From grassroots to graduates

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 24th August 2012

ALOTAU residents and visitors will be taken back in time 70 years ago in “less peaceful” times to the Second World War in the Pacific to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle Of Milne Bay this weekend.
From August 24-26 various monuments and sites around Alotau will be accorded the honor of all the allied soldiers and local Milne Bay people that died during the battle defending Milne Bay.
A group of six elderly Australian veterans return to Alotau the scene of the battle today to participate in the anniversary celebrations.
The veterans, the youngest aged 88 and the oldest 93, will attend the various celebrations planned for them for the first time since they were here 70 years ago in the teens and early 20s.
The veterans are Edwin Bousen; Arthur Gould; William Hansen; Edmond Jones, Gregor Mc Gregor; and Murray Willing.
Sadly this may be the last participation by them is this event to visit the shores that claimed many of their mates.
The Battle of Milne Bay was fought on August 25-September 7 1942 by the Australian and American troops resisting the Japanese landing on Milne Bay shores.
This was aimed at establishing a forward base to support the Japanese forces seeking to take Port Moresby by the overland rout through the Kokoda Track.
Resisted strongly by the Australian land troops and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft the Japanese withdrew.
This spelled the first defeat of the Japanese forces on land.
The veterans will be accompanied by an Australian Federation Guard of 20 Australian Army personnel.
Meanwhile, preparations for the weekend’s activities are progressing well and on time.
The 70th Anniversary Battle of Milne Bay committee has had an arduous task of putting together a programme to celebrate the anniversary.
The three commemorative monuments and sites are:
Turnbull Memorial at Kainako;
Alotau Town Memorial and
The Corporal French VC Memorial at North Wagawaga.
The cash strapped committee worked tirelessly and were rewarded by a foundation and a local business house.
The celebrations can now proceed thanks to the Maisim Foundation that contributed K100,000 and the Alotau TST Supermarket for paying to erect the signboard and for the electricity supply to light up the board and for the fireworks display.
Committee secretary Eric Balaria acknowledged the support of both organisations.
Balaria also highlighted the various activities that will commemorate the event.
Committee member Johnathan Sowelu called on Alotau residents to care for the monuments and sites.
Meanwhile, Milne Bay Tourism Bureau Manageress, Maxine Nadile acknowledged that the anniversary had attracted many local and overseas tourists.
The Australian Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and Defense Jason Clare MP and Acting Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson will attend the celebrations.