Coastwatchers memorial, Wellington

The Gilbert Islands Coastwachers Memorial on the corner of Whitmore Street and Waterloo Quay, Wellington.

The memorial was unveiled in October 2014. It commemorates New Zealand radio operators based on the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) who were executed by the Japanese in the Second World War. Read more about this event here.

The inscriptions read:

GILBERT ISLANDS COASTWATCHERS

Erected by New Zealand Post in Memory of those brave men who served as Coast Watchers in the Pacific. In service of their country standing unarmed at their post with courage undaunted.

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During the Second World War, New Zealand sent coastwatchers to many islands in the Pacific to watch for and report enemy ships and aircraft.

The men who staffed the 10 stations in the Gilbert Islands ( Kiribati ) were volunteers – young Post and Telegraph Department telegraphists with radio training. They were accompanied by unarmed soldiers from the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force sent to keep the coastwatchers company on what were very isolated islands.

Three days after the Japanese attacked Hawaii in December 1941, coastwatchers on the northern Gilbert Islands were captured and sent to prison in Japan. They returned to New Zealand after the war ended in 1945. The remaining coastwatchers were captured during September and October 1942 and imprisoned on Betio, Tarawa.

On 15 October 1942, the USS Portland, on a lone raid mission, attacked Japanese ships at Tarawa. In retaliation, the Japanese executed all 22 prisoners- 17 New Zealand coastwatchers and soldiers along with five civilians. Another coastwatcher, the lone New Zealander on Ocean Island (Banaba) met his death there during the Japanese occupation of the island.

This memorial is dedicated to those men

The memorial was designed by Jasmax Landscape Architects - see their related media release.

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