Seventy-five years ago, unimaginable destruction came to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, a remote colonial possession set in the vastness of the South-West Pacific. A global war, which had started in Europe in September, 1939 had finally reached this ‘fragment of Empire’ so far away. While the BSIP had escaped the battles which had enveloped Great Britain, the ‘mother country’, for over two years, it was Imperial Japan’s attack on the USA at its Pearl Harbor naval and air bases in Hawaii on the 7th December, 1941 which was to soon bring the conflict to the BSIP.
For the people of Solomon Islands, who had led a traditional village existence for countless centuries, the early days of 1942 brought terror and hardship. Japanese Imperial naval, air and ground units swept into their lives from bases in neighbouring New Guinea, the horror of modern, mechanised warfare bringing fear and torment. Against the invading foe, the people of Solomon Islands stood firm and honoured their commitment and loyalty as protected persons of the British Empire. Called to duty, they took their places at the fighting front as Coastwatchers, Scouts and in invaluable logistical roles with the Solomon Islands Labour Corps. Often hidden in the jungle on intelligence duties for extended periods of time and with little expectation that Allied forces would ever come to their aid, Solomon Islanders never lost their faith or belief that help would eventually be at hand.
Redemption came on the 7th August, 1942 when an Allied armada, spearheaded by the US Marines, landed on the northern coast of Guadalcanal, seizing the airstrip then under Japanese construction. The resulting Battle of Guadalcanal, which raged until early 1943 and cost thousands of Allied and Japanese lives, marked a turning point in the fortunes of the wider Pacific war. The importance of the Coastwatchers and Scouts in providing intelligence by wireless from their remote locations caused US Navy Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey to declare that “The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific”.
This book by John Innes recounts the experience of World War Two in Solomon Islands and it brings together, in one volume, a number of his earlier works originally printed in booklet form. John is, arguably, the most respected military historian in Solomon Islands and he has spent years exploring the battlefields, researching in archives and speaking with veterans from home and abroad. His expertise has won him honorary status with the US Marine Raiders’ Association and a reputation as a skilled tour guide, raconteur and author. We are delighted to number John as a valued Board member of the Solomons Scouts and Coastwatchers Trust.
It is a pleasure to have his important book published, with funding support from Our Telekom, to both mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and to recognise the courage and loyalty of the Solomon Islanders who fought in WWII. Their exemplary service, and that of US, British, Australian, New Zealand and Fijian military personnel, enabled the Pacific to have the freedom and peace which it enjoys today.
Sir Bruce Saunders, KBE, OBE
Chairman, Solomons Scouts and Coastwatchers Trust
Honiara. SOLOMON ISLANDS