We boarded the Silver Discoverer at Cairns and had a day at sea before arriving at Alotau, a sleepy town in the southeast of Papua New Guinea, nestled in the hillsides of the northern shore of Milne Bay.

Alotau played a pivotal role in the WWII Battle of Milne Bay—it was here that the Japanese suffered their first defeat in the Pacific War in 1942, before the Kokoda Track battle.. As a consequence, there are several memorials and relics to commemorate the town’s significance, and we had a half-day tour to explore them. There were a couple of memorial park at the old battle sites commemorates the events.

Alotau became the provincial capital in 1969 after it was shifted from Samarai. There is a road from Ulumani to Alotau which passes the local Gurney Airport, named after squadron leader Charles Raymond Gurney of the RAAF, who was killed in the area in 1942. The airport is located 12 km from the town. Alotau is the gateway to the Milne Bay Province which contains some of the most remote island communities in the world. Milne Bay is noted for its coral reef and scuba diving experiences.

The Battle of Milne Bay (25 August – 7 September 1942) was Japans first defeat in WW2. The Japanese wanted to take control of the Allied airfields at Milne Bay on the eastern tip of New Guinea, which would have given them a springboard for attacking mainland Australia. . Due to poor intelligence work, the Japanese miscalculated the size of the predominantly Australian garrison and, believing that the airfields were only defended by two or three companies, initially landed a force of about 1000 men on 25 August 1942. The Allies however, forewarned by intelligence from Ultra, had heavily reinforced the garrison.

By 22 August there were 7,459 Australian and 1,365 US Army personnel at Milne Bay, of whom about 4,500 were infantry. There were also about 600 RAAF personnel. The Allies had superior intelligence about Japanese plans. The Japanese knew very little about Allied forces at Milne Bay,while the Allies received advanced warning that the Japanese were planning an invasion. In mid-July codebreakers informed MacArthur that toward the end of August the Japanese planned to attack Milne Bay. They provided detailed information about the numbers of soldiers to expect, which units would be involved, their standard of training, and the names of the ships that the Japanese had allocated to the operation. After Allied Naval Forces Ultra decrypted a message that disclosed that a Japanese submarine piquet line had been established to cover the approaches to Milne Bay, Willoughby predicted that an attack was imminent. In response MacArthur rushed the 18th Infantry Brigade to Milne Bay. The commander of the Allied Air Forces, ordered air patrols stepped up over the likely Japanese invasion routes. He also ordered pre-emptive air strikes against the Japanese airfields at Buna on 24 and 25 August which reduced the number of Japanese fighters available to support the attack on Milne Bay to just six.

The battle is considered to be the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces. Although Japanese land forces had experienced local setbacks elsewhere in the Pacific earlier in the war, unlike at Milne Bay, these actions had not forced them to withdraw completely and abandon their strategic objective. As a result of the battle, Allied morale was boosted and Milne Bay was developed into a major Allied base, which was used to mount subsequent operations in the region.

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Where the Japanese landed The site of French's Victoria Cross And on to no3 Airfield

As well as the WW2 study, we had local dancing, and one of my favourite photos of a local dancer with a mobile phone taking a photo of me.

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Silver Discoverer ready to move on

On to Fergusson and Dobu, Papua New Guinea

South Seas Holiday