PHOTO CAPTION 0121 - A group photo after the memorial dedication service, Vella Lavella Island, Solomons Islands.
31 October 2011
A dedication service has been held on Vella Lavella Island, Solomon Islands after HMNZS RESOLUTION delivered a memorial plaque commemorating the Kiwis who lost their lives in the WWII battle to liberate the island.
Fifteen New Zealand servicemen were killed during a Japanese bombing attack in Niarovai Bay, Vella Lavella on 1 October 1943. They were buried on the island and later re-interred at Bourail War Cemetery in New Caledonia.
Later in the war, members of the 209th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery erected a large stone plinth at the site with a metal plaque commemorating those who had died. Over time the memorial was forgotten and it fell into disrepair.
New Zealand soldiers patrolling in the area for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) rediscovered the memorial in 2006 and the corroded plaque was later sent to the NZ Army Museum in Waiouru.
NZ High Commission staff and NZ Defence Force personnel serving in the Solomon Islands began a restoration project in 2011 to have a replacement plaque erected at the site.
A new stone plaque was made in New Zealand replicating the original wording and adding new information about the post-war history of the memorial.
"The memorial is one of the very few physical reminders of the significant role that New Zealand servicemen played during the campaign to liberate Vella Lavella from the Japanese. It is important to remember and honour their sacrifice,” said Major Al Mitchell, NZ Senior National Officer in the Solomons and Deputy Commander of RAMSI.
“The Kiwi troops serving in the Solomons have helped the NZ High Commission staff to raise the funds for this restoration project.
“It’s great to be able to come together with the people of Vella Lavella for a dedication service for the new memorial. We have been warmly welcomed by the locals here, who have also helped with the restoration project."
For further information contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig on 021 806 926.