A Coastwatcher’s Diary

PrintPrintEmailEmail

20 June Destroyers went down to Makile yesterday and a landing party questioned the natives. Nothing in as to what they gave away. The suspense is awful. P.M. Scouts in and messages from Rhoades more or less corroborate that Japs know there are three of us here with radios, and that they intend to look for us. Very worried as there is not much I can do to prevent uninformed locals talking to them, or prevent locals from knowing where I am. Decide to prepare to move farther in, depth is our only defence really. …

21 June Destroyer still steaming peripatetically about between Lunga and Tulagi. Have we any subs out? Late at night Chimi gets in with news that they have built a wharf at Lunga and it looks as if the Nips are going to stay. …

1 July Coding and decoding all morning. 1200 Dovu arrives to report 1,000 Nips arrived at Lunga on Monday. Now we’ve got something. [They] show every sign of staying. …

4 July 1200 Corporal Andrew arrived to say all well at AoIa and no visitors. 1400 Kambatimbua arrives to say all not well. Eyes popping out of his head. 2100 Dovu reports Japs ashore at Taivu Point. … Decide that in this case the Nips are far too close for comfort. … [Will] shift back in a hurry. …

5 July Evacuation plan put into operation. All surplus gear goes into cache. Get this done by 1200 and traces concealed and covered. On road by 1245 witl1 skeleton equipment. …

6 July We reach Vungana at 1340. It is a miserable place with precipice on three sides and connected to rest of land by knife edge on fourth. This is four feet wide with a sheer drop on both sides. Should be able to defend it with a minimum of men. It is like a miniature Edinburgh Castle. There are only a handful of dirty people here. … One thing it has is a magnificent view from Savo to below Rua Sura and clear into Tulagi Harbour. …

7 July It looks as if the Japs are consolidating Guadalcanal. They have at least 700 at Kukum and also posts at Visale, at Berande, and at Taivu, and 500 are reported en route to weather coast. … Situation looks black. Charging engine [for radio batteries] again out of action—damn! blast! …

8 July Enemy activity all along the coast. The grass plains are now being fired and smoke interferes with view. …

13 July In answer to an urgent appeal for fresh food, a basket of tomatoes and a decent sized duck arrived from Andrew at AoIa. Extremely welcome. … 0940 Kawanishi again nosing around at treetop height, until clouds stop play. About lunch time it finally settled down to a steady rain, which kept up. Keeps the planes down, so get messages off about recent air and sea activity. I am asked for troop strength, gun sites, and numbers of enemy establishments on this island and Tulagi. With pleasure!! …

14 July “Down South” [Allied headquarters] enquires into state of progress of clearing on plains. Quite clear that an aerodrome is being made behind Lunga. Rhoades is very anxious about Macfarlan and myself. … Personally I think we may just be safer staying put, and if we do we can continue to pump the info out. Oh Lord, how long???

The next two weeks were nearly unbearable for Clemens. His food situation became desperate, and Japanese efforts to locate him increased. Yet in the presence of his native scouts he maintained a cool air of imperturbability, reading Shakespeare as enemy reconnaissance planes prowled overhead. “If I lose control everything will be lost,” he wrote on July 23. “All are so jumpy and they still think I’m not. If they only knew!” His reports of Japanese progress on the airstrip on Guadalcanal increased the urgency of Allied preparations for an invasion, which, unknown to Clemens, was set for the first week in August. Then, at the end of July, he began receiving hints by radio that something was afoot in the Allied camp. There were air attacks on Tulagi and on the Japanese positions on Guadalcanal.

2 August No bombing last night and no fires seen, but there have been hourly attacks by probably six planes since 1000 this morning. … Kukum, Lunga, Tulagi, and Gavutu all received their share. This steady stuff almost makes me believe we have something to dish out to the Nips after all.

3 August Letter brought up from [a native clerk], a detailed map of Lunga and Kukum with much information. On the 3ist one small [seaplane tender] sunk, one destroyer blew up after being bombed, three trucks were done in and ninety Nips were killed. Also on the map are positions of wireless installations, engine shop, and slit trenches. …

4 August Food for scouts, sentries, and prisoners now nil. Deputation waited on me to say they could not work if they had no food. … Had to give my last remaining personal rice to scouts in from patrol at noon. All are semistarved. So am I. … 1700 Urgent request by wireless for position of installations previously reported. Was able to give this in ten minutes. …

5 August Scouts quote today’s bombing as much heavier than yesterday’s. At 1350 saw four Fortresses returning and also a smart encounter between two Zeros and a Fort—no one scuppered. … Koimate’s patrol has confirmed that runway at Lunga … is ready for use.