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National ceremony to honour Coastwatchers on 15 October

Media release: 21 September 2022

A national commemoration in honour of all Coastwatchers who served in the Pacific during the Second World War will be held at 11am on Saturday 15 October at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

"This year, 15 October marks 80 years since seventeen New Zealand Coastwatchers and five European civilians were captured in the Gilbert Islands and executed at Betio, Tarawa," said Glenis Philip-Barbara, Pou Mataaho o Te Hua Deputy Chief Executive Delivery at Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

"This year’s commemoration is an important opportunity to remember those who lost their lives and honour the many others who put their lives at risk serving as Coastwatchers during the Second World War. During the commemoration, the names of those executed will be read out.

"Spread throughout Te-Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, Coastwatchers were our first line of defence. Tasked with keeping a 24-hour watch for enemy ships - the Coastwatchers were a vital link in the intelligence chain.

"Coastwatchers included a mixture of New Zealand service personnel and civilians, and indigenous Pacific Island civilians. They faced challenges of isolation, boredom and a very real risk of capture and death.

"Stations were established throughout New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands and the Kermadecs. They extended south into the sub-Antarctic Campbell and Auckland islands, and north to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tokelau, Pitcairn, Norfolk islands, Tabuaeran (then Fanning Island) and Kiribati and Tuvalu (then the Gilbert and Ellice Islands). By 1942, New Zealand had 120 coast watching stations including 14 across the Cook Islands group, primarily manned by Cook Islanders.

"We welcome the families of the Coastwatchers and members of the public to join us in acknowledging all Coastwatchers who stood fast across the Pacific and its coastlines to protect both their families and homes," said Glenis Philip-Barbara.

People wishing to register their interest to attend the commemoration may contact [email protected] 

Updated on 17th October 2022