Whilst in 19 Topo Sqn in 1970 I had the pleasure of two firsts . One was the Troop was transported from RAF Lyneham to Brisbane , Australia , by RAF Hercules on the first non - stop flight between the old and new countries ever by RAF transport aircraft .The Troop Captained by Mike Nolan, also included Mick Guise (SSGT), John Campbell( SGT) Roger Witherington and yours truly a CPL later to be promoted to Sgt in TPNG(Territory of Papua New Guinea) John Campbell was the official cine-photographer (where is the film now?) and took shots mainly of aircraft taking off and landing with the occasional bit of local colour thrown in.
The second "first" was meeting your arch typical OZZIE in a place called WOITAPE on my way to the top of Trig NMJ4 where along with Alan Thompson (The Aussie half of the observing team, we were to engage in Aerodist and provide control for the mapping of TPNG. I flew out of KOKODA in a Swiss Porter flown by that other Australian legend SMOKEY DAWSON , Bush Pilot supreme , bound for Woitape which like most places in TPNG nestled deep in a narrow ,cloud filled valley. Smokey Dawson literally flew by the seat of his pants through the cloud whilst engaged in small talk about the dangers of flying in TPNG and relating the very high accident figures of light aircraft in this God forbidden place .Suitably encouraged I scoured through the cockpit window looking for any gaps in the cloud that might prove useful in an emergency when Smokey said, "we should be there by now keep your eyes open for an airstrip !".
With everything crossed I peered through the gloom with accelerated eagerness looking for Terra Firma, when suddenly the porter went into an accelerated nose dive and I was punched back into the seat at God knows how many "G,s" and vaguely remember Smokies childish scream of delight "There she is mate right below us !" I could not lean forward or open my eyes due the suddenness of the manoeuvre. Breathing was also temporarily suspended until we levelled out some 3000 feet below our original altitude .From then on it was a cinch as we cruised round the valle , landed and taxied to a halt some 60 metres from a colonial type like wooden house with a rather peculiar looking structure some 50 m further away.
Suddenly out of the blue out comes running a white guy closely followed by a dozen or so natives heading straight for us .It took a while trying to figure out their dress code. They were dressed in Sarongs of Bright Orange with Big Black Broad Arrows (Govt Property) all over them .The white guy was shouting at them in some Gobblygook I had never heard before and within seconds all the equipment aboard the aircraft was unloaded as were we .
Taking a Deep Breath I stuck out my hand and announced to the whole of Woitape my number, name and rank and at that moment met RICK NYLAND , who was the local KIAP.In old English he was a District Officer , Judge and Jury and Prison Commissioner rolled into one , hence the native volunteers .(Kiap was rank held by Errol Flynn during his sojourn in TPNG in the 1920's?) In his delight of meeting another white man Rick forgot to let go of my hand for some considerable time until I developed a very froggy throat and after several seconds of pneumonic type coughing he took the hint ,let go and uttered those immortal Australian words "Anybody for a beer mate?" Declining his offer I explained to him that a chopper was due in with Alan to lift us on to NMJ4 that very morning His disappointment was palpable but he recovered well and we exchanged pleasantries for a couple of minutes whilst Smokey Dawson radioed our successful landing to the outside world .Returning to the company Smoky grinning from ear to ear announced that the choppers were on an SAR (Search and Rescue) looking for some missionary pilot who had gone missing and could only complete the lift the next day.
Rick's immediate reaction was to grab me by the hand and drag me mumbling towards his house whilst at the same time issuing forth in Gobblygook at the natives who began hauling my equipment in the same direction .Smokey strode on behind humming under his breath something that bore a very close resemblance to Waltzing Matilda. Rick's house was very large and as we walked into the lounge come dining room I was struck by a wall covered from roof to ceiling with all types of books . The other 3 walls were shelved from floor to ceiling with beer and spirit bottles of every kind .It was a sort of Aussie Eden .We sat and enjoyed the last of Rick's beer and bade farewell to Smokey who disappeared into the cloud as quickly as he had dived through it .
Rick and I sat down and ate some "Tucker" and then the bad news ! Rick had run out of beer but he still had his good old back up. He grabbed a green bottle and poured forth a full beer glass of this strange liquid passed it to me, shouted "Cheers Mate !" and downed his with world record speed whilst I stunned sipped at the green stuff and came to the conclusion that it was Crème De Menthe and almost vomited .It was only after a few well aimed insults at "The Bloody Pommies!" that I reluctantly followed suit and downed mine .We repeated the exercise several more times during that day whilst Rick explained his duties and how he was looking forward to his first holiday in 3 years the following year and how he would look me up in "The Old Country " Staggering to bed early so as to be ready for the chopper next morning I felt "BLOODY CROOK MATE!" and slept in a Crème de Menthe heaven until dawn . On waking I rushed to the heads only to discover my urine had mysteriously changed colour and resembled a gangrene infection bleeding profusely. Grabbing a glass of water to slake my thirst I soon found that the taste of Crème de Menthe stays with you for a long time .Try as much as I did That taste would not go away and accompanied me for most of my stay on NMJ4. On arrival of the chopper I proceeded to say a fond farewell to Rick and only vomited when I left the chopper after jumping out on the lower slopes of NMJ4 which was clagged in .Climbing NMJ4 in a Crème de Menthe haze I cursed Rick Nyland every step of the way comforted only by the thought that I would never see that bloody Aussie again. After returning to UK min Dec 1970 I went about the usual 19 Sqn activities and had the privilege of going home to the family for a few months .One June evening in 1971 whilst watching TV there was a knock on the front door which my ex went to answer. She called me to the door where standing in all his glory was Rick Nyland .
I will never forget those immortal words uttered by Rick ," Howzit mate just dropped in for a beer !" Suddenly I was overcome with a very strong taste of Crème de Menthe and a sense of panic and foreboding "THE OZZIE HAD LANDED !!!! Normmmmmmm
Story courtesy of Norman Brindle.