Luke Spreadborough

Munda Wrecks

I was originally in Munda in 89 and stayed at the Agnes lodge. My friend and I asked the manager Don (a new zealander) if he knew any war equipment that might be lying around. He told mean unusual story you might be familiar with, about an Australian businessman who turned up at Munda in the seventies and promised the local people a pile of money if they would help him gather all the aircraft wrecks and brass shell casings for smelting. They swallowed his line and did all the labouring for him. I have been told that the pile of aircraft wrecks reached the tops of the palms, thats anywhere from 40 to 60 feet high, mixed jap and american.

This guy shipped all the scrap to Australia , told everyone he would be back soon with the money and never showed his face again. Needless to say the local people have never forgotten him or his name (and Im damned if I can remember it ). This made the locals very edgy about showing any tourist or traveller what was left, they even buried equipment. To make matters worse one of the guys I was introduced to later found a box of marine knives, new in greaseproof paper (this sounds rather mythical but I think it might be true) and asked around with the idea of selling them. The local police confiscated them and that settled it, nothing they found or had in hiding was ever going to reach the light of day.

Don said he would talk to some of the local men he knew had stuff hidden, and he would let them know I wasnt interested in taking the stuff, just photographs. This went down fairly well with one family, the rest didnt want ot know about it. In the meantime my friend and I were directed to "American Dump" to which the photos above belong. Interesting site, its all thats left after the scrap drive. Many guns great and small, engines, landing craft, amphibious vehicles , landing gear, turrets etc, etc, etc. It was all still there when I visited it.

There was a lot more junk in the scrub, mostly overgrown. I wanted to clear it up a bit so I could get a good idea of what else might be there but decided not to, considering what Don had told me. He had arranged for me to meet the owner of the paymasters concrete hut and the guy had agreed.

I have some other photos of this site if you are interested. I also forgot to mention the prescence of Hellcat landing gear with the wheels still attached and about four jeep bodies. Man, I really wanted to root around that site for a week. The locals use ailerons for bench seats believe it or not.
Unexploded Ordinace
There is a lot of unexploded ordinance, the Australiam army was there when I was, they were detonating a pair of 200lb aerial bombs that a woman had built a set of stairs over to gain entry to her hut. We couldnt believe this so went to photograph them but our command of pidgin english was rather poor at the time and we couldnt find the actual site. The locals knew of them when we asked but they were either being coy or we couldnt make much sense to them. You should have heard the blast.

Guadalcanal Zero
The zero pictured is near the Tambea resort. Mr Tolling, the original owner of the resort told me how it was confiscated from a group of divers who had illegaly raised it from the ocean. It took about six months or more for the court case to be heard and the aircraft sat for the whole time where it was, rotting. A diver I met had seen it before it was removed from its resting place and he said it was possibly the most intact zero he had ever come across but after sitting exposed without treatment it both fell apart and was stripped by locals and souvenir hunters. The local kids finished it off.

Paymasters Hut
Don had arranged for us to meet the owner of the paymasters hut, and he warned us that the outcome of our meeting would determine wether the other locals would show what they had hoarded or not, so with this in mind we met the guy (paymaster 2.jpg) and asked him what he wanted in fees to open the hut. He mumbled something about $5.00 so we both paid $5.00 each which surprised him, he meant $5.00 for both of us. Several others stood and watched the proceedings. The huts contents werent that exciting , the pictures above are all related to it. We asked if we could remove some of the items to photograph them which he didnt mind . The problem was, as paymaster 5.jpg shows, the hut was jam packed and I didnt get to see all that was in there. After we took pictures and small talked with the guy his sons told us to go up to their house and have a look at the gunpack.

One of them spoke to Don rapidly in pidgin and apparently he was excited that we paid money to look at the items, all of $5.00 Australian ($10.00 solomons) . The outcome of all this was the locals decided to dig up what they had buried and I explained to them that what they owned was theirs and if any tourist insisted they hand it over they should tell them to get lost. Don was rather pleased with all this, he had been trying for years to get the locals to display anything at all. He said this was a major break through.

Unfortunately we didnt have a long stay in Munda and on my next trip to the Solomons I didnt get the chance to visit Munda again. Next time, hopefully. Im quite interested in the aircraft that might still exist in the Roviana Lagoon. There is also an Airacobra (at least thats what they thought it was) inland from Munda, and again, I didnt have the time to go and see it.

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Japanese mortar shells on Guadalcanal

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P-61B gun pack on Munda

I was in Munda in 1989 and 1993, so its been sometime but I plan to go back in a year or so. There are quite a few undocumented wrecks in the Roviana lagoon, which is the body of water Munda faces. In Agnes lodge there is (or was) a wallmap of the lagoon on which someone had painted little aircraft on. I asked the barman to show me where the B-17 was on the map and e pointed to one of the little aircraft. It appears the little aircraft represent actual wrecks he has found. The unfortunate thing about Munda is that the water becomes rather cloudy after 10 Am so visibilty is rather limited.

G3M2 Nell
Ditched off Munda

  F6F Hellcat
A little further down the shore is a Grumman hellcat. The same local claims to have seen the Hellcat go down as well. Apparently, it was shot down during target towing practice. The pilot survived and according the local man was very angry!

  B-17 Flying Fortress
Apparently there is also a B17 offshore but reachable from Munda. The B-17 he speaks of isnt deep either, the water cover the fin by six feet or thereabouts. I spoke to the barman at Agnes Lodge and he told me a very interesting story, how a visiting ex-pilot pointed to a small island in the lagoon and then to some trees and told him if he drew a triangle in his mind then he would find a B17 at the apex. That was where this guy crash landed it. So the barman who had his dive ticket set out to search for it. It took him a week to find it, but he definitely found it. I quizzed him in detail and he has found a four engined bomber, that I know at least. How I found out about this was him asking me if I saw the bomber, and I told him "yes, I saw the jap bomber" meaning the Nell, but he said "no, did you find the American bomber ? " He was a local man (islander) and it took me a while to realise he was speaking about an entirely different aircraft. Unfortunately he was telling me this as I was waiting for the plane out of there. I never got to see it.


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