(New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and Papua New Guinea
Volunteer Rifles Ex-Members Association Inc)
PNGVR and its WW2 counterpart, NGVR were the only volunteer Australian Army Reserve units which were formed, served and disbanded overseas. They were at all times in the Australian Army Order of Battle, that is, they were front line units.
During the last PNGVR camp at Finschhaven in August 1973, a rumour of the imminent disbandment of PNGVR circulated. On 6 September 1973, the Australian and Papua New Guinean Ministers for Defence jointly announced PNGVR would be disbanded because it was deemed inappropriate for an Australian CMF unit to be operating in PNG after it obtained its self Government. PNGVR was officially disbanded on 1 st December 1973.
In 1975 Joe Fisk and Norm Mundy renewed their friendship after a chance meeting of their wives at Slacks Creek primary school. Joe and Norm began writing a nominal roll of ex-Members. When 1 Training Group was raised at Enoggera in 1976, Joe, Norm and several other ex-PNGVR members joined and renewed their PNGVR association through impromptu get togethers.
The network of contacts expanded, and included Peter Rogers and Terry Egan, who were stationed at the Army School of Aviation in Oakey. This eventuated into a formal dinner being held at Oakey Sergeant's Mess on 26 March 1983, at which 14 attended. This meeting decided to remain an informal group, without office bearers, with the aim of arranging regular reunions and get togethers. The next reunion was held at Enoggera on 28 May 1983 when 34 attended, with 13 apologies. Further reunions were held at Wacol and Enoggera.
From 1983 to 1989 regimental ties, plaques, badges etc were designed, produced and sold to members. In reality Joe Fisk and Norm Mundy organised the group.
Another chance meeting, between Joe Fisk and Harry Green at the Daisy Hill post office was the catalyst for a meeting at Harry's home in 1989. This was attended by about 21 ex-members with the view to formally establishing an Association, with Harry invited to be the inaugural President. Other inaugural office bearers were secretary Bill Kelly, Treasurer Doug Ng, and Members representatives Joe Fisk and Norm Mundy et al. All who attended donated money to start the Association.
The first Association newsletter, “Harim Tok Tok” was produced by Joe and Val Fisk in 1991 and regular issues followed. In 1990, Joe on behalf of the Association arranged for the Association to march in Brisbane Anzac Day parades as a separate entity.
In 1991 the Association was formally established. In reality it was a social club with a written constitution and was called “NGVR and PNGVR Association”. In 1994 the Association was incorporated as the “New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Ex-members Association Incorporated” with major changes in its objectives.
The Association was alive and vital from the outset. The combined experiences of having lived in PNG and sharing a common CMF background in the PNG environment created a unique bond between the members of the Association. Under Harry's leadership, the PNGVR was arguably the best “turned out” in the Brisbane Anzac March. It is a cohesive group, which supports each other and each other's families in times of need and stress.
The Association grew until its membership peaked around 300 in 2003. While new members are admitted, natural attrition through death ensures membership will continue to decrease. Today, there are no known NGVR soldiers alive. The last, Shui Hong Wong, who served throughout WWII as a cook, died in April 2016.
The Association has many achievements to its credit in advancing its objectives. These achievements include the following, but which are not necessarily in the order of importance:
• PNG medals 1991-2002, Objective (a), (c), (d) and
(e): Much time was spent corresponding and travelling to PNG and
Canberra researching eligibility and presentation of same to appropriate parties.
• Australian Service Medal with PNG clasp, Objective (a),
(c), (d) and (e): Initially, the Australian Service medal with clasp was refused because many members had not served in the Australian Army, but deemed by the bureaucrats to have served in the PNG Army. The Association eventually obtained approval for most of it's members.
• Australian National Service medal, Objective (a),
(c), (d) and (e): Assistance was provided with letters and other
documentation to support members applying for the National Service Medal. Incredible frustrations were encountered in the negotiations for these medals. Red tape and lack of response from the authorities was commonplace. Harry never gave up. All those entitled to members benefited greatly from Harry's efforts. As Harry always said “his men were entitled to their entitlements”.
• Memorial plaques, Objective (a), (c), (d) and
(e): The NGVR plaque was dedicated in the Hall of Memories, Brisbane Cenotaph in 1993. The Montevideo Maru plaque was dedicated the following year in the Cenotaph.
An important once-off ceremony on 15th May, 2007 at the AWM in Canberra was celebrated when two plaques associated with PNG were dedicated - these were the NGVR and ANGAU Plaque and the PIR Plaque incorporating PIB, NGIB and PIR. Over 150 guests attended. The reflection was given by the Governor General, the Welcome by the Director, AWM, the dedication by the Director's Chaplain and Ode by Keith Payne VC. They were supported by
the Duntroon Military Band and Australian Rugby Choir. These plaques are located outside and on the north side of the main buildings, near the front.
• Association Memorial Board: This portable Board is designed as a memorial for departed Association members and is displayed at Association's formal meetings. Timber for a new board was purchased and Leigh Eastwood constructed the new Memorial Board in 2015. Both Memorial Boards are housed in the Museum.
• Visit to 1st Cavalry Division, Objective
(a): In 2001 a visit to 1st Cavalry Division Association reunion at Ford Hood, Texas, USA was made by four members of the Association at their own expense, to acknowledge the bond formed at Los Negros Island in July 1944 between the 1st Cavalry Division and ANGAU/NGVR, for which the Distinguished Unit Citation (now the Presidential Unit Citation) was awarded to PNGVR in 1952 in Rabaul. Whilst in Fort Hood, a copy of the United States Presidential Unit Citation was presented to those members to replace the original which disappeared in Rabaul in the early 1970's.
• Funeral Segment, Objective (a) and (e): An Association segment or protocol for inclusion in funeral services of deceased members was produced. The format is similar to RSL procedures.
• Assist authors researching our Regimental History, Objective (c), (d) and (e): Material assistance was given to Ian Downs and James Sinclair in writing their respective books on the Regiments "NGVR 1939-1943, a history" and "To Find a Path". The history of the PNGVR is being written by MAJ Bob Harvey-Hall, RFD, ED. The book "PNGVR a History 1950-1973" was launched on ANZAC day 2015.
• Assistance to the National Service Association of Australia (NSAA), Objective (a) and (f): Committee members assisted the NSAA when it was establishing itself, and the relationship between the Association has been maintained to the extent that we are long term licenced holders of premises in NSAAQ's site at the former Army Barracks at Wacol, Brisbane, in which we house our Museum.
• Affiliations with other service clubs, Objective (a) and (f): These affiliations include various RSL clubs including Salisbury, Greenbank and Mitchelton, National Service Association, Commando Association, 2/22 Battalion Lark Force Association, Melbourne, NGVR/ANGAU Association, Sydney and the United Services Club, Brisbane. Our Association assumed responsibility for the PIR Association, as from 25 April 2007 which includes former members of Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB), New Guinea Infantry Battalions (NGIB) and Pacific Islands Regiment during and post WW2.
• Tsunami Collection, Objective (b): After the Aitape tsunami on 17 July 1998 when two to four thousand people were killed, the association raised funds, in conjunction with the PNG Society to purchase refrigeration equipment for several fishing villages to preserve their catches.
• Support to the Chinese Community Memorial Bell, Objectives (b), (d), (e): On 14 March 2007, 5 years work came to fruition at the unveiling of the Chinese Commemorative Bell and Plaque in Chinatown, Brisbane. The Bell and Plaque commemorate the war service to Australia by Australians and others of Chinese heritage. Our Association initiated the idea and assisted in the arrangements from design to completion. The Association presented mounted photographs to the Queensland Chinese Forum of the NGVR's Chinese Ambulance Auxilliary Detachment (CAAD) which was formed
in Rabaul in 1941.
• Sponsoring a PNG ex soldier to Anzac Day, Objective (b): Ben Moide, an original “fuzzy wuzzy angel” and Papuan Infantry Battalion soldier in WW2 and ex-member of PNGVR attended our 2003 Regimental dinner and marched on Anzac Day with the Association. He died in 2015 and there will probably be no more visits to Australia by PNG nationals who served in PNGVR.
Morea Gaigo who was a sergeant in the Mortar Platoon, Support Company, Port Moresby from 1968 to 1973 attended the 2005 Regimental dinner and the Anzac Day march. Arrangements were in place for personnel from C Coy, Banz to attend Anzac Week 2007. Unfortunately, the nominated Papua New Guinean did not arrive due to funding complications at the PNG end.
• Assisting PNG Consulate, Objective (b): Support has been regularly provided to the Consulate on a diverse number of activities, but more particularly the annual PNG National Day. The Consulate reciprocates by inviting executive committee members to Consulate functions. This is a very effective networking activity and facilitates the Association's access to Papua New Guinea bureaucrats and politicians, as well as fostering good relations between Australia and PNG.
• Trips to Papua New Guinea, Objective (b): Many trips have been made to Papua New Guinea by various executive members of the Association to maintain relationships with the PNG Government and the Armed Service chiefs and their bureaucrats. During July 2006, four Committee members attended Remembrance Day in PNG in Port Moresby and Mt Hagen and took the opportunity to present 32 Australian Service Medals to ex-PNGVR comrades.
Over the years various ex members of PNGVR have attended services in PNG to commemorate special events and battle anniversaries. It is expected that whilst our members are still able, they will continue to do so..
• Sponsoring awards to Australian Army Reserve units, Objective (c): The military excellence award is presented annually to 31 RQR, Townsville for the most effective soldier below the rank of sergeant. The first award was made in 1993, and although there was a lapse of several years owing to the wishes of 31RQR, the award was reinstated. The situation is again uncertain.
Following the success of the above award, the Association expanded its sponsorship with 9RQR. This award is an annual award for the most efficient section in military skills. Each member of the winning section receives a medallion and a certificate. This award is called “Steel Tuff”. It is a well recognised award in 9RQR and one which is strongly competitive.
This award has been ongoing and members of the Association visit 9 RQR on the weekend EX "Steele Tuff" is conducted and present the medals and certificates. Over the years these presentations have occurred in places such as Maryborough, Greenbank Military Precinct, Enoggera Barracks and Canungra.
• Recording of personal histories, Objective (d): The Association has collected and edited the histories of about 39 NGVR members. A book "Keepers of the Gate" was published by MAJ F.J. (Bob) Collins recording 37 NGVR life and WWII histories. I was launched on ANZAC Day 2016.
• Promotion Videos, Objective (d): A 12 minute promotional video “NGVR - The Gallant 500” containing interviews of NGVR and PNGVR ex-members has been completed and over 50 copies sold. Copies are still to be sent to libraries for archival purposes. This promo was to be used for a 60 minute movie, which did not proceed due to lack of funding and frailty of members.
• Major memorabilia displayed at PNG Consulate office, Objective (d): In April 1999, 12 members arranged a significant display of Association memorabilia on the ground floor of the PNG Consulate. It was opened by the Queensland Governor, Major General Arnison. It was favourably reviewed by press and radio. The display included weapons and equipment used by NGVR and PNGVR, all shown in contextual environments, with photographs and documents.
• Permanent Home for Associations memorabilia, Objective (d):
The NGVR and PNGVR Memorial Museum at Wacol was opened by the Minister for Veteran Affairs Bruce Billson MP and PNG Consul General of Brisbane, Paul Nerau LLB on 12 February 2006. It contains interesting and relevant displays of artefacts, records and memorabilia. The curator is John Holland. A grant of $35,000 was obtained and the extension to the museum opened on 3 Sep 16.
• Trade Store/Administration/Fund Raising: This involved the organising of the design and production of various clothing items, badges, and other paraphernalia appropriate to the Association objectives for the use of and sale for funds to support the Association's activities. These included t-shirts, caps, pocket badges, blazers, ties, car badges, hat badges, lapel badges, stubbie holders and Association plaques.
• Grants for equipment: Several grants have been received over the years:
(i) $10,000 was arranged to purchase a new computer, printer, fax and photocopier in the 1990's
(ii) $3,000 from the Minister of Veteran Affairs for manikins and exhibit cabinets for the Museum; and
(iii) $18,000 from the Queensland State Gaming Fund to airconditioning the Museum.
(iv) $35,000 from QLD ...... fund for extensions to the museum.
• Fundraising: Annual raffles for fundraising has been generously supported by sponsors, particularly those who have given airline tickets, accommodation etc as prizes in the early days of the Association. From 2004 fundraising has been initially by members carrying out sausage sizzles at Greenbank RSL Club from 1100 to 0200 on Fridays or Saturdays but lately by carrying out sausage sizzles at Bunnings Oxley on a regular basis. Other funding comes from an admittance fee to the Museum and Members annual subscriptions.
Colonel Harry Green was President of the Association for 16 years, from its official start in 1989 until his death on 9 April, 2005. Similar to other organisations most of the work was left to the President and committee members. Some of the above achievements were achieved purely on the initiative and effort of one or two individuals. The Association was always fortunate to have dedicated and efficient committee members to undertake the tasks. Harry's long leadership focussed these energies, which allowed the Association to achieve so much.
Captain Phil Ainsworth was elected to be President in 2005 and continues in this role.
Compiled and written by Phil Ainsworth from three background papers by Joe & Val Fisk, Norm Mundy, Bob Collins, et al:
• Part 1: The seed of PNGVR Association (2 pages),
• Part 2: Birth and background of the PNGVR Association and early Days of Development and Establishment (6 pages),
• Part 3: Achievements during and after 1989 (5 pages),
• Various NGVR/PNGVR Ex-members Association documents;
• James Sinclair book “To find a Path, Volume 2, Chapter 12”.