Large international contingent in Solomons for Battle memorial

Solomon Islands

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal is being marked in Solomon Islands over the next five days.

The five months of fierce battle are being commemorated in a number of ways and Dorothy Wickham, speaking for the local organisers, told Don Wiseman there will be a large number of international visitors coming in.


DOROTHY WICKHAM: We are having the Australian, the New Zealand and the US military flying to be part of this occasion. I think it is the last big one that they will have because it's obviously 75 years now. I think we have two or three veterans left from this battle that was carried out on Guadalcanal, so what they are trying to do now is make it the final big and after that have a memorial day.

DON WISEMAN: Are those last veterans coming over?

DOROTHY: I think one is not able to travel from what I have been hearing. Some after very old, so some will not travel. One is not able to travel so I think a child or a grandchild will be representing.  

DON: On the subject of age, among the Solomon Islands Scouts, a scout who took part and who is now at the venerable age of 110 is going to receive a commemoration medal during the ceremonies.

DOROTHY: That's correct. He's from Guadalcanal. We tried to organise interviews with him but we are unable to because of his age and that he is in a wheel chair, but yes it has been confirmed, through documentation and proper checks, that he is 110 years old.

DON: As we were saying, this hugely significant battle, or really a series of battles going on over five months,  hundreds of aircraft shot down,, more than 100 ships sunk in Iron Bottom Sound, and 38,000 people killed on the island, soldiers killed on the island. When Solomon Islanders look back at this event, what do they think, what do they remember?

DOROTHY: That is the important question. This 75th anniversary is also being used by the government and the Scouts and Coastwatchers Trust, and the American Government, to remind Solomon Islanders who are at the age and can remember some of it, or stories from their parents telling them about, but the new generation now know nothing about it. I mean we thought the Regional Assistance Mission intervention was big, you know the first this generation saw a big influx of foreign troops on our soils, but as the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism said the biggest one ever, and a lot of us don't know what it felt like, was what happened here during the Second World War.

There were so many people running around in places that were unreachable. We are not talking streets here, we are talking about the bush, on the sea, up rivers and mountains, and he says it changed a lot of Solomon Islanders. And I think this is one of the reasons that the government wants to remind us, now with the exit of RAMSI, what war is, and the results of war. And I think this 75th anniversary is an important part of the process of teaching our children about our history and also looking at the history of the world and understanding what war means and how much loss there is to such a battle.         

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