War in the Pacific

Page 5 – Soldier's stories

New Zealanders who served in the Pacific War had diverse experiences. They were involved in fighting in the jungle, some spent time in Japanese prisoner of war camps, others took part in air raids or manned ships, while others played a vital support role. Hear some of the experiences of five New Zealanders who fought in the Pacific.

Harry Bioletti

Harry Bioletti, 29 and 30 Battalions, was born in Auckland, 1913 and worked as journalist cadet for Auckland Star before travelling overseas. He was posted to Fiji with 29 Battalion in 1941, and to New Caledonia with 30 Battalion in 1942. He worked closely with US troops at this time. He was on Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella, Gizo Island, and Green Island where he took part in commando raids to see how many Japanese troops were there. Harry returned to New Zealand 1944 for medical reasons. He later wrote Pacific Kiwis, a history of 30 Battalion.

John McKay

John McKay, Royal Navy, was born in Auckland 1922. He enlisted in the Navy because his father was a ship's engineer. John trained on HMNZS Tamaki then joined the Royal Navy. He was posted to the aircraft carrier Illustrious in the British Eastern Fleet, where he took part in attacks on oil installations at Palembang on Sumatra (Indonesia). Illustrious then joined the Pacific Fleet in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. John joined the aircraft carrier Formidable which was attacked by a kamikaze plane May 1945 that crashed on the deck of the ship. John returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Maunganui.

Ian Newlands

Ian Newlands, RNZAF, enlisted in 1940. He trained at Harewood and then went to Canada on the Empire Air Training Scheme. After training he went to England and joined 43 Fighter Squadron. In October 1941 he was posted to RAF 232 Fighter Squadron in Java, and then to Singapore in February 1942. He escaped from Singapore aboard the Empire Star that was attacked by Japanese aircraft as it left Singapore. Ian joined RAF 242 Fighter Squadron defending Batavia (Jakarta). He was taken prisoner in March 1942 in Java, but escaped. He eventually handed himself to the Japanese and returned to Batavia. In October 1942, the prisoners were sent to the prisoner of war camp at Muroran, Hokkaido, arriving there in February 1943. Ian was liberated from Nisi Asibetu camp; he went to Okinawa, Manila and then Dunedin where he received treatment.

Peter Renshaw

Peter Renshaw, 36 Battalion, was born in 1918 and grew up in Upper Hutt. He joined the Territorials in 1940 and then trained in Trentham as part of Seventh Reinforcements, 2NZEF. Peter was sent to Fiji after Japan entered war, and was later posted to Norfolk Island then New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Mono Island. He returned to New Zealand with hepatitis in March 1944.

Noel Rosoman

Noel Rosoman, Army Service Corps, worked as a driver before being conscripted in August 1942. He arrived in New Caledonia, in December 1942 where he drove trucks between Nepoui and Noumea before being sent to Guadalcanal in 1943. He was responsible for rations and had to transport these from beach to camp. He went to Mono Island where he was in the second wave of landing opposed by Japanese. Noel developed tropical sores so was sent to hospital on Guadalcanal. He returned to NZ in June 1944 and was manpowered to a building firm.

Against the rising sun

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage interviewed 14 veterans of the Pacific War and collated their stories as a book: Megan Hutching (ed), Against the Rising Sun: New Zealanders Remember the Pacific War, Auckland, HarperCollins NZ, 2006.

The interviews are available to researchers at the Alexander Turnbull Library. They are a rich source of information about the Pacific War. They include material about Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands campaign (including action on Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella, Mono and Green/Nissan Islands). There is information from airmen in fighter and bomber squadrons based in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, and seamen who fought on New Zealand (Achilles and Leander) and British ships (Quilliam, Illustrious and Formidable). There is also material from men who worked in radar and accounts of attacks from kamikaze aircraft.

Further information:

How to cite this page

'Soldier's stories', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/war-in-the-pacific/soldiers-stories, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-Oct-2022