A good friend of mine was telling me about her deceased father who served in the New Zealand Army during the second war. He was based at Rabaul and only spoke of a volcanic eruption and how the harbour emptied (must have been a tsunami) during his time there. I did not know any NZ military was based at Rabaul. Does anyone have more information on this area involving New Zealand? His name was William Robert Douglas MOORE 22nd May Year?? At Greymouth NZ we have no id number or history of service and what medals if any would he be entitled to. Hope somebody can help here I have tried a web search but we are not too savvy on computers
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 9, 2012 11:17:45 GMT 12
No Allies were based at Rabaul during wartime 1945. The first units went in there after the surrender, some of them being RNZAF, and one of which I have met. I am not aware of any Army being sent there even after the war, and certainly none were there during early 1942-45.
He may have been there with the Australian Army BEFORE the Japanese invasion, that's all I can think of.
Author: Swift to the Sky – New Zealand’s Military Aviation History Author/publisher: For Your Tomorrow - A record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915 & A Passion For Flight - New Zealand aviation before the Great War. Publisher of Gp Capt C M Hanson’s By Such Deeds - Honours and Awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923-1999
There was an eruption PRIOR to WWII in 1937 but nothing like it in 1945. Maybe he was in Bougainville where Mt Bagana is active? His name is not on the Rabaul POW list either. There is a chance he visited Rabaul post war...in 1970 the harbour did 'empty' as the result of strong earthquakes.
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 10, 2012 19:47:44 GMT 12
Most of them were Australian Army too, plus som British and French. The Japs murdered most of the NZ coast watchers early on.
Plus there is no way that coast watchers would have been based at Rabaul or anywhere near there. It was the biggest Japanese base in the South Pacific. Radio signals would have been tracked easily and the thousands of Japs there would have tracked him down and murdered him.
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 10, 2012 19:52:45 GMT 12
This is from the Evening Post in May 1937 and sounds like the event he recalled, so perhaps he was there as a civilian before the war, maybe a civil servant or planter or something, it was a thriving township before the Japs ruined it:
United Press Association—By Electric Telegraph—Copyright. SYDNEY, May 29.
A big volcanic eruption is in progress in New Guinea. Heavy earthquake shocks, which began on Friday, shook the island all day on Saturday. The wireless station was abandoned on Saturday night as the volcanic fumes were too much for the operators. A wirelessimessage from Rabaul said: "A great eruption in Blanche Bay adjacent to Vulcan Island occurred at 2.30 p.m. today, following continual earth tremors since dawn. Great excitement is prevailing in the township and district."
A Sydney resident received a message on Saturday night from a relative in Rabaul stating that a tremendous explosion had occurred in the harbour, from which mud and stones had been hurled high into the air. The blast was followed by a great movement of water, which receded 200 yards from the shore. Local residents fled, fear-ing that the water would return in a tidal wave.' Intermittent messages, sent obviously under terrifying conditions, said that the sea front was undergoing a startling change.. The water level dropped eight feet, and in ten minutes returned, without, however, the expected tidal wave.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this, we have just found more information and documents about William Moore. He was in Rabaul for the eruption and has taken a lot of photos of the area after event. He was working there as a butcher for two years and left Rabaul on 4th September 1937 (We have now found his tickets, photos and copies of the "RABAUL NEWS, with his army paybook. We are now applying to the NZ Defence site for more information on him as his paybooks just state he disembarked in 1943 and was in the "field" for his time overseas.
It would appear the Rabaul information was a bit of a red herring as it was before his military service however it was a significant event in his life (Over 2 foot of ash over the whole area after the eruption) and understandable that he would have mentioned this when he talked about his life during the war.
Have just discovered this thread, and having stayed in Rabaul for just one week in 2001 (kinda hot place!) I found it rather interesting. However I was most surprised to see that the Japanese are accused of destroying Rabaul - although their presence certainly (if indirectly) led to its destruction in the period late 1943 to August 1945. Of course the prime cause of all this destruction were the Allied air forces (including our very own RNZAF, which did their bit with assorted P-40, SBD, TBF and PV-1, and large supplies of HE! The volcanoes also greatly contributed to the destruction at various times over the years, and for all I know the small volcano (Tuvurvur?) near the township is still regularly and silently spewing out large plumes of noxious ash to descend wherever the wind carries it. I think these underground activities got going (for the present series) in 1993, with Vulcan crater more or less doubling in size in a few years. Incidentally more natural damage was inflicted on the once-beautiful township in about 1999 or 2000 when extremely heavy rains destroyed sections of some of the roads climbing over the hills south to north behind the township - we walked up these to visit the sights of the harbour, and I gaped at the huge (ten feet deep) trenches balsted right through these roads by the out-of-control torrents. Still a fascinating place to visit (at least it was then), and it must have looked a picture at the height of its "German" period (up till 1914, when it suddenly ceased to be German) with beautiful smooth roads and a frangipani nursery which has since "escaped" and crept up the hissides. Also many small churches, which says as much about "collecting of souls" as anything else, but if you don't know that it looks great! The locals are very friendly too, although their local economy is very poor, and one of the few local attractions to bring in the tourists was the presence of the defences and infrastructure built by the former (WW2) "Occupying power" - Imperial Japan. These included the underground hospitals, although all that is left of these is the tunnels in the ground and some of the wiring. Also a long tunnel with three 45 foot Army "Dai-hatsu" powered barges (diesel powered, all steel construction) mounted on railway trucks, hidden some several hundred yards from the shore. Also a British-built (formerly Royal Navy?) floating dock towed out to Rabaul from Singapore (where it was captured in early 1942) and promptly attacked by American aircraft on arrival. The Japanese ran it ashore and there it still leans against the coastal road, towering over everything, slowly rusting away. There is also a small Museum at nearby Kokopo with interesting bits and pieces (mostly Japanese). David D