Rabaul 1914-1918
(A very brief history)

The story of Australia's involvement with Rabaul starts at the beginning of the World War I, when the first combined Australian navy and army expeditionary force (ANMEF) of voluntary enlisted men ever to leave Australia was sent to capture the German New Guinea's capital.

The Australian historian C.H. Currey stated:
Upon the outbreak of war in 1914 the German possessions and the German fleet in the Pacific became factors of considerable strategic and naval importance. The German squadron, consisting of nine cruisers, two carrying 8.2 in. guns, was a formidable menace to the shipping and seaboard towns of Australia and New Zealand. Its movements were facilitated by a chain of wireless stations erected in Samoa, Naru, New Guinea and the Marshall Islands whereby communications could be flashed to naval head quarters at Kiau Chau in China. In these circumstances, it was inevitable that the Governor General of the Commonwealth should receive from the Imperial authorities a cable which said inter alia : "If your Ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize German wireless stations at New Guinea, Yap in the Marshall Islands and Naru or Pleasant Island, we should feel that this was a great and urgent Imperial service. You will realise, however that any territory now occupied must at conclusion of war be at the disposal of Imperial Government for purposes of an ultimate settlement. Other Dominions are acting on the same understanding in a similar way, and, in particular, suggestion to New Zealand is being made with regard to Samoa.

This expeditionary force of 1500 men were embarked on the troop ship Berrima on the 19th August 1914 and after a short stay on Palm Island for training and acclimatisation proceeded on to annex New Britain. This was the first force ever to leave Australia with its own ships, under the command of Australian officers.

SYDNEY MAIL 19th August, 1914. Page 14. Charles Taylor 3rd from left.
The call to the Commonwealth : Types of New South Wales volunteers
On Saturday afternoon 1100 New South Wales volunteers, who are to leave with the Australian Expeditionary
Force, paraded at the Agricultural show ground, Sydney, and were inspected by Colonel Holmes, who expressed
great satisfaction with the manner in which they bore themselves. Volunteers have offered from all parts of the
State, and as only 6420 troops are required as the quota of New South Wales for the Expeditionary Force of 20,000 many must be disappointed. The men who are full of eagerness, include many South African campaigners. (Source Mitchell Library Sydney)

Two brothers Charles and Ernest Taylor of Molong N.S.W were part of the expeditionary force that left Sydney.

Charles Stuart Taylor

On the 19th August 1914 the expeditionary force boarded the Berrima and proceeded to Palm Island for training.

The Berrima (F.S.Burnell)

The ANMEF training on Palm Island (F.S.Burnell)

A journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald F.S.Burnell accompanied the force. He wrote two books on his return to Australia, "Australia V Germany The story of the taking of German New Guinea" and "How Australia Took German New Guinea an Illustrated Record". These books give us an insight to early Rabaul.

The Rabaul Wharf 1914 (F.S.Burnell)

Part of the force landed at Herbetshohe (later renamed Kokopo) to capture the wireless station at Bitapaka. The Germans had 51 reservists and partly trained white settlers, plus 240 trained natives at the time of the landing. The Germans had dug two trenches across he road leading to Bitapaka. The Germans attacked the Australians as they advanced up the Bitapaka road. In the battle that followed Captain B.C.A Pockley was killed. Captain Pockley A.A.M.C was the first Australian casualty of WW1.

Captain Pockley front row 2nd from left.

German Reservists 1914

Germans training natives 1914

Ern Taylor sent this German post card home from Rabaul describing the action and by pencil mark showing the position of the fighting.

Post card from Rabaul 1914

After the battle for the radio station the fighting was over. The Germans out numbered and having no way of being resupplied surrendered.

Picture of the Garrison officers mess at the Rabaul Club

The Taylor brothers decided that they didn't want to stay in Rabaul doing garrison duty. The war in Europe was going to be over by Christmas and they didn't want to miss it! So they returned to Australia, where they both had to re-enlisted in the AIF. They were sent as reinforcements to Gallipoli where they both received wounds. Charles was later killed in France. Ern was wounded but survived the war. I hope to one day write the story of the 4 Taylor brothers.

Australian historian C.H. Currey states:
Upon the conclusion of hostilities, the fate of Germany's Pacific possessions south of the line was not in dispute. But there was the liveliest difference of opinion as to the nature of the title by which Australia should hold them. Statesmen of the old school favoured annexation; absolute ownership by the victor. President Wilson and others of his spirit urged the adoption of what is known as the system of mandates; that is the guardianship by a civilised Power in the interests of indigenous inhabitants unable to stand alone in the modern world. President Wilson's views prevailed. The Prime Minister of Australia, Mr W.M.Huges, was defeated.

So it was from December 1920, under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations the Territory of New Britain and Rabaul became part of Australia as a mandated Territory. The Japanese having been an ally of Britain and America during the World War I was most concerned by the system of mandates.

CH Currey states:
It should be noticed that the terms of the Mandate, as finalised, were agreed to by the Japanese Government with great reluctance. When the Territory was under German rule, the Japanese who were freely admitted, were granted leases of land, and had the status of and received the treatment accorded to Europeans; whereas the Chinese and Malays had status of, and, in most matters, received the treatment accorded to indigenous natives.
On the day that the Australian mandate was issued, the following declaration emanated from the Japanese Government. "From the fundamental spirit of the League of Nations and as to the question of the interpretation of the Covenant, His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Government have a firm conviction in the justice of the claim they have hitherto made for the inclusion of a clause concerning the assurance of equal opportunities for trade and commerce in 'C' Mandates. But, for the spirit of conciliation and the co-operation and their reluctance to see the question unsettled any longer, they have decided to agree to the issue of the Mandate in its present form. That decision, however, should not be considered as an acquiescence on the part of His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Government in the submission of Japanese subjects to a discriminatory and disadvantageous treatment in the Mandated Territories; nor have they thereby discarded their claim that the rights and interests enjoyed by the Japanese subjects in these Territories in the past should be fully respected."

Almost immediately the Australian Government imposed the Immigration Act of the Commonwealth on its new Territory. The White Australia policy imposed a restriction on immigration and so except by special arrangements for certain classes of persons for whom special arrangements exist, no coloured labourers were allowed to enter the Territory. So to the Japanese government the Mandated Territory of New Britain was part of Australia.

When Australia garrisoned Rabaul during WWI, the Germans were allowed stay in Rabaul and run their plantations. Because of this I believe some of the the Australian plantation owners thought they would be allowed to do the same by the invading Japanese in 1942. This did not occur.

Mango Ave Rabaul

Sailors from HMAS Adelaide Rabaul 1923

Planters home 1923

Local People Rabaul 1923

Rabaul 1937 Rabaul 1942