The aircraft rose at the last moment and appeared to clear the range but suddenly the starboard wing rose sharply and the aircraft disappeared from sight. Shortly afterwards I heard the crash and almost immediately a dense black column of smoke appeared... At 11.20 hours a note was received... advising that two of the airmen – Hobbs and Murphy – had been killed and that the others – Scarlett, Nuttal and Gardiner – were badly injured.
Report by Lieutenant N.C. Sandford, 2 DK Patrol, Central Sector, Bougainville Island, 12 January 1944 to 18 June 1945. Learn more about his experience.
Bougainville is a collection of islands in the Solomon Sea. Today, Bougainville is an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. But geographically, it's part of the Solomon Islands chain.
Bougainville was annexed by Germany in 1886 after Germany colonised New Guinea. This came after an agreement with Britain to divide the Solomon Islands between them. The North Solomon Islands were administered through German New Guinea. This included Bougainville.
Following Germany's defeat in the First World War, German New Guinea was placed under the protection of Australia under a League of Nations mandate. Bougainville became part of the Australian Territory of New Guinea.
In 1942, Japanese forces invaded Bougainville Island and neighbouring Buka Island. At the time, there were fewer than 20 Australian troops and some Coastwatchers on the islands. The soldiers were evacuated but the Coastwatchers remained. Their reports on Japanese air and sea movements were crucial to the US victory at Guadalcanal.
Allies battle with the Japanese
In November 1943, US, Fijian and New Zealand troops landed at Torokina, on the western side of Bougainville Island. They established a base there. In 1944, responsibility for the Torokina base was handed to Australian forces.
After taking over Torokina, the Australians went on the offensive. A bloody and controversial series of battles followed. These cost more than 500 Australian soldiers' lives, including lives of members of the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB), but did not materially change the outcome of the war.
The conflict continued until the Japanese surrender. On 8 September 1945, Lieutenant General Kanda, commander of the 17th Imperial Japanese Army, and Admiral Samejima surrendered to Lieutenant General Stanley Savige, General Officer Commanding II Australian Corps at Torokina, Bougainville.