Anzac Day in Angoram

April 25, 2008 at 12:21 am (Fiction) (, , , , )

 

 

 

A great day to get ‘as pissed as a parrot’ and play two-up!             Bluey Jones

 

 

A number of Angoram residents needed little excuse to wipe themselves out with booze but Anzac Day seemed to make this state something of a patriotic duty. There were still a fair number of returned servicemen among the expatriates, and the locals boasted a number of decorated people who had served with allies during the Second World War. This created a sense of bonhomie between the races. It did not mean that many locals were asked to the expatriates’ club for drinks, but at the newly formed Ex-Service Club all races were welcomed on Anzac Day.

 

 

The day started with a march around the town led by the local constabulary with Harry Payne taking the salute, and the last post played by a policeman. After the ceremony the expatriate ex-diggers proceeded to the New Guineans’ Ex-Service Club to which they had donated ten cartons of beer.

 

 

Allen Warburton, wearing his campaign medals and ribbons, was seen speaking to Pius Naiga, who was wearing his Military Medal. Pius had distinguished himself under fire by single-handedly taking out a Japanese machine-gun post during the famous battle of Shaggy Ridge. It transpired that Allen had also been at Shaggy Ridge and this probably explained why Allen always treated Pius with extreme courtesy. If Pius had dealings with the Sub-District Office, Allen in his capacity as Sub-District Clerk was always most helpful. He also employed Pius’s son and his wife as domestics.

 

 

The camaraderie of old soldiers caused Allen to forget any racial prejudice that may have been part of his personality when dealing with other New Guineans. But to be fair to Allen, his attitude towards, in his term, “the natives” ran far deeper than mere prejudice. He was courteous towards everyone, but he considered Anglo-Saxons a superior race and the legitimate rulers of native people. For Allen, being a white man carried the obligation of noblesse oblige. He may have been a racist but he was also a gentleman.

 

 

Pius Naiga gave a speech in Pidgin:

 

Gutpela samting long Masta Warburton, na ol arapela man bung wantaim bilong mipela. Taim bilong pait, Japan liak rausim ol Australia mi helpim ami bilong Australia

Nogut Australia lusim Nu Gini, Australia mama papa bilong mipela.

Tenkyu tru, em tasol!

It is good that Master Warburton and others are here with us.

During the War when the Japanese wanted to drive the Australians out, I helped the Australian Army. It would not be good if Australia leaves New Guinea, as Australia is our mother and father. Thank you sincerely, that is all.

 

Allen answered:

 

Ol Australia save wok bilong Nu Gini man long taim bilong pait. Taim soldia bagarap Nu Gini man karim long haus sik, nau helpim planti man.

Lik lik tok tasol, tenkyu tru

All Australians know about how New Guineans helped wounded soldiers and carried them to the hospitals during the War. This was truly very good service. This is only a short talk, but thank you!

 

Allen proposed a toast to the Queen: Salut long Kwin Salute the Queen.

 

 

The whites then proceeded to the club where a two-up game was in full swing. Jim Andrews, the primary school teacher, a Korean War Veteran, was well charged up and in exceptional form. Hundreds of dollars were changing hands. Geoff Sheppard seemed to be on a winning streak and even Fr Bert Brill was in the club looking on. Bill Clayton was in the corner drinking a beer after winning two hundred dollars and was in earnest conversation with Elizabeth Beven, a beautiful mixed-race girl on a visit from Wewak and staying with Carlos Ruiz’s family.

 

 

Sam Bell said to James Ward: “Bill wants to be careful over there, she’s gaol bait.”

 

 

The question of the age of the girls and women who formed a connection with some of the more licentious, intemperate expatriates at Angoram was a perennial topic of discussion. There had been something of a scandal some years before when an old reprobate had been furtively flown out of the town to avoid legal charges associated with underage girls.

 

James said to Sam: “Half his luck, she looks old enough to me.”

 

 

Any discussion of this nature would have been considered inappropriate: Anzac Day was for present and past diggers, to be celebrated with soldierly talk, two-up and booze. In the words of Des Murray, European Medical Assistant and returned soldier: “Mate, on this day we don’t breach the protocol.” If the protocol dictated two-up, booze and reminiscences of comradeship, the day fully lived up to it in the sanctified confines of the club.

 

 

It may have been something of a patriotic duty that caused Elizabeth Beven and Bill Clayton to leave sometime before the festivities concluded at the club, but by the look in their eyes they had other concerns.

 

 

The following morning Des Murray showed signs of a gigantic hangover and was full of praise for the dignified way things had gone. He concluded that any illness he might now feel was “due to the eating of green bananas.”

 

 

Bill Clayton by his look the next morning obviously had no trouble with green bananas. In fact he had a bounce in his step and a glint in his eye and Elizabeth Beven looked as beautiful as ever, as Bill saw her off on the plane to Wewak.

 

 

Harry Payne looked none the worse for wear and he informed Allen Warburton that he was pleased with the way things had gone: “Law and order was maintained and the flag was clearly shown to the locals.” Warburton responded with a nod and a grunt. Warburton considered Payne a pain in the neck, though he would never say it.

 

 

The big news in the office was the expected arrival of John MacGregor on transfer from Dreikikir. He was to be second in command to Payne on special duties in the area of political education. Payne said: “I ran into MacGregor in the Gulf District and if he thinks he’s going to be running his own show, he’s got another thought coming.”

 

“From what I hear, Jock MacGregor is a thorough gentleman,” responded Warburton.

 

 

“When I want your opinion I’ll ask for it.” Payne snapped. Warburton realised that the office atmosphere was charged and ready for business as usual.

 

Excerpt from Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk


 

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