on the next plane out! Panguna shrouded in clouds Another auditor wasn't quite so outspoken to get off the island but did so even more quickly: Frank Joslin was given the monthly "perk" of hand-carrying a batch of punch cards to Bechtel's Melbourne office where he presented himself, never to be seen again thereafter. His neat little trick became known as "doing a Joslin" and was much talked about but never imitated. Some of the new recruits to the audit team were less than delighted with their posting to muddy and rain-soaked Panguna and started counting the days to the end of their twelve-month contract - literally! They ran up an adding-machine strip list from 365 days down to zero and pasted it to the office wall, ticking off one day at a time. Needless to say, not many survived that kind of mental torture. There were some others who never left Aropa airstrip: they had seen the mountain range shrouded in clouds from the aircraft and, refusing to leave the small airline building and spending a fretful night on a hard wooden bench, reboarded the same aircraft for its morning flight back to Port Moresby.

Loloho beach party Others took to the wild camp life with gusto, spending what little time was left after a 10-hour working day, in the "boozer" and even investing in their own 'fridges outside their dongas. The nights were punctuated by the squeaking of 'fridge door hinges and the squishing sound of rings pulled off beer cans. A common "status symbol" amongst serious drinkers were door-frame curtains constructed from the hundreds of pull-top rings collected from empty beer cans. Les Feeney was put in charge of the audit group but more often than not was in charge of the carousing going on in the "boozer" and endlessly stuffing his pipe but never succeeding in lighting it. He and Peter the "Eskimo", a lumbering polar bear of a man hailing from Iceland, ran a constant "throat-to-throat" race as to who was the biggest drinker. "Bulldog", a likeable Pom, tried hard to catch up with them! On one occasion he also tried to learn how to play the electric organ. He never did but the speakers and amplifier which came with it, were put to good (and all-too-frequent) use when he played his favourite Neil Diamond record, "Hot August Night." The whole camp rocked when "Bulldog" plugged in that organ! I shall always associate "Hot August Night" with nights at Camp One!

During my time on the island I became a Justice of the Peace and also obtained my registration as a tax agent (Registration No. TTA322, dated 26th April 1971) and assisted many in the camps with their tax returns. I even made successful representation to the New Zealand Inland Revenue to have the then 18-months "world income rule" set aside for the Kiwis working on Bougainville. Had I not obtained this particular ruling, they would have been liable to pay New Zealand income tax on their Bougainville earnings. I became something of a scribe for many in the camp who wanted to apply for a passport or needed documents authenticated or who - surprisingly - couldn't read or write and asked me to handle their correspondence - including some pretty red-hot love letters!!! I always toned down their replies which must have kept quite a few guys out of troubles!

After Bougainville came stints in the Solomons, back to PNG (setting up the Internal Audit Department for AIR NIUGINI in Port Moresby where I run into Brian Herde again who'd taken a job with Tutt Bryants), Playing chess with Noel Butler on Lae beach Christmas 1974 Rangoon in Burma, Samoa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, PNG once again (setting up the tug-and-barge operations for Ok Tedi; Bechtel was back in town to manage this project and with it came Sid Lhotka with whom I had dinner at the Papuan Hotel in Port Moresby to talk about "old times"), Saudi Arabia (where I met up with Des Hudson again), Greece - but none of those assignments came ever close to the comraderie and esprit de corps of the years on Bougainville!

Over the years I repeatedly ran into "ex-Bougainvilleans" and "ex-Territorians" in Australia and elsewhere. We would swap yarns which always ended in a great deal of nostalgia and a hankering for a way of life that would never come again. Like myself, many had found it difficult to settle back into an "ordinary" life and, like myself, had moved from place to place in an attempt to recapture some of the old life style.

I moved on to Honiara in the then British Solomon Islands Protectorate, back to Papua New Guinea, then Rangoon in Burma, Iran, again Papua New Guinea, Thursday Island, Apia in Western Samoa, Penang in Malaysia, Australia, back to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and Piraeus in Greece.

Those were my restless years and I simply couldn't stay put anywhere for more than six months to a year. During all those years of travel it was the people I met, the many colourful and swashbuckling character, that left the most lasting impressions on me. And perhaps I did likewise to them, who knows? I just wished I had been a more widely-read person at that time which would've enabled me to gain a greater insight into the people I met and the places I visited. When I lived in Greece in the early 80s I visited Hydra several times without ever knowing anything about George Johnston who with his wife Charmian Clift lived for some eight years on the island. George Johnston is of course best known for his book "My Brother Jack" and I have read every one of his many other books since. When I worked in Port Moresby, one of the old accountants in my office was a Mr Chipps, and the whole office would chortle "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", every time he left the office without my ever realising that they were making a literary reference to James Hilton's famous book. And of course the same James Hilton wrote "Lost Horizon" in which he gave us the word "Shangri-La". Indeed, the Shangri-La hotel chain bought the rights to his book and placed a copy on every bedside table in place of the usual Gideon Bible. I knew nothing of this when I stayed at various Shangri-La Hotels in Malaysia and Singapore and I had barely heard of Hermann Hesse when I stayed in the suite named after him in the Raffle Hotel in Singapore. I visited Pago Pago without ever having read Somerset Maugham's short story "Rain" and lived in Rangoon before I had ever heard of Rudyard Kipling's "On the Road to Mandalay". Even Saudi Arabia would've been of greater fascination to me had I had the time to read Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". How much richer my travels would've been had I done all that reading earlier but of course as it was, I found just enough time to read the necessary technical literature to allow me to carry out my work. In those hectic days it was an almost unheard-of luxury to find the time to read a novel. Instead, I studied accountancy standards or IATA rule books, improved my laytime calculation skills, compared charter parties and worked through case studies in forensic auditing, as the case may be.

To this day I am still fascinated by books about unaccountable accounting or the world's worst maritime frauds. But now that I live in retirement on the South Coast of New South Wales, I have also found time to dip into John Donne's "No Man is an Island" and Boethius's "The Consolation of Philosophy", so things are beginning to balance out. I still do some occasional volunteer work overseas. My next trip to Samoa is due in May. Read about it here!

Guy Thornton emailed from Spain:

God knows how I came across your website.

Yeah, I worked for ODGFMIC as a trades assistant in 70/71. I was 23. My dad was a chopper pilot and in 66 had a short contract flying for Crowley Aviation in Lae. His contract ended, my mum, dad & siblings returned to UKand I just stayed behind. I worked for CDW aka Comworks as a timekeeper. I earned great money and travelled a lot. My girlfriend then got a job at a hotel her uncle was involved in on the little island off Kieta - Aruva, I think it was called. So I flew to Kieta and on the plane sat next to a chap who was one of the bosses of the ODGFMIC joint venture. He very kindly offered me a job. I spent a year at Panguna and then, as the contract wound down, a month or two at Arawa. I don't think I've ever earned as much money since in comparative terms. We did about 3 or 4 hours overtime a day, often 7 days a week. We had great food. I loved it. Used to take the company bus down to Kieta now and then and visit my girlfriend who pushed off to London after a couple of months anyway. On reflection I spent far too much time in TPNG - I was only 18 in 66 when I first went there. Five years mixing with odd types, drinking too much, earning easy didn't really develop my character. Anyway, there we are!

I am retired and live in Spain with my wife of 30 years. Of marriage, not her age. Unfortunately.

I understand TPNG or whatever they call it nowadays, has gone to pot.

Kind regards,
email foxenburg[AT]

Murray Tonkin sent this email from Ingle Farm:

Hello Peter
I worked at B58 Electrical Workshop 1976-1980. Worked with John Bartram, Graham Rodman, Lindsay Swanson among many others. I returned to BCL August 1989, kicked out in January 1990 with a lot of others, after the decision to close the mine. Worked at Tarong Coal mine, from May 1989 - August 1989. This was organised by John Davison, as my family and I arrived in Brisbane enroute to Bougainville, just as the trouble started. After finally arriving in Bougainville, I worked at Power Station for a few weeks, then went up to the mine where we built a new P&H shovel, then dismantled it in parts and it was shipped to Hammersley Iron, in the North West Western Australia. I am now retired and living in Ingle Farm, South Australia.
Murray Tonkin
email murray_tonkin[AT]

Bruce Bowers emailed from Singapore:

Greetings to all ...My name is Bruce Bowers and I was one of the unusual expats that didn't work for BCL on Bougainville , but Queensland Insurance (QI) in Arawa 1983-1985.

I took a six-month assignment on Bougainville in March 1983, from the suburbs in Sydney and have never returned to Australia. I currently live in Singapore. I still remember arriving on Bougainville in shorts with long socks and a safari coat ,with a line of pens in the coat pocket...I had no idea where I was going it was simply an adventure.

I have so many fond memories of my time on Bougainville, the people, the great wreck-diving, climbing Mt. Negrohead behind Arawa and finding the remains of a coastwatcher cave to great weekends on Arovo island, caving and exploring the islands around Buka in search of Lapita Pottery remains with Barry and Cindy Hastie from Coopers and Lybrand. Whatever happened to Ian (Patto) Patterson, the panel beater from Arovo Motors, or Mark (have-a-chat) Johnson from Westpac? I remember fondly the Kieta Hotel (big nights) and the manager who called himself the "Phantom".

I remember a mad young couple from Tal-Air who invited over 30 guests to their farewell at the Arawa Golf Club, collected all cash contributions for the dinner from their "friends", then flew out the next day to Moresby without paying the bill! Keith Larson from Morgan Equipment - anyone know where he is? Another legend from that time.... Would be great to hear from anyone who remembers me or knows those mentioned above.

Bruce Bowers

Marlene Coff emailed from Kilmore in Victoria:

a friend sent me your website and I can tell you that I was one of the "single girls" living at Panguna between 1969-1971. I was Secretary to Don Pearce of Conzinc Rio Tinto and was madly in love with Marcus Clarke from Tyabb (a small town near Frankston in Victoria) but left after two years to travel the world just to find out if everywhere else was as laid-back as Bougainville. I was one of many who made the big trip from the mine site to Kieta and spent several days thereafter just about unable to walk another step. I remember the Riot Squad coming over from Rabaul when there was an uprising against the mine site, but most of all I remember the wonderful people that came and went. Please publish my email address in your missives if you so desire as it would be fantastic to catch up with anyone who wants to.
Marlene Coff
email marlenecoff[AT]

Patti Riters emailed:

Prince Phillip Hi Peter
I’m attaching some photos of my time in Bougainville – Graeme Wellington had a picture of me and my ex-husband, Ron Nicholls, on page 12a. I will copy him in with this too. Good job on this website. These are when Prince Phillip came to visit and was chatting with us girls. I’ll have to rummage thru my old diaries to come up with those girls’ names as I haven’t kept in contact with them over the years unfortunately. I will have some stories so will put my thinking hat on and contribute some soon. I do have more pictures but have a lot of sorting to do before I can send them off. All the best
Patti Riters (Nicholls/Gerkens)

Paul Richards sent this email:

Peter, I have just seen your web site. I worked on Bougainville from Dec 69 to September 70. On page 12a you have a photo of Ray Conway. He was my immediate boss. He was a hydrographer, John Milne was the Hydrologist, I was the hydrographer's assistant (sort of like a gun dog to a duck shooter). Ray and I were amongst the few who worked on both sides of the island from the mouth of the Jaba River to doing the tide tables for Loloho and trying to find out how often Arawa would flood. Unfortunately, I have lost my photos taken there, but yours bring back memories. regards,
Paul Richards
email paul2003au2004[AT]

Chris Jefferies emailed from Kamloops in British Columbia, Canada:

Chris today and still hard at it Chris in Camp 6 Hello, Just stumbled upon your site. Name is Chris Jefferies and I lived and worked at Loloho assembling the drying plant. Lived at Camp 1 for a short while, but for the most part Loloho. Worked there from 1969 to Jan. '72 when I got the hell out to save my neck! Canadian and worked for MKF and Johns and Waygood. I don't have many more photos for the reason that the "Pella" who was running the mail truck from Kieta, at that time, thought it was really fun to toss the mail out the window and watch it flutter away like the little birds, so a lot of us lost a considerable amount of correspondence and, of course, my return photos. Nothing surprising about that behavior, but doesn't help old memory lane. When I left Bougainville, I went to then Burma to work for Toshiba on a hydro project and there I was most definitely not permitted to even have a camera, (Viet Nam time.), so only memories there too. I would not trade my time in those places for anything; especially Bougainville, the Islands and Papua. Don't know that I would go back, given the opportunity, hard to say, and the likelihood of having that opportunity is little to none, so no point in conjecture. I don't know if this info is of any use to you, but there it is. Contact me if you have anything that you think that may interest me.
Chris today in a different climatic zone Chris.
email available from webmaster on request

P.S. As an aside, I see that they are talking of re-opening. Are they going to throw us a party to show us their appreciation for the good job we did of putting it together? I'm still wearing a damned hard hat and still busting my butt. What the hell have I done wrong?

Stan Keilty emailed from Newman in W.A.:

I was on Bougainville from August 1978 to July 1983. Worked at B56 with Jeff Dutton, Paul Marshall, Kent Baker, Lindsay Swanson, Gary Murphy and others for about 15 months. Moved to Concentrator Mod Squad under Kingsley Howie where I stayed until I finally left. I was on the committee of the Loloho Sports & Gamefishing Club for a few years with Joe Stevens, Maurie Chadwick, Steve Waller and others. Had some great times there. Joe Stevens, Matt Long, Dave Vickers and myself represented PNG in a Billfish Tournament at Tangalooma, Moreton Island, Qld. in early 80’s which we won the international title. We tagged and released 18 sailfish and 1 marlin over 5 days of fishing. Fantastic time had by one and all. As you said there are many stories to be told about experiences on Bougainville. I keep saying to people that I meet that it was like utopia working and living there in the early days. I was always under the belief that some one like Wilbur Smith would have made a fortune writing about the many characters and adventures people had on Bougainville. You never know somebody may do it one day?? At one stage on your website I thought there was a section for those that had passed away and gone to the big mine in the sky but I can’t seem to locate it! Keep up the good work Peter. Cheers.
Stan Keilty.

[Webmaster's comments: The "Big Copper Mine in the Sky" has a link at the bottom of the Honour Roll page to]

Hans Fricke sent this email from Sydney:

What a great web-site! It sure brings back fond memories. I worked for OGD-FMIC Electrical subcontractors to Bechtel-WKE as an Electrical Supervisor at the copper concentrate site and screening plant area in 1971-72 and since returning from Bougainville have mostly lived in Sydney. I'm now semi-retired, and because I think it's keeping me young, I'm still active in the martial arts. However, my wife tells me that it hasn't helped one bit so far. :(
Best regards,
Hans Fricke
Nakamura Ryu Battodo Australia
Sydney School of Japanese Swordsmanship
email hansa[AT]

Graham Weston sent this email from Thursday Island:

My name is Graham Weston from Thursday Island. I worked with Ralph M Lee Projects from April 1989 till March 1990 at Arawa. I have just found this website, and a few names I remember. Although my stay on Bougainville was not long, I still have fond memories of the place. I was an Electronics Technician, and in the job got to travel the length of that beautiful island. Left a lot of good national and expat friends when we were forced to leave by the Australian Government, but have managed to keep in contact with a few of them. I was able to get back over there a few times in the early 90's, and was shocked at the destruction of the place. After Bougainville I moved to POM, Alotau, back to POM, Tabubil , then Kiunga ( 17 years ). All up I spent 19 years in PNG, and now live with my PNG wife and three children at Thursday Island. Jim Hocking had mentioned a guy called Russ Peterson, and that he did not know where he is now. Well Russ was up at Kiunga, working as the Marine Operations Manager for Ok Tedi Mining. I had many memorable fishing trips with Russ on the Fly River and down at the Bensback Lodge. Russ left OTML in the mid 90's, and shifted back to Bribie Island with his wife and family. He passed away from a massive heart attack in the ( from memory ) late 90's. Russ always had a good story to tell, and is sadly missed by all who knew him. I still have a few videos of some of our fishing trips, and some photos of the ones that did not get away. RIP Russ.
Graham Weston

Patricia Collis emailed from Western Australia:

Hi I found the site on Bougainville and looking at the photo's brought back great memories. I was there between the years of 73 and 78, my husband was Jim Craig he worked on the cranes down Loloho with Warren Haig, are you the guy we used to know as "Pockets". Jim passed away about 9 years ago. I live in Western Australia now and never see anyone from those days, my son David works around the construction sites all over Oz he took after his father but has heaps more tickets for machinery than his dad had. He is called Red by every one so if you are the guy who we knew you would remember that David had red hair any way it would be good to catch up as you can see by the name on the bottom I am called Trish now. The only person I have ever cought up with is Jenny Vibe (Fisher) she is married to George Vibe, George was the only one from the old days that came to Jim's funeral. Anyway I hope to hear from you

... and we received a second email from Patricia:

Hi Peter I would like to thank you for the great job that you have done on this site. My name is Pat Green but when I was on Bougainville 73/78 I was married to Jim Craig he was a crane operator down at Loloho, I really enjoyed looking through all the photos and one in particular caught my attention it is the one captioned Sunday on the Loloho Beach. That was our boat and I remember the day like yesterday Jim was out on it with his mates just sitting having a quiet drink and the small child with her back to the camera is my daughter Tracie, we never asked why the guys did strange things it was just accepted that they did. I will allways remember my days on Bougainville, I have not kept in touch with many friends from those days but a few spring to mind Jenny Fisher who married George Vibe, Warren Haig who was Jims partner in drink/crime we lived next door to Jeff Newsom and a couple of doors down from Norm Fielding, Kiwi Tony who went to Manila and came back with a bride, my son David went to boarding school with the Fielding boys. but when my daughter Terri had to go away to school I had to go with her. Terri was killed in a car accident in 1986 and Jim passed away in 1993 or 4 we had been divorced for many years. I remember the Sports and Social Club and Steve and Robin Grant, Steve used to DJ the dances, I cooked in the kitchen on a Friday night, the holidays we had down at the married quarters at Loloho. the weekends we had out at Arovo Island and the girls who used to dance out there. I worked with Leen Caruana at Rabaul Stevedores in Kieta. I remember winning a motor bike from the news agent in Arawa I ended up giving it to my son David because I nearly killed my self on it. Janet and Denis Cloughly, Denis was known as the mad Irish man. What about JC who lived up on married hill at Panguna now there was a real character. Jack Plever and Jim had a race to see who had the fastest car on the island Jack had a Monaro and Jim had a chrysler Valiant with a slant motor, Jim won. I remember the Queen visiting and I was at Kieta and she came walking past us and my daughter Tracie went over to her and said "Hello Mrs Queen" we laughed about that for ages. I could go on and on but we all have our own stories to tell. I will allways remember those heady days. I had never been out of Victoria or been on a plane before I went to Bougainville oh boy what an experience it all was. I think I grew up there and I met so many wonderful and strange people I will never forget it.

Lizzie Kila sent this email:

Hi everyone, my name is Lizzie Kila.
I actually bumped into John Halstead and Horst ? in Cairns last week (April, 2008) and was told about the website which I thought I knew about but obviously not. He ended up sending me the actual e-mail up. I have been reading everyone’s comments on the website and it is really interesting. I can’t believe how well it has been presented. Way to go! I have been meaning to catch up with Diane Soul (if she still remembers me from the Mine Training College). I would also like to get in-touch with Graeme Barnham who was the Manager for Marketing – Pink Palace) before Mark Traven took over. Peter Bawden who was Manager for Maintenance in B74. I would like to know how they are all doing. To Terri, It was great seeing your name on the site, I am now living in Mareeba (North Qld) we lived in Townsville for 12 1/2 yrs before he decided to swap uniforms so that is why we are up here in the Tablelands. By the way, I have been in Australia for the last 17 years. I am in contact with Peter Latu and family Katu Benny and family, Siliba Deverall and family. Haven’t spoken to the Wicks and Jones for a while. I went to 2 BCL reunions which were held in Brissie and caught up with heaps of ex-BCL people. They were both great days that I will treasure for a long time. But getting back to Bougainville, I had the best 12 years from 1978 – 1990. I would like to hear from anyone who knew me then.
Until next time, take care everyone
Lizzie O’Meara (nee O’Meara)

Brian Darcey emailed this from Cairns:

Brian Darcey at Kieta Dear Peter,
I ran across your website for the first time today. I lived in PNG for 25 years, 1955 to 1980. with the last 15 or so on Bougainville.
Operated B.F.DARCEY & COMPANY PTY LTD at Rabaul until '65, then at Toniva. We were Cocoa and Trocas exporters, but also had a retail store at Toniva selling artifacts, jewellery, clothing etc. I flew my own Aztec, P2-BFD and the pics of Kieta Town, Bagana ( that's my wingtip ) and the road to Panguna were taken from the Aztec and sold in our Toniva Store and elsewhere on the island as post-cards.
We were the original Rabaul agents for CRA Exploration when geologist Ken Phillips first started the exploration phase and Frank Espie was still an up-and-coming middle-level exec in Collins St. Knew Col Bishop, Don Vernon, Paul Quadling, Frank Paholski and their families very well. We looked after their children to and from PNG on their way to school many times.
My blog has some reminiscences of Bougainville in some of the early posts.
I'm about to publish Bougainville Blue, a novel based on the Bougainville Conflict and the BRA. Fiction, but basically historically correct with names changed and some liberties taken to pull the narrative together.
Will let you know when it goes to print.
Brian Darcey

Bruce Hawkins emailed this from Narrabri:

My father Jack Hawkins worked as an earthworks supervisor for Dumez in 1970 and then transferred to BCP as open cut supervisor from Oct. 1970 until 1972 and lived at Arawa. He now resides in Gunnedah NSW. I also worked for Dumez in 1970 at Panguna and lived in the barracks at Camp 1 and I now live at Narrabri NSW. my email address is You've done a great job setting up the website and its just to reminisce about the good old days.
Regards, Bruce Hawkins

John Ainsworth emailed from Brisbane :

G’day won talk.
Was on Bougainville 1972 – 1977 with Supply Department BCL. Will go through our Photos and see what we can supply for the site. Should be some the great times we had there. I still have some contact with some of the old gang. I have the occasional contact with Ray & Marie Fuller, they live in Guyra NSW, Ray was with the Trade store in Paguna, also now and then talk to Maurie Pears and Ernie & Francis Demmler, Ernie was the Supply Superintendent & my Boss. My wife is from Malacca and is Portuguese-Chinese. How we met is quite a story. There was a group of four of us always in the Panguna Tavern by 1640 hrs, run up the road at 1900 hrs to Kuwarong House mess to be the last in for dinner. Back to the Tavern till closing time. Monday to Friday the do some serious drinking over the weekend. I decided it was time to complete my degree (BA). Went to the post office, down near the old trade store. PM showed me a blue mail bag, thought it was some books I had sent away for. Opened it to find over 800 letters from all over the world, my “mates” as an act of revenge had sent my name away to a Pen Friends magazine in India. I answered all the letters but only continued writing to about 30, one of whom was a young lady in Malacca, that began in 1972. In early 1975 we decided to get married, so 14 August we were married in the old Australian High Commission in Jalan Ampang. Took her back to Arawa, house 31 section 6. Our son born 1976 in the Arawa Hospital. I worked in the BCL Supply Department, firstly as a Leading Hand Storemen sorting out all the left over materials from construction in the mine site laydown areas as well as the bulk storage areas at the central warehouse. Ernie Demmler the Supply Superintendent, whom I had met briefly while in the Army, he was a Colonel & I was just a baggy bum Lt, asked me to set up a Training course for Storemen, Clerks etc also to arrange Extension Expat Training, Maurie Pears then decided the Mine Training College would take the course over. Later I would be a Purchasing Officer and finally Inventory Analyst & Cataloguer. Mid 1977 we decided to come back to Australia. I went to Norseman with Anaconda at the Redross Mine at Widgemooltha, then to Cliffs Robe River at Wickhan (bad move) , Back to Queensland and off to Oakey Creek for Bob Hope & Cliff Newman. Then to German Creek, on to Blackwater on the Curragh Mine Project, Then to Port Moresby with PTC as National Warehouse Manager until Thresa was chased by a “Rascal” ended contract & returned to Queensland. Down to Portland, then back to Queensland to work on the Shell & Ampol refineries, then the Griffin Skid project for BHP Petroleum, then a few short term contracts, then a lot of work (retired three times during this period) with Energy Developments on Methane gas power stations all over the place but based in Brisbane until October 2001. Retired again’ had two heart attacks and a Quad By-Pass in 2002. 2005 Ausenco got me to go to Townsville for six weeks which turned into six months, retired again for a month the off to Perth for six weeks which turned into 3 months on the Bata Haju project for Newmont. Back into retirement until Energy Developments asked me to be the Expeditor for the West Kimberly Power Project (LNG Plant at Karratha & Power Stations at Broome, Derby, Fiyzroy Crossing, Hall Creek & Looma. Contract was upposed to be for three months bus ran for thirteen months. So back into retirement again at present. Who knows what the future holds.
John Ainsworth, Marsden, Logan City
Email wombat.78[AT]

Andrew Liversidge emailed this from Brisbane

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the web site - the pictorial review was fantastic - so many memories came flooding back.
I was at Panguna 1978 - 1980 in the computer dept at the 'pink palace' as it was lovingly known. Like most of the other writers to your site, my stay at the mine still rates as one of my major 'life experiences' and I will dust off some photos to send you. I note that lots of the people that I knew are not on your honour roll Graham Pascoe (the angry ant), Willie Streeter, Owen Sykes, Geoff xxx (accountant), Miles George haven't registered with you - perhaps we should have a push to get everyone who knows someone that hasn't checked in, to do so. On my wish list - is there anyone out there who made a video or audio recording of 'The Dracula Spectacular' which was staged in Arawa. The only name I can remember from the cast was 'Clive someone' - he worked at the concentrator. I used to play piano at the motel on the way to the airport (can't remember the name) and sometimes at Arovo. And I still remember the taste of fish, freshly caught off Loloho and the evil practices of taking prawn remains back to the office and putting them inside phone handsets etc, whenever someone went finish!
Andrew Liversidge
Brisbane, Australia

Colin Cowell emailed this from Canberra:

Hi Pete
Talk about discovering a gold mine of memories! Please add me to your hall of fame (or should that be blame?) I worked in the accounts department at Bechtel December 1969-1973 with yourself, Bulldog (met up with him in London 1975), Les Feeny (met in 1986 St Kilda Melbourne), and Thor Blysceck (worked with him in Montreal 1975). Went to Canada in 1975 to work with Lloyd but it was too bloody cold. Pete the Eskimo died on a trip to the Phillipines if memory serves me well. Your story about Bulldog's organ brought back many memories. I helped organise the party at Loloho when Bulldog played Hot August Night 100 times and we drank 8 kegs, if I remember correctly. Will send you a story to publish on your site as I have lots of good stories. Currently based in Canberra and often get down to the Bay. What is your telephone number and we can catch up for a coffee and a laugh.
Cheers Colin

Ken Franklin emailed this from Brisbane:

Hi Peter,
I came across your site yesterday . I am Ken Franklin, worked with Commonwealth Bank Dec 1970 to 1971 at Kieta. I watched the township of Awara grow from nothing to a small town in 12 months. We used to travel up to Loloho 3 afternoons a week to service the Bank agency prior to the CBA branch being opened at Awara. Had a great time on the island in those 12 months, after which I went back to Moresby as I was not allowed to stay longer. The Bank thought we might go mad if we stayed. I have pleasent memories of Panguna. We used to travel up and stay some Saturday nights with Big Dooley (the then Bank manager) Great days. Thanks for Peter Morris's address. I will send him a note. I already sent Steve Craft a note so I hope to hear from him. I have just read Peter's note. Sounds as though he has told you all. Did he tell you we called him Peter Parrot? He would get on the grog and you could not shut him up. I am off to England next Feb. I may be able to catch up with the Parrot. Thanks again Peter I look forward to seeing my name in lights. I have some old slides of my TPNG days. I will try and send some.
Ken Franklin
Wise Owl Financial Services Pty Ltd
1/1 Dan St,
PO Box 1570,
Capalaba Q 4157
Ph: 07 3245 5789
Fax: 07 3245 6611
Email ken[AT]

Pat Gibson emailed from the Gold Coast:


Just found your web page re. bougainville and found it most interesting and photos bought back memories.

I spent from january to November 1971 at Panguna working at some of the "hands on" part of construction of the primary crusher and conveyor belt from there up the hill and over to the concentrator area as a rigger and later as a "lik lik Dokter".

You apparently worked more on the town side and probably out of the "pink palace"up on the hill and had different experiences and saw Bougainville from a different angle than me. I have many memories of the place now flooding back thanks to your pages such as.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of men who passed through camp 1.who couldn't hack it for various reasons mostly letting the grog get to them and to much money.

I worked it out that about 80% of them left before or just after their three months was up and the ' plane fare was given back to them.the rest went as soon as the six months contract was up if not before. I only remember a handful who stayed on after that.I had nine different room mates during my stay. Highlites for me were things like first of trying to master "pidgeon."

A walk from Panguna to the west coast road and down to Buin picking up "booker'baskets and a souvenir from Yamamoto's 'plane on the way and getting three New Guinea shillings in change from the Chinese trade store at Buin.

Some Sundays down the coast at Kieta and loloho and getting past the guards at the mess hall for a feed and bringing back donuts things we never saw at camp 1.

With my first aid hut being on the road that the locals traveled on bringing their produce from the villages up past the top of the mine area down to the Thursday market over near the town site I made friends with some and was able to help them in a small way with burns-ulcers and the like and eventually used to go to the villages sometimes.

With the help of some "acquired" one inch p.v.c. pipeing and 30 sheets of galvanized iron a mate and I were able to bring running water into a village and build a large opensided hut (tin roof) that the people could use to great advantage as a communal area and when it rained. Swimming and b-b-qs down at the swimming holes along the Jaba river.

The fun with the "local"guards at the check point coming back on a Sunday arvo showing our "passes'(which most of us didn't have) and substituting any old photo or using each others id.untill the night that the checkpoint hut was blown skyhigh and stoped all further checks.

And of course the police boys with their pick handles in action at the boys bar on pay night when they "kissem'to much bier or a raid at camp 3. Could go on but you must be sick of my ramblins by now-sorry. I often wonder what it's all like now after all the troubles they had.

A lot of overgrown wreckage-a bloody great lake blue-green (leaching copper) slowly overflowing into and down the once beautifull Jaba river,we shore made a mess of a beautifull Isl. And buggered up a in the main nice primitive people.

Only hope the sprouting nuts I bought up from the coast and planted up above the camp survived and today are doing some good to was a nice little clump when I left despite the fact I was told they wouldn't survive so high up-still--.

Aarrrr well I hope you'll forgive an old man rambelling on but then again you started it with your posting didn't you??ha.ha. also forgive the spelling-recon it's the old man's disease coming on. All the best to you and yours and thanks once again for the memories,

Pat Gibson.

Rosana Jaureguiberry emailed from Argentina:

Hi, my name´s Rosana and I´m from Argentina. Just by chance I came up with your web site and I became interested when I read how you´re an ex bougainvillean too, si I thought I´d let you know that here in Argentina there is one too! I lived on the island when I was a teenager because my father worked in BCL for about 5 years. we lived there from 1979 up to 1984, then we returned to our country,but I´ve never heard of anyone else who lived there. It´s not such a common place to live you know!! Well I´m looking forward to your reply and I´ll see if my mother keeps a map of the way that´s where I lived. See you. Bye
rosana jaureguiberry

Warren Parsons emailed from the USA:

It was good to read about the good old times in the Solomon Islands.

My recollection of Bougainville goes back to 1945 when there were no buildings, except for quonset huts and tents. We would watch a volcano smoking from our camp site and enjoyed swimming in what was called Empress Augusta Bay. It was beautiful there even then. Our planes could be seen bombing enemy installations with the volcano smoking in the background. We, American Navy Medical personnel had a good relationship with the Australian and New Zealand service people there. I had always wished I had been able to visit Australia and New Zealand but never got the opportuity. I enjoy your description of the Islands.

I now reside in Plaistow, New Hampshire, USA. That is just on the border of northeastern Massachusetts. I do recall the time we were getting ready to leave the Solomons, we dumped many pieces of heavy equipment that we could not carry into Emporer August bay. I suppose now it is a great fish habitat.

While on Bougainville, we were told that the Japanese were making an attempt to come out of the jungle to destroy our ammunition depot, fuel depot and air strips. As Medical Corpsmen we carried a small carbine rifle and we used to sleep with them under our mattresses. All through the nights we woud hear gunfire so we never got much sleep. Some Japanese got through the outside perimeter but were captured. We never did get attacked.

Peter, are your aware of any earthquakes in that area. Recently we had news that there was Tsunnami with 8.0 readings. I know we used to get some pretty violent tremors when I was there but the ground consisted of volcanic ash.

Another thought:: After the Japanese surrendered, an Australian (I believe he was spotting for the allies) who lived on the island all during the occupation by the Japanese brought a family of Chinese people who were traders and had been hiding during this time. There was a father and mother and 3 children. They were brought in to have our dentist treat them. Many of our men had children at home in the states and it was amazing to hear the sound of little children laughing. They GI's crowded around to just hear them laugh. Funny how some things effect us.

From looking at our present maps of the area, the names of the islands are a lot different when I was there. There was small island north of Bougainville called Green Island. It was a very small island on which I was stationed for a short time but cannot locate it on the map. I spent most of my time on Bougainville and when Japan surrendered we were shipped to China

I was amazed to hear of the Copper Mining on Bouganville as there was nothing commercial there back in 1945.

I enjoy your informative writing and dream of the beautiful islands I once had the opportunity to visit.

Thank you
Warren Parsons

Anja Crute emailed from Western Australia:

Hi all,
Well I have been searching to get intouch with my past and here I have found a lot of you, well a lot of you probably more familiar with my parents, Gary and Nana Lye. My name is Anja Crute (Lye/Eichler). I have been thinking about setting up a website for my generation, the likes of Matthew and Susan Kent, Julian Buckley, Claire Lowry, Shella Williams, Scott Mullins, Lindsay and Evan McCartin, Chris and Andrew Gaines and the list goes on. I would appreciate if anyone has had contact with any of my long lost friends or any member of their family. Well I am now living in the coastal town of Dunsborough Western Australia, and mum and dad are living in Bangledesh. We moved to WA in 1988/89. Since then dad worked for KCGM and mum has progressed with her art and got her Masters. I have 2 beautiful children Holly 11 and Jayden 8. I am currently studying, Bachelor of Naturopathy. I spend a lot of time perusing my photos of the old days in Bougainville wishing I was still there. I think it sad how we (the kids) probably took for granted where we lived and only realised this when it was too late. We had so many fun times, weekends staying in the dongas at Loloho, endless parties on school holidays, and for any of you parents out there whose kids went to boarding school, those trips home and overnighting in Moresby, my how we use to be all so close and have so much fun, trust and beautiful life. I mean really who gets taught by Sven at the age of 12 to scuba dive and have the amazing underwater world to explore. I remember the fantastic rides on Horst’s helicopter, the climbing of the volcano, staying in villages with mum upto 2 weeks on a small island in Buka called Matzungan (not sure of how you spell that). And who can forget the Drama society, the endless laughs of watching your friends and family up on stage overdramatising maybe at some point, but totally entertaining the crowds. You know, I still believe so much in my heart that we have been the luckiest people in the world to have ever experienced a beautiful sacred place like Bougainville. When I get my website up and running I shall be back to let you all know what the address is, who knows there might be photo’s which will remind you of other people you may have forgotten about. May our memories make us the special ones.
Anja Crute
63 Dunsborough Lakes Drive
Dunsborough WA 6281
PH: 08 9756 7443
Mob: 0411 755 894

Peter Tuckerman emailed:

Good morning,
I spent many a pleasant time on Bougainville in the late 50's where I was on Soroken, Teopasino, Arigua-Kurwina and later on Buka at Kessa.
Kessa is something else as I was partners with Alex Hopper in 1960 when we bought Kessa from Elma Goode and my daughter Josephine was conceived there. Our accountant on Kessa was Green and Company with the one armed bandit in charge.
I was on Teopasina when Kennecott was looking and we told them about the little gold mine up the Red river and they did not bother to look. Too much high tec. Have many photos of the old places in the highlands where my dad was with the Bank NSW and partners in a gold mine at Edie Creek.
I was employed by Choicel Plantations Ltd and remember directing the search for the elusive copper to the little gold mine at the head of the Red River where we knew there was a mineral deposit but were too bust making copra and cocoa to worry about things like that. I later was on the mainland in the highlands and left there in 1976 to return to Australia.
I have some old photos of Kieta and Rauwa Plantation before the mine was thought of and the exploration was in full swing. They are mostly black and white [ha!!] and I would send them by snail mail if you give me an address.
I am now 72 but still bright as a button and am still working.
Peter C Tuckerman.
email petertuckerman[AT]

Ricky Hall emailed:

I just found your website and it brought back many fond memories. I spent several years growing up on Bougainville and consider that time to be some of the best years of my life. My Father, Frank Van Kempen worked as an electrician/electrical engineer and also trained the electrical apprentices in the BCL Training Centre. Frank passed away in 1995 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. I worked on the Chevron operated Gobe Petroleum Project from 1997 to 2000. Several of the PNG national operators were all former apprentices of Frank who he trained at the BCL training centre. I would return to Bougainville tomorrow if the mine was to re-open. I am amazed at the number of people who I have met during my working life who have lived and worked on Bougainville.

I am currently working in Port Hedland, Western Australia responsible for the Safety & Security Management for the Port Hedland Port Authority. While in Port Hedland I have met the following ex-Bougainville people: 1. Rob MALIK 2. Fred BEEL 3. Adam LUKEY I was still at school during my time on Bougainville and was known by the name of Ricky VAN KEMPEN; I have since changed my surname back to HALL, which was my birth name. I went to school with and grew up with the following people on Bougainville;
1. Matthew KENT
2. Mark KOGLIN
3. Claire LOWERY
4. Jillian HAMILTON
5. Gerald MARSHALL
6. Julian BUCKRELL
7. Michael SCHUCK
8. Craig SMITH
9. Peter HATTON
I really miss the good times at Loloho Beach, Arovo Island, the diving & fishing, the Loloho & Panguna Sporting & Social Clubs, etc. If you know the whereabouts or have contact details for any of the above mentioned people please email me.
Ricky Hall
Senior Safety & Security Officer
Port Hedland Port Authority
Telephone (08) 9173 0038
Mobile 0407 442 863
email rhall[AT]

Sue Robinson emailed:


I lived on Bougainville from 1971 - 1977. My Ma and Da are Colleen and Peter Robinson - Da was in the Workshop/Warehouse in Panguna.

My story is a bit different from all those I have so far read, mine being from a kids point of view. I was only six years old when we arrived on Bougainville. What a life - somehow, without TV's, computers or handheld games, we managed to either amuse ourselves or be amused by the antics of others. On the other hand, not many kids these days get to live in paradise for seven years, nor is the world as safe and fuzzy as it was back then.

Some of my memories are:

No sealed roads when we arrived in Jan 71, the wet season guaranteed that we got to school (Tupakus Primary School) covered in mud. Some nice man took pity on us and use to arrive promptly each morning with his end-loader and carried us to school in the bucket! From memory, we lived in section 14.

Riding down the Bovo River in inner tubes. We lived in Section 8 by now. I remember trudging up to '3 Rocks' and jumping in, navigating the various '6 footers' and '5 footers' etc and clambering out at 'Hansens Hole' only to repeat the whole process yet again, and then again, and then again!

The earth quakes of 1974. A 7.7 at 1.00am followed by a 7.2 at 12.00pm the following day. The sucession fireworks at midnight (cant remember the exact date) in 1974.

Our house boy destroying a paper wasp nest by clapping his hands on it. This same house boy also offered to skin a cat for me. I needed a drum skin for an old atillery shell washed up on the beach. I declined his offer and used some strong plastic and duct tape instead. My mission was to make a musical instrument to take back to school after the holidays. How I ever got through customs with it, I will never know.

The secession riots of 1974 - this was really a good time because the evacuee's from Panguna were occupying the Bovo Primary School and consequently us kids got a few days off. I know this must has been a tense and worrying time, but for a kid it was high excitement. All in all, 1974 was a good year!

Da was very active in the Lions Club and we spent several weekends at Ulendi (?) village mucking about whilst our Da's were building a new school house. This villiage was near the headwaters of the Bovo River in the very heart of the range.

School trip to the top of the range to check out a landing strip up there, apparently Caribou aircraft were used to fly supplies in and out from an old air strip. It was really memorable because we were looking down on the mine and witnessed a blast. I remember one girl was wearing white shorts that somehow remained white at the end of the day. This amazed me, the rest of us looked like we had been dragged through a hedge backwards by the time we got home. One of our teachers or possibly a parent along for the day was in charge of leach removal after each water crossing using a lit cigarette.

Trekking up to Panguna in our Mini Moke for several of my Ma's ante natal visits, this apparently was a family affair. Da and my very pregnant Ma in the front and three of us in the back. This was cool because the 'Moke' could never make it all the way up without over heating. We liked this because it ensured at least a 30 min stop, which allowed plenty of time to pile out and do some roadside exploring.

My Ma absolutely refused to let me 'go off the big rope' at Loloho Beach after witnessing a horrible fall which resulted in a broken leg for some poor bloke. This poor man had miss-timed his release from the rope, landed on hard, wet sand and had broken his femur. At first, his mates didn't move him from his original landing spot, but the tide was coming in and the ambulance was still no where to be seen - he had to be moved. I clearly remember his leg bending midway down his thigh instead of at his knee when his mates moved him further up the beach. It wasn't until my Ma was safely stashed away in Panguna Haus Sik after having my little sister (Jenny) that my Da let me go off the big rope. All went well, but as a little kid I was too chicken to let go of the rope until it had swung to a stand-still. Much to my horror, a coral snake was sunning itself right below me and I couldn't get off. My Da, champion that he is, stood at the waters edge and pegged lumps of coral at it to shoo it away.

Maleria tablets. Whilst we children would use any subterfuge we could think of to not put these revolting tasting things anywhere near our mouths, my Da tried to convince us that they tasted really good by sucking his! He was, and still is, a very sick man. By the time my little sister came along, a much friendlier sugar coated version had become available.

Launching of the SP Maru. By the time this outboard powered, outrigger cannoe was eventually launched at Loloho Beach, the adults had consumed far too many SP Lagers and the bloody thing would only go backwards.

The memories are flooding back and I risk boring you all to tears if I keep going . . . My adventure ended with a phone call (I was at boarding school in Brisbane at the time), my Ma had rung to say that we were going finish and I would not have the chance of going back to say goodbye. My big sister (Linda) and I were instructed to catch a bus at the conclusion of the school year, from Brisbane and meet up with Ma and Da in Sydney. So ended my idyllic childhood in Utopia/Bougainville.

The main names I remember are (school mates): Stacey Champion, Claire Thomas, Beverley Connor, Elizabeth Pearson, Richard Morgan, John Christensen, Gina Dutton, Louise Karioke (I think her dad was a copper)

Teacher - Year 6 (1976, Bovo Primary)- David Jones

Ma & Da's mates: Peter Hayes, Russell Wilson, Tony (don't remember is last name, but he looked a lot like Boonie), Jerome Wallace, Fred and Leonie Deryshire, Greg and Pilar Boyle, Peter Hansen, Bonnie Dutton

Cheers for now

Graham (Blue) Rodwell emailed from Western Australia:

Hi Peter,
Quite sometime back I contacted you and said that I would send in some stories. I`m still getting round to that. What I am writing to you about is "The Ericsson Guy". I can only remember him as Hans, he was the last of the Ericsson radio blokes before Philips took over the contract (the first Philips fella was Trevor Neville). The radio techs shared a building along the road towards Karoona Haus (can never remember the road name) with Page Communications,Rolly Clark and Wilf Hunt who looked after the phones. I had seen an entry on your Website from Wilfs wife (Lily I think?) a while back, but going through it all now I cannot locate her email. While Hans and I lived in Camp 1, Wilf lived in Arawa with his family and Rolly in Panguna with his. I knew both Hans and Wilf fairly well having met them when I first arrived in Bougainville, July 1972. Hans and Rolly were pretty quiet blokes, while Wilf enjoyed a quiet drink with the boys. I can remember one occasion while playing cricket on the walkway between the dongas (last donga up the top on the boozer side of the creek). In those times it was a case of innovation so we used a rubbish bin for the stumps, a stick for the bat and a spare tyre from a Toyota ute for the ball. Needless to say the ball was a bit hard to stop when a Dennis Lilley came into bowl, this meant that the ball (spare tyre) the stump (rubbish bin) and occasionally the bat went out over the end of the veranda and down the road. As we did not have a lot of fieldsman it was usually the batsman's job to go and get everything back. This could take anything up to half an hour as anyone remembering the 3 metre drop off the end of the veranda can verify and trying to lift the cricket gear back up onto the veranda, by yourself (you let it go over there so you go and get it back) with a belly full of VB and Carlsberg is no mean feat. One night the "game" was going pretty well until a young Scotsman by the name of Jimmie Stewart came into bat. Jimmie was a pretty scrawny Scot and probably more of a Rod Stewart (sitting on footpaths singing songs) than a wood chucker. Anyway Wilf was bowling and sent a ripper down that cleaned up everything, it was a good ball one that even Lilley or Thommo would have been proud of. Wilf was pretty pumped up and ran down the "pitch" grabbed Jimmie and lifted him up, I don`t know if he was given a shot of strength by the VB or Carlsberg, but Jimmie kept going up out of Wilfs hands and nearly hit the roof. Then like most things he started coming down again, unfortunately Wilf had forgotten about Jimmie floating around "up there" as he was celebrating his wicket when Jimmie came down with an almighty thump landing on his shoulder on the floor. He lay there for a while then started to moan about how his shoulder hurt, well at that time of night we were not in any condition to understand what his problem was and all sat in a circle around him, drinking and telling him to he was out and should leave the field. This went on for a little while until we realized that Jimmie really did have a problem. Luckily we were able to get hold of an ambulance that took Jimmie off to the clinic, wherre he spent the night while we reminisced over Wilfs magic bowling. The injury turned out to be a very nasty upper arm or shoulder break and had it not been for the generosity of Ken and Wella Hooper, who took Jimmie into their house and looked after him during his recuperation, He would have had to go off the island to recover. Needless to say we did not play much cricket after that and most nights were spent drinking and listening to music of the day, which leads onto another story. After one pretty hectic night I crashed out in my chair. All was well until these bright lights woke me up, I opened my eyes and for a minute could not work out where I was until I saw that the bright lights were the headlights of a car coming up the Camp 1 road straight at me. My kind mates (one being Trevor Neville) had picked me up chair and all and plonked me down in the middle of the road. It is amazing how quick a bloke can move when you find yourself in a hairy situation, me and the chair were off the road so quick I don`t think my feet actually touched ground. There were other occasions during my stay in Camp 1 that were not so dramatic. I remember the first night I moved from up behind the mess to across the creek to the "other side". I had just got off to sleep when the whole building started to shake, I didn`t find out until the next day that I had experienced my first guria. Anyway after I had woken up I looked out the window towards the mess and could not believe it when one of the local kitchen hands came out the door at a hundred miles an hour, across the veranda and took off. He must have landed about 4 or 5 metres from the veranda and did not even stop, just kept motoring off down the road. Other such times when we put a heap of empties in the clothes dryer to get everyone going, or the times we got the security blokes at the boozer to shine their torches in a circle so we could see the coins while we were playing two up. I suppose that we were a bit of a rough crowd, drinking more than we should have, but the mateship that grew out of those times starting in Camp 1 and then Kawerong Haus and after up Kupei Road, continued for many years. Unfortunately we all went our separate ways and I have since lost contact with most of the blokes that I was privileged to call my mates. Other friendships still thrive until this day, something we are eternally grateful for. When I get the next surge I will send some more stories.
Graham (Blue) Rodwell

Mike Edwards emailed:

I spent two years on Bougainville through 1970- 71-72 and have very fond memories of the place.
I worked for Morgan Equipment, they were located out from Arawa on the Panguna road. Morgan Equipment were a great company to work for and in later years I worked for them back here in Australia.
I arrived with three other mates out of Perth on the island aboard an F27 Focker Friendship from Port Moresby, late afternoon pissing down with rain (what else) and sticky as a glue pot. Have to admit first impressions not good, all rain, clouds, mist and mud, mud everywhere. First night we stayed at a mates girlfriends place, she worked for Com Works and had a house right on the beach just out of Kieta, on the way to the Yacht Club, think it was called Happy Valley or something like that. The mood improved somewhat after a few San Migs and SP Browns and I woke up the next glorious morning looking out the window at Puk Puk Island. Still remember that sight, just magic. Lived up in Panguna for a while, Kaurong Haus, excuse the spelling, it’s been a long time, then down to Loloho. A while with married friends (the previously mentioned mate and his girlfriend now married) in a company flat in Toniva, not far from the Davara Hotel. I remember picking paw paw from the balcony, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and that was breakfast. Geez the good old Davara, again, many good nights and afternoons spent there. Ended up with a bunch of us single blokes living in a house in Arawa. Worked hard, played harder (a lot younger then of course, the body could handle it). Met a lot of great people both expats and locals.
Some of the best diving in the world just about anywhere on or off the coast. Morgan Equipment had a company boat and they bought a compressor for charging our SCUBA tanks, like I said great company, looked after us well. Spent many happy nights out on Arovo Island, managed to miss the ferry back to Kieta a few times. But what the hell that didn’t make me Robinson Crusoe.
The more I write the more memories come flooding back, won’t bore you with more so all the best.
Mike Edwards
Email: medwards[AT]

Peter Bowman emailed:

I hadn't realised that there were so many people who woke up in the morning and wondered how they could have their Bougainville years again - or just how they could spend a weekend at Arovo or Buin.... Congratulations on making a wonderful site; I am here by accident as I have been trying to track down Joe Lahita's email or ordinary address, have had no luck, and my daughter suggested a Google search - I usually have plenty of ways to waste time, but this site has been a beauty. Many, many names from '71 to '73, and still a lot more reading to do. Right now I am wondering if you would be able to forward this letter to Joe Lahita whose name is on your contact list, or even if you could simply advise his mail address - while working in Cambodia (1999 - 2003) a virus made my computer disc bagarap tru. While I'm here, gidday to Brian Dodd (an original member of the Bougainville Ski Club - "for today we rest" ) and who I know has been in contact as well. I won't start any more remembering at this stage as it is too early to open the fridge. My address for anybody interested is Good fishing...............Peter Bowman.

Roy Goldsworthy a.k.a. "Goldfinger" emailed from Kuala Lumpur:

Hi Pete, a bit of a surprise to see the boug copper site and even myself pictured.
I have moved on from BC – and have always liked to work elsewhere – have just come back to oz from 3 years in China, then 2 before that in Korea. Other than a year in Oz in 99-00, I have spent from 85 totally overseas – Singapore – Qatar – Abu Dhabi – Dubai. Due to head off again this weekend to KL for a job for Qatar. Other than a couple of years engineering after leaving BC I have specialized on the design, construction installation and commissioning of the offshore living quarters on the oil platforms. Permanent email is rsgolds[AT]
Drop a line, regards, Roy Goldsworthy

Graeme Hore emailed from Victoria:

Hi Peter
I was given a link to your site and found that it revived memories of the place. I used to work for Minenco, a CRA Group engineering company that were involved with Concentrator expansions. I worked on No.9 to 15 mills and associated Crushing, Screening and Fine Ore Storage and Flotation facilities. I went up there first in 1974 as a young 23 year old draftsman, which turned out to be a life changing experience. Bougainville projects comprised a large piece of experience that I still draw on today. I loved the frontier lifestyle and rugged country. Most opportunities we took off to places like Buin, Buka and the Mortlock islands. I recall we used to go to camp 1 to see a movie in a large converted warehouse, and if it rained you couldn’t hear much. Then it was a race back to Panguna afterwards. We used to go to stay at Loloho camp in the recreation part of the camp on a Saturday afternoon and stay until Sunday, but spend sometime at the Coastal club and see a movie or one at the camp under a tin roof. I also recall a Chinese resteraunt at Kobuan Bay, the Davara Hotel at Kieta, Arovo Island and many places that we frequented. Buin was also a great place to visit for a weekend. Roger Porteous ran a guest house/trade store there and there was good fishing and the country club you could visit. Kangu beach and Kahili mission were also worth a visit if you were into WW2 left overs. I never did see Yamamoto’s plane, but there were two shot down and the one people were taken to was not the one that carried him. Going there and returning mean’t dropping in on Kiwi’s roadside camp to say gidday and share a cold beer. He and his crew were constantly looking after the Buin road from the mine. My house is scattered with Bougainville memorabilia from Buka Baskets to a coconut stripping stool. I would love to catch up with nationals I worked with in the later part of my stays there, but they could be anywhere now. Some people I worked there with, some were long termers and others were locals . Paul Pearcey, Bob Dean, Collin Street, Tony Pearce, John Bobbermien, Barney Clifford, John Siwani (from Buka), Paul Bakoi (from Buin), Bob Ginnigin (Manus or Karkar? Island), Usibius Omi (from Buin), (the late) John Jones and (the late) Frank Charlie from B60 Concentrator Engineering office. I often wonder where are they now.
I have many slides taken over the years there and even some super-8 movie that I occasionally show the kids, but I read of Susan Coyle’s recent visit and have been contemplating doing the same thing. I will keep an eye on your website for updates. Kind regards
Graeme Hore
Lara. Victoria.
Phone: (03) 5282 1866

Werner Seifert emailed from Germany:

Hallo over there,
Glad to see your internet site about Bougainville Island.We have never met pesonally I believe,however it could be possible.Even if my Englisch has become a bit rusty I will not miss the chance to write this email and may be to add a little bit to your collection of Bougainvilles expats.To my person:" In 1976 I started with Blackwood Hodge in Arawa .It wasn`t my kind of job so I applied at BCL (John Davidson) for the position of an electrician.The first 5 weeks in Bougainville we had been living in the Kieta Hotel. After in Toniva and last but not least in Arawa I believe it was section 6 (My next door neigbour was Moses Havini) and Kurt Schuck. After returning to Perth with my family I traveled back to Bougainville Island and John Hunt (?) picked me up at the airport to deliver me to Kawerong house. After 4 week my family followed and we spend some time in leave houses on Married Hill. We moved up the road into a duplex right up the valley beside the entry to the bush track wich led up to the old goldmine to Arawa. I had been working in the pit workshop electrical department (Klaus Ambrose, John McLoud, Ian McNeil).After the tunnel project started I acted as the permanent tunnel electrician. Jim Logan-Tony Pinzger-Karl Meyer-E. Comerfort-Alf Bird-Wally ha,ha (Kaka),Ross Curtis, Tony Brown,Les Withcomb. Surveyor Heinz Haverkamp and his offsider and assistent Francis Ona.Francis Ona's uncle Tony Biramari had been my assistent together with Dennis Ball. Also a number of in my memory nameless Poms. After about 1,5 years I decided to change to the crusher electrical department. We left Bougainville Island in Oct.1981. When I had not been working for BCL I spent most of my time scuba diving and fishing, the ocassional booze-up of course was inevitable. We returned to Germany and after a number of years of some kind of homesickness for Bougainville we are kind of happy enough to live our life in satisfaction. In 1988 Oct. and Mov. I spent 5 weeks in Bougainville together with my daughter Susan and a couple of friends. There we visited Tony Biramari who had been living in a village near the tunnel side.He mentioned something about a pending revolution but I thougt it was a kind of a joke. After we returned to Germany we heard about the trouble in Bougo. and the promised Christmascard to Tony Biramari has most likley never arrived. After thinking about it I started writing a story with the titel "The mine of satan" it has alot of diving scenery but also common expat livestyle an not unerotic".Since nobody over here is interested in such stories (It`s written in German) i consider to translate it into Englisch) I never finished it yet but its ready in my mind.Should you Peter show any interest in the story I would translate a part of it to give you an idea what it is like and send a reading sample via email.It is very exiting because it contains a secrete wich if it was known to scuba divers all over the world would attract the diving comunity all over the world.Ok so much for now I am looking forward to hear from you. Have a good time and all the best in 2007 for you and family.
Regards Werner Seifert

Kim Barnsley emailed from Nguiu on Bathurst Island:

Wonderfull web site with so many memories.Thank you.I have many photos that show many more aspects of Bougs, will send them to you when i can access them. I worked for Barclays in Bougainville, and lived for a year in the Kieta Hotel , I then lived at Married Hill at Panguna for a long time. I built the new cinema and hospital at Panguna and worked on many buildings in the minesite. Met my wife there, got married had kids, travelled extensively etc etc, all thanks to Bougainville. Soooo many memories.....Thanks heaps.

Graham "Blue" Rodwell emailed from Mackay in Queensland:

I spent many magic years ( from 1972 to 1990) on Bougainville and met some of the best friends one could ever hope to have. Those friendships continue to this day. Having been told about this website some time ago I have finally made an effort to spend a little time browsing through the Honour roll and some of the other pages. It is great to see that so many of the people I knew personally or through general association, are well and keeping in touch with one another. When I can prompt myself a little more I will send in a few stories.
Blue & Vera Rodwell

Peter Lovell emailed from England:

I first heard about the Panguna Mine in 1965. I was the Boarding Officer for Customs in Rabaul, and it was possible that I would get the job of being TCO ( travelling Customs Officer ) to Kieta. The Customs Officer used to travel with the vessel from Rabaul, and do the customs clearances on the vessel at Kieta port. I wasn't given the job, unfortunately, so it took a few years before I got a chance to go to Kieta and see the mine.

In the meantime I left Customs, having worked in Moresby, Samarai, Lae and Rabaul. I worked for a Customs Agency in Moresby for a couple of years, and then felt the urge to work for myself. The year 1970..

I knew the manager of the fledgling BCL in Moresby, and he suggested to Brambles, that I could handle the customs agency work for the new mine. It wasn't a difficult consignment, because all items imported via Moresby for the mine were duty free, but I still had to do the paperwork.

I flew to Bougainville on 23 Mar 1971, and stayed at Camp 6 in Loloho. The mine road wasn't finished at that stage, and I remember I was impressed that Toyota Landcruisers only lasted 10,000 km on those muddy and rutted roads. It was wet and muddy all the time, and I drank a lot and enjoyed the camaraderie at the camp. I still have my Bechtel-WKE (Bram-Ken) ID badge..

I flew back to Moresby and continued building up my business, and the BCL work was consistent. BCL used to fly me over to Bougainville on their own aircraft every now and again, to sort different things out, and I was given the Royal tour of the mine and all the social spots of Arawa. I went to the island and saw the Japanese fishing vessel still beached on the sand.

The mine was an impressive site. I remember seeing it when the hole had just started, and then towards my last visit of 1981, and seeing just how enormous the hole had become.

My last visit was not company business, but as a squash player. I won the men's B Grade championship, at the Panguna courts, and the presentation was at the club. We then drove down to Arawa and spent the night drinking. I couldn't do it now.

I lived in PNG for 40 years, and became a citizen at Independence. It is a wonderful country, although I now live in the UK. I still remember the special colouring of the Bougainvilleans, the blue tinge of the flora, and the heavy and regular rainfalls.

The troubles were there for a long while. Bougainville never felt part of PNG, and the mine didn't play fair by the landowners. It became a cash-cow for the PNG government, and the locals were resentful. So it got out of hand..

My favourite place in PNG is Rabaul. Although that is no longer the Rabaul that I used to know and enjoy. In 1965 Rabaul was the centre of trade and commerce for the Bougainville Islands. The plantation owners used to sail to Rabaul for their rest and recreation. It was a buzzing town..

I was told many times that there was more gold in them-there-hills around Panguna, so maybe one day it will start all over again ??

I enjoyed reading all the articles, and it reminded me of those halcyon days.

Peter Lovell

Al Kauslick emailed from the USA:

Hi from Al Kauslick in the USA. I was the Euclid Engineer from 1977/78 and 1988/89. I was there with my wife Rita. Rita passed away in 1997. After we returned from BCL in l978 she came down with encephalitis and had a very difficult time medically until she passed away. My job at BCL was to be with the Euclid R-170s and R-190s. The exciting part of my 2 tours had to do with the Yamamoto shoot down and wreckage over Buin. I visited the site several times and took photos, video tape, etc. My cousins husband, Jack Benner was a sergeant in the P-38 group that shot down Yamamoto and he knew the pilots and ground crew. I subsequently was involved with Tom Lanphier, Rex Barber, John Mitchell, et al who flew the mission. There was always a contraversy in the US as to actually shot down Yamamoto. The Air Force aces assn became involved because of the data I had generated and with the help of Senator Robert Dole a review board was set up at the Pentagon and the surviving pilots, ground crew and other experts testified for 3 days. Tom Lanphier had passed away by that time. Lanphier claimed publically many times that he approached Yamamotos Betty bomber from the right at right angles and shot off the right wing and the Betty crashed into the jungle. Rex Barber claimed that he came in from the rear at 6 o'clock and fired into the rear and left engine. The photos and video tape we took supported Barber's claim. However, after a long deliberation the Dept. of Defense refused to change the records and both Lanphier and Barber are equally credited. Barber and Mitchell passed away a couple of years ago. The air force aces assn. was trying to get the Medal of Honor for Barber and Mitchell, but were unsuccessful. If you all are interested try the web site: which is the web site for the Second Yamamoto Mission Assn.

I personally am in great medical shape at 72 years. I have remarried after being widowed for 3 years. I married a high school classmate of mine who was also widowed. When we got married we had a mission statement which is: Our objective in life is to have no objectives in life.

Good luck and good health to all the BCL alumni. Al Kauslick

Roger PORTEOUS emailed from Brisbane:

Have read your site with interest - many memories flooding back. I lived for 16 years in Buin from 1962 to 1978, on the bottom end of Bougainville. Worked for DASF (Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries) until 1966 then as self-employed trader. There was another Australian bloke down there at Buin at the time who collected butterflies. His name was Ian Littlejohn; he is (as am I) married to a Chinese girl. My establishment was on the Main road, Ian's on the divided "downtown" road. Moved to Australia and took up Farming in Central Queensland, then into Rural Real Estate also in Central Q'ld. Returned to work in PNG 1995 for Lihir Earthmoving to complete the Lihir Island Airstrip. Stayed on in PNG, fly in fly out, working in Seismic, Transport, Seismic again and now with Oilsearch Southern Highlands. Fond memories of Bougainville and BCL staff who often travelled to Buin for "R & R" in Buin Country Club. They came by road, boat,air and even had 2 blokes drop onto Club lawn one Sat. afternoon by parachute!!

Jan Vanner a.k.a Jan Amor emailed from the Gold Coast:

Hi - my name during the days of Bougainville was Jan Amor.

I have just come across your website, and got such a thrill to see some familiar names. I arrived on Bougainville in 1971 with my then husband, Barry Amor. Barry was the first of the technicians to arrive to work in the concentrator, and so consequently I was the first of the wives. Barry became best mates with David Feeney, whose name I have seen on your contacts list, and I with his then wife Helen. I commenced work in the Concentrator, four days after hitting the island, but soon became secretary to Cliff Newman who was the Public Relations Manager and I worked very closely with Brian Wendt, the photographer and John Eccles, who wrote the weekly bulletin, as well as Simon Feeley. It was so thrilling to see John's photo on one of the web pages. We left Bougainville in 1975.
Jan Vanner

Len Selwood send this email:

Mulga Bills Restaurant My name is Len Selwood. I was on the teaching staff of the Technical College at Arawa from 1973 to 1977. I built the college grandstand (with the help of students). When I arrived at the college the site was still under construction and not much more than a swamp. Another of my projects was the oval which had to be filled with soil and levelled. I was there initially as the head of mechanical studies and later on was made Deputy Principal. Paul Quadling became a good friend of mine and gave a lot of assistance to the college. Bob Duffy was on our Governing Council along with Barry Middlemiss who operated the News Agency at Arawa. Neil and Di Stewart were also good friends of ours. I used to own the Mulga Bills Restaurant and have many photos of the clientel who used to patronise our restaurant also numerous photos of the area and surrounds. I have often wondered how Bougainville is after all the strife it has suffered and would appreciate hearing news regarding my college. I think this should be sufficient as an introduction and I will eagerly your reply. Api noon long yu

Perry Utanis emailed from Saudi Arabia:

Hi, I am Perry who works as electrical this mine before. I leave the place while still in operation and have wonderful memories left behind. After some years past I heard that the mines no longer operate up to the present time. Some of my buddies are Michael Ivanov, Jan Stuurman, Leny Milko, Kent Baker, to name a few. I hope they are all fine like me. Thanks & best regards,
Perry Utanis – ID
Saudi Aramco, Dhahran
Saudi Arabia

For more anecdotes and stories, go to "Honour Roll" and click on any of the underscored names.

Take time to think.
Take time to write.
For in thinking
you have captured your thoughts,
and in writing
you have written upon the tablets of your heart.

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