Friends of the AN&MEF

Reg Yates is searching for any descendants of two particular members of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) which captured the German wireless station at Rabaul on 11 September 1914,just over 100 years ago. They are Major Howard Newport, tropical agriculturalist of Cairns, QLD; and Private J Gibb of Elizabeth Bay, NSW. They were appointed to look after the coast and islands of what was then known as German New Guinea. Besides maintaining the Botanical Gardens after the Germans had surrendered the entire north coast and islands of what was then known as German New Guinea. Besides maintaining the Botanical Gardens, at the request of the Australian Commander, Colonel William Holmes,DSO, they were also tasked to produce vegetables to combat the disease of beriberi among the local villagers. Their details are contained in the Official History of 1914-18, Volume X, 'The Australians at Rabaul', by S.S. Mackenzie on page 333. If any descendants of these two soldiers can be found, they will be invited to attend the dedication of a bronze bas-relief which tells the story of the AN&MEF in the vicinity of Man O'War Steps at the boundary of the Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney, NSW.

About the Friends of the AN&MEF

Reg Yates of Melbourne and some thirty friends with various connections to Papua New Guinea or the Australian military forces comprise the 'Friends of the AN&MEF' (i.e. Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force). Late last year these 'Friends' were involved in various ways in the Centenary of the AN&MEF's capture of the German wireless station at Bita Paka, Rabaul on 11 September 1914; plus commemoration of the loss of Australian submarine AE-1 three days later near the entrance to Rabaul Harbour on 14 September 1914.

Currently Reg Yates has visited Man O'War Steps and is in negotiation with the Opera House staff and the trustees of the Royal Botanical Gardens & Domains Trust, for permission to install a one metre square bronze bas-relief commemorating the AN&MEF's departure from Man O'War Steps, on the site of the former Fort Macquarie on 18 August 1914. The Steps were built by Governor Macquarie in 1805 and are just south-east of the Opera House near the Queen Elizabeth II Gates entrance to the Gardens.

Reg has visited PNG (for two or more weeks at a time) almost every year since 1984, initially as an Army Reservist on 'adventurous training', then as a trek leader and more recently as a semi-retired ambulance paramedic working on seismic sites in isolated areas of PNG. Reg served 30 years, mostly as an Infantry Captain in training roles; he has no Active Service. Otherwise he served 36 years as a paramedic with Melbourne Ambulance Service.

Reg visited Rabaul, PNG in 1987, walking through the Baining mountains and around the 'South Coast' to Tol Plantation, accompanied by two young villagers as guides. Some 160 Australian soldiers, members of 2/22nd Battalion, AIF, were murdered at Tol Plantation after surrendering to Imperial Japanese soldiers in early February 1942, during WWII. These last four years Reg has walked to Tol Plantation with relatives of some of those Australian soldiers, as personal pilgrimages. Reg has also helped the Rabaul Historical Society, The Lark Force Association and the PNG-Australia Association with the Centenary for the AN&MEF capture of the German wireless station at Bita Paka, Rabaul in a single day on 11 September 1914, which led to the surrender of all German New Guinea to Australian control under League of Nations mandate, until PNG's independence on 16 September 1975.

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Prior to embarkation of the 1st Battalion AN&MEF, the ferry steamer Kulgoa, loaded with troops, leaves Fort Macquarie, Sydney for Cockatoo Island. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial

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