Ladava’s hidden treasure

During WW2, the Japanese first attacked the Allied Forces based in Milne Bay on the 25th of August 1942.

In preparation for the anticipated attack from the advancing Japanese army, the Allied Forces set up infrastructures in and around Alotau. These include airstrips, roads and slipways. Relics of these now litter the coastlines, jungles and waters of the bay on which Alotau is part.

In my time in Alotau, I travelled to a village called Ladava between 30-50 minutes drive west of the town. When I arrive at the village, students from the local Catholic Mission primary school were just emerging from old classrooms for lunch break.

I looked to the sea and noticed the beach, sea and the sky were eerily gloomy and dark. It was as if the low hanging rain clouds have conspired with the beach and the sea to hide something from me. Even the coastline on the other side of the bay was almost totally hidden.

But this did not dampen my enthusiasm to see what I came here for. I’ve heard about it and have decided to take this trip just to see it for myself.

A few minutes walk away from the school to a point along the coastline, and the shrubs, soil and the sea revealed their secret-a slipway; constructed by the Americans. This abandoned slipway, now at the mercy of the harassing waves and tree roots, is between fifty to eighty meters long.

What fascinated me about this wreck is, first it is the first WW2 slipway wreck I’ve seen and second the locals believe former US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s U-Boat made its last stop here for service and refuel before journeying on to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Those familiar with the route the former US President and his men took may help by confirming or denying this claim. Besides, Milne Bay and especially Alotau was a major naval base during the war so it is quite possible u-boats might have made stop-overs.

Figure 1. Part of the slipway that extends into the sea is exposed at low tide.

Figure 2. Beyond the shrubs, it is covered by leaf litter and thin layer of loose soil.

Figure 3. Part of the slipway exposed under the cover of soil and shrubs.

Figure 4. This spot would have been the base where the shelter or shed under which u-boats are rested for service.

This wreck is the object of affection of a particular saltwater crocodile. This crocodile comes ashore frequently to hunt for dogs near the slipway when it could easily have hunted elsewhere. According to local belief, the crocodile is actually the spirit of a witch looking for her prized kill.

This slipway is part of the infrastructure that played an important role in the Battle of Milne Bay in which for the first time, Allied troops defeated the advancing Japanese land forces, resulting in a forced withdrawal and complete abandonment of their strategic objective.

This defeat prompted Field Marshal Sir William Slim, British Commander in Burma to encourage and motivate his troops with; “If the
Australians had done it, so could we.”

Many other fascinating and forgotten relics on the periphery of Alotau remain hidden. Time will reveal these treasures.

Alotau could easily become the tourist hub of the country with its attractive landscape and people, its real assurance of peace and tranquility and the fact it served as a strategic allied base that was used to defeat the advancing Japanese land forces.

Tourists, who plan to travel to Alotau in the near future, should consider visiting Ladava village before travelling to other exotic islands like the Trobriands.


About febijefwhispers
I love reading and writing poetry!

4 Responses to Ladava’s hidden treasure

  1. A wealth of history and a gold mine in tourism. This is great.

  2. FEBIJEF says:

    True Bernard! There’s so many hidden treasures certainly with their own stories there.

  3. Bea says:

    Wow I find it amazing to see this pics on the net. I grew up in a village not far from this beach and attended the primary school as did my dad many years before (early post war in fact). the slipway made a good fishing spot. Stories my grandmother told me about her husband going fishing one morning only to return not long after & announce excitedly to his pregnant wife that the whole bay was covered with war ships. The war had come & not long after that they were evacuated further inland. they weren’t to return until after it ended.

  4. Francis D Tanby says:

    I feel amazed and proud to see this images. I was born and raised in this area, I share the same feeling and stories like what Bea had said in her comments. Being an ex soldier myself, I could imagine the situation the troops during WW2 had faced and experienced in their struggle to set us PNGeans free and now we area enjoying the view and sight of what used to be a fierce fighting zone during the war.

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