Ballalae Bomber Whistleblowers Released

At a Gizo trial on December 17, 2007, American military historian Justin Taylan and three companions were convicted of illegal entry into the Solomon Islands, fined $800 Solomon dollars apiece, and released. Taylan attracted the attention of Solomon Islands officials at Gizo after blowing the whistle on an illegal aircraft salvage operation underway on Ballalae Island in the Shortlands Group. Rather than investigate Taylan's report, the Gizo authorities seized the group's passports and forced them to spend six weeks under “boat arrest” awaiting trial. As far as I know, the looting of Ballalae is continuing right now. More information is on Taylan's website Pacific Wrecks.

In a Ballalae Bombers post on this blog earlier this week, I quoted the Ballalae entry in Moon Handbooks South Pacific. This prompted a response and correction from reader Beryl Canwell, who wrote:
I have just read your South Pacific Travel Blog item headed Solomon Islands Ballalae Bombers and would like to comment that during the last war, in 1943, Ballalae Memorial /all 517 British Royal Artillery Gunners taken there, lost their lives as prisoners of the Japanese constructing the air strip on the island of Ballalae. I note your site states they were civilian prisoners which certainly was not the case. Plus, yes, there is a memorial to these men. I came with a small group in 2003 to erect a small memorial on the island with a plaque kindly donated by the British Royal Artillery Association. After the tsunami and earthquake in the Solomons last Easter our memorial was badly affected but thanks to an Australian serving with RAMSI, he and his colleagues restored the memorial for us and held a service there on 11th November 2007. We belong to an organisation called COFEPOW (Children and Families of Far East Prisoners of War) and have a web site where under Stories (left hand tab) is the account of our visit to Ballalae in 2003 to erect our memorial - Pilgrimage to Ballalae. I hope you don't mind me writing to correct the facts on your site. We didn't find out what had happened to our relatives until the mid 1990s.

Above I've posted a photo Beryl sent me of the Ballalae Memorial. The memorial was restored and rededicated on November 11, 2007, thanks the efforts of Phil Jones and several colleagues from RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands).

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