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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". When the first European explorers arrived in the 1880s the island's name of the island was incorrectly recorded with the spelling "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" by the Allies. The Japanese spelled the island's name pronounced the island's name phonetically as "Ba-la-lai".
In 1901, Englishman Sam Atkinson purchased the island as free-hold owner. He established a plantation with coconut palms harvesting copra that eventually encompassed a total of 307 acres. Atkinson and his wife Edith lived in a European style home and worked on the island. The labor force was comprised of islanders from the Shortland Islands and laborers from as far away as Choiseul Island that worked to collect coconuts, harvest and dry the copra and maintain the plantation. The plantation included the Atkinson family home, copra drying sheds and living quarters for laborers and a wharf for loading dried copra onto boats to export the finished product.
When Sam Atkinson died in 1931, Edith continued to manage the plantation to was less profitable due to the Great Depression and drop in the price of copra as a commodity. Even when the threat of the Pacific War approached, she opted to remain on on Ballale Island. In early 1942, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP) government ordered all Europeans evacuated from the Solomon Islands. Edith released the laborers to return to their homes and departed by boat then aboard a ship to Australia. Although she hoped to return quickly, she remained in Australia until the end of World War II.
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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