Visit To Honiara October 12th - 25th 1998
I arrived in Honiara via Brisbane on Monday night at
about 2030hrs local time and after being met by Bob Lindley we went
to his place located immediately behind the King Solomon Hotel, right
on the peak and overlooking the "Ravine".
Tuesday 13th - Went to the Gifu and met a chap named
Vincent who wanted to accompany me into the bush. I went down the
steep path leading to the river and at a point about half-way down,
where there are some banana trees growing we turned off left and went
into the jungle to search the steep slopes.
This is the same area I had visited in 1996 when
I got my leg infected. This time the two of us searched for about
three hours over an area of several acres and a large quantity of
relics were located. These consisted of gas mask fittings and filters,
hand grenades, knee mortar 50mm HE rounds, cartridges, helmets, cooking
and eating gear, one good 6.5mm Type 96 mg magazine and a human skull.
I left everything except the skull, the magazine
and some food trays that had Jap writing scratched on them. At the
"table" in the Gifu village I also picked up a Jap grenade,
the smaller smooth-bodied 50mm type that fits the Type 100 rifle grenade
launcher that I found at Coffin Corner last
I got back to the house late in the afternoon and
the skull was retired to the outside laundry and given the identity
of "Mr Sato", the name we used whenever we were referring
Bob and I took a trip out to the Bonegi river to have a look at this
reported US Army rubbish dump near the Sherman tank.
To reach this location you stop at the gate to the
Bonegi-2 ship-wreck site, there is a small hut there with a barrier
across the track. Opposite this turnoff, ie south, there is a gate
in the wire fence, which is usually locked. Jump over the gate and
pick up a track that wanders off to the left ie east, and follow along
for a couple of hundred yards. This will lead gradually SE and you
will approach a gap in the ridge(s) running generally E-W. Past some
trees you will see the Sherman tank on your left. This would not be
more than 600yds from the gate.
Past the tank and heading south you should pick up
a faint track that heads south and gradually uphill. At about 150ft
elevation the kunai gives way to bush and the track ends on top of
a wooded hill. Look around mainly on the eastern side and down the
steep slopes and into the valley. You will find many tons of junk
here. I saw for example, fuel drums, jerry cans, cable reels, water
bottles, coke and pepsi bottles by the hundreds, bread baking trays,
mess trays, a wind powered washing machine, filing cabinets, wheels,
vehicle parts, gearboxes and even a radial aero engine. You will probably
find this site very interesting.
I did not take anything except a large hand-powered
grain mill that Bob's wife wanted brought back. An islander from the
Bonegi 2 wreck site had accompanied us up to the junk heap and he
told us about a plane wreck that he could show us. We assured him
that we would return the next day.
Picking our guide at the gate we continued to the Bonegi river and
just before the bridge we turned left and headed south for about a
mile. We parked at the river and headed further south on foot for
about half a mile and then came to a small village. From here we followed
a rough trail cut in the jungle for about another half mile and came
out on a rough dozer track where logging had recently commenced. By
climbing and cutting our way up a very steep hill for about 100 feet
elevation we then reached the crash site of a Betty bomber.
The largest remaining part was the tail section which
was upside down and still had "377" clearly visible in foot-high
numbers on the fin. The gunner's station/tail-cone was nearby. The
fuselage had crumpled and disintegrated on impact but there had not
been too much fire and most of the wreckage has survived. Above the
impact area was much of the port wing complete with the hinomaru outlined
in white (30mm border).
Searching the nearest adjacent hill to the east we
found the remains of the other wing and the nose section and central
control pedestal assembly. A large tree close by showed impact damage
about 60ft up and around its base were bits of metal sheeting crumpled
up with round indentations. The appearance of the site gives the impression
that the Betty was heading west and under attack and hit the tree.
The nose and starboard wing were severed by the impact and the remaining
wing and rear 2/3 of fuselage went over and down and hit the next
hill near the summit.
We could not find any engines but these may have
been flung some distance and although I did search along the hill
slopes, I only found some additional wreckage. The bush is very thick
and it was very hot in there. When I ran out of steam I gave up.
At the impact site we could see that a lot of wreckage
had been moved about by the Jap war graves people who had been in
recently and recovered the remains of the crew. Even so I still found
the lower end of a smashed leg bone. The buckles and harnesses were
still there and the rear gunner's seat was dented and mangled. Many
.50 and 20mm hits were visible in the tail area. Except for guns all
the bits and pieces that make up an aircraft were still there scattered
and mixed up in the wreckage.
Eventually we found a bent but complete 20mm drum
magazine, ejection chutes for both 20mm and 7.7mm guns, gun mountings,
live 20mm ammo and projectiles and a variety of fired 7.7mm cases.
These cases proved very interesting in that some were dated the 2nd
quarter of 1942, some were WRA 1942 and one was GB 1938 - a mix of
Jap, British and American ammunition was used by the crew of this
plane. I brought out the 20mm and 7.7mm gun parts and the 20mm ammo.
Also some hand tools (spanners).
I went alone to the "Grassy Knoll" area near the Tenaru
river to see a native that reckoned that he knew of a plane wreck.
He was not there but a chap named Peter said he could take me there
so we set off. We climbed and hiked, fought through thick bush and
skirted mud holes and eventually we stood at a swamp and Peter indicated
that the wreck was on the other side. I told him that I wanted to
see it so we then spent another hour skirting this swamp. In the meantime
I copped a lot of insect bites etc. Very hot in here. While I was
wondering whether I was ever going to get out of this place again,
we came to a fence in the middle of the jungle and soon nearby were
the remains of another Betty bomber. The largest part was the wing
centre section with wing stubs, some fuselage and flooring panels
and other bits of wing sections. Most has been carried off by natives
for scrap. We did find a piece of instrument panel with an intact
altimeter still in it. I brought this back with me.
On our way out we followed the fence and after about
1km we came to a small village. Behind the next hill was Peter's village.
Why he took me on a five mile round-about hike up hill and down dale
in and out of swamps is a mystery. He mentioned that he knew a spot
along the fence line where he claimed there was a lot of Jap junk.
I arranged to see him again the following week.
Started off from Michael Ben's place which is across the river at
Tuvaruhu village at 0800hrs. Our guide was Patrick who went with us
last April when we did the Galloping Horse expedition. He has proven
to be a good man.
We followed the river upstream from Ben's place crossing
eventually about eight times before we reached the point where the
climb began up into the hills. This point was about 2km from Tuvaruhu
and we continued up into an area called Mabao which is well SW of
the peak of the Seahorse. Upon reaching the top at about 700 feet
elevation it looked like we were south (by compass) of the Horse's
Head and in the vicinity of the Jap bivouac area.
Very steep slopes all around here and many vertical
drop-offs, the hilltops are connected with very narrow ridges and
saddles. It is all heavy bush and some jungle throughout this area.
There are many foxholes and some trenches. Slopes strewn with Jap
junk in places. The stuff here is similar to the Gifu situation -
refer to Tuesday 13th entry.
We found a Type 41 75mm gun in pieces in nice condition
including the folding shield. Missing are the wheels and gun barrel.
The trail was located on the edge of the slope overgrown in bamboo.
The rest of the group did not want to wait for me to clear the undergrowth
and pull the frame out so it was left. The trail spade is at Michael
Ben's place. Somehow he carried this heavy item all the way down some
years back. He can tell you the story and you can view this item along
with a vast array of other stuff he has brought down from the Seahorse.
Down the slope a complete six-round ammo box was
recovered. I have reason to believe that the barrel is also down this
slope nearby (very steep). Searching an adjacent slope we found two
more six-round ammo bins and one un-fired and un-fused 75mm projectile.
Not far away another shield was located but the thicket was not searched.
(the group wanted to push on) It is likely that the second gun is
also nearby. The guns mentioned in the battle report are listed as
70mm howitzers. This is not so for the bits I saw are definitely 75mm
Model 41 guns.
Eventually we reached the peak just south of hill
43 and then descended to the southern edge of the clearing on hill
43. This is the highest clear part of the Seahorse. A good view all
the way around except south. The kunai grass is chest high throughout
this area and very thick. Not much use searching the ground unless
its been burnt. A small cleared area showed up 75mm cloverleaf three-round
package ends and other assorted junk. Very few cartridge cases here.
With reference to the story "Clean Sweep",
Guadalcanal Echoes, we located the place between hills 43 and 44 and
went down into the valley looking for evidence of that story. No caves
or any relics were found and the lie of the land makes to story seem
pretty unlikely to have happened the way is was described.
We were pretty sure that we were in the right place
because only one area there fits in with the placement of the Yanks
on the hills (OPs and foxholes) and the Japs down in the bush. The
valley drops off steeply down to the river (700ft down!) and if there
are caves etc further down then the action could not have occurred
Anyway, from the grassy finger mentioned I could
see the place I had been to in February 96 where we had picked up
helmets etc and one complete 6.5mm Arisaka rifle. This area is about
4-500yds SE of hill 44 and there is a lot of hard going between hill
44 and this place. There is a cave in that vicinity but on the other
side of the river and I have seen it.
We left the Seahorse by making our way north along
the top of hill 44 which slopes downwards fairly steeply all the way
to the edge of the bush. Here there is an enormous mango tree which
was in season when we were there and we rested in the shade for a
From here the path increased in steepness until it
was almost vertical in places. Going up this way would be very hard
going. When the river was in sight below us the path was blocked by
a very large tree that had come down and created a huge mess of branches
and tangled undergrowth. Once this was negotiated it was straight
down to the river to a large deep pool. Here we jumped in and stayed
for about an hour cooling off. This is a good spot to rest for a while.
From this pool it was about 1.5km to Ben's place.
If you want to have a good look around the Seahorse
then an overnight stay on the peak or the bivouac area will be required.
The wooded areas are where all the relics are and the action area
is quite extensive and was not explored very much because others in
our party were not particularly interested in tramping about the bush
looking for relics. They were there mainly as a bush hiking exercise.
I brought nothing back at all, because all helmets found were rusted
through or damaged and I did not want to lug a 75mm ammo case all
the way back to the river.
Bob and I returned to the village south of the Bonegi river to be
guided to another plane crash site. There were supposed to be four
separate sites including Pug Sutherland's Wildcat within a couple
of miles of this village. Anyway, the guide was not home so we went
to another village nearby to see Pug's plane. This location was also
not known by these other people when it came to the crunch so on this
day we saw nothing at all. Only a good brisk hike of about 4km carrying
a lot of water and other gear was all we achieved.
Most of the day was spent loafing about the house until Bob returned
from work. This is the day I spoke to you on the phone about the Jap
gun tractors. Late that afternoon we went out to the Poha River farm
and easily found the tractors in the middle of a crop field.
There are five of these machines and are described
in the Japanese Military Handbook that you copied for me. Four are
of one type with Isuzu 6 cylinder diesel engines and the other one
has an air-cooled Type 95 tank style 6 cylinder engine. It looks like
the Japs damaged these things with explosives when they abandoned
them at the start of the Maruyama Trail and then later the Yanks put
a fair bit of small arms fire into them. Even so I was very impressed
with these machines and I reckon that if I could get hold of all of
the Isuzu ones that a goer could be built out of all the bits.
Because this place was on a farm we all went out
there in shorts and thongs and of course I was the only silly one
to get hurt out there. I got tangled up in barbed wire hidden in the
grass nearby and damaged my leg in precisely the same place where
all that trouble started in 1996, where else! Luckily by keeping it
clean and taking antibiotics I have beaten it and today it looks like
it has healed ok.
An expedition was mounted back to the village south of the Bonegi
river crossing again and as pre-arranged the other day. We met the
right bloke but he tried to put us off and came up with a variety
of conflicting tales until we could see that these people often just
tell you a story to impress you, thinking that you won't be coming
back to disprove them.
Well, it turned out that Pug's Wildcat has been entirely
cut up and sold for scrap by the natives and only parts of the engine
are left and that it was not worth the effort to trudge all the way
to see just a little bit of rubbish.
Another twin-engined complete wreck we were told
about - and I now doubt if it exists, was not possible to visit because
of a "sudden land dispute". The fourth wreck is quite some
way south and would require a full days effort to go and see and so
was not considered.
So we decided to hike back to the No 377 Betty and
have a better look around. Same procedure as before but the hill slopes
were explored a bit more. I found a nice panel with three quite good
indicating meters and rows of switches and profuse labels in Japanese.
This was probably one of the panels from the flight engineer's station.
I left it under the tail-fin because I could not think of a reason
for taking it with me. I am already overloaded with junk of that kind
at home. You might pick it up yourself one day.
All I brought back this time was a piece of upper
wing skin with good original paint and part of the outlined hinomaru,
and some more tools. About two hours was spent at the site this time.
It was during this trip and on our way back out that
Bob discovered, during his Pidgin talk-talk with the guide (from the
village) that the natives had pillaged the wreck when they found it
earlier this year before the authorities were told about it.
Three Lewis-type machine guns and two handguns were
recovered and sold to the Bougainville rebels. And all the live .303
ammo they could find and all the Lewis drum magazines. This then explained
the complete absence of live .303 ammunition and of drum magazines
of which there should have been about twenty in total. It is this
type of magazine which I have been looking for for years.
It is bad luck that the natives have this attitude
and I would reckon that none of them would have the skill or ability
to make this rusted equipment work properly. Just greed for a bit
of cash drives them to it and as a result valuable and scarce relics
are lost. I did search at great length in an effort to find just one
magazine in the surrounding jungle but I guess the natives did a pretty
good job on this wreck.
Other machine guns in other collections such as the
SDA Betikama museum have also had their guns stolen including even
.50 guns. I guess I was very lucky to get my hands on that Type 96
from the Galloping Horse last April.
Another trip to the Grassy Knoll area to see Peter as arranged previously
to see the area of Jap relics along the fence-line.
After much delay and a lot of humming and harring
Peter disappeared and his eventually brother finally admitted that
Peter had "made a mistake" and that there is no area with
Jap relics. Same as the episode of Sunday 18th !
I then drove up to the Gifu to see Vincent because
he had promised to go back into the bush and look for more stuff for
me. He was not home but out in the bush somewhere cutting timber with
a chainsaw. However, his mother produced a rice bag full of junk he
had brought back. Included was a Jap bayonet, a bore cleaning brush,
food trays and mess kits, an operating rod out of either a Type 21
or 96 machine gun, grenades and some American gear. I could not get
any of it because his mother did not know how much Vincent wanted
for the items and I was told to come back on Saturday.
While I was having a look at all this, other people
came over with their own goodies. One had a nice Jap water bottle
with good brown paint and Jap characters scratched in, another brought
an absolutely mint Yank grenade with perfect yellow paint.
Other people brought over an 81mm mortar shell with
no fuse and a live 75mm HE projectile and an empty 105mm projectile.
The lady next door had a real nice American naval 5" smoke shell
that was empty but fused. I paid S$50 for this one and gave it to
Bob as a present.
On the way out at a little garden on the left a chap
came rushing out with a small collection of relics, mostly grenades
and a Garand bayonet and a damaged pair of spectacles which looked
definitely Japanese. He said he found them on hill 31. These specs
had one glass still in them and they looked good so I gave him S$20
for them. Bob also liked them so I gave them to him as well.
No excursions, day spent loafing and defusing the 20mm ammo and the
50mm grenade. No problems except got covered in yellow dye from the
grenade picric acid. Still got bright yellow hands and feet! 20mm
shells loaded with TNT and nitrocellulose powder. Everything came
apart ok including the detonators.
All the stuff I've collected will be sent by air
cargo. I could not get a permit because Lawrence was away on holidays.
Bob said he will fix up the permit and sent the relics over to me
here in Nauru.
No wartime orientated activities at all on this day.
Quick trip up to the Gifu with Bob to see Vincent about selling some
of his war relics. He was still out cutting timber and we did not
see him and we came home empty handed. Later that morning we all went
off to see Fred Kona's war museum near Cape Esperance and then went
on to Tambea.
The museum was ok, nothing else appeared to have
disappeared but no activity of any kind going on there either. Bob
had never been there and he spent some time having a look at the various
items. The long 105mm Jap field gun is a real beauty, isn't it? If
they let me have it I would soon having it looking like new and operating
At Tambea we saw only the remains of the Jap 70mm
howitzer and the minimal remains of the Zero fighter. Nothing much
there at all. Bob's dog got lost right at the beginning and we spent
the rest of the day looking for it and so never did any exploration.
We returned home without the dog. (It was found by his missus next
Took the morning Qantas flight to Brisbane and connected with Air
Nauru and returned to the island am Monday. With me came one complete
20mm round, the set of tools, some window perspex and a sample of
the hinomaru colour paint on a small piece of metal skin all from
the Betty bomber. Also by registered mail I dispatched the Type 96
machine gun magazine which should arrive here ok. (loophole!)
29th October 1998