November 6 - 12, 2022: Issue 561


Gerald Joseph McPhee - a World War II 'M' special Unit member: Remembrance day 2022

Bougainville, Solomon Islands. circa. 1944-February. Group portrait of Coastwatchers and native police, some of whom are armed with rifles. Third back row, left to right: Flight Lieutenant J. A. Corrigan, RAAF; Lieutenant (Lt) J. R. Keenan, RAN; Lt J. H. Mackie, AIF; Captain R. C. Cambridge, AIF; Sergeant (Sgt) G. McPhee, AIF; Corporal (Cpl) N. D. Thompson, AIF; Sgt T. R. Aitkin, AIF; Corporal (Cpl) E. D. Otton, AIF. (Naval Historical Collection) (Formerly Y007) Courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM

Remembrance Day Commemorative Services will take place at local RSL's on Friday November 11th, deatils below. 

In previous history page, Brock's The Oaks - La Corniche From 1911 to 1965: Rickards, A Coffee King, A Progressive School, A WWII Training Groundit became apparent that a Mosman family bought the bulk of the land and cottages associated with the by then 'La Corniche' during its short time as 'Quest Haven' and during the period this land and its buildings were utilised as a training centre during World War Two.

Some of the peculiarities that showed up during widower Mr. Gerald McPhee Snr.'s dealings with the Army during that period are brought into starker relief when you consider his son, Gerald Joseph McPhee was serving in several very dangerous missions in New Guinea during that time as part of 'M' Special Unit. He had been transferred to 'M' Special Unit October 22nd, 1943. His previous Unit was the Independent Company - Reinforcements, which was the first commandos unit of the Australian Army.

He was in his early 20's at the time.

In 1943, M Special Unit was formed as a successor to the Coastwatchers, with the role of the unit focused on gathering intelligence on Japanese shipping and troop movements. To achieve this mission, small teams were landed behind enemy lines by sea, air or land insertion. This was in contrast to its counterpart, Z Special Unit, which became well known for its direct-action commando-style raids, although it is recorded in G J McPhee's records that M Special Unit members also undertook offensive actions.

'M' Special Unit was was a joint Allied special reconnaissance unit, part of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD), in the South West Pacific theatre of the Second World War. A joint Australian, New Zealand, Dutch and British military intelligence unit, it saw action in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands between 1943–1945, against the Empire of Japan.

Z Special Unit was a joint Allied special forces unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia. Predominantly Australian, Z Special Unit was a specialist reconnaissance and sabotage unit that included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, predominantly operating on Borneo and the islands of the former Dutch East Indies.  The unit carried out a total of 81 covert operations in the South West Pacific theatre, with parties inserted by parachute or submarine to provide intelligence and conduct guerrilla warfare. The best known of these missions were Operation Jaywick, which was launched from Refuge Bay, and Operation Rimau, both of which involved raids on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour; the latter of which resulted in the deaths of 23 commandos either in action or by execution after capture.

M Special Unit was disbanded at the end of the war on November 10th, 1945.

This year, 2022, a number of Commemorative Services have taken place to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Canberra, as well as the 80th anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign. Approximately 625 Australians were killed and more than 1,600 wounded in the four-month battle along the Kokoda Track in 1942.

On November 3rd, 2022 the NSW Government announced it has designated November 3, as NSW Kokoda Day to officially acknowledge the Kokoda campaign of the Second World War.

Premier Dominic Perrottet announced this would be an annual day of acknowledgement for the veterans of Kokoda, to recognise their bravery and efforts in New Guinea. 

“Having walked the track myself, it is important we, and future generations, mark the bravery and sacrifices of those who served there” Mr Perrottet said. 

“Our troops had to wade through mud, fighting off insects and infection, before encountering some of the most brutal battles of the Second World War.”  

“Establishing 3 November as a NSW day to honour the service of our veterans from Kokoda will ensure their efforts and sacrifice will not be forgotten.”  

Minister for Transport, Veterans and Western Sydney David Elliott made the announcement today at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway. 

“On 2 November 1942, Australian troops reclaimed the Kokoda village after four months of brutal jungle warfare. The following day, the Australian flag was raised.” Mr Elliott said. 

“On the 80th anniversary of this occasion, we remember the strength and resilience of all those who served along the Kokoda Track and it is wonderful to now have this day recognised in our NSW calendar.”  

NSW Kokoda Day will last as a yearly acknowledgement of the contributions made by Australian men and women of the Kokoda Track and also acknowledge the sacrifices of their families. 

The Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway in Concord is a living memorial that gives the people of NSW a greater sense of what Australian troops experienced in New Guinea. It is a place for commemoration and reflection for veterans and the community. 

“With the number of Australians who served in the Second World War sadly dwindling, it is important that the residents of NSW have memorials that can continue to educate the younger generation on significant events in Australia’s history, like the Kokoda Track campaign.” Mr Elliott added. 

You can get more information on the Kokoda Walkway website

Commemorative Services this year have also included honouring Solomon Island Scouts and Coast Watchers. In August 2022 United States Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, attended a Service at the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers Memorial. Ambassador Kennedy's attendance had a personal touch as she was also able to pay a tribute to those who had saved her father's life. 

TRANSCRIPT: Ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s Remarks at the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers Memorial

August 7, 2022 – Honiara, Solomon Islands


Mr. Veke, Ministers of the Crown, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, our hosts from the Solomon Islands, Sir Bruce Saunders, and those who work on this memorial.

Mr. Kenilorea, thank you for those moving remarks and for your own family’s distinguished public service.

Minister Conroy, Vice Admiral Hammond, Minister Oniki, General Yamazaki, Minister Henare, it’s great to be with you today on this memorable anniversary.

I’m especially honored to accompany Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Deputy Commander of INDOPACOM General Sklenka, Commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific General Rudder, and diplomatic and defense colleagues from the United States, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand to mark this anniversary.

As we reflect on the battles that took place on these lands and in these waters 80 years ago, we honor the courage of the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers who made a critical contribution to turning the tide at Guadalcanal.

Solomon Islanders risked their lives to support the Allied effort.

Many joined in the fight, lending their superior knowledge of the local terrain and their expertise in jungle fighting.

They stayed behind Japanese lines at personal risk to their own safety and that of their families.

The information they gathered was invaluable to the Allied effort during the Guadalcanal campaign.

Because of the selfless service and sacrifice of the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers, the Allies were able to hold Guadalcanal.

And because of Guadalcanal, the Allies achieved victory in the Pacific.

While we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Solomon Islanders who risked their lives during the Pacific Campaign, my family and I owe a personal debt of gratitude to two Solomon Islander Scouts — Biaku Gasa and Eroni Kumana – who saved my father’s life.

Thanks to them, he and his crew survived the sinking of PT-109 and were able to return home and eventually run for President.

His experiences here made him the man and the leader that he was, just as the experiences of so many others shaped the men and women they would become.

It resolved him to seek a more peaceful and just world, and he gave his life for his country.

I’m deeply touched to be here today, knowing that I might not be here if it were not for Biaku Gasa and Eroni Kumana.

And I’m not alone in feeling this way.  Countless Americans and Allied families have Solomon Islanders to thank for their survival.

We’re here today not only to express our gratitude to those who sacrificed during the war, but also to those who established peace and worked for the years and decades that followed to bring our nations closer.

I look forward to returning to Solomon Islands with my children and showing them this part of our family history – which is so closely intertwined with this country – and telling them about the partnership we’ve shared with Solomon Islanders in years since the war.

It’s our way to honour those who came before us and to work and do our best to leave a legacy for those who follow.

Thank you.

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the United States ambassador to Australia, meets with John Koloni and Nelma Ane, children of those who saved her father, at a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal. Photographs: US Embassy Australia

This had been preceded by a wreath laying ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra:

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s Meeting with Australian Coastwatchers at the Australian War Memorial

July 28, 2022 

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with two Australian veteran Coastwatchers and their family members at the Australian War Memorial yesterday.  The Ambassador reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Australia alliance and expressed her gratitude for the service and sacrifice of Australians during World War II, highlighting the Coastwatchers, who played a critical role in rescuing President John F. Kennedy after his patrol torpedo boat was destroyed.

Ambassador Kennedy met Ms. Eve Ash, daughter of Australian World War II veteran Mr. Ronald (Dixie) George Lee, and Mr. Tom Burrowes, son of veteran Mr. James Burrowes OAM, at the Australian War Memorial.  Mr. Lee and Mr. Burrowes joined the meeting virtually from the U.S. Consulate General in Melbourne.

In their meeting, Ambassador Kennedy said “It was a great honor to meet two Australian Coastwatchers, who played an essential role in keeping the region secure during World War II. I owe personal gratitude to an Australian Coastwatcher and two Solomon Islander scouts who saved my father’s life. These men represent the best of their generation and are an amazing example of the bonds of the U.S.-Australia alliance.”

“I was deeply honored to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony with Ambassador Kennedy and meet a few Australian Coastwatchers. The U.S-Australia alliance remains just as strong as when we fought side-by-side more than 70 years ago. The World War II generation of Americans and Australians bequeathed us a set of freedoms, and we have an obligation today to uphold their sacrifices,” said General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military officer in the United States.

“The event was a very special and personal acknowledgement by Ambassador Kennedy and the US government of the role we had as Aussie Coastwatchers eight decades ago. I am proud at 98 to meet Her Excellency and share Coastwatcher stories. The time I spent in the Solomons and other locations as a Coastwatcher is as vivid today as it was then. It has been an honor to participate in this memorial event,” Australian World War II veteran Mr. Ronald (Dixie) George Lee.

“’It was an amazing experience to meet with Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and extremely pleasing to speak with her during the commemorative wreath-laying. As a Coastwatcher, I have long been aware of the role played by the Australian and Solomon Islander Coastwatchers Reg Evans, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana in rescuing then Lieutenant John F. Kennedy and his crew after their Patrol Torpedo Boat was cut in two by a Japanese destroyer. So I was honored to receive the Ambassador’s kind acknowledgement of our Coastwatching role in the war and recognition of our rescue of the future President,” Australian World War II veteran Mr. James Burrowes OAM.

Ambassador Kennedy presented Ms. Ash and Mr. Burrowes with replicas of the coconut that President Kennedy used to send a rescue message following the destruction of his patrol torpedo boat, PT-109.

Following their meeting, Ambassador Kennedy, Ms. Ash, and Mr. Burrowes, along with Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, toured the Memorial Commemorative Area.

“Our wonderful new U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy has shone a very personal light on the special role of Australian Coastwatchers in World War II.  I was privileged to meet her and General Milley and to lay a wreath on behalf of my father, one of the last surviving Coastwatchers.  The tour of the Australian War Memorial was very moving.  No doubt Ambassador Kennedy will strengthen and bring warmth to the close bond between our two countries,” Ms. Eve Ash, daughter of Australian World War II veteran Mr. Ronald George “Dixie” Lee.

“I am truly humbled to represent my Coastwatcher father Jim Burrowes on this specific commemoration to the Coastwatchers with our U.S. allies and with such a personal connection. The bravery and sacrifice of the Coastwatchers is inspiring to the next two generations of Australians who have enjoyed relatively peaceful enjoyment and prosperity. We express our deep gratitude and indeed, I dips me lid! And Lest We Forget,” Mr. Tom Burrowes, son of veteran Mr. James Burrowes OAM, at the Australian War Memorial.

Ambassador Kennedy, General Milley, Ms. Ash, and Mr. Burrowes then participated in the Last Post Ceremony and laid a wreath at the Pool of Reflection.

Ambassador Kennedy’s engagements at the Australian War Memorial reflect Australia’s status as a vital ally, partner, and friend of the United States.

“The U.S.-Australia alliance plays a vital part of promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. I look forward to working to advance our alliance during my time as Ambassador.”  – Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

The Coastwatchers, also known as the Coast Watch Organisation, Combined Field Intelligence Service or Section C, Allied Intelligence Bureau, were Allied military intelligence operatives stationed on remote Pacific islands during World War II to observe enemy movements and rescue stranded Allied personnel. They played a significant role in the Pacific Ocean theatre and South West Pacific theatre, particularly as an early warning network during the Guadalcanal campaign.

When the Japanese overran the Gilbert Islands in 1942, 17 New Zealand coastwatchers were captured. Imprisoned at Tarawa, they were executed by the Japanese in October 1942 following an American air raid.

In early November 1942, two coastwatchers named Jack Read and Paul Mason on Bougainville Island radioed early warnings to the United States Navy about Japanese warship and air movements (citing the numbers, type, and speed of enemy units) preparing to attack the US Forces in the Solomon Islands.

Born in Sydney on September 26th 1921 to Gerald Joseph and Mary McPhee, G J Jnr. came from a long standing tradition of farming families on both sides of his parentage. On December 3rd 1935, when Mary McPhee is recorded as the purchaser of the La Corniche 9 acres of lands and buildings, her husband's occupation is listed as 'retired Grazier'. 

Gerald had been born in 1880, the second son of James John and Anne McPhee. Mary was the fourth daughter of Maurice and Hannah Mahoney. Her father was a farmer who passed away in 1887, leaving his wife to care for four daughters.

Gerald McPhee married Mary Kenny in 1917. Mary was already a widower and mother to a daughter, so there were no big announcements of their marriage in the local country newspapers, as had been the case with so many other community events. A simple record found is:

Personal Notes. — The engagement is announced of Mr. Gerald McPhee of Trangie, second son of Mr. J. McPhee "Copperhannie" Trunkey, and Mary, youngest daughter of Mrs. Mahoney "Aidar" Lambert St. and widow of the late A. Kenny. The marriage is to take place very early in the new year. The youthful bride-elect has already received many congratulations and expressions of good will for her future happiness. REMARKS (1917, November 7). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

The couple had two children, Anne, born in 1918, the birth registered at Bathurst, and Gerald Joseph. They were living at Mosman by then, Gerald the Grazier having decided to work in Real Estate, focussing at first on Mosman properties. Mary still visited her mother and other relatives in the country:

At the week-end Dr. and Mrs. Harris had a visit from Mrs. Gerald McPhee of Trangie, who, with her daughter, Betty, called here on the way to Sydney. Mrs. Harris and Mrs McPhee are sisters. Personal (1923, October 23). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from 

His father, who had moved to Sydney around the same time, passed away here after an accident in 1926:



The very regrettable news came to Cowra on Tuesday that Mr. James John McPhee, father of Mr. J. P. McPhee, of Cowra, had been knocked down by a motor lorry at Mosman that afternoon, and died shortly after being admitted to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital at North Sydney. The deceased gentleman, who had reached the ripe old age of 88 years, had resided for a considerable period at Copperhannia, Trunkey, and was well and favorably known in Cowra, having frequently visited here. For the past five years he had lived with his only daughter, Mrs. Deakin, wife of Dr. Deakin, at Mosman. 

The late Mr. McPhee was a native of Ireland, but came to Australia when a mere child. At the point where the accident happened the street is being done up and only a narrow portion of it is open for traffic. Mr. McPhee had gone across for a paper and was re-turning when the lorry struck him. Rev. Father O'Donnell had also been for his paper and was quickly with Mr. McPhee, and had him conveyed to the Hospital, where he was admitted. The mortal remains of the deceased gentleman were buried at the Northern Suburbs cemetery, Rev. Fathers Murphy, O'Don-nell, and MacDermott officiating at the graveside. The late Mr. McPhee was a pastoralist, and for some years was a chairman of the Stock Board, and a member of the Land Board in the Carcoar district. He was also one of the first Shire Councillors at Rockley. He leaves four sons, Dr. V. J. Mc-Phee, of Macquarie Street and Rush-cutter's Bay; Messrs. J. P. McPhee, chemist, of Cowra; Gerald McPhee, pastoralist, lives at Mosman; and Jas. McPhee, pastoralist, of Orange. His only daughter is Mrs. Deakin, wife of Dr. Deakin. MOTOR FATALITY (1926, November 19). Cowra Free Press (NSW : 1911 - 1937), p. 9. Retrieved from 

McPHEE -November 16, 1926 at Mater private hospital, North Sydney, result of accident, James John beloved father of John, Gerald, May, James and Vincent aged 88 years, late of Copperhannia Trunkey. RIP. Family Notices (1926, November 17). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from 

Mr. James John McPhee.

One of the oldest and most respected residents of the Abercrombie district, in the person of Mr. J. J. McPhee, passed away recently at the age of 89. His early years were spent in Rockley, and after travelling a great part of N.S.W. he settled at Copperhania, in the Abercrombie Mountains, with wife (nee Miss Anne Mc-Laughlin, of Sodwalls), and engaged in pastoral pursuits until the last eight years of his life, which he spent with his daughter at Mosman. He was an active member of the Carcoar District Land Board for 20 years, and a member of the Carcoar Stock Board for over 30 years, part of the time being chairman. When shire councillors were appointed he was amongst the first to be elected to the Rockley Council. His wife predeceased him by 22 years, and he is survived by four sons — John (chemist, Cowra), Gerald (retired grazier, Mosman), James (stock agent, Orange), Dr. Vincent (Macquarie-street, Sydney), and one daughter, the wife of Dr. Deakin (Mosman). His only surviving sister Mrs. McLaughlin, lives in North Sydney. These with 22 grandchildren and a large circle of old friends, mourn their loss. He was a man charitable in thought, word and deed, and an exemplary Catholic— R.I.P. Mr. James John McPhee. (1927, February 3). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1942), p. 37. Retrieved from 

Their mother passed away soon after their parents bought La Corniche and its associated cottages, leaving their father in charge of meeting the payments for the mortgage they had had to take out. Records found in the National Archives of Australia indicate the small amounts of £ they received for renting the premises to the Quest Haven school just covered these. Mary was just 52 when she died.

McPHEE.-January 11, 1938, Mary, beloved wife of Gerald Joseph McPhee, and loving mother of Betty, Ann, and Gerald. Requiescat in pace. Family Notices (1938, January 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from

McPHEE. — The Relatives and Friends of Mr. GERALD JOSEPH McPHEE and FAMILY, of No. 9 Prince Albert Street, Mosman, are kindly Invited to attend the Funeral of his dearly beloved wife and their mother, Mary, which will leave our Private Mortuary Chapel, 563 Miller Street. North Sydney. THIS WEDNESDAY, at 2.30 p.m., for the Northern Suburbs Cemetery. Family Notices (1938, January 12). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from 

Alberta Mary Kenny, Mary's daughter with first husband Albert Kenny who died the same year they were married, passed away in 1941, just 27 years of age.

KENNY.—May 7, Alberta Mary, daughter of Bert Kenny (deceased), and Mrs. G. McPhee (deceased). Family Notices (1941, May 17). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from 

Anne went on to become a nurse, while Gerald Joseph the son of G J McPhee went into advertising prior to enlisting to serve in World War II. 

Doctors And Nurses

The medical profession has never used its influence to seek an Improvement in nurses' living and working 'conditions. In view of the undisputed loyalty and co-operation shown doctors by nurses, it is to be regretted that the medical profession as a whole is quite indifferent to the efforts of the closely allied nursing profession to obtain satisfactory working conditions living conditions and remuneration.— Anne McPhee, Mosman. Doctors And Nurses (1946, July 4). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 4 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from 

Gerald McPhee first enlisted on the 29th of November 1939 at Paddington, aged 18 years and 4 months, listing his occupation as 'Printing Salesman'. He was put into the 1st Cavalry Division, Sigs.(N80453)

Following the demobilisation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) that had been raised during World War I, Australia's part time military force, the Citizens Force, was reorganised in 1921 to perpetuate the AIF's numerical designations. At this time, the 1st Cavalry Division was raised alongside a second cavalry division and four infantry divisions. The 1st Cavalry Division consisted of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Cavalry Brigades. The 1st was based in Queensland, while the other two were formed in New South Wales. The division's headquarters was in New South Wales.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the 1st Cavalry Division was allocated to the defence of coastal New South Wales. As part of defensive measures, the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions were tasked with defending Newcastle and Sydney, while the 1st Cavalry Division assumed the role of command reserve, based around Narellan.

Gerald then had to go through reenlisting again, as a 21 year old, on October 1st 1941, into the AIF. He was still in the 1st Cavalry Division - Signals, and was a member of this Unit when Darwin was bombed in February 1942.

On July 20th 1942 he was 'marched out to G.D.D. and to School of Guerrilla Warfare, Foster, Victoria.' Two days later he was having an x ray of his 4th right metacarpal(ring finger). A fracture of the fourth and/or fifth metacarpal bones transverse neck secondary due to axial loading is known as a boxer's fracture. Foster, Victoria, is a dairying and grazing town 174 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.

His designated Unit was now the 3rd Australian Armed Division 

He was then enlisted in the AMF in November 14th, 1942, soon after turning 21, the then legal age for enlistment. He listed his religion as Church of England despite affirmed Catholic relatives on both sides of his parents families. This time he enlisted at Foster stating he had previously done military service as an Assistant Sergeant in the 1st Australian Motor Division - Signals (N80453). 

He had become part of the Independent Company - Reinforcements. 

The 1st Independent Company was one of twelve independent or commando companies raised by the Australian Army for service in World War II. Raised in 1941, the 1st Independent Company served in New Ireland, New Britain and New Guinea in the early stages of the war in the Pacific, taking part in a major commando raid on Salamaua in June 1942. Having lost a large number of men captured by the enemy as well as a number of battle casualties, the company was withdrawn from New Britain later in 1942. The company was subsequently disbanded, with its surviving members being transferred to other commando units, and it was never re-raised.

By January 1943 he was engaged in 'jungle warfare training'. By February 1943 he was off to Queensland prior to heading into New Guinea.

He then transferred into the AIF on March 8th 1943 [NX1515110] and then into the 1st Australian Commandos on August 25th, 1943 and was now part of the 'M' Special Unit on October 22nd, 1943.

Described as 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall with grey eyes and dark hair, much of his official War Record is filled with blanks of course - long months where he was obviously engaged in operations behind the lines. These documents do record he was engaged in 'Special Duties', was evacuated to Berrima District Hospital on May 21st 1944 for an appendicitis operation but had re-joined his 'Unit' by June 22nd, 1944.

What can be determined from his records is he was awarded honours from both the Australian and United States armies, along with Mentions In Despatches. His official war record notes:

Lieutenant Gerald Joseph McPhee
Service number NX151510 – Military Cross
Ranks Held Lieutenant, Sergeant
Final Rank Lieutenant
Service Australian Army
Unit M Special Unit
Conflict/Operation Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1947-03-06
Published in London Gazette in 1945-07-19
Published in London Gazette in 1947-03-06
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1945-07-19
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1948-01-02

The Australian ones were:

MID - Military Cross Recommendation - September 12th, 1945

Citation: 'For distinguished conduct, continuous acts of bravery, and devotion to duty in the field, whilst engaged on protracted special intel’ defence operations of a dangerous nature in enemy occupied territory.'


From 29th March to July 1945, Lieut. (then Sergeant) McPHEE rendered excellent service with an A.I.B. party in Northern Bougainville. With commendable coolness, courage and reliability, he carried out advanced patrol work on his own, and provided, by W/T, continuous valuable intelligence of enemy movements and dispositions, during a period when determined enemy patrols were seeking to destroy the party. 

He was directly responsible for the safe evacuation of most of the Coast-Watching organisation from Bougainville in July 1943.

From October 1943 to March 1944, Lieut. (then Sergeant) McPHEE carried out further meritorious intelligence patrols in connection with an A.I.B. patrol led by Lieut. KEENAN RANVR (DSC-Legion of Merit). 

Prior to the U.S. landing at Torokina, he assisted in patrols of this area and later operated as guide and scout with US and Fijian patrols. During the whole period he gave courageous service of high standard and efficiency as radio operator.

From November 1944, Lieut. McPHEE has been on active service in North Bougainville with Lieut. Bridge, RANVR (DSC-Legion of Merit) maintaining efficient radio communication. He displayed cheerfulness, courage, bushcraft, and devotion to duty in dangerous and trying conditions in contact with the enemy in front of Allied positions. Lieut. Mc Phee personally organised several successful patrols, killing and capturing a number of the enemy.

He was also awarded the US Freedom Medal:

Australian Military Forces-Medal of Freedom  …  Lieut. Gerald Joseph McPhee NX151510. U.S. AWARDS ANNOUNCED (1947, December 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from 

Medal Of Freedom For 15 Australians 

CANBERRA, Dec. 18.- Fifteen Australians, including Lieut. Generals Sir Leslie Morshead and F. H. Berryman. are to receive the Medal of Freedom, an American war decoration conferred on non-Americans "in recognition of gallantry, heroism or meritorious achievement in connection with military operations which aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against Japan in the South-West Pacific Area." 

The medal is the equivalent of the Legion of Merit bestowed on Americans. The Acting-Prime Minister (Dr. Evatt) in announcing the awards, said that they had been authorised by the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Far East Command (General MacArthur) as the first instalment of 102 U.S. awards for Australians accepted by the Commonwealth Government. 

Arrangements for presentation of the awards by the American authorities would be decided later. Dr. Evatt said that the Government had conveyed its appreciation of the tribute to the United States Government. 

The recipients are: 


Medal of Freedom with silver palm: Lieut.-General Frank Horton Berryman, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. (now G.O.C. Eastern Command, N.S.W.; commanded the 2nd Australian Corps, served in the Middle East, Java and New Guinea); Lieut. General Sir Leslie Morshead, K.C.B., K.B.E.,- C.M.G., D.S.O., E.D. (G.O.C. 2nd Australian Army; G.O.C. A.LF., Middle East, commanded the 9th Division at the siege of Tobruk, and temporarily commanded New Guinea Force); Brig. Victor Clarence Secombe, C.B.E. (served in both World Wars, was C.O. Headquarters Engineers, A.LF. Division). 

Medal of Freedom with bronze palm: Major John Cyril Davies Litchfield. 

Medal of Freedom: Major Basil Fairfax Ross; Capt. Herbert Albinus Jackson Fryer, M.B.E.; Capt. Alistair Howell MacLean; Lieut. Gerald Joseph McPhee; Capt. Thomas Daniells Merton; Lieut. Murray Barnett Tindale. 


Medal of Freedom with bronze palm: Commander Robert Bagster Atlee Hunt, O.B.E., R.A.N.; Lieut. Montague William Mathers, R.A.N.R. (S), now Lieut.-Commander, R.A.N.V.R. 

Medal Medal of Freedom: Sub. Lieut. Albert Molkin Andresen, R.A.N.V.R. 


Medal of Freedom with bronze palm: Squadron-Leader Bertram Francis Norman Israel. 

Medal of Freedom: Squadron-Leader Ronald Albert Robinson, M.B.E. The names of recipients of the remaining 87 awards will be announced when the United States authorities in Washington have approved the awards. AMERICAN WAR DECORATION (1947, December 19). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 22. Retrieved from 

Gerald McPhee was involved in the Bougainville campaign. The Bougainville campaign was of the largest campaigns fought by Australians during WWII and also one of the final campaigns of the war in the Pacific. Waged largely by militia formations, it wrapped up a series of actions and campaigns waged against the Japanese by Australian, American, Fijian and New Zealand forces, beginning at the time of the Japanese invasion of Bougainville and the adjacent Buka Island in early 1942.

Bougainville and Buka are the two northern islands of the Solomon Islands group. Before World War II they were held by Australia under a League of Nations mandate. The island was named after the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1767.

Bougainville is the largest island of the Solomon Islands chain, about 130 miles (210 km) long and 30 miles (50 km) wide, with an area of about 3800 square miles (9800 km2). Located near the north-western end of the chain, 190 miles (300 km) east of Rabaul, it is a mountainous island, dominated by the Emperor and Crown Prince ranges, with two active volcanoes. The tallest of these (Mount Balbi) reaches to 10,171 feet (3100 meters) in height. 

The lower slopes and coastal plains are covered in dense jungle. With an average annual rainfall of around 100 inches (250 cm) the island is wet year-round. It is extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature of 27 °C (80 °F). Although seasons are not pronounced, June through August is the cooler period, and north-westerly winds from November until April bring more frequent rainfall, and occasional squalls or cyclones.. Malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent. The island is home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the region both above and below the waters with spectacular reefs and lagoons.

Kokopau is the arrival point on the main island after crossing from Buka. For virtually all visitors, this is the starting point on Bougainville for a journey southwards through some very picturesque coastal village communities, which include Tinputz at the most north-easterly point of the island.

In late 1941, there was a good anchorage with a small landing for loading copra at Buin, near the southern end of the island, and a grass airstrip. A 1400' (430m) airstrip had been completed on Buka Island at Buka Passage, the narrow strip of water between Buka and Bougainville, which was also the British administrative centre. There were several native trails, mostly along the coast, but only the trail around the northwest coast of the island was usable by motor vehicles. 

The population was about 54,000 islanders who spoke around 18 different languages, and only 100 Europeans and 100 Asians (mostly Chinese). Today there are several indigenous languages in Bougainville. These include both Melanesian and Papuan languages, none of which are spoken by more than 20% of the population. The larger languages such as Nasioi, Korokoro Motuna, Telei, and Halia are split into dialects that are not always mutually understandable. For most Bougainvilleans, Tok Pisin is the lingua franca, and at least in the coastal areas Pisin is often learned by children in a bilingual environment. 

European women and children were ordered to evacuate on December 12th 1941, and the remaining Europeans were ordered to evacuate on December 18th. However, many of the European residents refused evacuation, including a sizable fraction of the missionaries on the island. Among those who remained were Jack Read and Paul Mason, who became part of the "Ferdinand" Coast Watcher organisation under Commander Eric Feldt, RAN. Feldt chose the name Ferdinand, from the popular children's classic, The Story of Ferdinand, penned by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, and first published in 1936.

I chose Ferdinand … who did not fight but sat under a tree and just smelled the flowers. It was meant as a reminder to Coastwatchers that it was not their duty to fight and so draw attention to themselves, but to sit circumspectly and unobtrusively, gathering information. Of course, like their titular prototype, they could fight if they were stung. - [Eric Feldt, The Coastwatchers, Melbourne, 1946, p.95]

Read and Mason transmitted vital early warnings of Japanese air raids against Henderson Field during the Guadalcanal campaign.

On January 29th 1942, Japanese Imperial Headquarters had ordered Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to plan for the occupation of Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea, with follow-up operations against Port Moresby and Tulagi in the Solomons. This meant the Japanese had plans to invade Bougainville and Buka in order to secure an anchorage to support operations further east in the Solomons. Five weeks after the order had been issued, naval forces set out from Rabaul to seize Lae and Salamaua to the south and Queen Carola Harbour on Buka Island to the east. Two cruisers and six destroyers sailed for Queen Carola Harbour in north Buka.

Lance-Corporal Jack Matthews was one of a party at Kessa, overlooking the harbour:

At 0900 hours on 9 March 1942, we noticed a number of ships on the horizon, which appeared to be approaching. This proved to be so, and later we could identify them as Japanese naval vessels ... Sig Sly immediately tried to contact [naval coastwatcher] WJ Read on the radio for half an hour but with no success. During this time the ships were getting very close, so I decided to dismantle and hide the radio in case they should land in our vicinity.

The Australians continued observing the warships. Eventually they got a message to Read, who was able to inform authorities at Port Moresby. Tragically, a press release back in Melbourne noted that Japanese ships had visited Kessa, so the Japanese knew to return in search of Coast Watchers. Consequently a planter, Percy Goode, was killed and a missionary was taken prisoner.

Some records state the natives on Bougainville were more cooperative with the Japanese than in other parts of the Solomons, citing a number of reasons for this. The evacuation of the European population was incredibly disturbing to the native population, who rioted at Kieta on January 23rd 1942 and were brought under control only by the efforts of one of the German residents who had refused evacuation. The influence of German missionaries and the fact that the Japanese had so easily driven out the Allies also had their effect on the attitude of the natives.

Those who served in this area state that without the islanders they could not have survived, let alone successfully carry out their missions, without the help of the residents.

By the end of April 1942, having consolidated their positions in New Guinea, the Japanese were ready to step up operations and launch 'Operation Mo', the occupation of Port Moresby and Tulagi. The intention was to establish air bases in southern New Guinea to facilitate air operations against northern Australia, take Nauru and Ocean Islands with their phosphate deposits, and capture the Solomons to cut across the most direct Australia – United States shipping routes. 

Tulagi was occupied without opposition on May 3rd. The Battle of the Coral Sea stopped the Port Moresby invasion force, while the Battle of Midway, north-west of Hawaii, was a further setback to Japanese forces as they lost the aircraft carriers needed to support their operations in the Solomons. Three months later, the American 1st Marine Division landed at Tulagi and Guadalcanal Islands, starting the battle to reclaim the Solomons.

Buka and Bougainville had been overrun by the end of April. The Australian Coast Watchers and the troops of the 1st Independent Company remained to observe Japanese land, sea and air activities. They were able to give warning of enemy shipping movements and impending attacks on the American forces at Tulagi and Guadalcanal. The observation posts of Lieutenant John Read in northern Bougainville and Lieutenant Paul Mason in southern Bougainville were especially important to the Americans because they were very well placed to give warnings.

Lieut. Read was in the best position to warn of impending enemy air attacks on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, giving two hours advance notice. The importance of this was noted by an historian of the coastwatching operations:

This lengthy warning enabled the various Allied commands to prepare accordingly. Shipping could be dispersed from highly vulnerable concentrated areas to widely scattered positions of maximum safety. And fighter aircraft had time to be fuelled, armed, and dispatched to high altitudes—ready to pounce on the attacking force. In addition, naval warships were able to form a defensive antiaircraft perimeter around the beachhead. The element of surprise—the best weapon in any assault—was taken away from the Japanese. That meant that coast watching alone was responsible for the success of the air war.

Paul Edward Mason, overlooking Buin in south Bougainville, was in an excellent position to report ship movements. Extracts from Jane's Fighting Ships were air-dropped to him, enabling Mason to send very accurate identifications. Messages were kept short and simple. For example, on August 7th 1942, after spotting enemy aircraft heading for Guadalcanal, Mason signalled:

From STO. Twenty-four torpedo-bombers headed yours.

The code-name STO used the initials of Mason's married sister. With this warning, all but one of the Japanese aircraft were shot down and no American or Australian ships were damaged. On another occasion, Mason reported at least sixty-one Japanese ships heading for Guadalcanal. So vital was their contribution that Admiral William 'Bull' Halsey, United States Navy commander of the forces retaking the Solomons, declared: 'The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific'.

By February 1943, the American forces were in control of Guadalcanal. Many of the 13000 Japanese troops withdrawn from the Guadalcanal area ended up on Bougainville and Buka Islands. This would rise to over 60,000.

PNG, Bougainville, New Britain and the Solomons. Map: Google

In May 1943, a plan to cover the whole of Bougainville with Coast Watchers was implemented. This included:

Keenan - north of Porapora
Read and Robinson - Central east
Sgt. McPhee - West coast
Paul Edward Mason and Stevenson - South end

Mason and Stevenson's party included:-
- 8 soldiers
- Usaia
- William McNicol
- 10 native police

On Saturday 26 June 1943, Stevenson's party was attacked by a Japanese patrol. Stevenson was killed with the first shot. The rest of the party fought back killing five Japanese. They retreated with their weapons only. They came across one of the natives who had led the Japanese to their camp, and immediately executed him. They caught up with Mason's party the next day with the Japanese still on their trail. They were short on supplies and supply drops were again out of the question.

At this time a decision was made to evacuate all Coast Watchers off Bougainville, due to the recent relentless Japanese activity to locate them. Mason was ordered to join McPhee on the north west coast. They had to follow the west coast as the east coast was swarming with Japanese.

In June and July, the Americans had landed in the New Georgia island group and captured four airfields, all in Allied fighter range of Bougainville. [8.]

Some details of those incidents, actions and forays which Gerald McPhee was a part of can be glimpsed through the records made by others:

July 1943:

US Navy Submarine USS Guardfish (SS-217) operated out of the Brisbane Submarine Base during WW2. USS Guardfish left Pearl Harbor on January 2nd 1943 to patrol off the Truk area. She sank a Japanese patrol vessel, a 1,300 ton cargo ship and the Japanese destroyer Hakaze on January 23rd 1943. She moved south and attacked a large convoy near Simpson Harbor, Rabaul. The Japanese defences were so fierce that USS Guardfish was forced to leave the area. USS Guardfish arrived at Capricorn Wharf in Brisbane on February 15th 1943 ending her 3rd war patrol. 

USS Guardfish left Brisbane on March 9th 1943 for her 4th War Patrol in the Bismarck Sea, Solomon Islands and New Guinea area. She returned to Brisbane on April 30th 1943, after a very quiet patrol with no recoded kills.

USS Guardfish's 5th War Patrol found her returning to the same area. She left Brisbane on May 2nd 1943. She sank the 201 ton Japanese freighter, Suzuya Maru and damaged another freighter. USS Guardfish together with US Navy Subchaser SC 761, was instrumental in rescuing a large number of Australian and New Zealand Coast Watchers from Bougainville in July 1943. She returned to Capricorn Wharf in Brisbane on August 2nd 1943 for a long needed refit. [3.]

Extract from the book, Save Our Souls: Rescues Made by U.S. Submarines During World War II By Douglas E. Campbell:

USS Guardfish went to Tulagi to prepare for and execute special tasks. She arrived at Tulagi on July 14th 1943 and underway a week later, with air cover, for her special mission. 

Under cover of darkness, on 24 July, GUARDFISH surfaced at Atsinima Bay on Bougainville Island and evacuated a total of 62 personnel - 22 Australian commandos, two remaining survivors from a downed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) PBY Catalina (SGT Frederick Gordon Thompson and Corporal Ronald Alexander Wettenhall), seven Chinese nationals who had been hiding in the hills, one Fijian, 9 native police officers with their 15 scouts and two native wives with a child each, and two coast watchers — John Robert Keenan and LT Paul Edward Allen Mason

The 22 Australian commandos evacuated from Bougainville were:

Staff Sergeant Bertram Louis Cohen (VX117350, M Special Unit)
Sergeant John Methven Collier (SX1013, 2/48th Infantry Battalion)
Sergeant Harold Joseph Broadfoot (QX38133, M Special Unit)
Acting Sergeant Vivian Morris Day (VX74803, was stationed at the Australian Jungle Training Centre when discharged from the Army)
Acting Sergeant Gerald Joseph McPhee (NX151510, M Special Unit)
Acting Sergeant Walter Allan Percy Radimey (NX44839, 1 Independent Company)
Acting Sergeant Alan Stratford Hatherly (NX110237, 1 New Guinea Infantry Battalion)
Acting Sergeant Kenneth Harry Thorpe (QX28945, 1 New Guinea Infantry Battalion)
Acting Sergeant Frederick James Furner (NX394418, unknown station)
Acting Corporal Noel Lancelot McLeod (NX49729, Z Special Unit)
Acting Corporal Alan Russell Little (NX18815, HQ 1 Australian AA Bde Sigs)
Signaller Alan Maitland Falls (NX84318, stationed at District Accounts Office, New South Wales, Australia when discharged)
Signaller Ronald Joseph Cream (WX13199, Z Special Unit)
Signaller Gordon Rex Kotz (SX11395, 2/3 Field Regiment)
Signaller Ernest John Parker Rust (NX127852, Z Special Unit)
Signaller Albert Edward Eastlake (VX89256, M Special Unit)
Sapper Bernard Michael Bastick (NX86844, M Special Unit)
Sapper George Maxwell McKenzie (NX139989, was with the 1st Australian M T Workshops, Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (AEME), upon discharge)
Sapper Stanley Gage (NX110501, was with the 14th Australian Wks & Pk Squadron, British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), upon discharge)
Sapper Denzil Kenneth Ayliffe (NX92192, M Special Unit)
Private Stanley Stonehouse (V X146945, was with the 24th Infantry Battalion upon discharge)
Private H. Woods

The others evacuated on this date were:

9 Native Police Officers:
Lance Corporal Tamuga
Lance Corporal Kugi
Constable Porom
Constable Hosem
Constable Uni
Constable Pompey
Constable Sobon
Constable Lunga
Constable Yalum

19 Other Natives:
Dai-yau (female) with child Taria
Yema (female) with child Napoli
Ponio, Sakio, Seilo, Unkam, Kasin, Noki, Gabriel, Wiski, Sikiovi, Pemigi, Oua, Wongusausa, Yeramini, Orara and Pipiranu

8 Asians:
Chin Yung, Hee You, Chan Cheung, Wong Tu, See To Chun, Fee Chow, Foe Kiang and Eroni Kotosuma. Chin Yung’s  wife and their 6 children had been evacuated by GATO on March 29th 1943. Hee You’s wife and their 3 children had also been evacuated by GATO on March 29th as had Wong Tu’s wife and daughter.

With them safely aboard, she put out to sea to transfer the evacuees to an American sub-chaser, SC-761. SC 761 left USS Guardfish at 0540 hrs and headed for Guadalcanal. The 59 passengers were very hungry and tired. The Commander of SC 761, Lt. Ronald B. Balcom, USNR, asked "Frenchie" their cook, to feed their hungry guests. The ship was overstocked with Salmon which they were always required to draw from stores at their Naval supply facility. The crew of SC 761 were sick of Salmon, so "Frenchie" took this opportunity to reduce their stocks. John Keenan offered some of his Chinese to assist in the galley. Using hand signals "Frenchie" to communicate with the Chinese, they served up several cases of Salmon and large helpings of rice. After this hearty meal, the Chinese meticulously cleaned the galley, and all the plates and cooking and eating utensils. They even cleaned the aft crew quarters where many of them had eaten. "Frenchie" would loved to have kept a few of these Chinese in his galley for the rest of the war.

Lt. Comdr. John R. Keenan consumed a pot of hot tea while he relived some of his experiences on Bougainville. The Japanese would constantly track them while they were broadcasting with their teleradios, so they were constantly on the move to avoid capture. The Coast Watchers had their photograph taken on the forecastle of SC 761 after they had showered, shaved and eaten. Lt. Cmdr. Keenan advised that he had lost two men who were captured by the Japanese and thereupon beheaded. [3.]

The Coast Watchers on the forecastle of SC 761 after they had showered, shaved and eaten. 

USS Guardfish. Official U.S. Navy Photograph

Four nights later, the submarine returned to the same location and evacuated another 23 - two more coast watchers (LT William John “Jack” Read, AIF, and Captain Eric D. “Wobbie” Robinson, AIF), a Fijian Methodist missionary (Usaia Sotutu) and 11 scouts (Anthony Jossten, Sergeant Yauwika, Corporal Sali, and Constables Sanei, Ena, Gwanda, Naia, Iamulu, Bero, Kiniwai and Numbundameri), and a mix of nine loyal natives and Chinese refugees (Tamti, Tomaira, Keri, Womaru, Wili, Mabianga, Sarawa, and Giwa with her child Ema). 

In total, GUARDFISH evacuated 85 people for transport away from Japanese domination and possible incarceration or execution.

Caption: Australian Coast Watchers on Bougainville, November 29, 1943, after they had been picked up from New Ireland by PT boats. Several New Ireland native assistants are with them. The men carry British SMLE rifles and U.S. M-1 carbines. Photographed by Sarno. Note sign at top: "This Beach is reserved for PT Base Boats" . This again looks like Captain Rolf Charles Cambridge, AIF, 'M' Special Unit and 'Z' Special Unit, second from left and Gerald McPhee, last at right, front row. Item USMC 69275, Official U.S. Navy Photograph

December 1944:

Neither were supply drops without risk for the aircrews. In his report from central Bougainville, Flight Lieutenant N C Sandford, 2 DK patrol, described a supply drop that went badly wrong on December 19th 1944.

On 19 December, Lieut. Bridge was asked to prepare to receive a drop on the following day. A RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) Venture circled the area at 9.5am. The first run was made from the main range over the dropsite towards the sea but no cargo was released. The pilot then came in from the lower end of the valley and made his run towards the mountains. The aircraft made a good approach with wheels down and bomb bay doors open but cargo did not start to drop until the aircraft was over 400 yards (365 metres) past the dropsite. The cargo continued to fall in separate bundles for some time and no attempt seemed to be made to retract the wheels despite the fact that the aircraft was heading towards the main range at low altitude. The aircraft rose at the last moment and appeared to clear the range but suddenly the starboard wing rose sharply and the aircraft disappeared from sight. Shortly afterwards I heard the crash and almost immediately a dense black column of smoke appeared. I immediately took a bearing on the smoke then called to Lieutenant Bridge, who had remained in the camp area and so had not witnessed the crash that the aircraft had crashed some 3 or 4 miles (approximately 5-6 km) away on bearing 26oM. 2WA was advised and PB's were instructed to proceed with all speed possible to the scene of the crash. A second party under Sergeant McPhee was formed to take food and medicines to and bring out any survivors.

At 11.20 hours a note was received from the latter party advising that two of the airmen – Hobbs and Murphy – had been killed and that the others – Scarlett, Nuttal and Gardiner – were badly injured. 2WA was advised and a Doctor and drugs were requested. The rescue party arrived back at Aita at 18.00 hours with Nuttal, Gardiner and the body of Scarlett who had died as a result of extensive 3rd degree burns. Nuttal was the more seriously injured of the two survivors and, despite all we could do he died from shock consequent to extensive burns at 22.30 hours.

Gardiner, suffering from a fractured femur, burns and shock became delirious at 23.30 but responded to treatment and by morning I was able to pronounce him out of danger. On 21st December 1944 in response to a suggestion from DSIO Nor Sols Lieut. Bridge gave order that a small strip would be cleared and local natives were recruited to prepare the site selected. A burial party was sent to the scene of the crash to bury Hobbs and Murphy and salvage what confidential documents might be in the aircraft and ensure that the I.F.F. equipment was destroyed.

Scarlett and Nuttal were buried at Kushi village under a grove of breadfruit trees. On my return to the area in January 1945 I had two hardwood crosses suitably inscribed and erected over their graves. - [NAA Item 37A B3476, 'Report by Lieutenant N.C Sandford, 2 DK Patrol, Central Sector, Bougainville Island, 12.1.44 – 18.6.45]

Sandford's report continues that attempts to construct an airstrip and problems with aircraft led to Gardiner, now the only crash survivor, being evacuated on foot. On December 28th a stretcher party carried him overland from Aita to Kurnaio Mission where a barge transported the patient to Torokina. The party arrived there on January 1st 1945 and Sergeant Gardiner was flown to New Zealand the following day. From: - DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Supply drops, DVA Anzac Portal, 

Saratoga (CV-3) aircraft attack Japanese airfields on either side of the Buka passage, 1–2 November 1943. Buka Island is on the right, with bombs bursting on its airfield. Bonis is at left. View looks to the southwest (80-G-89080). USMC photo

Marine raiders marching back from the point of Empress Augusta Bay, near Cape Torokina, Bougainville, after fighting for 27 straight hours, circa 1–9 November 1943 (80-G-56408). US Marine Corps photo

Marines kneel in prayer for their fallen buddies at Christmas Eve memorial services in a Bougainville cemetery, 24 December 1943. In the background, other Marines search the grave markers for the names of lost friends (80-G-211304). USMC photo

When the Australians joined in the battle for Bougainville in late 1944, relieving the American garrison at Torokina, on Bougainville’s west coast, Lieutenant General Stanley Savige’s II Australian Corps (the 3rd Division, and the 11th and 23rd Brigades) were sent into three areas radiating from Torokina: the Central, Northern and Southern Sectors. In the Central Sector, the Australians followed the Numa Numa trail across the island’s mountainous spine to the east coast. In the Northern Sector, the Australians followed the north-west coast towards Buka. The advance went well until a small force made a disastrous amphibious landing at Porton Plantation in June 1945. The main fight, however, was in the Southern Sector, where the 3rd Division (the 7th, 15th and 29th Brigades) advanced towards Buin, the major Japanese base on the island. [9.]

Patrolling was slow work due to the terrain and the danger; the maximum rate of advance was six minutes to cover 100 yards (about 90 metres). Patrolling was physically and mentally exhausting. Contacts with the enemy were frequently very close, only metres apart. Pre-existing tracks and clearings were considered “death traps” as the Japanese often prepared pillboxes with firing lanes for their machine-guns, and locations were pre-ranged for their artillery. They would set up ambushes to cover approaches to log crossings over creeks and other natural obstacles. The Australians advocated “scrub bashing” where possible, moving through the jungle rather than along tracks. “Leading and second scouts are suicide jobs,” a 24th Battalion report noted. 

Occupying and developing new defensive positions was accompanied by a frenzy of digging, cutting, and carrying. On taking a new position, soldiers and Bougainvilleans immediately began to dig weapon pits and sleeping bays, and to lay wire entanglements along the perimeter. Offices for the battalion headquarters, the signals office and equipment, as well as for stores and ammunition, were also dug underground. Tents erected within the perimeter were kept low to blend with the scrub. Signallers laid signal lines into the battalion headquarters and to each company. Reconnaissance patrols were sent out to the front and flanks, and forward listening posts were established.

The conditions were physically exhausting. In the damp jungle environment the men were always wet from rain, river and creek crossings, muddy tracks and perspiration. Uniforms would rot and boots would disintegrate. Equipment and stores become mouldy. Much had been done to combat malaria and other tropical diseases, but skin irritations and infections still occurred.

Officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) had to be mindful of their soldiers’ health and welfare. As there were so few men, responsibility for leading and conducting patrols fell upon the same junior officers, NCOs and soldiers time and again. There was no relief from stress and strain. Earlier in the campaign, morale almost collapsed in two battalions from the 7th Brigade, with soldiers refusing to patrol and men having mental breakdowns. These incidents were partly attributed to physical and mental exhaustion. New administrative policies were introduced to provide some respite to the front line, such as establishing rest areas closer to the front. Other techniques included enforcing discipline and hygiene, and ensuring soldiers received mail, tobacco, a warm meal, and water for bathing and washing clothes. Religious services and sport also contributed to maintaining morale. Corporal Davis thought the campaign “nerve wrecking” but “being busy kept us from our fears.” He also found solace in his religious faith. Private Lyne recalled instances of a few soldiers shooting themselves in the foot or hand “to get out of it”. Specific figures for what would be described as “psychiatric casualties” suffered by Australian forces on Bougainville were not systematically recorded. The 24th Battalion’s adjutant noted frankly:

It is not possible to weed out neurotic personnel and those who are NOT suited for operations on account of either temperament or just plain fear. A very small sprinkling of these can quickly spread the disease and it should be watched very closely and stamped out immediately. [9.]

The Australian Corps controlled about two-thirds of Bougainville when the war came to an end. Fifteen Australian infantry battalions served on Bougainville along with elements of the Papuan and the 1st New Guinea Infantry Battalions.

From Bougainville’s pre-1942 population of 54,000 people, it is estimated that up to a quarter died during or because of the conflict. That's 13 thousand souls - a devastating number that impacted on every single family.

More than 30,000 Australians served on the island, 516 Australians died and 1,572 had been wounded. Between 1943 and 1945, more than 300 New Zealanders also lost their lives supporting the US and Australian campaigns.

The Australian War Memorial states about 65,000 Japanese occupied the island when the Americans arrived in 1943; at surrender, there were just over 23,800. The Australians had killed 8,789 Japanese during the nine-month campaign, and the Americans estimated they had killed about 9,890. Thousands more Japanese soldiers died from sickness, disease and starvation. 

A Japanese memorial to the dead located near the former Japanese naval headquarters at Buin on the island of Bougainville, September 28th, 1945. A memorial stone (right) is surrounded by wooden grave markers commemorating the names of individual soldiers and sailors. Four bowls on the shrine contain food and water. It is unlikely that any remains or ashes were actually buried here as the Japanese, who traditionally cremated their dead, usually sent the ashes of the fallen back to their families in Japan or stored them until such time as it was possible to do so. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Those Australians who died in the fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, their graves brought in by the Australian Army Graves Service from burial grounds in the areas where the fighting had taken place.  

The unidentified soldiers of the United Kingdom forces were all from the Royal Artillery, captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore; they died in captivity and were buried on the island of Bailale in the Solomons. These men were later re-buried in a temporary war cemetery at Torokina on Bougainville Island before being transferred to their permanent resting place at Port Moresby. 

The cemetery contains 3,824 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 699 of them unidentified. Over 600 Indian soldiers who fought in the Second World War are buried at the cemetery. There is also 1 Non war and 1 Dutch Foreign National burials here. 

The Port Moresby Memorial stands behind the cemetery and commemorates almost 750 men of the Australian Army (including Papua and New Guinea local forces), the Australian Merchant Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force who lost their lives in the operations in Papua and who have no known graves. Men of the Royal Australian Navy who died in the south-west Pacific region, and have no known grave but the sea, are commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in England, along with many of their comrades of the Royal Navy and of other Commonwealth Naval Forces. Bougainville casualties who have no known graves are commemorated on a memorial at Suva, Fiji.

At least 321 allied airmen and 280 US sailors were rescued by Coast Watchers behind enemy lines during the Solomon Islands Campaign (Feldt The Coastwatchers, p.153), and there were many others saved and evacuated from New Britain. Other statistics collated show Coast Watchers rescued 75 POW's, 190 Missionaries, 260 Chinese people and countless Papua New Guineans and Island peoples - they left no one behind; if there was room on the deck of a ship or submarine, they loaded them up and got them the hell out of there.

Perhaps the most famous of those rescued by the Coast Watchers was US Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, who later became 35th President of the United States. After his patrol torpedo boat was sunk in the Solomons, and Kennedy and his crew reached Kolombangara Island, they were found by Coastwatcher Sub-Lieutenant Arthur 'Reg' Evans who arranged their rescue. Biuku Gasa (27 July 1923 – 23 November 2005) and Eroni Kumana (c. 1918 – 2 August 2014) were Solomon Islanders of Melanesian descent, who were sent out by Evans and found John F. Kennedy and his surviving PT-109 crew following the boat's collision with the Japanese destroyer Amagiri near Plum Pudding Island on August 1st 1943. They were from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. President Kennedy later welcomed Evans as his guest at the White House.

Image: President John F. Kennedy visits with A.R. "Reg" Evans (left), an Australian Coast Watcher from New South Wales who, while stationed on the Solomon Islands during World War II, helped rescue the crew of PT 109 (including then-Lieutenant John F. Kennedy). Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. - May 1st, 1961. Photo: Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

A memorial lighthouse was erected to honour the Coast Watchers at Madang on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea in 1959.

On August 23rd 1945 G J McPhee is a Lieutenant in the 55/53 Australian Infantry Battalion.  He was finally officially discharged on September 29th, 1946, having served for 48 months, or 60 months if you include his pre 1941, aged 21, enlistment in the AMF. 

Gerald was busy heading back to New Guinea prior to that official demobilisation though. Rabaul had been destroyed by the offensive actions taken by the Japanese and then the Australians and Americans in retaking the place. It needed rebuilding and for its pre-war produce to once again flow and provide for those at PNG as well as where it was sent. Copra was one of the main exports.

The last page of his war record shows:

By Feb 6-8, 1946, he arrived back via Qantas airlines as Captain McPhee  and was definitely there again by late October 1946: by Qantas as part of the ANGPCB [Australian New Guinea Production Control Board] - Staff - McPhee, Gerald J [0.5cm] Contents date range; 1946 - 1947

Qantas flight in: OCT. 23; Mr. R. H. Hawke, Mr. V. C. Dixon, Mr. D. E. Ronald, Mr. E. A. Avery, Mrs. I. P.  Hanrahan (and child), Mr. P. M. Brown, Mr.  J. A. Robinson, Mr. G. J. McPhee, Mr. H. E.  Lovett-Cameron, Mr. W. Brown, Mr. R. A. Thrift,  Mr. G. B. Clark, Mr. W. E. P. Luke, Mr. Hilderbrand, Mr. F. de Hesselle.  Pacific islands monthly : PIM. Vol. XVII, No. 4 ( Nov. 18, 1946)

Once he left the Australian New Guinea Production Control Board he set himself up with a New Guinea plantation producing copra for the Australian market - although he would take on a partner later on before returning to being a solo producer. He returned to Bougainville and the New Ireland area.

Gerald was alike other Australians who went to New Guinea after WWII - some because they 'could not settle' after all they had experienced - Walter 'Wal' Williams stated this was what he did; went to New Guinea [7.]. Others, like Gerald, returned because what they fell in love with the place, its peoples, the freedoms and the opportunities available. He had, after all, spent some of his most dangerous times in his then short life with the real New Guinea and Bougainville peoples on their trails through their places, and had come from a farming family. This would persist throughout his life - this love of the outdoors and growing produce

In June 1948 he was heading back to Sydney:

Late DLO at Manus, Mr. G. Corlass, with Mrs. Corlass, daughter Jill and small son, have now taken up residence here. Visitors have included Mrs. Butler from Angoram, and Gerry McPhee, en route from Angoram to Sydney, where  he is to join the benedicts. – June 1948 Issue. FIRST POST-WAR WEDDING IN WEWAK, Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved from

The definition of benedict in this sense is; 'a newly married man (especially one who has long been a bachelor)'.

Gerry McPhee, G J McPhee's son, still living at Mosman, confirmed his grandfather had to go an collect His M.C. as his son had already returned to New Guinea and to work:

He was back in Spring 1949, this time for his wedding:

Plantation home for Sydney bride

Mr. and Mrs. Gerald McPhee, whose marriage took place at St. Philip's Church, Church Hill, yesterday, will sail in Bulolo in October to make their home on Bjaul Island in the New Ireland group, where Mr. McPhee has a copra plantation. Mrs. McPhee was formerly Miss Margaret Murphy, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Murphy, of Dulwich Hill. Mr. McPhee is the son of Mr. G. J. McPhee and the late Mrs. McPhee, of Mosman. Miss Elaine Murphy attended her sister, and Mr. Stanley Neil was best man. A reception followed at Amory, Ashfield. Plantation home for Sydney bride (1949, September 10). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from 

Dyaul Island (also Djaul) is an island in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. Its area is 100 km2. The inhabitants live mainly in seven villages, and frequently visit Kavieng, the capital of the province, for supplies or to sell produce and fish. There are two languages, not counting Tok Pisin, spoken on Dyaul; Tigak and Tiang. Tigak is widely spoken on the western end of the island in two villages. Tiang is spoken across the remainder of the island.

Gerald McPhee from Djaul Island, was  married to Margaret Murphy, of Dulwich Hill, on September 9 and sails in Bulolo this month for his island off the New Ireland coast. MAGAZINE SECTION Territories Talk-Talk, Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved October 1949 Issue from 

Miss A. McPhee, a trained nurse,  who has been working in East Africa and, lately, in Lebanon, reached Sydney early in May on her way to  New Guinea. She left for New  Britain by air on May 10 to stay with her brother, Mr. Gerald McPhee, planter, of KokopoFiji Copra Producers [?]ut £97,000 [?] Govt. Loans, Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved June 1952 Issue, from 

Copra plantations in New Guinea: Early colonialists

Copra is the dried, white flesh of the coconut from which coconut oil is extracted. Traditionally, the coconuts are sun-dried, especially for export, before the oil, also known as copra oil, is pressed out. The oil extracted from copra is rich in lauric acid, making it an important commodity in the preparation of lauryl alcohol, soaps, fatty acids, cosmetics, etc. and thus a lucrative product for many coconut-producing countries. The palatable oil cake, known as copra cake, obtained as a residue in the production of copra oil is used in animal feeds. The ground cake is known as coconut or copra meal.

In 1884, German settlers arrived in eastern New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea), and planted Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) for the production of copra, the dried flesh of the coconut. They established the colony of German New Guinea in the north eastern quarter of the island and numerous coconut plantations around coastal areas. They were afraid of venturing too far inland. To counter the growing German presence in the region, the Australian state of Queensland established the Territory of Papua as a de facto possession covering approximately the south east third of the island. Both the Queensland and German plantations thrived, providing opulent living conditions for the expatriates. Grand mansions were built on the plantations, complete with luxury furnishings. Much of the labour was performed by New Guinea natives. The towns of Port Moresby and Rabaul were founded as a result of the economic activity surrounding the plantations.

In 1914, Australia sent a small military force to capture the towns of Kokopo and Rabaul. Two Germans were killed in the process, while the remaining German plantation owners were initially sent back to work on their plantations. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles saw Germany lose all its overseas colonies, including German New Guinea. It became the Territory of New Guinea, a League of Nations Mandate Territory under Australian administration.

Kokopo is the capital of East New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The capital was moved from Rabaul in 1994 when the volcanoes Tavurvur and Vulcan erupted. Kokopo was known as Herbertshöhe during the German New Guinea administration which controlled the area between 1884 and 1914. From: 

In the Issues of the Pacific Islands Monthly we garner glimpses of his life in New Guinea then and his being part of those communities:


Resentful of British Administration and Policy  

(CONDITIONS in the British Solomons provide a good example of what happens in an under-developed British tropical territory under a Socialist regime.  

Before World War II, it was the policy  of the British Colonial office to encourage private enterprise to go into such places and develop their resources. There was not much to develop in the Solomons then  —copra was not greatly in demand—but a good type of planter was at least assisted to make his home there.  

To-day, there appears to be nearly double the pre-war number of public servants in BSI; but the production of copra —in quantity—is probably no more than half the pre-war volume. The Administration’s pre-war policy of encouraging  private enterprise has been replaced by  a laissez-faire attitude that is taken to mean that, while officialdom is indifferent  about the condition of non-official Europeans, it is intensely pre-occupied with  native welfare.  

The net result, of course, is seen in  three things—discontented and resentful  Europeans, spoiled natives and a heavy  additional burden upon the British taxpayer. Only a handfull of the planters  and traders who were driven out by the  war have returned to the Solomons.  

In some respects, conditions in BSI are  almost a duplicate of conditions in Papua-New Guinea. In the latter country, the Socialist policy, directed from Canberra, discourages private enterprise, spoils the natives, makes non-official Europeans non-co-operative and resentful, and  throws an enormously increased burden upon the Australian exchequer. Before the war, Papua-New Guinea was almost self-supporting, and BSI was only a little less so.  

IN a comparison, however, the planters  who have returned to the Solomons are worse off than the Australian non-officials in Papua-New Guinea.  

The Australians got war damage compensation from a fund created for that purpose in war-time; BSI got nothing at  all. The Australians escape taxation —  although they are heavily taxed through import duties —but they lose from £10 to £I2A per ton on their copra. The latter  is taken from them by Canberra as (a) export tax and (b) some mysterious deduction —which Canberra so far has refused to explain—called “stabilisation  fund.” The BSI planters have to pay an export tax; and, also, they are savagely  mulcted in income tax. It is only 1/3 in the £ on the first £1,500 of income; but, after that, the rise is so steep that, around £5,000, a big trader can lose a large  part of his income.  

The collection of income tax in BSI —  something new since the war —is an evil imposition. Income tax should be imposed only when the citizen receives,  from his government, substantial amenities and encouragement. BSI is such a  primitive country that it gives its European residents practically nothing in the way of amenities —someone said lately  that “The BSI, to-day, is at the same stage of development as England was in the time of the Romans.”  

"WE are so sick of administrative pin-pricks, and official indifference to European welfare, that we should  welcome any move for transfer to Australian government,” said a BSI planter  recently. “We pay an import tax of 17per cent, an export tax of 15 per cent, on  our copra, and now we are faced with  heavy income tax.”  

Other residents say that, although non-officials, who lost everything, get no war- damage compensation at all, all officials  who were affected by the Jap invasion have been given, secretly, a sum of £5O each, as compensation for the loss of their personal effects.  

It is anticipated that there soon will  be a new Resident Commissioner in the Solomons (Mr. Noel, who has been away  on long leave, is not expected to return, and Mr. A. Germond, MBE. has been  acting RC); but no change in policy is expected while the Socialists rule Britain.  


Give Themselves Up At  Saidor, NG  

From Our Own Correspondent  PORT MORESBY, Sept. 6.  

TWO Japanese walked into the Government post at Saidor, northern New  Guinea, a few days ago, after having  lived among the natives of that area for  five years without being discovered. The  natives sheltered them, and never once  mentioned their presence to Government  officers, who patrol the area regularly.  

When they gave themselves up the Japs were barefooted, and their clothing  was falling to pieces; but, apart from  slight malnutrition, their health was good.  

Speaking in Pidgin English they told  their story yesterday to District Officer  J. K. McCarthy, at Madang, where they  were taken from Saidor by trawler.  

They said they deserted their unit during the Japanese retreat and joined  tribes in the Saruwaget Range, inland  from Saidor. After several months they threw away their weapons and went completely native, hunting native fashion  and growing native foods. A native medical orderly supplied them with quinine and other drugs. They said their friends had told them the war was over  but they were too frightened to emerge from hiding until a few days ago.  

On Thursday, they will be flown to Manus to join the Japanese war criminals who are imprisoned there.  

Seventeen Japs have now given themselves up in the Madang area since the war ended and, according to these last two, there are no more in hiding. 

Pacific islands monthly : PIM. Call Number HSW 1363, Created/Published [Sydney : Pacific Publications, 1931-2000 Issue Vol. XX, No. 2 (Sept., 1949). UNHAPPY PLANTERS IN SOLOMONS Resentful of British Administration and Policy, Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved from and LAST TWO JAPS Give Themselves Up At Saidor, NG, Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved from 


The death occurred on July 13, at Namanula Hospital, Rabaul, of Henry Lovett Cameron, of Djaul Plantation, New IrelandHe was 34 years and had recently returned from Sydney where he had been married four  weeks before.  

Mr. Cameron, who served as a Coastwatcher during World War II, was buried with military honours. Fellow AIB and Coastwatchers assisted at the graveside—the New Britain District Commissioner, Mr.  J. K. McCarthy, A/Director of  District Services, Mr. A. A. Roberts, Mr. J. McPhee, of Kap Kap Plantation, and Messrs. J. Gilmore, J. Read, G. Black, W. Dalby and M.  Foley, of Rabaul. Pall Bearers were  Messrs. J. Sedgers, J. Perryman, A.  Richards and D. Edgell. 


One of Port Moresby’s most  popular residents, Mr. Joseph Bernard McKenna, died in Brisbane on July 23, aged 65. He was  born in Tasmania; and in 1911, he  was selected from a large number  of applicants to go to the  Philippines for special training  in tropical agriculture. When he  returned to Australia in 1917, he  was sent by Sir Rupert Clark and  Mr. Whiting to their Kanosia  Rubber Plantation, in Papua, to  take charge. He became one of the  outstanding rubber planters of the  Territory, and a prominent and  highly-respected citizen. He was  remarkably successful, not only in  caring for his plantations, but in  handling native labour. Mrs. McKenna pre-deceased him (in 1940).  His son, Mr. Jack McKenna, lives in Papua. Terry McKenna lost his life in the RAAF and is buried in Sweden. Donald McKenna is with a big motor firm in Brisbane. Daughter Breen, born in Moresby, is now the wife of Dr. K King, of Townsville. August 1st 1953 Edition of Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved from 


New Guinea Planters Meet in Rabaul  

DURING the second day’s sitting of the Annual Conference of  Delegates of the Planters’ Association of New Guinea, which commenced in Rabaul on August 9, the  £1,600,000 locked up in the P-NG  Copra Stabilisation Fund was again  discussed and it was resolved that  an urgent radiogram be despatched  to the Prime Minister of Australia  as follows:  

“The Annual Conference of  New Guinea Planters now in  Session in Rabaul desires immediate information for what  purpose the moneys deducted  prior to first August, 1951, under  the heading of Copra Stabilisation Fund are to be used.”  

Two resolutions passed at the  meeting were;  

1. “That this Association is  prepared to assist the Papuan  Planters, morally and financially, in clarification of the  sensational Press statements on  Papuan desiccated Coconut, if  it be found that contamination  did not occur in the Territory.  

2. “The Conference, appreciating the necessity for the production by this Territory of the  highest standard of copra, request the Administration to put  into immediate effect the  appointment of Copra Inspectors.”  

It was decided to inform the Administration that pending the construction of a wharf, the Bougainville Branch would be in full accord  with a Concentration Store and  Lighterage facilities being provided  in Kieta as soon as possible.  

The Balance Sheet and Financial  statements were presented and  these showed the Association to be  in a very sound financial position.  


Office bearers elected for 1953-54  were:—President, Mr. E. T. Fulton;  vice-presidents, Messrs. J. L. Stokie  and J. K. Dowling; executive council: Messrs. J. Joyes (Bougainville),  E. Stanfield (New Ireland), J. Dunbar-Reid, F. R. Wilson, J. Backhouse, G. J. McPhee, R. E. Arrowsmith, D. Barrett, W. T. Thomas,  J. A. Thurston, J. T. Allan, T. M.  Garrett.  

Delegates from New Britain, New  Ireland and Bougainville attended  the meeting, which formally passed  a vote of thanks to the retiring  president, Mr. D. Barrett, who had  given four years of untiring effort  to the Association.  New Guinea Planters Meet in Rabaul, Pacific islands monthly : PIM September 1953 Retrieved from


New Guinea Land, Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1953.

Notice Listing Provisional Orders.

TAKE notice that Provisional Orders under the New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1953 in respect of interests, so defined in Section 4 of that Ordinance, in land in the Territory of New Guinea as summarized hereunder were made during the month of September, 1954.

TERRITORY OF PAPUA AND NEW GUINEA. (1954, October 7). Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National : 1901 - 1973), p. 2911. Retrieved from 

Form 12. Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Reg. 17.

New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1953.


TAKE notice that Provisional Orders under the New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1953 in respect of interests, so defined in Section 4 of that Ordinance, in land in the Territory of New Guinea as summarized hereunder were made during the month of September, 1954.

New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1965.


FOLLOWING is a list of Final Orders made by the Land Titles Commission under the provisions of the New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1965 during the month of November, 1965.

New Guinea Land Titles Restoration Ordinance 1951-1965. 

NOTICE OF LISTING FINAL ORDERS. (1965, December 9). Territory of Papua and New Guinea Government Gazette (1949 - 1971), p. 915. Retrieved from 

Gerald McPhee and his wife and family stayed in New Guinea for just over 30 years. Mrs. Margaret McPhee would return to Sydney to give birth to her children, but then return to New Guinea within weeks of the births. First born child Gerry, when speaking to Pittwater Online about his father, explained he spoke 'pidgin English' for the first 5 years of his life. 

In 1963 G J McPhee's father passed away. Alfred Alexander Hopper passed away, in New Guinea, in 1974, at Rabaul.

The nation of Papua New Guinea achieved its independence from Australia on September 16th 1975. Officiating at the main ceremony held in Port Moresby were His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (representing Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch); Sir John Kerr, Governor-General of Australia; Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam; and Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Michael Somare, who became the country's first Prime Minister. The new country became a constitutional monarchy with membership of the British Commonwealth.

Between 1988 and 1998, the Bougainville Civil War claimed over 15,000 lives. Peace talks brokered by New Zealand began in 1997 and led to autonomy. A multinational Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) under Australian leadership was deployed. In 2001, a peace agreement was signed including promise of a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea. This referendum was held between November 23rd and December 7th 2019, with results being declared on December 11th. The referendum question was a choice between greater autonomy within Papua New Guinea, or full independence. Of the valid votes, 98.31% were in favour of full Independence.

On September 16th, 2022, PNG Independence Day, the Bougainville News reported ;

'The Autonomous Bougainville Government continues to make headway under its Independence Mission Strategy to practicalise the people’s 97.7 percent vote for Independence.

'The Bougainville Independence Mission which was launched by President Hon. Ishmael Toroama in April 2021, marked the beginning of the implementation of a trident strategy to prepare Bougainville for independence.

Under this Trident Strategy, the first prong covered independence-ready preparations within Bougainville by Bougainvilleans, the second prong covered independence-ready preparations within Papua New Guinea and the third prong launched today, will focus on independence-ready preparations with the international community.

The International Prong was launched under the theme “Promoting Bougainville’s Global Trade & Investment”, and aims to establish support for Bougainville’s independence through enhanced trade and investment relations.'

In speaking to Gerald Joseph McPhee's son Gerry, also now at Mosman and who had worked in Real Estate too, his parents returned to New South Wales to set up one of the first macadamia plantations in Australia - they were also among the first to commence growing avocados. 

Gerald Joseph McPhee and Margaret McPhee, for a pump on Stony Creek, part portion 25, Parish Clunes, County Rous, for irrigation of 20.5 hectares (macadamia nuts) (new license). (79-3535) WATER ACT, 1912, AS AMENDED (1979, June 15). Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001), p. 2951. Retrieved from 

Gerald Joseph McPhee and Margaret McPhee, for a pump on Stony Creek and unnamed watercourse, part portion 25, Parish Clunes, County Rous, for irrigation of 22 hectares (macadamia nuts) (replacement license—increased area of 1.5 hectares). (81-4267) WATER ACT, 1912, AS AMENDED (1981, October 9). Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001), p. 5294. Retrieved from 

Gerald Joseph McPhee passed away on January 11th, 1990.

Plaque dedicated to G J McPhee at Military Memorial in Sydney War Cemetery, Rookwood.

Over 600 Coastwatchers served in Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands during World War II. They included RAAF, AIF, RAN, 1 WRAN, (Women's Royal Australian Naval Officer) US Marines and US Army personnel, members of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force and 13 civilians. The thirty eight Coastwatchers who died are not always identifiable on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial since their names are listed with their operational units and not as Coastwatchers. [6.]

Although the 'Special Units M and Z' were disbanded after the Second World War, many of the training techniques and operational procedures employed were later used during the formation of other Australian Army special forces units and they remain a model for guerrilla operations to this day.

It may seem surreal that one of these brave men must have played at Mona Vale as a teenager, or at least visited during the time between when his mother bought La Corniche in 1935 and when he was seconded into the first Australian commando units. Gerald Joseph McPhee's dedication to his country and willingness to go it alone and keep going 'back in' while still a young man is proof that all of us have the capability to be extraordinary when that is required, and return to doing what we know afterwards. His is just one of those many stories that was hidden in the archives.

To we who have inherited a place where we may live in freedom the work undertaken by these men, many in their early 20's, behind enemy lines, remains the stuff of legends. 

Remembrance Day Commemorative Services 2022

This Remembrance Day, join the world in honouring those who’ve served and sacrificed. Throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, we remember all who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Originally known as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day commemorates the signing of the peace agreement that ended World War I at 11am on 11 November 1918.  It is a time to remember and honour the memory of those who served, are currently serving, and those we have lost to the cause.

Help keep their legacy alive by attending a service, reflecting in silence, wearing a poppy, or supporting our veteran community.


Pittwater RSL
Our Remembrance Day 2022 service will be held at the Lower Club Cenotaph at 10:20am on Friday 11 November 2022.

Seating by 10am for a 10:20am start, and the service will run for about 45 minutes.

In the event of wet weather, the service will be in the Club’s Auditorium.

All members of the public are invited to attend, and will be presented with a Poppy for Remembrance Day. Please send all correspondence to

Avalon Beach RSL
Remembrance Day Service -  10.15 for 10.30 am Service commences
Friday 11th 11.00 am
Avalon Beach RSL Cenotaph

Forestville RSL
11th November, 2022
10.15am for 10.25am
Forestville RSL Club

Manly Warringah Pipe Band will play from 10.25am with our Remembrance Day Service commencing at 10.35am - 11.00am

This will be followed by a march around the Club by the Band & post-service hospitality provided by the sub-Branch for those who have registered to attend.

Members of the sub-Branch and their families are invited to register. Seating will be provided for all who have registered to attend. Registration is required by 3rd November.

If you wish to attend please visit the sub-Branch office during office hours on Monday & Thursday or email our Assistance Secretary with full name(s) & contact details.
We look forward to you joining us for our Remembrance Day Service

references - Notes

  1. Save Our Souls: Rescues Made by U.S. Submarines During World War II By Douglas E. Campbell. April, 2016.*
  2. TROVE - National Library of Australia
  4. Commando History - M and Z Units from:
  5. Brock's The Oaks - La Corniche From 1911 to 1965: Rickards, A Coffee King, A Progressive School, A WWII Training Ground  
  6. DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), The Coastwatchers 1941-1945, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 18 July 2022, 
  7. Lost At Sea: War Veterans Tribute On Mona Vale Headland Formally Dedicated
  8. Bougainville 1942-1945. Department of Veterans' Affairs Publisher September 2005 , Australia. ISBN: 978 1 92072051 3. Series: Australians in the Pacific War and Wikipedia contributors. (2022, October 16). Bougainville campaign. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia. Retrieved from
  9. Down the Buin Road, Wartime Magazine, Issue 85, AWM. 


(By Ann McPhee)

We used to have a station at Trangie. One day I saw a large goanna up a tree. I called Dad to come and kill it, as they used to steal a great many eggs and little chickens. Dad came along and shot it, and as he was carrying it along by the tail two little parrots fell out of its mouth. The greedy goanna had swallowed them whole. —Midget certificate: Ann McPhee (11), 9 Prince Albert-street, Mosman. THAT GOANNA (1930, July 20). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 3 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNBEAMS). Retrieved from 

IN the Supreme Court of New South Wales.—Probate Jurisdiction.—In the will of GERALD JOSEPH McPHEE, late of Mosman, in the State of New South Wales, retired grazier, deceased.—Probate granted by the Supreme Court of New South Wales on the 27th day of September, 1963.—Pursuant to the Wills, Probate and Administration Act, 1898-1954 (Testator's Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants Act, 1916-1954, and Trustee Act, 1925-1942), Gerald Joseph McPhee and Anne Khasho, the executors of the will of the said Gerald Joseph McPhee, who died on the 4th June, 1963, hereby give notice that creditors and others having any claim against or to the estate of the said deceased are required to send particulars of their claims to the said executors at Messrs. J. J. Carroll, Cecil O'Dea & Co., Solicitors, 82 Elizabeth-street, Sydney, on or before the 23rd December, 1963, at the expiration of which time the said executors will distribute the assets, having regard only to the claims of which they then have notice.—Dated this 3rd day of October, 1963. J. J. CARROLL, CECIL O'DEA & CO., Solicitors, 82 Elizabeth-street, Sydney. 4380—£1 12s. 6d. IN the Supreme Court of New South Wales.—Probate Jurisdiction.—In the will of GERALD JOSEPH McPHEE, late of (1963, October 18). Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001), p. 3099. Retrieved from 

*Save Our Souls: Rescues Made by U.S. Submarines During World War II By Douglas E. Campbell: ''At last count, nearly 2,400 people can claim that their lives were saved by a U.S. submarine during World War II. Of that number, 523 Allied aviators could claim that distinction after crashing their aircraft into the sea and being saved by a submarine operating in the “Lifeguard League.” The remaining number were a collection of other military and civilian personnel, each with a story to tell and now able to tell their grand-children. Some of those rescued went on to retire as senior military officers including U.S. Navy Admirals, some back to missionary work, some to manage large companies in later years, some to philanthropic endeavours to pay everyone back for saving their lives. Appendix A is an intensely-researched index of nearly 2,200 names of those saved.''

Captain Rolf Charles Cambridge, AIF was a Plantation Inspector pre WWII and managed a plantation on North Bougainville in July 1937.

Date of birth - 11 Aug 1901 : Place of birth - WINDSOR NSW. VX 81159 Address of wife living during WWII: 197 Eastern road, Wahroonga  He became part of 'M' Special unit from August 3rd, 1942 and was apparently seconded into 'Z' Special Unit as well. He too returned to New Guinea after the war.

AIB: Allied Intelligence Bureau (Second World War)

The Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) was a joint United States, Australian, Dutch and British intelligence and special operations agency during World War II. It was responsible for operating parties of spies and commandos behind Japanese lines in order to collect intelligence and conduct guerrilla warfare against Japanese forces in the South West Pacific. The AIB was formed in June 1942 to coordinate the existing Allied propaganda and guerrilla organisations. The first controller of the AIB was Colonel C. G. Roberts. At its peak the AIB contained men from ten individual services and controlled or coordinated eight separate organisations. The role of the AIB was to obtain information about the enemy, "to weaken the enemy by sabotage and destruction of morale and to lend aid and assistance to local effort to the same end in enemy territories." One member of the AIB was Alfred Deakin Brookes, who went on to become the first head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in May 1952.

The AIB was divided into four sections; A, B, C and D each focused on a specific area of operations:

A Section: A Section was made up of Special Operations Australia, which was later known as the Services Reconnaissance Department, and focused on information collection and commando operations. A Section was initially commanded by Major G. Egerton Mott. 

B Section: B Section focused on secret intelligence and was commanded by Captain R. Kendall, RN, known as Secret Intelligence Australia (SIA)

C Section: C Section gathered field intelligence through Coast Watchers, natives and civilians. C Section was commanded by Commander Eric Feldt, RANVR.

D Section: D Section was the Far Eastern Liaison Office which was concerned with propaganda and was commanded by Commander J. C. Proud, RANVR.

The AIB was disbanded at the end of the war. - From AWM

After training on Fraser Island in 1943, M Special Unit soon deployed where they operated in both the Solomon Islands and New Guinea conducting intelligence operations against the Japanese. In late 1943 the unit was split into smaller units code named ‘Whiting’ and ‘Locust’ where both units continued to collect intelligence. Generally, a very successful unit the consequences for those captured by the enemy were severve as demonstrated by the most infamous member of “M” Special Unit Sergeant Leonard Siffleet who was executed by Japanese forces via beheading.

Leonard George Siffleet (14 January 1916 – 24 October 1943) was an Australian commando of World War II. Born in Gunnedah, New South Wales, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1941, and by 1943 had reached the rank of sergeant. Posted to M Special Unit of the Services Reconnaissance Department, Siffleet was on a mission in Papua New Guinea when he and two Ambonese companions were captured by partisan tribesmen and handed over to the Japanese. All three men were interrogated, tortured and later beheaded. A photograph of Siffleet's impending execution became an enduring image of the war, and his identity was often confused with that of other servicemen who suffered a similar fate, in particular Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton.

Leonard George Siffleet was born on 14 January 1916 in Gunnedah, New South Wales. The son of an itinerant worker of Dutch ancestry, his siblings included a sister and two brothers. Siffleet made his way to Sydney in the late 1930s, seeking to join the police force, but was prevented from doing so because of his eyesight. He was nevertheless called up for the militia in August 1940, and attached to a searchlight unit at RAAF Station Richmond.

Discharged from the militia after three months, Siffleet returned to his family to help look after his young brothers following their mother's death. He was working as a shop assistant when he enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in September 1941. Allotted to a signals company based at Ingleburn, New South Wales, he was reported absent without leave on two occasions; he was by this time engaged to Clarice Lane.

After training in radio communications at Melbourne Technical College, Siffleet volunteered for special operations in September 1942 and was posted to the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) of the Allied Intelligence Bureau in Melbourne. He joined Z Special Unit in October and was transferred to Cairns in Far North Queensland for further operational training. Assigned to the SRD's Dutch section as a radio operator, Siffleet was promoted to sergeant in May 1943. He moved across to M Special Unit the same month to take part in a mission to set up a coast watching station in the hills behind Hollandia in Netherlands New Guinea. Described by Commander Eric Feldt, director of the Coast Watchers, as "the best type of N.C.O. of the A.I.F., young and competent", Siffleet joined a party led by Sergeant H. N. Staverman of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which included two Ambonese privates, H. Pattiwal and M. Reharing. Code-named Operation Whiting, their task was to work in concert with another group (Operation Locust), led by Lieutenant Jack Fryer.

Staverman's reconnaissance group commenced its mission in north-east New Guinea in July, trekking across mountainous terrain through August and September. At some point Staverman and Pattiwal separated from the others to undertake further exploration of the countryside, and were ambushed by a group of natives. Both were captured and reported as killed, but Pattiwal later escaped and rejoined Siffleet and Reharing. Siffleet signalled Fryer to warn him of the hostile natives and of Japanese patrols, indicating that he was preparing to burn his party's codes and bury its radio. No more was heard from them after early October. Clarice Lane (incorrectly addressed as "Clemice" Lane) had in the meantime received two letters from the Allied Intelligence Bureau in July and September, stating that Siffleet was "safe and well".

After Pattiwal rejoined Siffleet and Reharing, they attempted to make their way to the Dutch border. They were ambushed by a hundred native villagers near Aitape and, after a brief mêlée during which Siffleet shot and wounded one of their attackers, the group was captured and handed over to the Japanese. Interrogated and tortured, the team was confined for approximately two weeks before being taken down to Aitape Beach on the afternoon of 24 October 1943. Bound and blindfolded, surrounded by Japanese and native onlookers, they were forced to the ground and executed by beheading, on the orders of Vice-Admiral Michiaki Kamada of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The officer who executed Siffleet, Yasuno Chikao, ordered a private to photograph him in the act.  Chikao has been variously reported as having died before the end of the war, and as having been captured and sentenced to be hanged, with his sentence subsequently commuted to 10 years' imprisonment.

The photograph of Siffleet's execution was discovered on the body of a dead Japanese major near Hollandia by American troops in April 1944. It is believed to be the only surviving depiction of a western prisoner of war being executed by a Japanese soldier. The photo was published in Australian newspapers and in Life magazine but was thought to depict Flight Lieutenant Bill Newton, who had been captured in Salamaua, Papua New Guinea, and beheaded on 29 March 1943. It later went on display at the Australian War Memorial. Despite positive identification in 1945 of Siffleet as the soldier pictured, the image continues on occasion to be misidentified as Newton by some sources. Siffleet is commemorated on the Lae Memorial in Lae, Papua New Guinea, together with all other Commonwealth war dead from actions in the region who have no known grave. A memorial park commemorating Siffleet was also dedicated at Aitape in May 2015.

During World War II the Japanese attacked New Britain soon after the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific Ocean. Strategic bases at Rabaul and Kavieng (New Ireland) were defended by a small Australian detachment, Lark Force. During January 1942, the Japanese heavily bombed Rabaul. On 23 January, Japanese marines landed by the thousands, starting the Battle of Rabaul. Two hundred fifty civilians were evacuated from places on New Britain in March 1942, but others were captured in Rabaul when it fell. The Japanese used Rabaul as a key base until 1944; it served as the key point for the failed invasion of Port Moresby on New Guinea (May to November 1942).

Lark Force was an Australian Army formation established in March 1941 during World War II for service in New Britain and New Ireland. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Scanlan, it was raised in Australia and deployed to Rabaul and Kavieng, aboard SS Katoomba, MV Neptuna and HMAT Zealandia,[citation needed] to defend their strategically important harbours and airfields.

The objective of the force, was to maintain a forward air observation line as long as possible and to make the enemy fight for this line rather than abandon it at the first threat as the force was considered too small to withstand any invasion.

Most of Lark Force was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army after Rabaul and Kavieng were captured in January 1942. The officers of Lark Force were taken to Japan, but while the NCOs and men were being transported to the Chinese island of Hainan aboard the Montevideo Maru, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Sturgeon on July 1st 1942, causing the vessel to sink in around 11 minutes. Only a handful of the Japanese crew were rescued but none of the prisoners survived, because they were still locked below deck.

Although, according to Yamaji, Australians in the water sang "Auld Lang Syne" to their trapped comrades as the ship sank beneath the waves, none actually survived;

There were more POWs in the water than crew members. The POWs were holding pieces of wood and using bigger pieces as rafts. They were in groups of 20 to 30 people, probably 100 people in all. They were singing songs. I was particularly impressed when they began singing Auld Lang Syne as a tribute to their dead colleagues. Watching that, I learnt that Australians have big hearts. — Eyewitness Yoshiaki Yamaji, interviewed Oct. 2003

The sinking is considered the worst maritime disaster in Australia's history. A nominal list made available by the Japanese government in 2012 revealed that a total of 1054 prisoners (178 non-commissioned officers, 667 soldiers and 209 civilians) died on the Montevideo Maru; there were no survivors among the prisoners.

A dedicated memorial to commemorate the 1800 service men and women who lost their lives at sea while being transported to Japan and islands in the South West Pacific during World War II was formally dedicated at Mona Vale’s headland (Robert Dunn Reserve) on Friday October 14th, 2022. The plinth has a seat alongside it so visitors may sit and reflect on all those lost and all those who serve still.

The memorial is the direct result of Pittwater legend, and one of the last remaining Australian WWII prisoners of war, Walter 'Wal' Williams. 

Visit: Lost At Sea: War Veterans Tribute On Mona Vale Headland Formally Dedicated

Bougainville Island (Tok Pisin: Bogenvil) is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is part of Papua New Guinea. It was previously the main landmass in the German Empire-associated North Solomons. Its land area is 9,300 km2 (3,600 sq mi). The population of the whole province, including nearby islets such as the Carterets, is approximately 300,000 (2019 census). The highest point is Mount Balbi, on the main island, at 2,715 m (8,907 ft). The much smaller Buka Island, c. 500 km2 (190 sq mi), lies to the north, across the 400–500 m (1,300–1,600 ft) wide Buka Strait. Even though the strait is narrow, there is no bridge across it, but there is a regular ferry service between the key settlements on either side. The main airport (or airstrip) in the north is in the town of Buka.

Bougainville is the largest island in the Solomon Islands archipelago. Most of the islands in this archipelago (which are primarily concentrated in the southern and eastern portions of it) are part of the politically independent Solomon Islands. Two of these islands - the closely connected Shortland Islands - are less than 9 km (5.6 mi) south or southeast of Bougainville, and about 30 km (19 mi) west of Choiseul, one of the settlements of which, Poroporo, faces Bougainville.

Buka has an outcropping that is 175 km (109 mi) from New Ireland. Among the large islands of Papua New Guinea, New Ireland is the closest to Buka. 

New Ireland (Tok Pisin: Niu Ailan) or Latangai, is a large island in Papua New Guinea, approximately 7,404 km2 (2,859 sq mi) in area with c. 120,000 people. It is named after the island of Ireland. It is the largest island of New Ireland Province, lying northeast of the island of New Britain. Both islands are part of the Bismarck Archipelago, named after Otto von Bismarck, and they are separated by Saint George's Channel.

The administrative centre of the island and of New Ireland province is the town of Kavieng located at the northern end of the island. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neumecklenburg ("New Mecklenburg"). After World War I New Ireland was ceded to Australia.

In January 1942, during World War II, the island was captured by Japanese forces and was under their control.

Papua New Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini; Hiri Motu: Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New, is a country in Oceania that comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia (a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia). Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The country is the world's third largest island country with an area of 462,840 km2 (178,700 sq mi).

The country's dual name results from its complex administrative history before independence. In the nineteenth century, Germany ruled the northern half of the country for some decades, beginning in 1884, as a colony named German New Guinea. In 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, Australian forces captured German New Guinea and occupied it throughout the war. After the war, in which Germany and the Central Powers were defeated, the League of Nations authorised Australia to administer this area as a League of Nations mandate territory that became the Territory of New Guinea.

Also in 1884, the southern part of the country became a British protectorate. In 1888 it was annexed, together with some adjacent islands, by Britain as British New Guinea. In 1902, Papua was effectively transferred to the authority of the new British dominion of Australia. With the passage of the Papua Act 1905, the area was officially renamed the Territory of Papua, and Australian administration became formal in 1906. In contrast to establishing an Australian mandate in former German New Guinea, the League of Nations determined that Papua was an external territory of the Australian Commonwealth; as a matter of law it remained a British possession. The difference in legal status meant that until 1949, Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate administrations, both controlled by Australia. These conditions contributed to the complexity of organising the country's post-independence legal system.

During World War II, the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945) was one of the major military campaigns and conflicts between Japan and the Allies. Approximately 216,000 Japanese, Australian, and U.S. servicemen died. After World War II and the victory of the Allies, the two territories were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This was later referred to as "Papua New Guinea."

The natives of Papua appealed to the United Nations for oversight and independence. The nation established independence from Australia on 16 September 1975, becoming a Commonwealth realm, continuing to share Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It maintains close ties with Australia, which continues to be its largest aid donor. Papua New Guinea was admitted to membership in the United Nations on 10 October 1975.

Operation Cherry Blossom

Cape Torokina is a promontory at the north end of Empress Augusta Bay, along the central part of the western coast of Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea.

This cape formed the southern end of the landing zone where I Marine Amphibious Corps performed an amphibious invasion on November 1, 1943 during Operation Cherry Blossom. The small Puruata Island is just off the coast to the west of Cape Torokina. The cape and island form a beach to the north which is subject to heavy surf.

The cape was relatively isolated, with a poor trail system to supply the area. A wide swamp stretched inland from the beach area, and the island was heavily forested. During the landing, the cape was the site of a Japanese 75 mm gun that inflicted heavy damage upon the landing craft.

Following the landing, an airfield was constructed at the cape. Twenty-five miles of roads were also built around the area.

The Landings at Cape Torokina (1–3 November 1943), also known as Operation Cherry blossom, took place at the beginning of the Bougainville campaign in World War II. The amphibious landings were carried out by elements of the United States Marine Corps in November 1943 on Bougainville Island in the South Pacific, as part of Allied efforts to advance towards the main Japanese base around Rabaul under Operation Cartwheel. Coming in the wake of Allied successes at Guadalcanal and in the central Solomons, the landings were intended to secure a beachhead with the purpose of establishing several bases from which to project air and naval power closer towards Rabaul, in an effort to neutralize the large Japanese force that had been established there.

In the months leading up to the operation, Japanese airpower on Bougainville was degraded by Allied air strikes, while small parties of Allied reconnaissance forces landed around Bougainville and the surrounding islands to gather intelligence. On 1 November, a landing force based around the US 3rd Marine Division, reinforced with various supporting elements, landed at Empress Augusta Bay, on the western side of Bougainville. Situated well away from the main Japanese troop concentrations, the landing was met with only limited resistance on the ground. Japanese aircraft from Rabaul attempted to interdict the landing force, but their attacks proved ineffective and they were largely fought off by US and New Zealand fighters. By the end of the first day, a small perimeter had been established and the majority of the first wave of transports had unloaded their stores over the beachhead.

A strong Japanese naval force was dispatched in response from Rabaul in an effort to disrupt the landing operations and, overnight on 1/2 November, clashed with a force of US cruisers and destroyers during the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. Heavy losses resulted for the Japanese and the force eventually returned to Rabaul. Meanwhile, on the second day, the remaining stores and equipment were unloaded from the transports. Over the course of the two days following the landing, the US troops ashore consolidated their beachhead and began patrolling operations as they worked to secure the perimeter. This was firmly established by 3 November, when Torokina Island was occupied.

In the aftermath, the US perimeter was slowly expanded and further echelons arrived to unload stores as base development operations began. By late November, an airstrip had been established inside the perimeter. This became fully operational in early December. Throughout the remainder of 1943, the perimeter was expanded further, allowing the establishment of several more airfields. These later played a key role in the neutralisation of Rabaul from the air. Throughout 1944 and 1945, follow-on forces from the US Army and then the Australian Army arrived as the Allies conducted operations to secure the rest of the island. This was only partially completed by the time the war came to an end in August 1945. 


Geographically part of the Solomon Islands, but administratively part of the Territory of New Guinea at the time of the battle, Bougainville lies at the northwestern end of the Solomon Islands chain. Roughly shaped like a fiddle, the island is 125 miles (201 km) long and, at its widest point, 38 miles (61 km) across. It is dominated by thick jungle and large mountain peaks in its interior, with narrow beaches around the west coast. Situated south-east of New Britain, Bougainville offered the Allies another step in their advance through the Solomons towards the main Japanese base that had been established around Rabaul. The reduction and isolation of this base was a key Allied objective of the Operation Cartwheel. Seizure of Bougainville offered the Allies the ability to establish forward airfields from which to launch attacks against Rabaul, as well as anchorages around Empress Augusta Bay and Soraken, which could be utilised for Allied shipping. From:

The Japanese had invaded Bougainville in early 1942, and had established several airfields on the island, with key bases being constructed around Buka, at Kahili and Kieta, and on the Bonis Peninsula. From these bases, the Japanese had struck south towards Guadalcanal, in an effort to sever sea lanes of communication between the United States and Australia. Japanese air and naval movements around Bougainville had been monitored by a small group of Allied Coast Watchers, who were able to gain considerable intelligence through the native population of the island. However, by early 1943, with the conclusion of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Allies' favour, and a string of defeats in the central Solomons, the Japanese had sought to consolidate their hold on Bougainville. They had slowly cleared the Coastwatchers from Bougainville, with the remaining personnel being withdrawn by the US submarine USS Gato in March 1943.

Initially, Allied planners had intended to capture Choiseul Island, at the northern end of New Georgia Sound; the Shortland Islands, off the southern coast of Bougainville; and, the Japanese airbase at Kahili, at the southern end of Bougainville. The fierce Japanese defence of the airfields at Munda Point forced them to reconsider. Leading up to the battle for Vella Lavella, a strategic decision, ultimately successful, had been made to bypass a large concentration of Japanese troops on the island of Kolombangara, between Guadalcanal and Vella Lavella. This caused the Allies to consider and adopt an indirect approach towards Rabaul. It was decided to bypass the Shortland Islands and Kahili, and to seize a lodgement on Bougainville, with the view to establishing an airbase from which to project airpower towards Rabaul. Under this plan Choiseul would not be captured, but would instead be raided as part of a diversion to draw Japanese attention away from Bougainville. The operation to secure a beachhead on Bougainville was codenamed "Cherry blossom" by the Allies.

Intelligence gathered by Coastwatchers and landing parties had determined that there were few suitable landing beaches. The only viable options were located in Empress Augusta Bay, around Cape Torokina on the western coast of Bougainville. However, the area around Cape Torokina was less than ideal for airfield construction, as it was largely swamp and it would require significant development to make construction viable. The bay was also open to the sea and was considered a "poor anchorage". It would be exposed during the coming monsoon. The location though, did have the advantage of isolation from the main Japanese concentrations around Buka and Buin in the north and south of the island, which would help Allied troops avoid a protracted battle while still enabling the neutralization of the Japanese airfields.] US planning staff predicted that it would take the Japanese three months to launch a counterattack on Torokina due to the terrain and the distance from their main troop concentrations. If they did, the Torokina area formed an excellent defensive position that could be held by the forces available. It was bordered by natural obstacles: the Laruna and Torokina Rivers, and the mountains.

Map of Bougainville. Cape Torokina is on the western side of the island, depicted inside the box on the map. Japanese airbases are marked by the two-bladed propeller symbols.

The Japanese forces defending Bougainville were part of General Harukichi Hyakutake's 17th Army, with the main infantry forces being drawn from the experienced 6th Division, under Lieutenant General Masatane Kanda. This formation had previously fought in China, including the Battle of Nanking. It was supported by the 4th South Seas Garrison Unit. In addition, elements of the 17th Division were scheduled to reinforce northern Bougainville in mid-November, and ultimately they played no part in repelling the landings at Cape Torokina on 1–3 November. The forces on Bougainville reported to the Eighth Area Army, under General Hitoshi Imamura, at Rabaul.

According to US Army historian John Miller, Allied intelligence estimated the strength of Japanese forces on Bougainville and the nearby islands were "37,500 soldiers and 20,000 sailors", while US Marine historians Henry Shaw, Douglas Kane and John Rentz, variously provide estimates of between 35,000 and 44,000 Japanese troops on Bougainville. The main concentrations of Japanese troops were estimated as follows: 17,000 in the southern part of the island; 5,000 around Buka, in northern Bougainville; 5,000 around Kieta on the eastern coast; 5,000 to 6,000 on the Shortland Islands; 3,000 in the vicinity of Ballale; and about 1,000 at Mosigetta, which was about 12 miles (19 km) inland from the southern end of Empress Augusta Bay. The 20,000 naval personnel were based in southern Bougainville where they formed part of Vice Admiral Tomoshige Samejima's 8th Fleet. These estimates were based on Ultra, augmented by documents captured in the Central Solomons, and by interrogation of prisoners of war. Post war, Japanese sources have indicated that Allied estimates of Japanese strength were close.

There were eighteen pillboxes concealed in the vicinity of the eventual landing area, but these were not fully manned. Troops in the immediate area of Cape Torokina numbered around 270 men, drawn mainly from a single company of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. They were supported by a single 75 mm field gun emplaced inside a log bunker, positioned in depth and surrounded smaller supporting bunkers and trenches. In addition, each bunker had two machine guns positioned to provide mutual support, and there were several mortars. The total strength included smaller positions on Torokina Island (held by a squad) and Puruata Island (held by a platoon). These troops had occupied Cape Torokina a few weeks prior to the landing.

There were six airfields on Bougainville located in the north, the south, and along the eastern coast. Allied air operations had heavily degraded Japanese air operations and air bases around Bougainville. Consequently, aircraft of the 11th Air Fleet were withdrawn from southern Bougainville to Rabaul in October. About 200 aircraft from the 11th Air Fleet were located around Rabaul at the time of the landings at Cape Torokina. A further 173 carrier aircraft were planned to arrive in late October, in preparation for a planned air offensive as part of Operation RO. This operation envisaged severing Allied lines of communication to inflict delay on the forces advancing towards Rabaul, while the Japanese reduced and consolidated their defensive perimeter in the Southwest and Central Pacific, in consequence of a decision made in September 1943. The carrier aircraft arrived at Rabaul over the course of 1 and 2 November, arriving too late to be employed by the Japanese around Cape Torokina in the first few days of the landing. On the first day only 120 aircraft of the 11th Air Fleet were used over the landing area. The attention of the carrier aircraft at Rabaul was largely diverted away from Empress Augusta Bay on 2 November, by heavy US air attacks on Rabaul, which continued into mid-November.

The Bougainville invasion was the ultimate responsibility of Admiral William F. Halsey, commander South Pacific Area, at his headquarters at Nouméa, New Caledonia. The landings were under the personal direction of Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson, commander III Amphibious Force, aboard his flagship, attack transport USS George Clymer. Also aboard was Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, commander I Marine Amphibious Corps. Loaded aboard eight attack transports (APAs) and four attack cargo transports (AKAs), organized into three transport divisions, were the men of the 3rd Marine Division (reinforced), Major General Allen H. Turnage commanding. The fighting on Bougainville would be the division's first action of the war. With Turnage aboard the USS Hunter Liggett was Commodore Lawrence F. Reifsnider, who had responsibility for the transports and attack cargo ships. The transport divisions were escorted by a screen consisting of 11 destroyers, and were supported by various fleet tugs, minesweepers and minelayers. Anti-aircraft guns from the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Edward H. Forney and several field artillery batteries from the 12th Marine Regiment under Colonel John B. Wilson were assigned to the operation to provide support to ground troops once ashore. Direct air cover for the landing was provided by Major General Nathan Twining's AirSols command, which included aircraft from the US Army Air Forces (USAAF), the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). Lieutenant General George Kenney's Fifth Air Force was also tasked with supporting operations around Bougainville by conducting raids on Japanese air and naval assets around Rabaul.

Photo: Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., commander, South Pacific Force (seated in center, hatless) at a planning session behind the front line on Bougainville with Marine Corps Major Generals Allan H. Turnage and Roy S. Geiger, November 1943 (80-G-161595).  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 

Landing beaches near Cape Torokina

Beginning in August 1943, Allied intelligence gathering activities began working to identify the disposition of Japanese troops as well as gathering key geographic and hydrographic information. Several parties of US and Australian personnel were landed around Bougainville and the surrounding areas throughout the months preceding the operation. These parties were inserted by a variety of means (motor boat, submarine, or by seaplane) to carry out patrols, study the terrain, and gather intelligence from locals, while aerial reconnaissance was also undertaken to the north and south of Bougainville. Submarines were also employed to survey coastal areas and collect hydrographic information.

In the month prior to the landings, Allied aircraft assigned to AirSols launched over 3,200 sorties against Japanese airfields surrounding the proposed landing site, and the wider Bougainville area in an effort to reduce the ability of the Japanese to interfere with the landings from the air. On the day of the landing, a naval task force, Task Force 39 under Rear Admiral Aaron S. Merrill, including several cruisers and destroyers, bombarded the airfields around Buka and the Bonis Peninsula. Proceeding south, a fire mission on the Shortlands followed, as part of a diversionary plan to take Japanese attention away from Cape Torokina.

Elsewhere, the Treasury Islands were secured by New Zealand and US forces, in the days prior to the landings at Cape Torokina, to secure anchorages around Blanche Harbor and establish a radar station to support air operations over Bougainville. A battalion of Paramarines also launched a raid on Choiseul to divert Japanese attention from Bougainville. In response, the Japanese sent thousands of reinforcements to Choiseul.

The three transport divisions began forming at different locations throughout late October: Transdiv "A" at Espiritu Santo, Transdiv "B" at Guadalcanal and Transdiv "C" at Efate. Troops were embarked at each location between 28 and 30 October and, in an effort to hide their intentions, different approach routes were taken by each division. On the morning of 31 October, the three divisions rendezvoused at sea and began their approach to Bougainville from southwest of the Solomons. To confuse Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, the convoy conducted a feint towards the Shortland Islands until night fell. Pre-war charts of Bougainville proved to be quite inaccurate, and although aerial reconnaissance and information gathered from submarine patrols had been used to update these, they remained imperfect, particularly with respect to longitude. The charts were also missing details of underwater obstructions and, as a result, the escorting minesweepers hit several uncharted shoals during the approach. One of the APAs, American Legion also later ran aground on an uncharted shoal.

After the transports arrived at the transport area off Empress August Bay, at 07:10 hours on 1 November, the first wave disembarked and went ashore aboard a large number of LCVPs. The landing was at 12 pre-designated beaches along an 8,000-yard (7,300 m) front northwest of and including Cape Torokina and Puruata Island, extending as far as Koromokina Lagoon. As the Marines came ashore, a force of 31 US Marine aircraft, staging out of Munda, attacked Japanese positions on the landing beaches. Meanwhile, overhead a force of 40 USAAF and RNZAF fighters provided cover, while bombers attacked the Japanese airfields at Kahili and Kara, nearby. Heavy, but ultimately ineffective naval gunfire was also brought down ahead of the assault. The 9th Marines assaulted the north-western beaches while the 3rd Marines took the south-eastern beaches and the cape itself. The 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Fred D. Beans, captured Puruata Island, about 1,000 yards (910 m) northwest of the cape, against a well entrenched Japanese force. After being ejected from their pillboxes and trenches, the survivors escaped into the interior of the island. Mopping up operations began on 2 November.

Because of the possibility of an immediate Japanese counterattack by air units, the assault was planned to ensure a smooth landing that would allow the transports to withdraw quickly. Some difficulty was experienced in landing southeast of the cape, while the three beaches directly to its northeast were found to be completely unsuitable for landing craft to get ashore. Heavier than expected seas also hampered the initial waves, resulting in the loss of a large number of landing craft. Nevertheless, the initial assault wave, which consisted of 7,500 Marines, proceeded relatively smoothly and landed successfully by 07:30 hours. These troops pushed ashore through small dry corridors of land and began clearing defenders from the dense scrub. The 2nd Marine Raider Battalion used search dogs to locate Japanese troops hiding in the undergrowth, and by 11:00 hours, the Marines had seized the lightly defended area. Some resistance continued until nightfall, by which time the beachhead was firmly secured.

During the landing, fire from the Japanese mortars and artillery briefly held up the Marines, and resulted in some disorganization amongst those coming ashore. Shelling from the Japanese 75 mm gun destroyed four landing craft and damaged ten others until a lone effort from a single Marine restored the situation for the Americans. At the cost of his life, Sergeant Robert A. Owens from Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, approached the gun emplacement, entered it through the fire port, and drove the crew out the back door. Owens was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

In response to the landing, a large force of Japanese aircraft (44 fighters and nine dive bombers) was scrambled from Rabaul, arriving over Empress Augusta Bay at 07:35 hours. These were intercepted by New Zealand and US Marine fighter aircraft from Munda and Vella Lavella. They also met with heavy anti-aircraft fire from the escorting US destroyers. The overall result was 26 Japanese aircraft shot down. During the attack, unloading was halted and the transports began defensive manoeuvres for two hours. After this first effort was repulsed, unloading on the beaches resumed. A second attack of 100 aircraft was launched from New Britain in the early afternoon. These were met by 34 AirSols fighters under direction from the destroyer USS Conway. Only 12 Japanese aircraft managed to penetrate the AirSols fighter screen. Arriving over the transport area, their attack proved largely ineffective, though they did manage to inflict a near miss on the destroyer USS Wadsworth, resulting in two killed and five wounded.

By 17:30 hours, despite the earlier interruptions, eight of the 12 transports had completed unloading. In the space of eight hours, Wilkinson's flotilla unloaded about 14,000 men and 6,200 tons of supplies. This was achieved largely by short-loading each vessel – each vessel was loaded to between one quarter to a half of its capacity to reduce unloading times. Utilizing some of the combat troops ashore also assisted unloading over the beach. Experience in earlier campaigns had shown that it was preferable to completely unload partially loaded ships than to partially unload completely loaded ships. The supplies landed would then be properly balanced, and there would be no shortages of certain critical items.

The process was further expedited by employing cargo nets to move cargo unbroken from the ships to the beach. Once unloading was completed, Wilkinson then took his ships out of the area out of fear of an overnight attack by Japanese surface ships. The unloading continued the following day under air attack and ground fire from Japanese in the beachhead area. The Japanese airbases at Kahili and Kieta on Bougainville, and nearby islands of Buka and Balalae, had been knocked out before the invasion, but were soon repaired and used for night bombing attacks. The shallow water prevented LSTs from beaching closer than 75 feet (23 m) from the shore. Ramps had to be constructed to allow them to unload.

Meanwhile, the aircraft carriers, USS Saratoga and Princeton, of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's Task Force 38 launched further air-strikes against the airfields around the Buka Passage on 1–2 November. A Japanese naval response to the landings was expected by the Allies. On the night of 1/2 November an American force of four light cruisers and eight destroyers from Merrill's task force, having been alerted by reconnaissance aircraft, intercepted a Japanese force of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Sentaro Omori. This force had been dispatched from Rabaul along with five destroyer transports carrying 1,000 reinforcements for a counter landing. The two naval forces clashed in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay that night (morning of 2 November), resulting in the Japanese force being turned back. The counter landing was delayed for several days, allowing the forces ashore to consolidate their position. Throughout 2 and 3 November, the Marines began patrolling the area around their beachhead, and secured Torokina Island without loss on the 3rd. This completed the establishment of the US beachhead.

For the Allies, the landings were successful. The primary objective of securing a beachhead to establish an airfield would be achieved in the weeks following the landing. Several secondary objectives were also achieved, including blooding the 3rd Marine Division and the incremental reduction of Japanese air power around Rabaul. Throughout November, the balance of power at sea also began to shift in favour of the Allies, after the actions around Empress Augusta Bay and Cape St. George, as they began to successfully combine improved tactics, technology and resources.

Losses during the landings amounted to 78 killed in action and 104 wounded for the assaulting US troops. Against this, most of the 270 Japanese troops opposing the beachhead were killed. During the first three days of the landing, 192 bodies were located. In the air, the Japanese carried out three separate air attacks, employing 16 dive bombers and 104 fighters. Of these, 19 machines were destroyed and 10 were damaged. A further 30 aircraft were claimed by Sherman's Task Force 38. In the days following the landings, the Japanese carrier aircraft were eventually able to reinforce the 11th Air Fleet and several attacks were carried out on 5, 8, 11 and 17 November. These achieved some successes against reinforcement convoys, but suffered sustained losses to anti-aircraft fire and defending Allied fighter aircraft. This ultimately degraded future Japanese naval air operations, depriving them of precious air assets to respond to Allied operations around Makin and Tarawa.

Following the landings, the Japanese dispatched a sizeable naval force from Truk, reinforcing the surface elements already at Rabaul in preparation for another attack on the Allied landing forces at Bougainville. Although several tankers and transports were interdicted by Allied aircraft on 4 November, the bulk of these reinforcements arrived safely at Rabaul. This included at least seven heavy cruisers, a light cruiser and several destroyers. These posed a significant threat to the lodgement around Cape Torokina. They arrived at a time when the US Navy's capital ships were unavailable to respond, having been called back to Pearl Harbor to prepare for the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. As a result, it was decided to neutralize the threat from the air. Throughout November, Allied land-based and carrier-based aircraft launched a series of bombing raids against Rabaul. The main blow fell on 5 November, when aircraft from two US aircraft carriers, Saratoga and Princeton, heavily damaged four heavy cruisers. The damaged cruisers had to withdraw to Truk. This ended the threat posed to the Allied forces around Cape Torokina by the Japanese surface fleet.

Throughout November, as part of several subsequent echelons, the remainder of the 3rd Marine Division, the US 37th Infantry Division (under Major General Robert S. Beightler) and Advance Naval Base Unit No. 7, landed at Cape Torokina. They arrived aboard high-speed transports (APDs) and the slower LSTs, which had been held back initially due to fears of air attack. On 13 November, Major General Roy S. Geiger assumed command of Allied forces on Bougainville from Wilkinson. As late as Thanksgiving (25 November), the beachhead was still under hostile fire. As the sixth echelon of the invasion force was unloading, Japanese artillery fired on the landing ships, inflicting casualties. The Marines silenced these guns the following day. On 15 December 1943, responsibility for Bougainville passed from I Marine Amphibious Corps to the Army's XIV Corps.

Throughout November, US forces established a perimeter around Cape Torokina, during which significant base development work was undertaken with eight naval construction battalions (Seabees) and a brigade of New Zealand engineers being deployed. This work included the construction of three airfields and an advanced PT boat base on Puruata Island. Advance parties of the 25th, 53rd, 71st and 75th Naval Construction Battalions arrived on the first day. The construction of Torokina Airfield, a fighter airstrip, was assigned to the 71st Naval Construction Battalion. Work began on the third day. Owing to the limited size of the beachhead, the choice of sites was limited, and the area was still under sniper fire. The swampy nature of the terrain required significant drainage work before construction could begin. The 200-by-5,150-foot (61 by 1,570 m) airstrip was completed on 10 December, allowing 18 Vought F4U Corsairs to land, although a Douglas SBD Dauntless had already made an emergency landing on 24 November. Intended to handle 35 fighters or light bombers, Torokina eventually accommodated several times that number. These aircraft would subsequently play an important role, along with forces based in New Guinea, in neutralizing Rabaul as an air and sea base.

Construction of the larger Piva Airfield for bombers was commenced on 29 November by the 36th Naval Construction Battalion, which had arrived three days before. The 300-by-8,000-foot (91 by 2,438 m) was carved out of dense jungle. The first aircraft landed on 19 December, and the airbase became operational on 30 December with the arrival of 10 Army transport aircraft. The runway was found to be too short, and had to be extended by another 2,000 feet (610 m). Construction of 35 hardstands, 7 hangars, and 26 other buildings was undertaken by the 71st Naval Construction Battalion. The 77th Naval Construction Battalion built a 5,000-man camp for the Marine Aircraft Group 24, and the 36th added another 2,000-man camp. The 77th Battalion arrived on Bougainville on 10 December 1943 and began constructing a fighter airfield parallel to the bomber field. This was completed on 3 January and the first aircraft landed on 9 January. Several weeks later, the 77th Battalion was instructed to extend the strip by 2,000 feet (610 m). The two airfields were connected by taxiways and shared fuel tank farms and other facilities. The fuel tank farm consisted of a 10,000-barrel (1,600 m3) tank and 18 1,000-barrel (160 m3) tanks, fed from a tanker mooring by a submarine pipeline and 5 miles (8.0 km) of overland pipe. The 75th Naval Construction Battalion had the task of repairing breaks in the pipeline caused by Japanese shellfire.

Construction of a PT-boat base on Puruata Island was undertaken by the 75th Naval Construction Battalion, with help from the 71st and 77th Naval Construction Battalions. A wooden pile pier was built, along with crash boat and fuelling piers, and 18 small-boat moorings. Base facilities included accommodation, mess halls, five steel-framed warehouses and an emergency hospital. The main medical facility was on Bougainville, and built by the 36th Naval Construction Battalion. It consisted of 70 Quonset huts and a 40-by-100-foot (12 by 30 m) mess hall, with accommodation for 500 patients. The inland road network was the responsibility of the US Army engineers, particularly the 117th Combat Engineer Battalion. They cut supply roads through the jungle. It was found that underneath the 1-foot (0.30 m) deep top soil was volcanic sand, which was suitable for road surfacing. A three-span bridge was built over the Koromokina River. Base development work was completed by July 1944, and the last naval construction battalion, the 36th, departed in August. Construction Battalion Maintenance Units 582 and 586 arrived in May 1944, and took over maintenance of the base facilities.

Meanwhile, a number of engagements were fought on the periphery throughout the remainder of 1943, as the beachhead was secured. In the first of these, the Battle of Koromokina Lagoon, a Japanese counterlanding, by elements of the 17th Division, was repelled. An overland thrust by 6th Division elements from southern Bougainville was defeated at the Battle for Piva Trail, shortly afterwards. US forces slowly expanded their perimeter, systematically advancing to several inland defence lines throughout mid- to late-November. At the end of November, they launched an unsuccessful raid on Koiari, to the south of the beachhead. Beginning on 15 December, the Japanese began an effort to move ground troops from southern Bougainville to the Torokina perimeter by barge. The effort amounted to little gain, with many of the barges losing their way, or being intercepted by PT boats. Those troops that did manage to get ashore were attacked by Marine patrols. The last group of troops, having landed on the Magine Islands in Empress Augusta Bay, was destroyed with artillery on 20 December. Japanese night-time bombing operations began on 15 December and continued for 10 days. Japanese artillery continued firing into the beachhead until they were forced off Hellzapoppin Ridge in mid-December. Allied landings were made on New Britain in December, around Arawe, on the south coast (about 100 mi (160 km) from the island's western tip) and Cape Gloucester, at the island's western tip. On the Allied western flank, in New Guinea, operations to secure the Huon Peninsula progressed throughout late 1943 and in early 1944.

The Americal Division started arriving in December 1943, to relieve the Marines. On 15 December, responsibility for command of the Torokina perimeter was assumed by Major General Oscar Griswold's XIV Corps, inheriting a perimeter 15 miles (24 km) long and 5 miles (8 km) deep. Units of the 3rd Marine Division began to withdraw from the line on 27–28 December and by 16 January 1944 had withdrawn to Guadalcanal. They would later be committed to the fighting on Guam. Believing that the landing at Torokina was a ruse, and would be followed by a further landing around Buka, Imamura reinforced the northern part of Bougainville instead of launching a concerted counterattack with the 15,000 (or more) troops that were stationed in southern Bougainville. By the time it became apparent that this assessment was wrong, the conditions required for a successful counterattack had passed and Hyakutake was ordered to delay his plans. 

In March 1944, the Japanese launched a counterattack on the US perimeter around Cape Torokina, which was defeated with heavy casualties to their forces. A lull in the fighting on Bougainville followed, until the later part of 1944, when Australian forces took over responsibility for the lodgement at Cape Torokina. The US forces were re-directed towards the capture of the Philippines. 

Throughout 1944 and into 1945, the Australians worked to secure control of the island from the Japanese. They launched a series of drives to clear the northern, central and southern sectors. Ultimately, these were only partially completed by the time the war came to an end in August 1945. The Australians had advanced to the Bonis Peninsula in the north, and reached a position just short of Buin in the south. 

U.S. Soldiers at Bougainville (Solomon Islands) March,1944

From: Wikipedia contributors. (2022, May 25). Landings at Cape Torokina. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from  and Wikipedia contributors. (2022, May 20). Bougainville campaign. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

U.S. Army soldiers on Bougainville (one of the Solomon Islands) in World War II. Japanese forces tried infiltrating the U.S. lines at night; at dawn, the U.S. soldiers would clear them out. In this picture, infantrymen are advancing in the cover of an M4 Sherman tank.

The Bougainville campaign was a series of land and naval battles of the Pacific campaign of World War II between Allied forces and the Empire of Japan, named after the island of Bougainville. It was part of Operation Cartwheel, the Allied grand strategy in the South Pacific. The campaign took place in the Northern Solomons in two phases. The first phase, in which American troops landed and held the perimeter around the beachhead at Torokina, lasted from November 1943 through November 1944.

The second phase, in which primarily Australian troops went on the offensive, mopping up pockets of starving, isolated but still-determined Japanese, lasted from November 1944 until August 1945, when the last Japanese soldiers on the island surrendered. Operations during the final phase of the campaign saw the Australian forces advance north towards the Bonis Peninsula and south towards the main Japanese stronghold around Buin, although the war ended before these two enclaves were completely destroyed.

Three Victoria Crosses were awarded during the campaign, one to a Fijian and two to Australians. Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu of Fiji received the award posthumously for his bravery at Mawaraka on 23 June 1944; he was the first, and is currently only Fijian to have received the award. Corporal Reg Rattey received the award for his actions during the fighting around Slater's Knoll on 22 March 1945, while Private Frank Partridge earned his in one of the final actions of the campaign on 24 July 1945 during fighting along the Ratsua front. Partridge was the only member of the Militia to receive the VC which was the last of the war awarded to an Australian.

January 19, 1945  
VOL. XV. No. 6.  
Established 1930  
[.Registered at the G.P.0., Sydney, for transmission by post as a newspaper ]  
Corporal Sukanaivlu, VC, of the 3rd Fiji Battalion  

THIS snapshot Of marching men is the oily photograph  available of the Fijian hero —  the first Pacific Islands soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross.   He deliberately sacrificed his  life, in a Solomon Islands operation,' to save his comrades. (1931). Pacific islands monthly : PIM Retrieved from 

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu was born on Yacata, Fiji, on 1 January 1918 and joined the Fiji Infantry Regiment during World War II. By mid-1944, he was a corporal in the 3rd Battalion, which was taking part in the Bougainville campaign. He died under Japanese fire on 23 June 1944, at Mawaraka, during an attempt to rescue comrades, in circumstances which led to his being awarded the Victoria Cross.

The citation reads:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:—

No. 4469 Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, Fiji Military Forces.

On 23rd June 1944, at Mawaraka, Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu crawled forward to rescue some men who had been wounded when their platoon was ambushed and some of the leading elements had become casualties.

After two wounded men had been successfully recovered this N.C.O., who was in command of the rear section, volunteered to go on farther alone to try and rescue another one, in spite of machine gun and mortar fire, but on the way back he himself was seriously wounded in the groin and thighs and fell to the ground, unable to move any farther.

Several attempts were then made to rescue Corporal Sukanaivalu but without success owing to heavy fire being encountered on each occasion and further casualties caused.

This gallant N.C.O. then called to his men not to try to get to him as he was in a very exposed position, but they replied that they would never leave him to fall alive into the hands of the enemy.

Realising that his men would not withdraw as long as they could see that he was still alive and knowing that they were themselves all in danger of being killed or captured as long as they remained where they were, Corporal Sukanaivalu, well aware of the consequences, raised himself up in front of the Japanese machine gun and was riddled with bullets.

This brave Fiji soldier, after rescuing two wounded men with the greatest heroism and being gravely wounded himself, deliberately sacrificed his own life because he knew that it was the only way in which the remainder of his platoon could be induced to retire from a situation in which they must have been annihilated had they not withdrawn.

— The London Gazette, 2 November 1944

His body was eventually recovered by Australian forces assisted by members of the Fijian 1st Docks Company. Sukanaivalu was buried at Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In 2005, it was announced there were plans to repatriate Sukanaivalu's remains to Fiji.

Frank John Partridge, VC (29 November 1924 – 23 March 1964) was an Australian soldier, farmer, quiz show champion, and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. He was decorated for his actions on Bougainville in July 1945, when he attacked two Japanese bunkers despite severe wounds. Partridge was the last and, at 20 years of age, the youngest Australian awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. He later became a farmer and a television quiz champion, and unsuccessfully ran for political office shortly before his death in a car accident.

Discharged from the army in October 1946, Partridge returned to the family farm. He lived with his father in a dirt-floored farmhouse, and in his spare time devoted himself to self-education, reading Encyclopædia Britannica by the light of a kerosene lamp. He had an extraordinarily retentive memory and in 1962–63 he appeared as a contestant on the television quiz show, Pick a Box, compered by Bob Dyer, alongside contestants such as Barry Jones. His laconic manner appealed strongly to viewers. Partridge was one of only three contestants to win all forty boxes and his prizes were valued at more than £12,000 (in excess of A$250,000 in present-day terms). 

He married Barbara Dunlop, a 31-year-old nurse from Turramurra in Sydney, in February 1963. The wedding received extensive media coverage. She remained in Sydney while Partridge built a new house at the farm. He drove to Sydney every weekend to see her. Later in 1963, Partridge sought Country Party pre-selection for the Australian House of Representatives seat of Cowper. His political views were widely regarded as extreme, and he was not selected. To supplement the income from his farm, Partridge also sold life insurance. 

Partridge was killed in a car accident in 1964, and was buried with full military honours in Macksville Cemetery. His wife and three-month-old son survived him. 

In 1989 a primary school at Nambucca Heads was named the Frank Partridge VC Public School. 

The Frank Partridge VC Rest Area on the southbound lane of the Hume Highway, some kilometres south of Sydney, is named after him.

Torokina Avenue, St Ives, was named so by Henry .... to commemorate those who served in this arena of conflict. Henry and his family lived at the end of this street and had done so when that area of St Ives was still an orchard.

Surrender of Japan, 1945. Description: USS Bougainville (CVE-100) crewmen celebrate after listening to the announcement of Japan's surrender, 14 August 1945. Their ship was then transporting aircraft to the central Pacific. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-377111

Gerald Joseph McPhee - A World War II 'M' Special Unit Member: Remembrance Day 2022 - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2022