New Zealand High Commission Honiara, Solomon Islands
Mono - New Zealand Day Commemorations 2010
Imagine a small Pacific island near the equator, at the extreme western end of the Solomon Islands archipelago. Five hours across open sea in a 40hp motorised speedboat to get there, one two-way health clinic radio to communicate with the outside world. This is Mono in the Treasury Islands group, home to around 750 people who retain a very special connection to New Zealand.
As part of the World War II Solomon Islands campaign, New Zealand’s first amphibious military landings since Gallipoli took place on 27 October 1943 at Falamai Bay on Mono. Australian and US troops lent support as the Kiwis sought to liberate the island from Japanese soldiers. The Allies were successful, but at a price: 40 New Zealanders and 12 Americans died in action on the island.
The people of Mono have never forgotten this sacrifice and now commemorate the landings every year on the October anniversary. Indeed, Mono Islanders have made 27 October into “Mono-New Zealand Day” and it is their biggest celebration of the year.
New Zealanders in Solomon Islands join members of the Mono community each year for this commemoration. Occasionally it is possible to travel to Mono itself, however most years a simple ceremony takes place at the Memorial Garden beside Honiara’s Henderson International Airport when Honiara-based Mono Islanders, High Commission staff, New Zealand Police and military from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, and the Honiara Kiwi community gather to remember the event.
The 2010 ceremony was attended by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon Danny Philip and the Minister of Police Hon James Tora, both of whom joined the High Commissioner Mark Ramsden and the New Zealand Defence Force in laying wreaths. Part of the tradition is for the Mono community to sing an anthem recalling their “precious memories” of this now 67-year link with New Zealand. New Zealanders responded with a waiata of their own.
This year’s ceremony was especially poignant for one High Commission staff member, Barbara Williams, whose father was an officer at the Mono landings. Major David Williams passed away in mid-2010 at the age of 93. In 1997, he attended the 50th anniversary commemorations on the island with a small group of ex-servicemen.