Headquarters: a brief outline of the activities of headquarters of the third division and the 8th and 14th Brigades during their service in the Pacific
Chapter Three — Anchor Block and Allied Base
Anchor Block and Allied Base
Lying approximately 1,000 miles north o£ New Zealand and 800 miles east of Australia is the island of New Caledonia, a French possession, discovered in 1774 by the famous explorer Captain Cook. Little was it imagined, even on the outbreak of present hostilities, that in the year 1942 this island, measuring 249 miles long and 30 miles wide, with a population of 60,000— of whom only 17,000 were white—would become the anchor block and base for a great allied push in the extermination of the Japanese from the South-west Pacific. One thousand miles to the north-west of New Caledonia is Guadalcanal where, at that date, the naval, land and air forces of the United States and Japan were locked together in fierce combat for possession of an island occupied by the Japanese in their unopposed move southward through the Solomon Islands. Fighting was tough as American forces made a bold bid and captured the Henderson airfield from which they could operate their land-based planes and fly in much-needed munitions. This was the turning point of the battle, but it required increasing numbers of men to deliver the ultimate blow which pushed the last Jap into the sea. To achieve this end a call had to be made on the dwindling pool of divisions remaining in New Caledonia.
Reformed in New Zealand after service in Fiji was the Third Division of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, all trained men, under the command of Major-General Barrowdough. So that the last United States division in New Caledonia could be released to go north, the Third Division commenced in page 115October 1942 to leave the shores of New Zealand to take over the defence of New Caledonia. On arrival the division still retained its independent identity and command, but became an integral part of the forces under the command of Admiral W. F. Halsey, commander of the South Pacific area. Although New Caledonia is subtropical in climate there is little visible indication of tropical growth beyond occasional clumps of bamboo and cocoanut palm. Shingle streams flowing through greenish valleys, and scattered farms flanked by steep rugged hills, are a dominating feature. A French and native civilian population is thinly spread throughout the island in small villages, often many miles apart, along the few highways. On the high country which ridges the centre of the island growth in some parts is similar to that of New Zealand, but towards the west coast the guava and niaouli covered land presents a more parched appearance. Nouméa, capital and chief port of the colony, nestles in a circular basin of hills near the southern end of the island, and overlooks one of the finest land-locked harbours in the South-west Pacific. It possesses a wide industrial area of drab emporiums, shops, theatres and hotels, with a large residential area extending beyond. Streets are made more picturesque by a cosmopolitan population of 14,000, and race and colour know no bounds as natives of varied nationalities mingle with fashionably dressed French.
The advanced party landed on the wharf in Nouméa at two o'clock on the afternoon of 2 November. The dry heat was immediately noticeable, and rifles which had become wet from the salt spray coming ashore from the transport showed patches of rust very quickly. The natural thing to expect on arrival, as in Fiji, was natives, so no one was disappointed when he saw the wharf lined with big, muscular, curlytopped Kanakas, allegedly at work. The whole place was alive with activity and every type of crane or gadget which saved the man-handling of the thousands of tons of war equipment being landed seemed to be in use. Few ships could be berthed at the actual wharves, so the loading and unloading of ships in the harbour was carried out by means of self-propelled barges which drew alongside the ships and then ferried back to the shore with their cargo. It was an extremely tedious process. Aircraft droned overhead as they provided air cover for the warships at anchor. From the wharf large laden trucks in convoys, under the direction of military police, con-page 116tinuously departed, while jeeps, weaving everywhere, each bearing the designation of its occupants painted across the metal work below the windscreen, completed the animated scene. The New Zealand party was collected in American-driven command cars and transported to an established tented camp, known as Camp Stevens, a few miles south of the town. Traffic travelled on the right-hand side of the road, and the never-ending stream of vehicular traffic of the United States Services, moving at high speeds, day and night, left the newcomers gasping in amazement.
The signals party stayed at Camp Stevens for only two days before it moved further up the island, but its personnel did have the opportunity to 'do the town' and visit the American base message centre—or signal office, as New Zealanders knew it— with its battery of wireless sets, teleprinters and switchboards. The latter carried 1,000 telephone connections and accounted for the many cables straddled along the roadways. Two thousand miles of army cable were in use on the island, while the stocks in store of spare valves alone numbered 75,000. Eyes popped with envy. Apart from 'Hiya Noo Zealand' from American servicemen there was no tumultuous reception for this party, but an incident involving the Sigs was warming in its effect. The party was walking along one of the streets viewing the shops of Nouméa when a Frenchman who had spotted the traditional New Zealand peaked hats through the window from the interior of his emporium came running out on to the pavement to greet them. 'Are you the New Zealanders who fought on the Somme in the last war?' he asked in understandable English. 'They were our fathers/ replied the new arrivals, whereupon he excitedly shook hands and told them he was there too. He then elatedly ran back to the shop to tell the many customers that 'the New Zealanders are here/
Proceeding by truck 130 miles up the island on Route Coloniale, the advanced party passed through the township of Bourail, branched off on a cross-Island road which leads to Houailou, and settled near Néméara in a camp which had just been vacated by the Third Battalion of the 132nd United States Infantry Regiment. A few days later Sergeant Jones and Corporal Breach journeyed back to Nouméa to the United States Army base message centre to observe American signal procedure. On the return of Corporal Breach (Sergeant Jones remained in page 117Nouméa attached to NZEF IP Base for liaison duty, handling messages to New Zealand), the advanced party took over the existing communications from the 132nd Regiment Headquarters Signals, about three miles away at Néméara. This included a message centre, complete with an exchange covering the area from La Foa to Nepoui, and a teletype machine which worked to an element of the 43rd United States Division at La Foa. Assisting as the exchange operators for a few days were three American signal personnel who also proved themselves adept as cooks of the American food which comprised the rations for the New Zealanders from arrival on the island. A day or so later, 22 November to be exact, advanced headquarters of Third New Zealand Division were established in this camp. Colonel Burns, who had been on the island since 7 November, was also present, and the following day, in company with other divisional officers, carried out a preliminary reconnaissance of the proposed site for divisional headquarters at Moindah, some 30 miles further up the island. On the departure of the Americans communications were maintained day and night with the skeleton staff, but traffic was fortunately very light. Lieutenant Garters operated the teletype machine; his batman, Signalman Ralfe, took over the switchboard; Corporal Breach, the signal office; and Corporal Nicol, besides relieving in the signal office, prided himself on the feat of substituting for a missing cook and preparing meals, one of which was a formal dinner for the divisional staff. The menu for dinner on 25 November, American Thanks-giving Day, was unusual in that fresh turkey with cranberry sauce was served to the New Zealanders as well as to all the United States forces on the island that day.
First problem, however, was a fault which developed in the teletype cable to La Foa, caused by an exceptionally heavy electrical storm one evening. So vivid was the lightning that a photograph taken—using the lightning flash as the sole lighting for the exposure—was as clear as if taken by daylight. In order to locate the fault it was found necessary to hire two horses from the mission situated nearby and start on a cross-country trek-over unknown ground. The party was certainly versatile.
Meanwhile the Maui had arrived in Nouméa Harbour from New Zealand with the artillery signal sections. Anchoring on 11 November (Armistice Day), the sections observed the two page 118minutes' silence on the deck of the transport. That afternoon General Barrowclough went on board and greeted the troops. N section landed late that afternoon, being transported to an American camp at Ansa Vata, where tents and stretchers were waiting already erected for them. Working parties from P and X sections stayed aboard to assist with the unloading. On 16 November P section went ashore, moving to Camp Stevens on the outskirts of the town. Four days later they again shifted, this time to the New Zealand transit camp at Dumbea where, with X section and representatives of N section, they took possession of their equipment from a dump which had accumulated since the unloading of the ship had commenced. N section was not so fortunate with its equipment, however, as a number of telephones, fullerphones and switchboards had slipped into the water when a barge foundered while being ferried ashore. A diver eventually recovered the equipment, but the use of it had been lost until it was fully reconditioned. N section then moved from Ansa Vata into the Nouméa township and formed a transit camp at Vallee du Tir. The area (which bordered the 'house of renown ') proved to be an old cemetery, and while the excavating of latrines was in progress a number of human bones were unearthed. Base Headquarters, NZEF IP, was temporarily established in this area, and N section supplied the communications.
X section moved about 160 miles up the island from Dumbea to Plaine des Gaiacs to commence operational duties on the air-field. P section moved up the island 60 miles to Oua Tom where personnel performed a similar function to X section, also on an airstrip. Regimental headquarters of the 33rd Heavy Regiment, to which N section was attached, then moved, together with a battery, to Ile Nou, an island in the Nouméa Harbour; while another battery of the same regiment occupied Point Tierre on the opposite side of the harbour. This gave a complete heavy artillery coverage of the inner entrance to the Nouméa Harbour which was a valuable target for the enemy. To the regimental headquarters and to both the batteries were attached signal personnel from N section. Soon afterwards base headquarters moved up the island to Bourail, and the transit camp at Vallee du Tir was closed down to be re-opened at Vallee des Colons, from where a Sub-Base Headquarters, NZEF JP, commenced to function. The remainder of N section moved too, and in supplying page 119communications for subbase headquarters established an orderly room, a signal office, a No. 9 wireless station for communication with division, a quartermaster's store and a workshop. Following a short stay in this camp, the officer commanding N section moved his headquarters and orderly room across the harbour to Ile Nou and established it in the French concrete building occupied also by regimental headquarters. The signal office and wireless station, however, continued to function at Vallee des Colons, supplying the necessary communications for the subbase units until ultimately relieved by a detachment from base signals.
On the evening of 1 December 1942 unit headquarters, headquarters company, and No. 1 company reached Nepoui after having waited in the inlet most of the day for another ship to sail from the wharf. The general and Colonel Burns were at Nepoui to welcome the troops. On berthing, a ship's unloading party was detailed, and the remainder of the unit came ashore to be whisked by trucks to a tented staging camp which had been erected by the advanced party on the hillside of Nepoui Valley about three miles from the wharf. The camp site had not been cleared of the guava which covered the area, with a consequent result that it was a real scramble to get into the tents, especially in the dark. Candles were issued, however, and the men soon had their gear unpacked, mosquito nets erected, and had turned in for the night, A member of the advanced party who was present had a busy time answering a barrage of questions which covered every topic from the weather to the women on the island. On the following day the ship's unloading party manned the winches and commenced a clock-round unloading of the many tons of unit equipment, ammunition, and motor transport which the ship's hatches had concealed. The dry heat was immediately felt by most, and it was not long before self-appointed barbers were doing a brisk business clipping scalps bald. The changed appearance of each new 'victim' raised many a laugh among his mates. Each day working parties from No. 1 company left the transit camp by truck for the 20-mile journey southward to Moindah, where unit headquarters, headquarters and No. 1 companies were to become established. Major Wilson supervised the layout and construction, and out of the large area of ground allocated to the unit he wisely selected an elevated site for the page 120camp itself. The site, which was covered with a coarse grass studded with uninteresting niaouli trees, neighboured on that of divisional headquarters in the locality later occupied by all divisional units.
With the gradual unloading of the Brastagi's cargo the transit camp became a centre of activity, and unit representatives endeavoured to sort out and claim their own gear from the giant dump which accumulated. A convoy of signals vehicles moved the unit to the new area on 6 December, where each soldier was allocated his future home under canvas. Roads in the camp were designated merely by running a truck through the guava scrub in the required direction, and pushing over with the front bumper any niaouli trees which happened to be in the way. The 67th LAD, attached to divisional signals, also camped in the area and soon established motor transport workshops.
Uniforms were reduced to a minimum in the jungle. These are the officers of 14th Brigade Advanced Headquarters during the action on Vella Lavella. Left to right: Lieutenant H. E. Joscelyn, RANVR, Brigadier Potter, Major G. W. Waddell. Captain D. M. Young, Lieutenant E. G. Harris and Captain W. G. Caughey
K section signals on Vella Lavella at conclusion of hostilities on that island. Lieutenant Harris, officer commanding, is fourth from left in middle row
Working kit for some of the staff of 14th Brigade Advanced Headquarters at Matsuroto during action on Vella Lavclla
Corporal P. A. Davidson, DCM, oi 14th Brigade Defence Platoon, who won his decoration on Nissan
The orderly room staff at South Point when the 14th Brigade went to Nissan Island. In the front row are Sergeant G. P. Walker, Corpora! G, D. Thorburn, Private T. H. Shaw, Private J. B. Taylor and Private G. E. Bleasel
The 14th Brigade Defence and Employment Platoon at South Point, Nissan Island, before the homeward trek began
The Carrier Platoon on Nissan Island. Captain Slronach, Officer commanding, is on the extreme right of front row
A group from 14th Brigade Headquarters photographed at Joroveto, Vella Lavella
Officers of 14th Brigade Headquarters at Pokonian Plantation. Left to right: Lieutenant R. A. Stokes, Captain J. F. E. Wilson, Captain G. C. C. Sandston, MBE, Lieutenant R. H, C. Crawley, and Lieutenant E. G. Taylor
The transport section of 14th Brigade Headquarters at Joroveto. Captain K. D. Page was the officer in command
Simultaneously with settling; in was the job of establishing communications.In this respect A wireless, B cable and D signal office sections were kept busy. The wiring of the divisional area for telephone communications was commenced, and lines of W 110 cable were laid to Nepoui and Bourail (20 and 25 miles respectively on either side of Moindah). A wireless link, using No. 9 sets, was instituted between Moindah and the Nepoui staging camp, while other members of the wireless section were engaged in establishing a wireless station at Koumac (about 120 miles north of Moindah) to provide communication for formations in the northern sector of the island until the arrival of K section, and in erecting a high-power transmitter to form a rear link with New Zealand from base in the township of Bourail. As it was now some time since members of the unit had had access to a canteen, cigarettes and toilet requisites were becoming increasingly scarce. Much appreciated, therefore, was the action of the colonel who, on his return from a conference in Nouméa, filled the available space in his car with comforts which he purchased on the camp's behalf from American sources. This enabled the immediate establishment of a unit canteen,.
Headquarters and headquarters section of artillery signals, together with base signals, arrived in Nouméa on 8 December from New Zealand on the President Munroe and immediately moved to the Dumbéa transit camp where they spent a week before journeying further up the island. Captain Heatherwick established his headquarters alongside those of divisional signals at Moindah. Base signals travelled about 25 miles less distance to establish themselves at the township of Bourail. Acting as an advanced party to base units the section opened the Bourail Camp, and commenced to operate a signal office from a tent erected in a paddock at the northern end of the town. This was only a temporary measure, however, and a house was soon acquired for the purpose but, on its occupation by Headquarters, NZEF IP, the office again moved, this time to a prefabricated hut which had been erected towards the rear of the house. A switchboard was installed and the normal office and despatch rider services commenced operation immediately.
Bourail is the second town of New Caledonia, and is situated page 122approximately halfway up the island near the west coast. Homes and shops flank the main road, Route Coloniale, on either side for a distance of about half a mile. The shops are mostly provision stores selling a wide variety of household requirements, and Australia seemed to be their main source of supply. A butcher's shop, invariably with an audience of dogs, never looked very inviting, while two or three restaurants and a not very palatial hotel had little to offer to the New Zealanders. Other buildings consisted of the Town Hall, Public Works Department's offices and the Post and Telegraph Office, but by far the most imposing was the dignified Roman Catholic church which overlooked Bourail Square and the Jeanne d' Arc statue in the centre of the township. The town at that time of the year looked attractive to the new arrival. Flamboyant trees, laden with red flowers, provided relief to the sore eyes of weary truck drivers and their passengers as the vehicles rumbled through the avenue of blooms which bordered the road at each entrance to the township. To the rear of the main street it was a different story, however, with hovels of homes, dirty by-ways and poor sanitation.
Although the establishment of communications had naturally taken priority over the work of improving sections' camp areas, the approach of Christmas was not allowed to pass without some thought for activities on Christmas Day. On 25 December operational duties were reduced to a minimum, and church services were conducted by padres in the morning. In the afternoon at the Moindah camp a swimming carnival was held in the river, the pool being laid out in lanes with rope lines buoyed by small lengths of cane over a distance of 50 yards. Among the many spectators was the general who honoured the unit with his presence. Excitement ran high as members of the unit battled it out in racing, diving, relay and novelty events. A wireless section won the most points for the afternoon. Highlight of the day was Christmas dinner, which commenced at 5 pm. As yet the unit had no mess room, but tables and forms were arranged on a cleared piece of ground. From wires strung between poles around the area were hung truck loads of branches of brilliant flamboyant blooms. The appearance of the tables as the gathering sat down to dinner was a memorable one. The usual rations had been supplemented by local purchases out of regimental funds, and the allowance made by the army itself of one shilling page 123a head, subsidised with a further grant of a shilling a head by the National Patriotic Fund Board, to be expended on extras for the men, was a contributing factor to the success of the function. Corporal R. Crothers and his cooks had a busy day preparing the meal of fresh meat, vegetables, sauces, steam puddings, fruit salad, savouries and five big Christmas cakes. Empty containers left little doubt as to the participants'appreciation of their efforts. Cigarettes, candy and beer were on the menu too. Again the general paid a visit, walking around between the tables and chatting to the men. One of the noticeable features of the tropics is the short twilight, so it was not long after mess when, under a starlit sky, festivities were continued in the form of an impromptu concert and community sing. Similarly the three artillery signals sections and base signals had participated in festivities with the units to which they were attached.
Back in New Zealand were the rear party and reinforcements at Claudelands, J section at Cambridge, K section at Te Aroha, and E section at Tirau. They had Christmas dinner in their respective camps, but many signalmen accepted invitations and enjoyed the hospitality of the people in adjacent homes. Four days later, on 29 December, these sections sailed from Auckland aboard the West Point with the main body of the division for New Caledonia. On arrival at Nouméa the Claudelands rear party plus the 86 reinforcements disembarked, but E, J and K sections remained aboard in the harbour till the early hours of the morning of 3 January when they transferred to the Dutch freighter Welterhreden, which drew alongside. The freighter sailed from Nouméa at 6 am, carrying 1,800 troops (with neither rafts nor life jackets as safety measures) and berthed at Nepoui at 4.30 pm that afternoon. Travelling up the coast in the hot sun on a cramped deck was not an enviable experience. On berthing E and K sections went by truck to the Nepoui staging camp, and J section was whisked direct to its future home with 8th Brigade Headquarters at the head of the Népoui Valley. The following day K section left by truck for Taom, a distance of about 40 miles north of Nepoui, where it became established with 14th Brigade Headquarters. E section remained in the staging camp for a few days before also moving up the Nepoui Valley to the headquarters of the 17th Field Regiment. The whole of the unit of the Third Divisional Signals page 124was now on the island, with the various sections spread from Nouméa to Taom, or virtually from one end of the island to the other.
The entire division was linked when wireless communications were established between brigades and divisional headquarters at Moindah. J section's immediate task was the erection of a pole line to the brigade units and to E section, while E section was kept busy establishing and maintaining communications with the batteries of the regiment. Every section on the island had a signal office, and an ever-increasing number of despatches and messages was handled daily. With the gradual laying of lines by the respective line parties fullerphones (which in transmission maintained the security of messages without the necessity of enciphering) came into use between the brigade sections and base in links to No. 1 company at division. Exchanges (10-line universal call), through which telephone calls in the respective areas passed, were standard section equipment and, like every signal office and wireless set, they were in operation 24 hours a day. Despatch riders, or 'couriers' as they became more familiarly known, using jeeps for conveyance, left daily from division on scheduled services. Base signals, brigade, field regiment and artillery sections' couriers covered their local areas. Connections were also made with the courier from the United States 43rd Division. Each section periodically issued a duplicated telephone directory of the subscribers in its own area, and for security reasons each unit, telephone, and wireless station had its code name which was changed from time to time. Revised signal diagrams were also prepared as routes of communication varied. Barely had E, J and K sections settled in their respective camps than heavy rains flooded them out. Their camps were quagmires, and in each instance they had to shift their complete organisation to higher sites on ground in the same area. At Moindah, too, the full effect of the prolonged downpour had been experienced, but apart from muddy roads and tracks the camp did not become waterlogged. To No. 1 company became attached a small section of American pigeoneers. Arriving complete with living accommodation, mobile loft, birds and vehicles, these men soon became firm friends with members of the unit. Their birds, gifts from patriotic fanciers in New York and Chicago, were not used extensively to carry messages operationally, but were con-page 125tinually flown from different parts of the island in training flights.
In January 1943, with the formation of a third brigade known as the 15th Infantry Brigade, L signal section came into being under the command of Captain Garters. This section was composed of a sprinkling of signalmen and non-commissioned officers from the already established sections, but mainly with reinforcements from the newly arrived contingent. Brigade headquarters was established at Néméara, with the signal office operating from the same building as that which the advanced party had occupied on its arrival in the area two months previously. An exchange was installed, and wireless and fullerphone communications were established with division and base.
The death from sickness of Signalman G. M. Skinner, on 30 January 1943 in the 109th Station Hospital, brought to the unit its first loss in New Caledonia. The body was conveyed to Nouméa, where the following day it was interred with full military honours at an impressive service attended by Colonel Burns and members of the unit.
On 1 February base signals ceased to function as a section of the parent unit and became a self-accounting unit. This did not in any way affect the communications, which continued as before. The same month Captain Heatherwick relinquished the appointment of officer commanding artillery signals to become administrative officer, Third Divisional Signals, and officer commanding headquarters company, with promotion to the rank of major. Captain Clarke assumed command of artillery signals, and Lieutenant Watts filled the appointment of adjutant, previously held by Captain Clarke, and Lieutenant Eady relinquished command of artillery signals headquarters Section to take command of N section attached to the 33rd Heavy Regiment at lie Nou, on Lieutenant Hanson's admission to hospital.
With liberal labour available from reinforcements, the camp was beginning to assume a neat and well laid out appearance. To anyone wishing to locate it from Route Coloniale, they turned into a camp road identified by a signboard bearing the numbers 24, 25 and 3 painted on a background of the signals colours of blue and white. These numbers represented unit headquarters, No. 1 company, and headquarters artillery signals, and were to be found not only at the camp entrance, but also on all vehicles page 126and equipment belonging to the unit as a means of identification. The sections also used allotted numbers for the same purpose. Following a new metal road into the camp, the first scene of activity to attract attention was the light aid detachment with its tarpaulin-covered workshop, mobile store, orderly room, ramp and breakdown truck. The roads of the island were treacherously rough and spared no vehicle, so the mechanics were never short of work. Breaking off to the left was another well formed camp road, for the vehicles of artillery signals, which led around past the men's mess. A short distance past the LAD was M section, complete with battery charger (Frankenstein), mounted on a vehicle, a mobile workshop where all technical repairs were effected, and a tented office. A few yards further along the road was the motor transport park flanking one side, and on the other the petrol station (or POL) from which an attendant issued petrol, oil and lubricants to the unit's and visiting vehicles.
Continuing a little further, the bootmaker's shop and quartermaster stores were reached. The latter consisted of three IP tents joined together in succession and raised considerably from the ground, allowing ample storage and walking space within. Next the store was a large marquee containing the offices of Major Heatherwick, the quartermaster, regimental quartermaster-sergeant, and headquarters company orderly room. The marquee had no covering fly, and the heat inside gave the occupants a fair imitation of a turkish bath. Running at right angles to the camp entrance road was another road, or what may be termed the 'main street' of the camp. Bordering this roadway, in the centre of the camp, was the unit headquarters mobile orderly room and a tented office occupied by the officer commanding, Third Divisional Signals. From a niaouli flagpole in front of the orderly room flew the flag of the New Zealand Corps of Signals. Southwards along 'main street' was No. 1 company quartermaster's store, the officers', warrant-officers' and sergeants-messes and cook-house, and the living quarters of the officers, warrant-officers and sergeants. On the southerly boundary of the unit's area was the 5th Provost Company, but to reach the signal office, cipher office and exchange it was necessary to continue further along this road past the various other units to divisional headquarters where D section carried out its operational duties. Northwards from the centre of the camp page 127was No, 1 company orderly room (an IP tent), ration stores (two adjoining IPP tents), men's cook-house, the tent lines of personnel, artillery signals headquarters and headquarters section, and their quartermaster's store, workshops and tent lines. Electric light was provided for the offices in divisional headquarters and in orderly rooms, mess rooms and canteen in the signals camp itself, when electricians from M section wired and connected the areas to the battery charging plant. The advent of electric light, combined with the opening of the officers' new mess, led the unit's paper, Niaouli News, to quip that the mess was 'all lit up.'
Everyone began to settle down in what was to be their home for quite a few months. No effort was spared to make tent life as comfortable as possible and, providing tidiness was maintained, considerable latitude was generally allowed. The cots were comfortable to sleep on and they possessed the added advantage of being collapsible. This enabled a signalman to carry easily his bed with him when the occasion arose for shifting quarters—-and in the army this is frequent. The canvases on the cots were, however, subject to deterioration, and many a man had the dubious pleasure of sleeping on a split canvas until it could be replaced. Candles were generally used for lighting in the tents, although the ingenuity of the average signalman played a part in the devising of lighting either from acquired six-volt car batteries or a wick and kerosene. The cord inside the tents (intended for the suspension of mosquito nets) made an ideal wick. Owing to the low power of lighting within the camp, blackout restrictions were not enforced except during an emergency.
A popular man on ration day was the ration storeman on whom the demand for empty boxes was always great. Arranged alongside men's beds, sometimes fitted with hinged doors or shelves, they were ideal for the storing of clothes and personal effects. Working parties brought back to the camps many truck loads of bamboo, which was found growing up to 50 feet in height along the river banks, Cut and split into short lengths, it was at first thought ideal when bound together for use as sides for the tents, but its eventual riddling by the borer created such a thick dust over articles in the tent that its further use in this manner was discontinued. Eagerly sought after were the page 128tins in which the flour and dehydrated vegetables were packed. These, with the top removed and a handle of fencing wire, were used to carry water for ablutions or for soaking grubby clothes. A small bench with a rack on which to hang a shaving mirror formed the bathroom found outside many tents.
Daily routine consisted of sick parade at 6 am, breakfast at 7 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5 pm—all with the inevitable queue up. Because of the number of men always on duty it was also necessary to serve a late or early mess wherever signals were stationed. In the Moindah camp reveille and tattoo were sounded daily but they did not affect those on shift duty manning signal offices and exchanges, cipher personnel or wireless operators. A parade for the inspection of rifles and dress was held daily (except Sundays) at 8 am for all off-duty personnel of No. 1 company, on a small parade ground which extended between unit headquarters and the sergeants' lines. Similarly, unit headquarters and headquarters company held a parade one morning a week on their parade ground alongside the bootmaker's shop. Dress for duty at divisional headquarters consisted of felt hat, open-necked shirt, shorts, half hose, puttees and black boots for other ranks, but camp construction parties were naturally allowed to digress from this order.
Most days were scorching hot, with the consequent result that shirts had a short life owing to the continual sweating of the wearer. In the other sections more latitude was generally allowed in personal dress, and anklets were invariably worn in place of puttees. 'Longs' were worn to evening mess, and they also provided protection against mosquitoes which came to life at dusk. At periods when dengue fever became prevalent long trousers were also worn during the daytime as added protection against the mosquito. In the divisional area, where the operational function of the unit was carried out some distance from the actual living quarters, rifles, steel helmets, and respirators were carried to duty.
Lieutenant-Colonel D. M. Burns, who commanded the Third Division Signals from the time the division was reformed on its return from Fiji until the end of operations in the Solomons. On his return to New Zealand Colonel Burns was awarded the American Legion of Merit. Before being appointed tu the Third Division he saw service with the Second Division in Middle East
Above; Native built bures at Black Rock, Naraaka, which accommodated K section signals during their operation role as part of 14th Brigade Headquarters in Fiji. On the left is a picturesque glimpse of the Government buildings in Suva, the basement of which housed the first B Force signals. Below is the 8th Brigade Group signal section on 26 October 1941, a year after the New Zealanders went to Fiji. Several of these men later went through the Solomons campaign
In the evenings those who were free wrote letters, lay on their beds, read, or played cards. The popular rendezvous for many more were the road-houses, YMCA huts, or recreation huts in the various camp areas. There one could play cards, read, listen to the radio, just talk or, what was more important to a New Zealander, get a cup of tea. Some evenings there were movies or a concert to attend. Educational lectures for off-duty personnel were held one night a week in the men's mess, at Moindah, over a number of weeks. In the first lecture the colonel outlined the purpose of the talks and continued to speak on 'The Formation of the Division,' a topic of importance to all signalmen. In the series which followed. Captain Hanna discussed many simple 'First Aid' expedients that could be employed in attending a casualty until he was under the care of a medical officer or orderly. Malaria was another topic. Everyone knew that sooner or later he would find himself moving northwards to the malarial zone, and just how much it would be likely to affect normal health if contracted was naturally of paramount importance. One lecture given by Major N. V. North, of the malarial control unit, using films to illustrate the activities of the malaria-carrying anopheles mosquito and the steps employed to reduce to a mini-page 130mum the possibility of catching malaria, did much to enlighten confused minds on the subject.
To men, rough and tough, camped out in 'the blue' for many long months without the influencing effect of women or the general round of social activities found in normal life, it might be generally conceded that the groomed appearance of an individual would lapse considerably. This, however, was not the case, and the opportunity to 'dress up' in a neatly pressed drill shirt and trousers after duty was the inherent pride of most men. Well used were the petrol irons, and in some instances electric models wired to operate from camp 110-volt electrical systems were available for use in the recreational huts. A simpler expedient to achieve neatness was to fold the clothing as desired, place under a blanket on the cot and sleep on it. This was the more common practice. On Sundays, communications continued as on the other six days of the week, although generally it was regarded as a day off. Church services were conducted every Sunday morning in the recreation huts, and compulsory church parades were held periodically—usually in the open air, but at most times attendance was voluntary. Subject to the applicant's being free from signal duties, leave was always granted to attend services elsewhere should one so desire, and in the instance of Roman Catholics vehicles were provided to take them to the nearest service. A popular innovation in the Moindah camp was the running of trucks to the Bourail beach on Sunday mornings following church services. Although 30 miles away over rough roads, it was accepted as a means of relaxation from camp life, and everyone enjoyed the trips. Base signals were only a few miles away from the beach, and among the surf teams of the force, which patrolled the beach and effected numerous rescues, was one from that unit.
From time to time, too, wireless crews were despatched to different parts of the island, complete with wireless stations, tentage and rations for a few days. Communications were maintained throughout, and valuable experience was gained on these trips, but their best feature was the opportunity of affording personnel a break in the months of monotony. A description of camp routine at Moindah would be incomplete without mention of Corporal O. S. Lincoln's sunrise serenade. Waking much earlier in the morning than others, he saw no reason why the page 131rest of the camp should not suffer likewise, so breaking forth into song, interspersed with a few words of 'advice' to the sergeants still in their beds, his voice would carry from the colonel's tent at one end of the camp to artillery signals lines at the other. A bugle was later substituted for the sounding of reveille, but which was the lesser of the two evils no one ever decided.
To the average person visiting a signals camp there seemed little to justify such a large body of men, but tucked away just off the beaten track were signal and cipher offices, exchanges and wireless stations, together with the necessary linesmen and despatch riders—all in perfect coordination throughout the force —receiving and forwarding hundreds of messages and despatches daily. The unit was not training, it was doing its job. The hour of the day or night, or seeming unimportance of a message was of no consequence. The full facilities were involved to ensure its speediest delivery.
Regimental signallers maintained communications within their own battalions, but attached to each battalion were divisional signals radio operators, conveying traffic by wireless to the respective brigade headquarters. At and to the rear of brigade headquarters the signal personnel were entirely made up of men from divisional signals. From the brigades signal traffic converged to division, and from there to base which was in constant wireless communication with Army Headquarters, Wellington. Coordinated within this setup were the divisional signals sections attached to the headquarters of the anti-aircraft, heavy artillery, and field regiments, with divisional artillery headquarters as the terminal for their transmissions. To enable the early establishment of the rear link to New Zealand, members of A wireless section of No. 1 company left Moindah shortly after their arrival, to install at base high-power wireless equipment in prefabricated huts and to erect aerials at a selected site on the hill just to the rear of the township of Bourail. This became known as Gracefield, the 250-watt transmitter of which went on the air with excellent results on 13 December. Within a few days a steady flow of messages was being sent and received. Messages on this link, however, did not remain confined to operational and administrative traffic, as war correspondents' despatches for distribution to the New Zealand newspapers were also handled. When the French vacated Ballandes provision store in page 132the centre of Bourail the two-storied, whitewashed building became the headquarters of Brigadier W. W. Dove, CBE, MC (Officer in Charge of Administration but more generally known as OICA) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific. The signal office consequently moved there, and the coolness of this new home was immediately appreciated.
Within a short period sub-exchanges of 10-line switchboards were in operation at base ordnance depot in Bourail, base reception depot at Tene Valley, and at the 4th General Hospital at Boguen Valley. The main exchange carried 30 lines, which included a trunk to the French civilian exchange for the dissemination of hurricane and air raid warnings. Long hours were being worked by members of the section, and shifts up to 17 hours were not uncommon. Numerous fullerphone circuits were operated covering division, 4th General Hospital, 15th Brigade, and 8th Brigade some 50 miles away at Bouloupari. The fuller-phone and exchange at the hospital were operated by members of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. Base also had a busy cipher section where all messages for transmission over the rear link to New Zealand were enciphered. In command of this secretive department was Second-Lieutenant K. O. Stewart.
The communications for subbase of HQ, NZEF IP, at the transit camp in Vallee des Colons, Nouméa, was originally provided by N section, which was attached to the 33rd Heavy Regiment in that area, but on base signals becoming a self-contained unit with a proportionately increased establishment, it became possible to provide a subbase detachment of eventually 21 men to relieve N section. It also allowed the taking over from A wireless section of the operation of the rear link transmitter. Actually the same operators became absorbed into base signals. Subsequently officered by Second-Lieutenant J. W. R. Troup and Second-Lieutenant L. R. Jones, the first senior member of the subbase detachment was Warrant-Officer 2nd Class E. J. Fitzgerald. A signal office was established, an exchange on which the operator answered 'New Zealand switchboard,' and a No. 9 wireless station to cover the 120 miles span to a similar set at base.
At divisional headquarters No. 1 company commenced to operate within a few hours of entering Moindah camp. D section operated its mobile signal office, with exchange and fuller-page 133phones, from the centre of the camp, but this was only temporary. A week later, with the establishment of divisional headquarters alongside the unit, D section moved to a central position among the tented offices. This proved to be a permanent position for the duration of activities in New Caledonia. The exchange and cipher staffs continued to operate from mobile offices, but the signal office found cooler quarters in an adjacent IPP tent. Because of their single-thickness canvas hoods, the trucks became uncomfortably hot for work during the daylight hours. B and D section linesmen got little rest, as the divisional area, Bourail, and Nepoui were quickly linked to the switchboard. At first a 10-line universal call exchange provided a sufficiently large switchboard, but this later had to be enlarged to cope with an increase to 20 and subsequently 30 lines, many of which were party connections. Within the signal office itself packing cases and tables were well utilised to furnish an efficiently working office. In an attached wing the fullerphone circuits, previously in the truck, were terminated at a table from which operators worked, with a maximum of comfort under the circumstances, to base signals at Bourail, K section (14th Brigade) at Nepoui, and L section (15th Brigade) at Néméara. Despatch riders using jeeps commenced their scheduled journeys from this focal point, travelling daily as far northwards as Taom, and reaching Oua Tom on the southward run.
Natives were employed to build three separate bures to house the signal office, cipher section, and the exchange, into which the respective elements moved as soon as they were completed. The mobile units were then dispensed with. Cipher was playing an important part in the security of wireless transmissions, and all sections had within their ranks trained cipher personnel. All wireless messages liable to fall into enemy hands were enciphered. Runners on duty at the signal office had a particularly wide area to cover in the delivery of messages, although latterly the acquisition of a bicycle saved many miles of tramping in the daylight hours. It was a good mile from the divisional engineers at one end of the area to divisional ordnance workshops at the other end. A camp road extended between the two units, but its condition varied according to the interest of the units bordering it, and the weather. The use of a bicycle after dark was therefore out of the question. Signal time was trans-page 134mitted at 8 o'clock each morning by telephone to units, while time could be checked at any hour merely by ringing the exchange. The signal office claimed that the division rotated on its time, but the Niaouli News in one issue ventured the remark that it was more likely to be the other way round and that it 'rotated' the division.
Hidden away in the niaouli trees in the vicinity of the signal office were three tents containing wireless stations operated by members of the A wireless section of No. 1 company. Using No. 9 sets, links were maintained with the 8th, 14th and 15th Brigades. The link to 14th Brigade at Taom was continuous, with excellent reception, but transmission to 8th and 15th Brigades was commenced only in the event of the fuller/phones going out of operation. Communications with American headquarters and subbase—both in Nouméa—were maintained, the American link being operated from a mobile station by American personnel who became attached to No. 1 company. Signals over this long span were mainly good, although sometimes heavy interference had to be contended with during the night hours. Night operators had other problems, too, besides the recording of dots and dashes which crackled through the ether. It was often bitingly cold, especially around three or four in the morning, while mosquitoes simply lost all sense of proportion in their desire to suck a man dry of blood. M section maintained a steady flow of charged batteries, each No. 9 set requiring four 125 AH batteries a day to keep it on the air, A maintenance man in a jeep visited each station every morning and evening to disconnect and collect the two expended batteries, and to replace them with freshly charged ones.
B cable section of No. 1 company had a full time job ahead of them. Daily two cable wagons left the camp loaded with personnel, reels of cable, ladders, mechanical cable layers and pole climbers. There was very little of the road—or the people on it—which they did not know. French civilian lines ran the length of the island and in many instances advantage was taken of the existing poles to affix the division's lines. The cable laid was mostly American twist (W 110). The procedure was for the section to draw rations each day for the midday meal, of which they partook on the road, returning to the camp each evening. A faultman remained in camp, and in the event of a page 135fault developing on any line he was immediately despatched to locate and if possible repair the trouble. One of the main problems was the induction from the French lines, and on occasions it interrupted speech over the long lines to base from divisional headquarters. To anyone unable to speak the language it was amusing to listen to the French, especially the fluctuations in the voices, and what sounded like an excessive number of ouis.
Following the original laying of lines by B cable section to Plaine des Gaiacs and Nepoui, the maintenance of these cables northwards of Moindah became the responsibility of artillery signals. B cable section then continued to operate south of the camp where they erected lines from Moindah to base signals at Bourail, and to the 5th Brigade at Néméara; from base signals to base reception depot in the Tene Valley and to the 4th General Hospital in the Boguen Valley. They also overhauled an existing line from base to 15th Brigade. From this alone can be judged what kept the section on a seven days a week schedule which lasted for two months after arrival. The section then rendered assistance (with artillery signals) to the United States Signal Corps in the construction and maintenance of a new poled line to facilitate communication between the Tontouta and Plaine 'des Gaiacs airfields, which were 118 miles apart. The next task to confront the section was the overhauling of some 40 miles of cross-country line providing a circuit from base signals to J section at Bouloupari. For sheer hard work under trying conditions the men, who worked in relays of eight, excelled themselves.
The route was cross-country to the hospital, whence it followed the Boguen Valley for a distance of nine miles before climbing over mountainous and heavily bushed country, eventually reaching the steep Firano Road and terminating at Saramea. The line had originally been laid by the United States Signal Corps some months previously, but it had deteriorated to such an extent that it became unworkable. Linemen traversed the entire distance on foot as they examined and overhauled the line. Mention of 16 barred pieces requiring reinsulating, in the 12 miles before the hospital was reached, and a further 22 in the first three miles beyond, gives some indication of the work entailed. The detachment had with it a jeep for which it was necessary to hack a track as the party progressed. On this the men carried their gear, and in addition two TP tents in which they camped page 136en route. Expert driving was called for in handling the jeep, for in many parts it was a sheer drop into the river below from the rough rocky trail they blazed over the mountains. Food was often short, while storms (which further damaged the line), excessive heat and mosquitoes added to the privations suffered. Forty-six miles in three days and 58 miles in four days were two walks recorded through the bush when detachments arrived to bring relief.
Within the divisional camp area itself, line construction to the exchange and maintenance was carried out by linemen of D section, pride of their trade being the neat appearance of the multitude of lines which entered the exchange. J section's stay in the Nepoui Valley was of only six weeks duration. Communications and their camp life were just becoming routine when, on the movement from the island of the United States 43rd Division, the 8th New Zealand Brigade (to whom J section was attached) moved southwards to Bouloupari to fill the gap left in the island's defences. From the new location the wireless channel to divisional headquarters was continued, using a No. 9 set. At first this provided a 24-hour continuous service but, on the establishment of a fullerphone line from Bouloupari to base, wireless communication was limited to hourly 'skeds,' No. 11 sets were used to link the 29th, 34th and 36th Infantry Battalions with brigade headquarters, and the section's operators were engaged on all these links. A twice daily despatch rider service covered a route of approximately 30 miles. Manoeuvres with the brigade were frequent and the Mount St. Vincent and Oua Tom areas became very familiar to members of the section, a highlight of one show being the feat of establishing a No. 11 radio station, complete with heavy 85 AH batteries plus spares, on the summit of Mount St. Vincent. The signal office and exchange were located in a native-built bitre vacated by the United States Signal Corps of the 43rd Division.
K section, attached to the 14th Brigade at Taom formed the northern link of the division's communication system, and was in continuous communication with divisional headquarters, using a No. 9 set. In turn brigade was in communication with its own operators who keyed out messages on No. 11 sets from the 30th Battalon stationed 48 miles further north at Koumac. The 37th Battalion, which was camped adjacent to brigade headquarters,page 137was connected by line communication only. On the same wireless net as that of the 30th Battalion was the brigade's administrative centre at Nepoui where the 35th Battalion of the brigade was stationed and a detachment from K section operated a signal office. At Taom the exchange and No. 9 set were contained within the busy signal office. On the arrival of the despatch rider from divisional headquarters late each afternoon a further courier from the section left for Koumac, returning the same evening. Fullerphones were not in use at Taom, but they were extensively employed at the administrative centre in communication with divisional headquarters, the 35th Battalion and the Nepoui wharf. A P. and T. type 30-line switchboard was used ? by the detachment.
An interesting feature of the brigade's manoeuvres held at the end of April was the movement of K section's complete signal office, exchange, wireless stations, and battery-charging equipment. Leaving Taom, the section journeyed south to Nepoui in trucks, and from there the brigade advanced northwards with the township of Pouembout as the military objective. Accompanying the advanced brigade headquarters, the signal office was completely established en route. The line party had a particularly hectic time. It rained heavily, lines were damaged by bren carriers, and others were 'cut.' The whole advanced operation took place during the night, and included the crossing of the Pouembout River on a bridge constructed by the engineers. Despatch riders had little rest, and the wireless operators had their share in the manoeuvre, the success of which was afterwards expressed by Brigadier L. Potter, DSO, officer commanding 14th Brigade, in congratulating the section on the high standard of communications provided. An unusual service was established when radio operators with four No. 11 sets maintained communication to brigade from mobile wireless stations in jeeps, as they accompanied the infantry on a route march from Taom to Nepoui.
Personnel for the formation of I section (which became attached to the headquarters of the new 15th Brigade) were drawn from a wide variety of sources, but it was not long after the section's commencement of operations at Néméara in January 1943 that it was moulded into a smooth-working and efficient section. Although not exactly flush in appointments, an old two-room concrete and mud shack, previously occupied by an interned page 138Japanese, proved ideal as a cool signal office. In addition to this members of the section built a serviceable wireless shack, workshop and store. From the signal office fullerphones were operated to the Scots and Ruahine Battalions, to base and divisional headquarters. In the event of the line to divisional headquarters failing, wireless was immediately employed- The exchange was a busy unit. Despatch riders from the section, in addition to their runs within the brigade, met the divisional despatch rider at the junction of the Houailou Road and Route Coloniale daily, to exchange despatches for their respective areas. On the disbandment of the brigade on 1 July L section ceased to exist, but prior to the movement northwards of the division members were absorbed into other sections. Training depots became established in the area, and the local communications were taken over by a detachment from base signals.
From artillery headquarters in the divisional headquarters area at Moindah artillery signals operated a wireless link to the various regiments under that command throughout the island. No. 11 sets were used but these were not successful for communications under local conditions during the hours of darkness, with the consequent result that transmission ceased daily between 7 pm and daybreak. On the wireless net were N section at Nouméa attached to the 33rd Heavy Regiment; P section at Oua Tom attached to the 28th Heavy Anti-aircraft Regiment; X section at Plaine des Gaiacs airfield attached to the 29th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment; and E section at Nepoui attached to the 17th Field Regiment. Owing to distance, Nouméa was not worked direct, however, and P section had to retransmit its traffic. A 10-line switchboard with a trunk line to D section's main exchange was also operated in the divisional area. Using No. 11 sets, N section wireless crews operated with the 33rd Heavy Regiment a net of three stations at Nouméa, He Nou and Point Tierre. Additional was a warning group wireless net with the United States combined operations headquarters, with Nouméa as the focal point. The 28th Heavy Anti-aircraft Regiment participated in this also, and both N and B sections supplied operators to man transmitters at combined operations headquarters.
N section operated two 10-line UC exchanges from the signal tower on the hill overlooking the harbour, and through these the commander of the harbour defences could issue orders page 139to all the guns, searchlights, and to the French battery of 25-pounders encircling the harbour. A poled line erected to Point Tierre (a distance of 32 and a-half miles) by the section's cable party was a feat in itself. Nicknamed the (Douglas Memorial Line,' this cattle-proof line was certainly a credit to Sergeant G. R. Douglas and his cable section. On a further occasion Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond Lee, signals officer, 1st Island Command, United States Army, utilised the services of Sergeant Douglas to supervise the laying of a submarine cable, by American personnel, between the mainland and lie Nou. This section was a little more fortunate than most, in as much as the shipping and naval craft in the harbour presented an ever-changing field of interest. Dating back to penal colony days, the prison, with its still serviceable guillotine, and the old fort with the guns still intact, were items of historical and general interest on the island itself.
In June the 33rd Heavy Regiment was relieved of its task by a United States Regiment, and N section moved to Tontouta to replace P section. P section was attached to the 28th Heavy Anti-aircraft Regiment at Oua Tom providing communications for the regiment and the guns around the airstrip. Ten-line exchanges were operated continuously by the section at regimental headquarters, 303rd battery and 208th battery. On the movement from the area of the United States 43rd Division the section also took over and operated two 12-line switchboards at La Foa and Saint Vincent. As in other sections, the cable party was particularly active. Besides the laying of normal communication lines, assistance was given to the Americans in the erection of a bare copper line from Nouméa to Plaine des Gaiacs, by the building of the Tontouta-La Foa section. A No. 177 wireless set was operated on the anti-aircraft warning net with combined operations in Nouméa, a novel feature being the use of a wire fence as an aerial. Other operators were engaged on the Plaine des Gaiacs—-Divisional Artillery Headquarters—Nouméa link, where a No. 9 set was first used but later a No. 11 station provided more satisfactory service on the allotted frequencies. On 20 May some members of the section moved to the Tontouta airstrip to establish communications for the regiment, similar to those at Oua Tom. They were followed within the next day or so by the remainder of the section. Dnrin.g the section's two and page 140a-half months' activities at Tontouta additional comfort was obtained through the screetiing-in of the tents, thereby making them mosquito-proof. Mosquitoes were exceptionally bad in this part of the island. The American Red Cross recreation hut, beer garden, and canteen were additional facilities enjoyed by personnel.
With the arrival from New Zealand of the 38th Field Regiment as an element of the 8th Brigade, P section, still under the command of Lieutenant Garner, moved from Tontouta to Ouenghi, where they assumed the title of G signal section and became attached to the new regiment. This was on 27 July 1943. The gap left at Tontouta was then filled by N section. X section made its home in the red dust alongside the Plaine des Gaiacs airfield, where it established communications to the New Zealand guns defending the strips. The section, like some of the others, was unfortunate in not having a river or creek in the vicinity of the camp, with the result that a four-mile journey was entailed in order to enjoy a plunge or swim. On the movement of regimental headquarters to the Bourail area a detachment of X section moved also to maintain a signal office and wireless communications. The rest of the section remained attached to the 202nd battery at Plaine des Gaiacs.
E section, attached to the 17th Field Regiment, had a varied career, the highlight of which was participation in manoeuvres with the three brigades of the division. Stationed in the Nepoui Valley, in close proximity to J section, two 10-line exchanges from the signal office connected regimental headquarters, the 12th battery, 35th battery, 37th battery, 54th anti-tank and other local subscribers, but on the movement of J section to Bouloupari the section's field of activity was further increased. It now took every man in the section to cope with the job in hand. Wireless communications were also extensive, for on the movement of the 35th battery to the Taom area they had an additional link there, as well as to the 37th battery to the south at Bouloupari. F section operators were attached to these units.
On 16 July the section with regimental headquarters moved out of the valley to establish similar communications, signal office and camp at Taom, about three-quarters of a mile from 14th Brigade Headquarters to which the regiment was now attached. Wireless communication was increased by the addition of a No.page 141 11 set working on the link to artillery signals at divisional headquarters. No. 11 sets were used by the secton's operators at the batteries also but, while on manoeuvres, No. 21 sets were extensively used. During July, five men of the section left for Nouméa with the 35th battery to participate in special amphibious training on board the John Penn (later sunk by enemy dive-bombers off Guadalcanal). They found little employment on communications, but gained in experience from the net drill and night amphibious landings in which they all participated.
With the establishment of a United States school of instruction in coast watching at Nepoui, Lieutenant Hester and Second-Lieutenant Goff were selected to attend as unit representatives. This course, although presented by American officers, was based on information and instruction which had previously been imparted by the British. Attending were some hundred infantry personnel who, on completion of the course, went out in groups to maintain coast watching stations around the coast of the New Zealand sector, which was the northern half of the island. Lieutenant Hester was detached from the unit to assume command of the entire organisation, and in company with two divisional signal instrument mechanics travelled thousands of miles in the ensuing month, installing, maintaining and reviewing the many outposts. Each station was equipped with an Amalgamated Wireless of Australia (AWA) receiver and transmitter, and a wind-charger for recharging batteries, binoculars and telescope. Losing a code system, each station was in communication with the information centre in Nouméa, reporting to it the movements of all surface craft, submarines and aircraft, friendly or otherwise, 24 hours a day.
In most instances it was a lonely existence, but those who were at Kafeat, a fishing village on the west coast, will long remember the kindness of the Kanakas in that area. On the eventual relinquishment of the stations to the Free French Navy the pastor of Kafeat asked that the New Zealanders be left there. This was not practicable, however, and on leaving their outpost native women insisted on carrying, as evidence of their appreciation of the New Zealanders, all their equipment, including a 180 lbs. tent, to the vehicle at the nearest accessible spot. Eyes 'popped' as the returning coast watchers viewed the rations page 142of their successors. One of the items was one cask of wine for each four men.