PAUL OATES & ROSS WILKINSON
FRANKSTON VIC – After World War I, the Royal Australian Navy established a Coastwatching service comprising civilian volunteers. As time went on, the service was extended to include the territories of Papua and New Guinea using civilian planters and missionaries.
With the outbreak of World War II, former naval officer and kiap Eric Feldt rejoined the Navy and one of his tasks was to command of the Coastwatchers from bases in Port Moresby and later Brisbane.
Commander Feldt arranged for volunteers to be commissioned into the Navy and, during war in the South West Pacific, many spent long periods behind enemy lines - 36 losing their lives.
The names of these men are commemorated on the Lighthouse Memorial in Madang but there has been no major recognition of their service and bravery in Australia. Now a petition has been initiated calling for Brisbane City Council to establish a memorial in Brisbane, from where the Coastwatchers were commanded in the latter part of World War II.
The principal petitioner is John Gates of Newstead in Brisbane and you can read and add your name to the petition here.
Located on the Brisbane River were two key elements of support for the Coastwatchers - the submarine base at Newstead and the flying boat base at Murarrie. It is proposed that a memorial be situated in Newstead Terrace Park, midway between these two former bases. This would be known as ‘World War II Coastwatchers Place’.
The Coastwatchers made an immeasurable contribution to the Allies' success in the Pacific War as a result of their surveillance of enemy planes, ships and troops and subsequent transmission of vital messages by tele-radio allowing Allied aircraft to intercept them.
The famed US Admiral, William (Bull) Halsey, said of them: “The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the South Pacific”. During the course of the war they also rescued over a thousand people including future US president John F. Kennedy.
You can assist this long overdue project by adding your name to the petition here on the Brisbane City Council website.
I’m sure many readers are aware of this aspect of the war and will be happy to support and share the petition.
The closing date for signatures is Saturday, 11 November 2023.