Chapter 15.


The village had suddenly become overcrowded with the two parties so we decided to retire to the safety of the bush for the night.  The Dutch party, as usual, was making enough noise to attract any searching Jap patrol and rather than try to tell them their business we got out of there and left them to it.

While it was good to know there weren't any Japs about we were well aware that, in this business, it really didn't pay to place too much faith in the local natives so, to make doubly sure, we took great pains in hiding our camp from them and moved well away from the huts, with two people on guard at all times.  A good deal more rest was needed to get over the rigours of the swamp before we continued on the way north and we didn't want to be bothered by the local natives, the Nips, or the Dutch, for that matter!

Perhaps by posting two guards we were being unnecessarily cautious, as it is extremely difficult for unwanted visitors to get about in heavy vine scrub in the dark without making plenty of noise.  We had found this out on the last patrol in the Sepik area where night-time noises, whether from natural causes or the enemy, were the bane of our existence and caused many a stand to before the reason for the noise was ascertained.  In dark, forest country it is much easier to get about quietly as most of the trees and undergrowth tend to grow in a vertical manner, whereas in thick jungle, while the trees grow upwards to the light, the vines and wait-a-while etc. are much more adventurous and grow in all directions and in doing so create a tangle which cause many more problems for those wishing to move quietly.

Instead of posting two sentries we could have used booby traps.  But, again in this type of country, where it is raining more often than not, our only booby traps would be trip wires with a hand grenade attached ready to spring out on the unwary, we were loath to use them because they had the nasty habit of being triggered during the rain by a falling branch and it was always the devil's own job to ensure that it wasn't a Nip sneaking around the camp that set it off.  And, there's nothing worse than a grenade detonating close by when one is sleeping.  Whether caused accidentally or by an intruder the resultant clamour is guaranteed to scare the daylights out of one and in doing so successfully prevent sleep for the rest of the night.

After some discussion, we didn't think, in this case, booby traps were necessary, thank goodness!  As anyone who has set one knows, it's easy enough to jam a grenade in a bully beef tin with a trip string attached but not quite so easy to delouse it when departing!  On the last operation we had seen two accidents with trip wires; neither one fatal.  Luckily in both cases the victims were fortunate to be in a situation where they were able to be evacuated.

While we were settling in, Sam was poking around in the bush and, as luck (?) would have it, caught and killed a python about eight ft. long.  He said it would make a good meal and promptly started to skin it.  He was welcome to my share, and I told him so!  Bob and Neville didn't seem to be falling over each other to get at it either!

Like a lot of country people, I had, during my 'teen years', lived in a bark hut in South-west Queensland and due to the remoteness from shops had quite often eaten a fair amount of kangaroo meat and had even tried a small snake and had liked the 'roo meat but not the snake and, at this early stage of the operation, did not feel hungry enough to eat any of the local fauna!  Perhaps later on, when food was short, I might be glad to partake.

However, Sam wasn't put off by our reluctance and cut it in pieces and cooked it in the coals.  The policemen thought it was good 'kai kai' and hopped in for their share and soon all that was left were the bones!

As a memento, Sam used part of the skin as a band for his hat.

Guard duty having been arranged for the night we turned in early for the first good sleep since leaving base and next morning, instead of moving on, spent the day cleaning and drying our gear and weapons of the considerable amount of moisture and mud they had gathered in the swamp.  Most of us had minor injuries and leech bites to attend to as well.  I also took the opportunity to look at the radio and give it a quick test and was pleased to see it had emerged from the swamp in good order.

To Chapter 16 ->