I saw a fair bit of the coastline as we came into Pom. I was mainly interested in the reef, there was a fair bit of reef. I was surprised with the tropics I thought we would be greeted by tall coconut palms right down to the water. There were some but they were sparse.
As we came into port, we were restricted in a way having to get our gear into order to go ashore. Once you got your bits and pieces you were able to go to the rail and watch the ship coming into the wharf. Of course we were all very keen to see what we were heading into. I took it as an adventure. We were landing at Port Moresby, that was it.
There was a fair bit of commercial activity near the wharf. There was also a reasonable number of Papuans. Papuans we met, they had had a pretty rough life by the look of them. Anytime you shook hands with a Papuan they always smiled and welcomed you to their country.
We always thought of the tropics as a colourful place and there was no doubt it was colourful in parts but it was more or less an area where there was a wharf, trucks driving around, a certain number of Papuans. That was it. We were ushered down the gang-plank onto trucks and away we went.
From the wharf we lost no time in getting to Bootless Bay by vehicle. We were still wondering what struck us a bit because of the temperature. There was no facilities there at all, just plain kunai grass and bumps, the odd tree. Savannah country. We were allotted areas in the kunai grass not far from the sea itself at Bootless Bay. There was nothing like running water, nothing like that. All your water bottles depended on the Battalion water cart, as they called it. There was no showering facilities or anything like that. It was just plain primitive.
On the first night, we put our groundsheet in amongst the kunai, curled up on the groundsheet in your khaki shorts and shirt, took your boots off, that was it. Reveille was six thirty in the morning and for a few days there was no organised kitchen. We just ate bully beef and biscuits for breakfast, dinner and tea. Eventually there were Company cooks organised and then you got stewed bully beef and probably a bowl of rice.
We still had Company parade, where you formed up in your Platoons and then we were issued with orders about our defensive positions, but in no time we were put back onto the wharf to help unload ships, that was interesting. We were young and strong.
We were kept in the dark about the intentions of the Japanese even thought the Japanese had landed in Salamaua in March 1942. There was some bombing raids by the Japanese, some around the port area but they were mainly headed for the main bases around the Seven Mile Drome or somewhere out that way. They seemed to let their bombs go too early or too late. There wasn’t much concern about the Japanese bombs. We weren’t given any definite word that we were going to fight the Japanese. I think the idea was the High Command seemed to be waiting for the Japanese to come to Port Moresby and fight them in the Port Moresby area, which seemed to be a bit strange. Their major concern seemed to be unloading ships and guarding airstrips.
We unloaded general stores, food and vehicles, we unloaded some earthmoving equipment, carry-alls as they called them – scoops with wheels on. A lot of food-stuff in cases, in boxes and so on.
We hadn’t heard anything about such a thing as the Kokoda Track. All we knew was that there was a place called Hombrum Bluff and there was jungle behind Hombrum Bluff.