A Coastwatcher’s Diary

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2 May Macfarlan goes bush in a hurry from Berande. Inspection of defence posts 0900. 6 raids on Gavutu. … 2100 R.A.A.F. burn everything to get off. Can see flames. All breathless with jitters. … Receive prearranged V.N.T.G. evacuation signal at 2330—“Steak and Eggs.” Was trying to remember what the signal was all day. Bacon and eggs? Eggs and sausage? But it wouldn’t come.

3 May 0530 Balus arrives with Peegham and the R.A.A.F. unit, about 40 of them. Have food ready for them. They look pretty well all in. Three Jap cruisers, one destroyer going into Tulagi as they left. … Platoon spent all yesterday smashing and burning Gavutu and blowing up machinery. They are to meet R.A.A.F. at Marau and are not staying to help us. Position very grim, as there is so much to do I cannot leave the beach, and Nips could send a boat over here [from Tulagi] in two hours. …

4 May Many reports—many planes about. We see from AoIa that some sort of Allied attack is developing. Shipping in Tulagi in trouble. 12 bombers at 0800—12 dive bombers at 1000—4 fighters at 1230. At least four Allied raids and probably lots more. Hurrah! Tulagi in flames. Excellent show, but how about some land forces? We count up to 14 ships driven out of Tulagi, some in poor shape. Their A.A. fire seems poor. Several sink between Tulagi and Savo. See the flash of glistening torpedoes launched from single-engine bombers. [The Japanese at Tulagi were the men of the ycd Kure Special Landing Force. The Allied planes were from the Yorktown of Admiral Fletcher’s Task Force 17. Three days later Yorktown and Lexington were hotly engaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea.— Ed. ]

6 May In spite of heavy attacks, Japs seem to be successfully using Tulagi as a flying boat base. Plenty of them, too. The Catalina crew prepare to pack up as there is no chance of a rigger either arriving, or fixing their plane. … Continue to evacuate station gear.

8 May BBC says lots of ships sunk in some battle of the Coral Sea. Is this our show? Hope so, cheersl 1500 Loai dispatched with F/Lieut. Eakins and his crew. Solemnly signed a chit for the Catalina, to cover Eakins. Eakins has been a great help. I wish he could stay. 1700 blew charges in Catalina. … It is very sad blowing our own aircraft while the enemy sails serene above. …

11 May Everything seized and packed up, and at 0720 leave house by back way. …

12 May At my bush station. Kawanishis [Japanese flying boats] 0715; another 0735. Straighten office gear. Clear and dig hole for W/T mast as trees inconveniently placed. As bush station all set, take W/T and leave at 1400. 1700 back at AoIa Station, wireless in action 1900. …

13 May Br. James [a Catholic missionary] arrives from Marau Sound 1720 in Ramada with 2 pilots off American carrier Yorktown who were washed up off Avu Avu after rowing in a raft for three days. Actually one pilot and one W/T operator off a torpedo bomber. … Ewoldt, the pilot, says he attacked supply vessels near Savo on 4th and saw two go down. Ewoldt’s first remark was, “Could you please get us back to Pearl Harbour?” I said I would see what could be done. …

16 May Disturbing news from Tulagi. Bogese [a native colonial aide] seems to be letting the show down—took Japs on tour. Sent the two U.S. airmen off to Vila [in the New Hebrides] in Jones with volunteer crew. …

18 May Further news of treachery by Bogese. Batteries again run up. Japs going to Kau Kau. Quiet day. Packing up as have decided safer for W/T in bush. Carriers start. … Very sad to leave Station deserted, but had better go as Bogese may have told Japs exactly where we all are. …

19 May Reach Paripao 1730, all in good nick. Store and house for clerk being built. Mast for W/T erected—sticks out somewhat, but will not be noticeable from the air. … Signal fairly well received. Area looks like normal bush village. Wireless mast now has false betel nut palm top as camouflage, and the Union Jack still flies overhead, though unobtrusively. …

21 May W/T messages continuously in and out. Prospecting for lookout site as cannot see Tulagi from house. Essential keep tabs on shipping traffic. Find good place at end of Paripao village, a nut tree 80 feet high. Attend to small matters. Latrines, public and private, being made. …

For the next month Clemens trained and expanded his intelligence network, reported by radio details of the Japanese strength at Tulagi, and did his best to keep the natives loyal. The enemy was showing increasing interest in the flat, grassy area at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, across the 20-mile channel from Tulagi.