PORT MORESBY - Known in the country as the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel standing and all over the world as the true World War II veteran is Ben Moide.
Born on June 21, 1924, to a Motuan mother from Pari and a Sanguane villager in Kiwai Island near Daru in Western Province was a baby named Benjamin Steven Moide, who is the third of nine children.
At the age of 16, Moide joined the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) after lying about his age and told the recruiting officers that he was 19. To make things worse, he did not tell his parents about his plans to join the army. In a book written by Lahui Ako, he describes Moide as a nameless warrior.
According to the book, Moide says: “We fought but according to the bulk of the taubadas, we remained nameless; we were just the native scout or the Papuan guide to them. Still, to the gallant few who addressed us by name, I owe them my undying gratitude for treating us as mates. But the fact remains without the help of all those nameless warriors and carriers who braved the sickness, rain, mud, hunger, despair and enemy of this campaign, all would surely have been lost.”
From Awala, to Kokoda and Deniki to the Ope and Waria rivers and the Scarlet Beach landings, Ben Moide beats a busy track with his comrades before returning home in 1944 to act as PIB instructor and final demob in 1945.
Life after the war proved difficult as the PIB veterans struggled to find their feet in a society that had passed them by. But Moide persevered and started a family and legacy that saw him drive Administrator Murray for a while before he became Dr Gunther’s driver during his regular drives to the Waigani swamp to spy out land for a learning institute.
He was also a member of the Hanuabada Rugby League build up in the 1950s; was part of the mighty Magani outfit in 1961-62, and was employed with San Miguel and SP before retiring in 1991.
Moide was honoured with an MBE then a CBE and he was chosen to represent all ex-servicemen at PNG Remembrance Day Services (23 July) in recent decades. In that capacity, Ben was an advocate and an icon for the PIB and NGIB in Papua New Guinea.
However, as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”. And that was exactly what happened to veteran Moide when he was struggling for his life at the St John’s Gerehu clinic in Port Moresby.
At around 11am (Dec 30) just a day before the nation and his family prepared to welcome the New Year (2014) Moide said his goodbyes and left this world peacefully. According to his family, he died as a result of heart failure. Before his death, they say the late hero prayed the Lord’s Prayer twice and then closed his eyes and left in peace.
One of his many friends Keith Jackson and friends who heard of his death says: “It is too soon to assess Ben’s broad legacy but his cross-cultural work and his published perspective as a Papuan warrior would both rate highly among historians.”
In conveying and expressing tributes to the family of late Sgt Ben Moide, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill described the war veteran as a grand age and one of PNG’s most distinguished citizens.
O’Neill described him as a courageous hero whose passing will be felt in many communities nation-wide, because he became the living and enduring symbol of the courageous World War II service and sacrifice by Papuans and New Guineans.
Many tributes have also been coming from his friends and colleagues worldwide describing him as the true World War II veteran of Papua New Guinea. The late hero is survived by seven children, 45 grand children and 46 great grand children. He was 91 years old. [PNGEdge]