Tuesday, 25 April 2017

An ANZAC Day story about Paul Mason and others

(Adventist Mission History - South Pacific)

Today, (25th April, 2017) being ANZAC day, we can remember the many courageous acts of Papua New Guineans who displayed amazing courage during WWII. We have chosen to briefly tell the stories of three such men.

Baros of Sirowai (also Sirovai), Bougainville.

The defeat of the Japanese forces in the South Pacific was greatly aided by radio operating Coastwatchers, including Paul Mason. Before World War II Mason had spent 20 years on Bougainville as manager of the Inus plantation. This long experience gave him a great understanding of this island and its people. During some of this time Cyril Pascoe would have been president of the SDA mission with headquarters at Inus. They would certainly have known each other.

After the invasion of Bougainville by the Japanese, Mason moved south to a lookout at Malabita Hill, near Buin, from where he could observe Japanese naval movements. He reported their activity by radio to the base in Port Moresby, which resulted in the bombing of many enemy ships. The Japanese became aware that there was a Coastwatcher in the area and sent out a party to find him. At that stage they were unsuccessful.

Later the Japanese used over 100 men to again conduct a series of inland searches for Mason and another Coastwatcher Read. Various villagers sheltered plantation owners and Allied soldiers including Nason, a New Guinea Methodist teacher. Nason was betrayed to the Japanese by other villagers, known as the Kieta Black Dogs. He was captured, but managed to jump through the open window of his house and escaped down a cliff-face. Those he was sheltering were not so fortunate.

The Paramount Chief of the area was Baros of Sirowai, a Seventh-day Adventist, whom the Japanese blamed for allowing Nason to shelter Allied personnel. The Japanese demanded that Baros lead them to the hide-out of Paul Mason but Baros refused to betray his friend. Earlier Baros had said to Paul Mason, "I will never betray you or any of the Coastwatchers, even if they cut off my head." And they did.

In January 1943, under the rain trees in Kieta, the Japanese forces assembled all the people from the hills to witness the execution of Baros as a salutary lesson. He was given one more chance to betray the Coastwatcher, but he refused. He was then executed by beheading: "So with one mighty sweep of a Japanese ceremonial sword his head fell to the ground."
Mason made sure that a small stone memorial was placed under the rain trees at the site of Baros's death. A more permanent memorial has been erected to Baros since Mason's first stone memorial.

We know of two SDAs from Papua New Guinea who received the Commonwealth Loyal Service Medal for services performed during World War II.

1). Paul Mea of Papua.

Paul's parents, John and Iamo, went to the Bisiatabu Mission soon after Pastor Lock returned there in 1927. While there a third son, Paul, was born. John became a strong SDA mission worker during pre-war times. He died just before the outbreak of WWII.
Paul Mea of Papua was awarded the Commonwealth Loyal Service Medal by Major General Basil Morris the General Officer Commanding the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (Angau). Paul Mea was awarded this medal for rescuing two USA servicemen from a flooded river in 1943.

2). Okira of Kieta District.

Okira was an SDA teacher on Bougainville during the war. There were a number of SDA mission stations under his leadership. The people had moved inland to keep away from the Japanese invaders. While carrying on school and mission work, Okira and other villagers were the means of sustaining and saving expatriates, wrecked and wounded airmen and Coastwatchers who maintained wireless communications with Allied headquarters.

Lieutenant Archer, an Australian Planter who had previously spent 24 years on Bougainville, became a soldier and later told of the assistance given to him and his countrymen by the SDA men and of their faithfulness during the time of great stress. Archer had been hidden and protected by Okira and his helpers. All of them were very loyal to the Allied cause and many suffered for it severely.

Once a group of Okira's helpers were asked by an Australian officer to find a cache of canned food that had been left on the coast as his men were running out of food. To reach it the SDA boys had to pass through a Japanese held village. A renegade villager recognised them and raised a cry. Three escaped but one, Sinavina, was captured by the Japanese.

 He was asked to give the hiding place of the Australian Coastwatchers but he refused, "Me no speak." He was flogged and with his back a bleeding mess, he was again ordered to betray the men. He again refused. Sinavina was made to dig his own grave and then knocked unconscious into the hole. His friends who had escaped immediately tried to rescue Sianvina. In the darkness of the night, Sinavina came to consciousness in the trench. He managed to climb out, get through the village and start up the mountain trail. He had not gone far when his friends found him and carried him back to their cave.

Archer said that Okira and his band were of great assistance to Coastwatchers and commando troops alike on Bougainville. Okira once helped some commando troops who had been forced inland. Okira and his village helpers carried all the troop's gear, munitions and rations down slopes, across rivers and up mountains to his village some 5,000 feet up on a sheer cliff that rose from a deep river valley. The villagers had bleeding shoulders from the poles on which the loads were slung but they then went on to build a concealed shelter in the bush. Okira and his friends regularly provided the Australians with sweet potatoes, yams, bananas and fowls but refused any payment.

Because of Okira's exploits the Japanese finally placed a price on his head but he came through the Japanese occupation unscathed.

Photo of Paul Mason.
Paul Mason and Jack Read were evacuated from Bougainville and went to Sydney. Mason later returned to Bougainville to help the war effort. By 1947 he had returned to Inus Plantation. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and in December 1951 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserves.
The memorial in Kieta to Baros.

Commonwealth Loyal Service Medal awarded to Papua New Guineans for brave and loyal Service during WWII.

Photo with Norman Ferris and three SDA teachers - Okira, Hoke and Tati. This was taken when Ferris called in at Bougainville at the close of the war. All had been faithful and courageous during the hard years when an enemy had occupied their Islands.

Part of a letter written to Cyril Pascoe by Matepa, a teacher on Bougainville, in 1944. He describes conditions that Okira and other teachers experienced during the war. Fortunately it was later discovered that Peter had not been killed but had escaped after being held a prisoner for some time. Australasian Record 15/5/44

Map showing places mentioned.

Okira wearing his medal.

The plaque on the memorial to Baros.

Paul Mea being decorated with the Commonwealth Medal for Loyal Service by Major General Basil Morris (ANGAU).

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