New Zealand's Coastwatchers to be Commemorated

27 September 2012

Official tribute is to be paid to the work of all New Zealand coastwatchers for the first time in October this year.

During the Second World War New Zealand established up to 62 coastwatching stations on various islands throughout the Pacific, in order to track enemy movements and report them back to the Allied forces.

Now their work will be honoured with a commemorative service at the National War Memorial, on 15 October 2012, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the deaths of the New Zealand coastwatchers in Kiribati.

On 15 October 1942, seventeen New Zealand coastwatchers, together with five British and Australian civilians, were executed on Tarawa Atoll, in what is now Kiribati. The New Zealanders were a mixture of both Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force soldiers and civilian Post and Telegraph Department employees.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Rhys Jones said that the coastwatcher story is one of heroism, sacrifice, and suffering, and it is one that is not widely known.

“They were sent to coastwatching stations to keep a constant watch for enemy movement, both on sea and in the air, and were responsible for reporting this to their headquarters via radio and wireless transmission.  As a result of this dedication, a number were killed and many of the remainder endured years of captivity as prisoners of war.

“We are committed to paying tribute to all New Zealand coastwatchers, and in particular honouring the memory of those who died, recognising the sacrifice they have made. This recognition is overdue,” says LTGEN Jones.

The Post & Telegraph Department was the forerunner of today’s New Zealand Post. In recognition of its strong links to the Pacific Coastwatchers, New Zealand Post is also supporting the commemoration.

Those interested in attending the commemoration are asked to contact Jess Caldwell on 04 4960204.


For further information please contact Katherine O’Donnell, Media Advisor – Defence Communications Group, on 021 478 574.

This page was last reviewed on 27 September 2012.