Long ago, in March, 2014, I announced that the small community of Kamiatum, just inland from Salamaua in Papua New Guinea, had decided to name their new elementary school after a prominent WW2 and post-war Australian soldier and infantry commander, Colonel George Warfe, D.S.O., M.C., E.D.
Due to a lack of local resources and the challenge of maintaining effective communication with the ‘outside’ world, particularly here in Australia (Kamiatum has no electricity, running water, sewerage etc., and the local economy is predominantly subsistence agriculture), the ambitious plans for an official naming ceremony with special guests did not come to pass.
In late 2015, however, the George Warfe Memorial Elementary School was acknowledged in the Australian Federal Parliament, and the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr. Brendan Nelson, very kindly donated a framed photographic print of Colonel Warfe to be presented to the school (see attached picture).
Before the photograph could be presented to the community, the school building was washed away in a flood – Kamiatum lies in the Burali River Valley, which was heavily forested during the war but has now eroded greatly – however a new classroom was built, again of local materials, and late in 2016, the photo was presented to a grateful and appreciative community, who are keen to maintain a PNG-Australia link between the past and present.
The George Warfe School is presently seeking to create penfriend-type informal relationships with Australian school children of a similar age – roughly 7-9 years, and the Kamiatum community has on the drawing board an ambitious project to design and build a Memorial Garden in time for the 75th Anniversary of the re-entry of Salamaua on the 12th of September, 2018.
It is envisaged that there will be an opportunity for visiting groups and individuals to bring with them and formally place in the Memorial Garden a commemorative plaque honouring a chosen military unit from the Wau-Salamaua Campaign (1942-43).