I have confirmed seven POW sites with varied people
who were young people at the time in 1942-1945. Preparation for clearing
is underway. Any tourism visit to would also be a one day tours. I am
planing the route for a day tour, it may take only 3-4 hours back and
forth. Reports of POWs stationed in various parts of the Island was
confirmed on my recent fact finding trip on the Island (April 2002).
The Investigation took two days around and inland of our Island. I took
great care and selected my candidates, old people that were young people
during the war. Investigation revealed seven POW camp sites on the Island.
It is, however, likely that there were more than this number.
Prisoners and Duties
The Prisoners were allotted in threes per campsite.
It is believed from this sum that a total of twenty-one prisoners were
on the Island. Careful questioning could not confirm the exact numbers.
The prisoners were strictly guarded, the locals were not allowed to
talk to, contact them, or even come in close proximity to the POW sites.
People interviewed relate that the prisoner's condition
deteriorated everyday, they were ill-treated with little to eat. They
lived in a very poor environment with little clothing and poor shelter.
The locals were concerned by their condition and at every opportunity
available assisted them. Locals and the prisoners established signs
and other methods available to them for contact. Signs such as singing,
whistling and many other traditional signs known to the locals.
Investigation reveals that the prisoners were given
all sorts of food from ripe banana, pawpaws to cooked local food, which
the prisoners were not accustomed to. The locals tried very hard to
assist them, risking their lives at all times, often coming near to
Found here is also a story of two young Watom Islanders
killed at a young age at Ramata, known as Tunnel Hill, Balanataum LLG
at the fringe of Rabaul Town, for allegedly assisting the prisoners.
They were buried at Vunatauntabun(?), Vunadavai, Livun LLG, North Coast
Road. Their memorial still stands to this day at that place.
Also I recall a story told by my Mother - My Father
and others were punished severely for allegedly helping the prisoners
and stealing from the Japanese supply depot, it may have been for stealing.
Even so, at Ratagitagi, Vunaidara, Rau Ward, my father and his relatives
were helping the prisoners. A very disturbing finding - I found it hard
to establish any names of the prisoners. All prisoners' names were not
known to the locals at that time. I only extracted one well-known prisoner
by the name of Mr. Holland.
This particular prisoner may have been well known to
the locals due to his manner and out standing character, very aggressive,
indifferent to the treatment and to the Japanese, combined with his
physical status. He was a very strong and well-built person and very
aggressive in his manner. No other prisoner names were known to the
people I interviewed.
Duties and Work Designated
A word well known to the people or locals is "Kakakai
na Iasi". This combination of Kuanua (Tolai Dialect) and Japanese
refers to the type of work and duties performed daily by the prisoners.
The main work or duties performed daily, the interviews revealed, was
the collecting and scrapping of coconuts. There was a huge heap of coconuts
after a day or three of collecting, then a day of husking followed by
a day each scrapping and squeezing. The work is believed to have been
a weekly routine or a daily routine, week after week.
The oil refined from the coconut milk is believed to
commonly have been used for cooking food. When further questioned the
old people such as ToBukal and ToPatol of Rakival, could not mention
any other use, apart from food oil preparation.
Apart from Kakakai na Iasi the locals could not confirm
firmly any other work duties. When questioned on cave digging and trench
work they suggested that the prisoners may also have been involved in
this work. The reason they do not know may be due to the fact that the
cave and trench digging were done in isolated places where people were
not allowed to roam.
Caves were dug in places hidden from public eyes and
kept secret, this may have been due to Japanese Military Planning strategy
of importance. Only at one campsite (POW) at Ratavul the prisoners were
seen at times digging a water hole at Takavavar, story related by Nasren
ToMuria told him by his late Mother Vilimaina IaKivung.
Here is a brief story of what happened to the POW station
at Watom Island. - The POW prisoners number may have been more than
the number in this report. Unknown to the locals at that time, there
could have been more than twenty-one English Prisoners stationed on
the Island. Many may have been assigned to cave and trench digging with
out people knowing. As well as the long and short trenches along and
across the whole Island.
Conclusively attached are the various POW sites and
names of deceased people involved and a couple of oldies who were young
people during the War 1942-1945.
Here are some of the Japanese Army Captains; the locals
refer to as Boss and their Military Sectional Commander Ogata and Sigimatu.
One of these two Commanders was stationed at Palakeu - Rau Ward.
Many of the captains were stationed in various places
on the Island.
The names and the places of command and protection
are noted here.
1. Captain Nakamura - Tokyo - Watom Island. The native
or local name for this place is Vunalolo and Ramarovat.
A West New Britain, Andras Pakuk, who was married to
a woman by the name of IaPui from the same place befriended Captain
Nakamura and collaborated with him to name this place as Tokyo, after
the Japanese Capital City. Investigation reveals that no major activity
The place may have been used as a transit and storage/supply
depot of Military Equipment and Army supply of all sorts. Local people
were not allowed to venture near Tokyo, they were moved inland.
2. Captain (Boss) Tadi - Naman - E. Watom Island. In
command of the North Shore of Tokyo.
3. Captain (Boss) Sigaki - Rakamara - Watom Is. In
command of POW camp and site a kilometre or two inland of Tokyo - to
as far as Rakival (NE point of Island).
4. Captain Pukuda - Naveaua - Rau - Watom Island. In
command of large area inland - Rau the caldera part (Center) of the
5. Medical Officer - Captain Marakamia. Attached to
the Central Command Post at Palakeu where Ogata was in command.
Campsite (POW sites) - Kakakai na Iasi.
1. Rakamara (Vunatokalapu)
(NE of Island)
Number of prisoners - English prisoners (3).
People assisting these prisoners; an old couple (deceased)
Martina and ToPaulo, IaVola their daughter and others of Rakival. Magar
ToNamau was involved in assisting these three prisoners, with food and
smoke - cigarettes or tobacco.
Rakamara is ToBukal's clan land. People interviewed
- Patal and IaVola married couple old at time of interview namely 8
ToBukal and IaKavai relate and confirmed ToPotols and
IaVolas story. These two old couples also mentioned two other names
or couples (deceased) ToKapuraurua and IaMavoko.
2. Taranata (NW of Island, opposite Rakival)
POW site - Ramarovat Kakakai na Iasi - Number of prisoners (3).
IaKavai relates a story of her father ToKatai helping one of these prisoners.
Many of the people (deceased) were also involved. Ramarovat land belongs
to ToVarvaka's clan. ToVarvakai's clan members might also have been
3. Ulakaia - Rau Ward (Center of Island)
POW sites. Kakakai na Iasi.
ToLalir relates a story of 20 English Prisoners here. This site is in
close proximity to Central Command Post at Palakeu and a Japanese Military
Workshop at Vunapaka. The prisoners were on same work duties - Kakakai
na Iasi. Scrapping collecting and squeezing coconut for milk to manufacture
oil for cooking. Large numbers of prisoners seen here. They may have
assigned to cave and trench digging around the clock or on a shift basis.
ToLair could not single out any particular person or couples assisting
these prisoners, but he generalised the whole people of Rau were collectively
4. Kalirit - Rarede Shores (just SW of Taranata)
Taranata - Watom Island. (Kakakai na Iasi). ToLair also relates to (3)
three English prisoners here; work duties as commonly mentioned above.
5. Ratavul (S. Central) - POW sites - "
Kakakai na Iasi"
ToMuria relates a story told by her Mother IaKivung of 3 (three) prisoners
here. They were generally assisted by the people there especially ToKatai,
ToPakur, ToBuruna and IaKivung.
Three others were involved in digging a water hole at Takavavar near
Ratavul. The people mentioned above and relatives owned the land at
6. Ratagitagi POW Site - Vunaidara - Watom Island.
" Kakakai na Iasi"
Ratagitagi POW site is located on my Fathers clan land. My Father's
name is Demas Billy ToNgatigat. My Mother IaBauit relates to 3 prisoners
here, scrapping and squeezing coconuts.
She could not recall who were assisting these prisoners, but she suggested
her husband and his relatives. Because they were young men and boys
at that time. The land where the POW Site was located was their clan
7. Vunakarakum - POW sites - Vunaulaiar (Inland
Here also were 3 English prisoners. Duties as commonly mentioned. Also
here a story of a native by the name of ToLeo assisted an Australian
spy to snatch one of the prisoners and help him escape.
8. Ramata - POW sites - Balanataman LLG.
ToMuria relates a story of his two relatives as told by his Mother Kivung
Viliunaina, Petro Tatam and Michael Tirava. These two young men were
killed by the Japanese Army for allegations of them helping the prisoners.
Tirava was buried at Vunatamtabun, Vunadavai, Livun LLG, North Coast
Road. These two young men are related to Watom Island LaKivung's clan.