4 August 2017
From the High Commissioner's Desk - Guadalcanal 75th Anniversary
Last month we celebrated what regional partnerships can achieve when we farewelled the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands. This month we will commemorate another significant milestone in our shared Pacific history: the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.
We will also commemorate those whose lives were lost in the hills, on the beaches and at sea. We will celebrate their sacrifice, and mourn their loss. There will be many stories retold over the coming week.
One of these stories is that of the HMAS Canberra – whose demise during the battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942 was one of Australia’s gravest naval disasters, with the loss of 84 lives. We will commemorate this battle on the 75th anniversary of its sinking with a service on board the HMAS Success, directly above the wreck of HMAS Canberra in its final resting place in Iron Bottom Sound.
The spirit of the HMAS Canberra lives on through the Australian Navy’s current flagship of the same name. Since its commencement of service, this vessel has been used primarily to support humanitarian missions across the Pacific. It played a crucial role in assisting to rebuild Fiji following Tropical Cyclone Winston and over its long life will no doubt provide further assistance where it is needed.
Another story I wish to share is about an area on the outskirts of Honiara referred to in World War II as “Hill 27” - near what is now Barana Village. This area saw some of the most vicious fighting during WWII, and beneath it was an extensive maze of tunnels. Today this ground is filled with the roots of flowers which Barana village has become known for and sells in downtown Honiara.
Barana village will also enjoy a visit from the crew of the HMAS Success, who will build steps up Hill 27, allowing for greater accessibility for the community and for tourists wanting to experience the area for themselves. Through the Australian High Commission’s Direct Aid Program we have further assisted this historic community through the provision of funds for the purchase and installation of four water tanks.
As we enter a week of remembrance, and pay homage to those who have been lost due to conflict, let us not forget that from great tragedy can come new hope.