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The Australian navy did WHAT in 1927???

Was this another of those dark moments in history that they don't want you to know about? I could hardly believe it when I read the following news item in my daily email from Radio Australia:

"Concern over re-opening compensation case for 1927 Solomons massacre

A former Solomon Islands parliamentarian is warning the Government to be very careful with its move to re-open the issue of compensation for a massacre which happened 82 years ago, when Australian warships shelled a village under instructions from the former British colonial Government, leading to the deaths of an estimated two-thousand people in his constituency. Former MP for East Kwaio in Solomon Islands, Alfred Sasako, says it would re-open old wounds and lead to a flood of compensation claims."

(source, including audio: Radio Australia)

Some quick googling brings to my attention the Malaita massacre of October 1927. A British colonial officer was murdered while on tax collection duty, and ten policemen died in the ensuing affray. But that's not the massacre in question. The HMAS Adelaide was dispatched to Malaita island to maintain order and to round up the varmints what did it.

What happened next is that innocent people were killed in the process of the manhunt. What is not clear is how many or just who did it. At least 55 of the Kwaio people are believed to have died, though locals put the number as high as 200. The Royal Australian Navy website tells us that the local police arrested or shot about twenty Kwaio. This is what it had to say in November 2003 about the gallant men of the HMAS Adelaide:

"The 150 naval personnel put ashore were disciplined professionals, who performed creditably and provided a wide range of services from construction to catering, but the same could not be said of the remainder of the combined force. In a desire to wrap up the work quickly, the local police, some of who were traditional enemies of the Kwaio, arrested or shot some 20 innocent people before capturing the actual culprits."


One thing that does seem clear is that Australian warships did not shell an entire village killing two thousand people.

Today's Solomon Times seems to have the best report of the compensation issue.