The first FELO operation outside Australian New Guinea was codenamed "PARTY O" (we, who were in the party, preferred to call it "Operation Hollandia") and began in March, 1944, when, at the request of GHQ our party was inserted north of the Central Mountains, on the Idenberg River in Dutch New Guinea, with the task of working our way across country to the Hollandia area and, while doing so, obtain information for the U.S. task force for use during their coming landing.

The main objectives of the operation were:-

(a)Denial of local labour to the enemy.

(b)Denial of native foods to the enemy.

(c)To encourage the local native population to give cooperation to our own forces during and after the landing.

(d)Gather intelligence information prior to the landing.

The following is my account of the operation as a member of that party.

Fifty two years have come and gone, almost to the day, since Party "O" and it is only in the last few months I have decided to write of our experiences in this, to my mind, important and exciting operation.

Over the intervening years I have forgotten many of the incidents that occurred during the patrol due to a failing memory; mores the pity, but I can still remember enough to write a story well worth reading.

I do not pretend to be an author of note and am well aware that the following story will have little, if any, literary merit and, furthermore as you will no doubt have, even at this early stage, noticed my syntax and punctuation leave a lot to be desired.  But, that's as may be, and although my memory may be a little dim, the contents are all true and did happen in that operation of long ago, named Party "O", or, as we preferred, Operation Hollandia.

The war was in its fourth year and, at long last, the Allies seemed to be getting the upper hand on this large island of New Guinea.  The proposed landing, and the final one on the mainland, at Hollandia, when successful, would mean the elimination of enemy soldiers in this area of the Pacific except for a few small isolated areas in various places such as Wewak, Aitape and the islands to the east, Bougainville, Solomons etc.  It was obvious the Americans were not at all interested in cleaning out these odd pockets of resistance and were more than willing to leave the dirty work to the A.I.F.  General MacArthur was much more interested in getting to the Philippines and fulfilling his vow of returning.

This, then, is my account of that epic journey of nine weeks in that wild and, even to this day, largely unexplored country of Dutch New Guinea in the early months of 1944.

Firstly, at this phase of the war I was just one month short of age 26, and a relatively uneventful eighteen months in the Middle East and then a particularly rough sojourn in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea saw me ready for this operation.  Really, I was awfully lucky to be going at all because, during the Sanananda, Gona, Buna campaign, I had, along with quite a number of others, contracted Scrub Typhus after being bitten by one of the mites from the rats who, in their droves, were feeding off the dead bodies, ours and the enemies, in front of our perimeter.

Flown back to Port Moresby from Poppondetta airstrip I eventually returned to Brisbane by way of the hospital ship "Manunda" and after a lengthy period of convalescence was ready to return to my unit when, of all the bad luck, I was stricken by a severe attack of pneumonia, and the ever present malaria, which meant a further stay in hospital.  After being pronounced fit once again, I had to face an army board who were doing their best to kick me out because of my ill health.  But, I was determined they weren't going to get rid of me and managed to persuade one particular doctor, who struck me as being a nice fellow, that despite my gaunt appearance my general health was good enough.  Really it wasn't so, and looking back now, I realise that they were right in their desire to rid the army of my services because over the years since my health has been very much "so so".  I guess they knew from experience that it was unusual for someone who had contracted Scrub Typhus to be willing and able to soldier on as such a lot of those smitten by it had succumbed to the disease.

During my second stay in hospital, and the following convalescence, my 7th. Division unit had been disbanded and on my return I found, along with some of my mates, that I had been transferred to 7th. Div. Signals.  Feeling very downcast at this turn of events I was prepared to volunteer for almost anything to get away from my new unit.  The prayed for chance came when an officer from my old unit visited and said he was looking for volunteers for a "hush hush" job in New Guinea. This heaven sent opportunity was too good to miss and I grasped it with both hands, without even bothering to enquire what the job entailed.  Within days I found myself in Melbourne, of all places, fronting up to a naval commander who turned out to be my new C.O. — Cdr. J.C.R. Proud.  Another week saw me in New Guinea where with three others we covered the attack on Lae and when that was completed, in late 1943, we found ourselves taken to an outpost on the Sepik River, inland from Aitape, where we joined another operation called "Mosstroops" for about 6 weeks.  Then, on Christmas Eve, back to Brisbane to get ready for Operation Hollandia.

To Chapter 3 ->