Rabaul in WWI & WWII

At the start of World War I, Germany’s colonial empire included many islands in the Pacific including Rabaul.

The colonies provided communication, intelligence and logistic support for the East Asiatic Squadron of the Imperial German Navy based in Tsingtao in China.

On the outbreak of WWI, The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) was raised for the task of capturing the the radio station on German occupied Rabaul.  On the morning of 11 Sep 14, the ANMEF landed a force just west of the present day airport, overcame resistance from German soldiers and New Guinea troops, and captured the radio station by 7:00 pm that evening.

At the start of World War II, Rabaul was an Australian possession and, with the Japanese threatening, a small force named LARK force was deployed to Rabaul.  The Japanese forces both outnumbered and outgunned the Australian defenders.  No arrangements were made for evacuation and no plans made for a continuing guerrilla campaign against the Japanese.

The Japanese landed on 23 Jan 42 and quickly overwhelmed the defenders.  Those who could withdrew into the jungle areas but were forced to surrender over the following weeks.  The Japanese executed a number of prisoners of war.  Those who survived were loaded onto the Montevideo Maru which was sunk by a USN submarine resulting in the death by drowning of over 1,000 POW’s.

Rabual was not reoccupied by the Allies until the end of WWII.