4° 7' 0S Long 152° 4' 0E Watom Island is a circular island off the coast of East New Britain to the west of of Rabaul and to the north of Talili Bay.
During early 1942, Watom Island was occupied by the Japanese for the duration of the war. A contingent
of 300 British Prisoners Of War (POW) from the Royal Artillery that surrendered at Singapore were transported to Watom Island and interned for the duration of war. On the island, they were used to dig tunnels and as labor. The prisoners were neglected, starved and killed by their Japanese captors. None of the officers or NCOs survived. Only seventeen enlisted men survived and were liberated on September 7, 1945.
Surviving British Prisoners of War (POW) Watom Island, September 7, 1945
Rank, Name (nickname), British service number, Unit, hometown
Ahern, 851969, Company 7th C, Flrmoy, Ireland
- Gnr Alf Baker, 1799596, 3rd AA, Plymouth, Devonshire
- Sgt Joe Blythe, 1700369, 35th LAA, Nottinghamshire
- Bdr Burglass, 843976, 20th HKS, Yorkshire
- L/Bdr Frank
Docketty, 2048251, 5th SL Surrey, London
- Bdr W. Dunne, 3850959, 9th C, Lancashire
- Gnr Fowler (Nobby), 850014, 7th C, Derbyshire
- Gnr Gabbert, 1635296, 6th AA Lancashire
- Gnr Jones, 1604796, 3rd AA, Shropshire
- L/Sgt Matts, 1063742, 7th C, Portsmouth
- Gnr Moore, 1492839, 7th C, South Wales
- L/Bdr Murphy (Spud), 857219, 3rd AA, Scotland
- L/Bdr Nolan (Patrick), 1058699, 7th C, London
- L/Sgt ?, 845353, 9th C, Northern Ireland
- Gnr Slater, 1686309, 5th SL, Nottingham
- Gnr Smelt (Len), ?, 3rd AA, Nottingham
- Gnr Walker (Ken), ?, 7th C, North Wales
- Gnr White, 868015, 3rd AA, Scotland
Watom Island has no electricity and gets only a handful
of outside visitors.
POW Tunnel and Naval Gun
Leggett reports: "The large tunnel
the British POWs dug, is still there, housing a large naval type gun on high
ground at the north of the island. There are other small tunnels cut
into rock on the island. Watom itself is volcanic and was formed before
the Gazelle Peninsula. Nothing much else on the island, I've walked
over it many times. At present time there is a ban on scuba diving and
people visiting the island from a problem caused with Star Dancer over
a year ago. I have been talking with a number of the people who have
asked us to go back there once things are sorted out with their community
The island is volcanic and formed before the Gazelle Peninsula, so
work labor done by POWs was very hard. Some tunnels can be seen from
the sea, cut in the cliff face above the high tide mark. These tunnels
do not go in far and would have been used more as a pill box for Japanese
soldiers defending shore approaches.
Investigation and confirmation of POW sites on Watom Island by Samuel Niba
Long Way - Watom Island by Colin Docketty
What Price Bushido? by Alf Baker
Thanks to Samuel Niba Billy, Peter
Saunders and Collin
Docketty for information and photographs.
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 11, 2018