Balalae Remembrance 2016
Remembrance Service 26th April 2016.
British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Nauru, Mr Chris Trott
When I was appointed British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Nauru I was excited to learn more about the region’s role in the war in the Pacific, something I knew little about. All I thought I knew, however, was that this was primarily an American theatre of operations, with support from Australia and New Zealand. I was therefore very surprised when, shortly after my arrival here, I was told about a memorial to over 500 British troops on the island of Balalae in the far west of the country.
Through research in the High Commission’s files, however, I quickly learnt about the tragic history of these men, and the efforts of their relatives to ensure that they were properly honoured where they had fallen. I also found a file of information compiled by Beryl Canwell, a member of COFEPOW, recording the establishment of this memorial in 2003.
Wherever I have been stationed I have always seen it as an honour as well as a duty to commemorate those who had come to those shores in battle and, unlike me, had not returned. From the enormous cemeteries of Burma to two graves I found in Timbuktu I have always felt it was important to ‘remember them’. So I decided I should make the journey to the island hold a ceremony of remembrance there.
I was accompanied by the EU Ambassador, the Australian Deputy Defence Adviser and a representative of the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and with the help of the Priest from the Catholic Mission Station in Nila we held a short service on 26th April this year (it should have been 25th April, ANZAC day, but the flight was delayed 24 hours). I have included a couple of photos with this message, to give your readers a sense of the occasion, what they cannot show however is the blistering heat – something that must have made captivity even more unbearable for those brave British soldiers we had gone there to honour. I hope that those of you reading this will feel reassured that wherever in the world British soldiers have fallen: ‘at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM’.