Today I am going to tell you a bit about Rabaul in Papua New Guinea this is a pretty large place the harbour is Simpson Harbour with a lot of history. During the Second World War up to a 100 Japanese ships including battleships, heavy cruisers, destroyers and merchant vessels were anchored in these waters.
It was from this harbour that the famous “Tokyo Express” raced south to re-supply Guadalcanal and other embattled Japanese bases in the Solomon Islands during WW11.
These waters have seen the worst violence man and nature can produce, man during WW11 and nature due to the active volcanoes in the area.
The Rabaul area was originally a German possession, however, in September of 1914 a small Australian force defeated the Germans near Kokopo ending German control of the area. In 1921 the League of Nations granted Australia a mandate to administer New Guinea as a trust territory and Rabaul became the capitol.
On the 23rs January 1942 the Japanese overwhelmed a small Australian garrison and realising the strategic value of the area established their most powerful base in the South-West Pacific at Rabaul. At its peak the fortress of Rabaul included 5 airfields, a seaplane and submarine base plus a huge naval anchorage with support facilities.
The Japanese garrison numbered around 200,000 personal at its peak, as the allied offensive surged towards Rabaul the installations came under relentless attacks and the Japanese decided to move underground, honeycombing the hills around Rabaul with hundreds of kilometres of tunnels these included hospitals, repair facilities and barracks.
Many allied POW’s and local inhabitants experienced extreme deprivations while digging these tunnels, you can visit the Japanese barge tunnel at Karavia Bay and the Kokopo War Museum and Bitapaka War Cemetery which I would have loved to have done but Tim didn’t like the cost.
The locals are Melanesian people with dark skin and fuzzy hair and are suppose to be very friendly they were so isolated from western influence for so long that the very first wheel ever seen was the propeller of an aircraft.
Everywhere you can hear the locals calling “ha-lo” to you which is “hello” there are no taxis in Rabaul there are a number of street vendors selling souvenirs but they are limited.