The power of a Papuan picture

PROUD PHOTOGRAPHER: Serviceman John Humphrey pictured alongside the print of a photo he captured in Papua New Guinea circa September, 1971.
PROUD PHOTOGRAPHER: Serviceman John Humphrey pictured alongside the print of a photo he captured in Papua New Guinea circa September, 1971.

Former servicemen from around nation gathered at Singleton's Australian Army Infantry Museum (AAIM) on Wednesday morning for the opening of a new exhibit.

The showcase is a fitting tribute to 'the Chalkies' Australia's young teachers who were conscripted into the Army from 1966 to 1973 to teach in Papua New Guinea (see full story).

However the journey to the museum came with an additional surprise to returning Chalkie and retired Melbourne teacher John Humphrey.

The former Mt Erin College staff member was overwhelmed to find a photo he captured in September, 1971 while serving in Papua New Guinea on display before the helicopter captured in the image.

"I was taken out on a patrol from Wewak to Lake Kopiago," the former serviceman recalled.

"The photo was taken from another helicopter of the rest of our party trying to meet up with the local soldiers who were out in the jungle somewhere.

THE FLIGHT PATH: A geographical reference to the flight path of where the photo was taken.

THE FLIGHT PATH: A geographical reference to the flight path of where the photo was taken.

"The bush was so thick that when we came over where we were they put up smoke and we could see it but we couldn't see them.

"The pilot said 'no way, we can't land here so we'll need to drop you back off' so we went back to Lake Kopiago and we spent the next four or five days there."

The former Chalkie grew up in Bairnsdale in Victoria's Gippsland region before moving to Melbourne to commence his career as a teacher.

"I moved to Melbourne and was called up for service in 1965," he added.

"I went in with 20-year-olds but I was 25 so I was one of the older ones."

Delighted to reunite with many of his fellow Chalkies, Humphrey also confirmed apologies from fellow serviceman Rod Cassidy who is pictured in the now iconic photo.

"He sends his apologies but we even email each other a few times a year," he concluded.