Balalae Island

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Balalae Island
Balalae Island is located in Solomon Islands
Balalae Island
Balalae Island
Location in the Solomon Islands
Coordinates: 006°59′20″S 155°52′53″E / 6.98889°S 155.88139°E / -6.98889; 155.88139
CountrySolomon Islands
ProvinceWestern Province
Island groupShortland Islands Group

Balalae Island (or Ballale/Ballali) is an island of the Shortland Islands Group in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.[1]

Early history[edit]

Ballale means border place in the local Alu language. As long as the natives of the Shortland Islands can remember, the island was uninhabited. According to a local legend, a strange blue light was often observed over the island. Therefore, the island was avoided, and, traditionally, no one lived there. For the local people, Ballale Island was considered a haunted place (sacu-sacu). War groups from neighbouring Buka Island used this uninhabited island to cannibalize their prisoners captured during successful tribal feuds and headhunting raids to Choiseul Island.[2]

Englishman Sam Atkinson purchased the island in 1901 and established a coconut plantation, harvesting copra. The plantation included the Atkinson family home, as well as copra drying sheds and living quarters for workers. Copra was exported by boat. When Sam Atkinson died in 1931, his wife Edith kept on managing the plantation. She remained on the island until early 1942 when the British colonial government ordered all Europeans to be evacuated from the Solomons Islands.

World War II[edit]

The island was the scene of a Japanese war crime during the Second World War. A work party of 517 British prisoners of war from various artillery regiments captured after the Battle of Singapore were transported to the island under the command of Lt. Col. John Bassett to build an airfield. Amongst the prisoners was the English cricketer Norman Bowell.[3] When the airfield was completed the prisoners, including their commander Bassett, were executed. The mass graves were discovered after the war. Japanese authorities claimed that the prisoners were lost at sea when their transport was torpedoed.[4]

This base was the intended destination from Rabaul of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto when his inspection flight was intercepted and shot down on April 18, 1943, near the later site of Buin, Bougainville Island, killing him.

Sale of relics[edit]

Location of Balalae Island, Shortland Islands, south of Bougainville

In 2007, the Solomon Islands Government agreed to an arrangement for the sale of all World War II relics at the community of Balalae in Shortlands to an international group. The agreement allowed for the removal of the remains of 11 Japanese planes that had been in place since World War II.[5]


  1. ^ "Shortland Islands". Solomon Islands Historical Encyclopaedia 1893-1978. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Ballale Island (Ballalae, Ballalai) Western Province Solomon Islands". Pacific Wrecks. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  3. ^ McCrery, Nigel (2011). The Coming Storm: Test and First-Class Cricketers Killed in World War Two. Vol. 2. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1526706980.
  4. ^ "Roll of Honour". Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  5. ^ Joanna, Sireheti (2007-11-21). "Removal of WWII Relics in Solomons". Solomon Times. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved 2012-10-19.

External links[edit]