Kevin Lock, who now lives in Fremantle, was a member of the 2nd E Course in Rabaul. He has sent me two wonderful old photographs of Samarai 100 years ago. The scene in the first photo is instantly recognisable as the main street of Samarai, the buildings on the left backing on to the now very decrepit main wharf. The second photograph pictures some houses of the period which seem very pleasantly disposed and evidence a prosperous and well laid out town.
Samarai, a tiny island of 24 hectares only five km from the mainland, is located at the far eastern tip of New Guinea in the China Strait, which an early navigator thought would provide a clear and straightforward passage to the Far East. Prior to World War 2, the town was a provincial headquarters for the Australian administration but in 1942, as Japanese forces approached, the residents fled. Installations on the island were torched by Sgt Les Arnold at the end of March 1942 and there was also some bombing by the RAAF to deny invading forces buildings and equipment. After the Battle of the Coral Sea, Samarai, too small for an airfield, was used as a base for flying boats. Visiting Samarai today, it is possible to understand how beautiful the town once was. But, sadly, its glory days are long since gone.