BY MARTIN HADLOW
A MONUMENT to commemorate the bravery and loyalty of indigenous Coastwatchers and Scouts during World War II has been dedicated in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
While the new memorial particularly recognises those who undertook coastwatching roles on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and elsewhere in Solomon Islands, the dedication ceremony also recognised the entire South-West Pacific network of Coastwatchers, including those who operated from Bougainville and other locations.
Speaking at the unveiling on the 7 August, former Solomon Islands Prime Minister and chairman of the Trust which constructed the statue, Sir Peter Kenilorea, noted that many of the major battles fought in the (then) British Solomon Islands Protectorate during the war were virtually unknown to the present generation of Solomon Islanders.
He also pointed out that the bravery of Solomon Islands Scouts had not been adequately recognised.
However, with the opening of the memorial, he said that names and places such as the Battle of Savo Island, Iron Bottom Sound, Mount Austen and Bloody Ridge would become better known to a new generation, which could be proud of the courageous and vital role played by Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers.
Royal Australian Navy Defence Advisor, Commander Geoff Turner, outlined the history of the Ferdinand network of teleradio operations established in the 1930s by Commander Eric Feldt of the RAN.
He mentioned the importance of the role played by the administration officers, planters, missionaries and others who reported from behind enemy lines as Japanese Imperial forces swept south in 1942 from their base in occupied Rabaul.
Without the help and protection of local people, Commander Turner noted that the mainly expatriate Coastwatchers would not have been able to survive.
The new monument, located near the Point Cruz wharves in Honiara, was designed and constructed locally.
It was officially opened by Solomon Islands governor-general, Sir Frank Kabui, in conjunction with the 69th anniversary of the landings made on Guadalcanal and Tulagi by US Marines on 7 August 1942.
Three surviving Solomon Islands Scouts [below] who fought in the campaigns were present at the ceremonies, while the US Marines were represented by officers from Guam and Hawaii.