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USN October 11, 1943
Lat 6° 58' 60S Long 155° 52' 60E Ballale Island is located in the northern Solomon Islands. To the south is the Shortland Island Group (Shortland Islands). To the north is the southern coast of Bougainville. Today, Ballale is located near the international border between the Solomon Islands and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (Bougainville Province) of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The island has at least five different spellings, all pronounced "Bal-a-lai". In the Alu language spoken in the Shortland Islands, phonetically spelled 'Ballalai' or 'Balalai'. In the 1880s the name of the island was incorrectly recorded as 'Ballalei', During the British colonial era and until at least 1956, the island was spelled 'Ballalae'. During World War II, the island was spelled 'Ballale'.
In 1901, englishman Sam Atkinson purchased the island as free-hold owner. He planted a coconut plantation harvesting copra that eventually encompassed a total of 307 acres. Atkinson and his wife Edith lived and worked on the island. Laborers from Shortland Islands and as far away as Choiseul were employed to harvest copra and maintain the plantation. The plantation included the Atkinson family home, copra drying sheds and living quarters for workers. Copra was exported by boat.
When Sam Atkinson died in 1931, Edith continued to manage the plantation. Even as the war approached, she remained on Ballale, until in early 1942 when the British colonial government ordered all Europeans to be evacuated from the Solomons Islands. Edith departed the plantation hurridly by boat then aboard a ship to Australia where she remained for the remainder of the war years.
the Shortland Islands evacuated in early 1942 just before the Japanese occupied Faisi Island and the rest of the Shortland Islands.
Ballale Airfield (Ballale, Ballalai)
Japanese vessels at Ballale Island
American missions against Ballale
The island was bypassed by the Allies. After the war, the Australian Army 7th Infantry Battalion, including Lt. General
V. A. H. Sturdee (1st Army) and Brigadier A. W. Potts (23 Infantry
Brigade) toured the island on November 10, 1945. Australians immediately located the grave of 57 POWs buried in shallow trenches. An atrocities
commission was carried out on the island, that led
to the discovery of a mass grave of 436 bodies were exhumed with
artifacts identifying them as British artillerymen. These remains were interred at Bomama War Cemetery near
Port Moresby. The remainder of the 517 British POWs have
never been found.
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