Next day we were left in no doubt that the Dutch were not happy with our native policemen and showed their displeasure by making them change tents and eat and sleep with the Malay coolies.  This uncalled for piece of nastiness was not totally unexpected as we well aware of their arrogance and insensitive treatment of native races under their control. Their superior attitude to anyone not possessing a white skin was well known.  They were very much the white masters in their colonies! 

Earlier, I wrote they were most unhappy we had even considered bringing native police from the Mandated Territory and were at great pains to let Bob know of their displeasure. But, the policemen were here and we weren't about to send them back!  Our relations, at this point, were far from cordial and, in the next few days, we were very much on the outer. The only thing that kept us going was the fact that this operation had the blessings of the Americans, and indeed had been requested by them, and that our allies, the Dutch, could not do much about it except to try to be as unco-operative as possible, which was something they proved to be very good at!  It was blatantly obvious they did not want us to carry out any operations in their colony and were determined not to help in any way.  Even Bob was given the treatment by not being invited to bunk in the officer's quarters or eat his meals in their mess.  He overcame that problem by living in the tent with Capt. John Beatty, our base man, who had been here for several weeks.

There was really very little we could do about the Dutch attitude except wait for further developments.  Bob, by this time, was feeling pretty offended and said that if the ill feeling and lack of co-operation from the Dutch continued he would have to get in touch with Proud and explain the situation and see if he could patch up our differences. In the meantime it would be best to ignore them and get on with our preparations for the operation.

The next few days we were busy gathering our final supplies which, fortunately for us in view of the Dutch hostility, had been sent ahead earlier.  I spent my time checking the radio, which was a new type, and making doubly sure that it was in good working order and, most importantly, that the dry cell battery which powered the set was new and unused.  I found another spare battery in the store which I would have liked to take along but it was far too heavy and the extra weight would be too much to carry and, if and when needed, it could be dropped along with other supplies.

We were counting on the operation lasting about ten weeks and knew it would need a great deal of careful planning, and thought, especially when supply drops of food, a new radio battery, trade goods for the natives, and perhaps more ammunition, were needed.

Luckily, John Beatty, a former associate of Bob's, was a pre-war officer of the New Guinea service and knew all about the problems of patrolling in this type of country and it was comforting to know that we would be able to depend on him to get everything we considered to be necessary in our air drops.  I know Bob had plenty of faith in John!

The supply drops were necessary as it was really not possible to live off the land, even though at times, we would be able to supplement our diet with the likes of taro, "sak sak" (sago) and the occasional pigeon etc.  We had found, on other operations, that much of inland New Guinea was surprisingly lacking in things fit to eat or, at least, food that would keep one in good health.  This lack especially applied to the heavy inland jungle country.  Coastal natives with their gardens in the more open forest country, and able to harvest seafood, are always much more healthy looking and have a far better diet than bush natives who seem to live on mainly foods heavy in starch; and look like it with their numerous sores and scaly skins.

Trade goods were going to be a very important item in gaining the confidence and co-operation of any natives we contacted.  One of our main aims was to convince the locals to steer clear of the Japanese and to deny them any assistance and we were pretty sure the trade goods would help to do the trick.  Trade goods backed up by treatment for their numerous medical problems were both very important and to this end we would be carrying a good supply of first aid items as well. In fact, anything we were able to do to gain their confidence and get in their "good books" would be well worth the trouble and a big plus towards the success of the operation.  It would be difficult enough to fight the Japs so it was very important that we keep the locals friendly, as we could not afford to have them both as enemies.

We had found at other times that almost invariably the local population, in Japanese controlled areas, was pro-Jap.  And who could blame them?  After all they had to live with the enemy and self-preservation is paramount!  Why go out of the way to be difficult when the consequences of non-co-operation could be so devastating?

The trade goods were mostly beads, knives, tobacco, salt, cloth and scrub knives.  We carried only a few of the latter because of their weight and they were to be given away only, on very special occasions, as a reward for good service. There was a large quantity of the small multi-coloured beads and a quite a few bangles as we knew from past experience they would be greatly prized by the natives as ornamentation.  A handful of the small beads was considered a great treasure! All these articles, of course, meant more weight to carry but were very necessary.

The country we intended to traverse on the way to our objective was very rugged and hilly and the maps showed the majority of the area as unexplored with a very large expanse of swamp where we would be put down and the journey would actually commence.  We were to be flown by Catalina and land on this swamp as there was no place in this rugged and heavily wooded area to land wheeled aircraft.  Besides, the Catalina was the only plane available and large enough to do the job.

We knew before leaving Australia that our Dutch allies from Merauke had intended to provide one or two fairly large patrols to work in parallel, but separately, from our patrol and indeed we had welcomed this as long as we were to be given a free rein.  Because of this we assumed we would be assured of the fullest co-operation and sharing of any information available.  How wrong we were as you will read a little later!

Our knowledge of Hollandia and the surrounding area was minimal.  We knew it was the capital of Dutch New Guinea and was situated on the northern coast, on Humboldt Bay, about 10 to 15 miles east of the border with the Mandated Territory and, from where we were now situated, was almost five hundred miles of largely unexplored country to the north. That was the sum of our information.  Our knowledge of the town itself was zero and we knew absolutely nothing about enemy movements or strengths.  Not a very good start!

We were going in blind and were not particularly happy with the situation.  Of course, as to be expected, operations like this were never supplied with enough information. But, we knew the Americans must have made many reconnaissance flights over the town to aid them in the coming landing and some of that information should have been passed on and would have been very welcome and, in particular, details of how far inland the Japs had penetrated would have been a big help to us!

Lack of this knowledge, and the complete absence of any reliable maps of the country, added up to the fact that this operation was not going to be a picnic.  We would need to use every scrap of expertise gained in previous operations to make it a success and at the same time were going to have to lean rather heavily on Bob's shoulders and use his great store of knowledge.  It was certainly not going to be a cakewalk.

We had been supplied with maps covering the area before departing Brisbane but they had proved to be useless and even the Merauke people had no faith in them!  The maps

we had were:

     Netherlands (Dutch) New Guinea, 1/250,000 sheets:-


These four maps gave scant and, as we proved later, very inaccurate information of the country south-west of the Sermoi River and made our planning very unsatisfactory.

Prior to leaving, Bob had made an effort to obtain the latest information regarding supplies and drop sites and the route over which we proposed to travel.  However, the Dutch people, being so decidedly cool in their attitude towards us, did not make any move to pass on any of this information and we were not given the opportunity to study the photographs and maps. It was made painfully clear that we were regarded as trespassers on their land and that they were not going to aid us in any way!  To paraphrase a modern saying : "With allies like these who needed enemies?"


Bob, really fed up and cranky at this denial of any help, as a last resort produced our instructions setting out the mission's objectives by Cdr. Proud.  But even this at the time, was looked upon as insufficient to release the required information for our perusal!

The whole thing was bordering on the ridiculous.  We knew that the Dutch officers, when introduced in Brisbane and told of our part in the mission, had promised to help as much as necessary.  Yet, now we were in Merauke, the same officers were decidedly unhelpful.  It was clear we were not wanted and it seemed that the instigator of this sorry affair was O.I.C. Merauke.

This unfriendliness became very much more obvious when two days after we arrived at the camp the Dutch flew a party over the proposed patrol route and Bob was not invited, or even advised, of the flight until after it's return!

Needless to say we found this extremely blatant and un-co-operative attitude most disconcerting especially when we were told they held no instructions to use their aircraft for our food drops.  This, of course was the last straw, because if this was withheld we might as well return to Brisbane!  To say we were dismayed at their mindless behaviour would be putting it mildly!  I, for one, had never had a particularly high regard for the Dutch armed services and this arrogant treatment really got me going!

But, Bob wasn't going to be beaten and in a last desperate throw of the dice he arranged with John Beatty to signal Brisbane of our problems.  This brought about a complete reversal of the Dutch attitude and they became much more helpful, but still a little stand-offish.

We, now, were assured of help with our supply problem.  A Dutch Air Force B25 (Mitchell) bomber would do the food drops and we were given the series of photos taken when the B25 had overflown the area, from the base camp to our anticipated destination, and photographed a number of native villages, in more or less, a straight line between the two points.  From experience we knew the native villages would, almost always, be situated in a clearing on a hilltop and photos of these were taken as they were considered to be the easiest for the supply aircraft to locate.  Each print had its own code number for quick and easy identification.

To Chapter 7 ->