Chapter 20.


Two days later, De Bruina, now recovered, and most of his Shark patrol, left in a quick recce to the north and we followed much more slowly and, late in the afternoon after travelling about 3 miles, came upon another native village.  The two natives we found there said it was Kartebi and it was much the same as the others with a number of ramshackle huts and little else.  These people were very scared of the Japanese, and the Dutch, and said they weren't supposed to be at the village at all.  They were forbidden to travel any farther south than five miles from Genyem, some twenty five miles north of this spot, but had sneaked away to tend their village garden and had found to their dismay that it had been cleaned out.  Obviously it had been plundered by an enemy patrol, very probably the one that had fired on us the previous afternoon.

The natives told us the enemy had extensive gardens at Genyem where the soil was good and there was an abundance of water, and grew lots of food, which they took to Hollandia.  However, none of the produce from the gardens was available to the natives and this was the reason they were visiting their own village gardens.  A good government road — as distinct from a native track — to Lake Sentani was used by many army vehicles and there was also an army brothel at Sentani and the women regularly visited the soldiers at Genyem.  From what we could gather the women were not locals and appeared to be all from Japan!  We reported all this to HQ on the next radio sked.

On the 10th April, a signal came to say that a further drop had been made at Fiara the day before; it was supposed to have been made on the 7th and this meant a hurried dash back to claim the cargo before the natives pinched it.

Myself and three policemen, Sabi, Anis, and Yaru were left behind as we were all sick with fever and weren't up to the trip.  Despite having the shivers it was a very welcome spell away from the mud and slush. The policemen had managed to build a shelter which kept most of the rain out and my only job for the day was to contact HQ and advise them we were picking up the drop.  During the transmission a message was received that Bob had been promoted to captain and that there would be a further drop at Fiara this same day and, as luck would have it, they were still at Fiara collecting the first drop when the plane arrived.

This time the drop was for the Shark party, who had not yet returned from patrol, and we decided that another day here at Kartebi would help me and the policemen to get better and would also give the Shark party a chance to make contact and gather their stores.

Next day we had almost given up hope of contacting Shark and had started to move away when four members of the party; two Dutchmen and two coolies arrived at the camp.  They had been at the Nawa River crossing, about one and a half miles away, and on hearing the plane had hurried to the drop site but found our boys had already left for Kartebi.  A couple of the local natives pointed them in the direction of our departure and by great good luck they found our camp.

The Dutchmen, Black, whose real name was Swartz — we called him Blackie — and Shellou, had a tale of woe.  The party had gone north in the direction of Genyem and made contact with a largish Japanese patrol.  Shots were exchanged and a running battle ensued.  They managed to kill two Japs before hastily retreating along the track back to their temporary camp at Bondoen.  Reuniting with their main party they quickly retreated again and made camp in another village, some distance away, where they were in turn surprised by the Japs and forced to withdraw, luckily without any casualties, but in doing so abandoned most of their gear and the party had been split in halves.

Eventually they got back to the river crossing and Black and Shellou had left two of their party, De Bruina and Sgt. Heck, there as a rearguard in case the Nips followed on further.  A Sgt. Djoene and one other N.C.O. with five Malay policemen had been cut off during the skirmish and their whereabouts were unknown.

We were amazed that the Shark party would even contemplate camping in a native village?  A village in the middle of a clearing on a hilltop would be very hard to guard with their limited number of people and to hole up in a native hut, of all places!  Their lack of common sense was breathtaking in the extreme!  We certainly would not be guilty of such a stupid and dangerous mistake and definitely would not stay overnight in any village, as they did!  Of necessity we had to make contact with the villages but we always moved away as soon as possible and while doing so made sure the locals remained unaware of our further movements.  But, this piece of utter stupidity was typical of the Dutch thinking.  The first place a patrol would look would be in a village and we suspected strongly that many of the natives, to curry favour, would not be backward in revealing our whereabouts to the enemy and thought the Dutch would have enough nous to realise that too.  But, they were very careless and a menace to our safety and the sooner we got away from them again the better!

We were well aware that any small party, for its own safety, must always be on the move and never, never stay in one place more than one night.  Constant movement being the only certain defence from surprise attacks.

Still, they were in trouble and we were obliged to help.  HQ would have to be advised of their plight and a stores drop arranged to re-equip them.  In the interim we would have six more mouths to feed when de Bruina and Heck came and this would force us on to short rations until the next drop arrived.

To Chapter 21 ->