battleground in the Pacific War
McLachlan's Battlefield Tours
sites to visit
4th Division storage tunnel, Guadalcanal.
2. Bloody Ridge, Guadalcanal.
3. Beach Red, Guadalcanal.
4. Gavutu Island, Central Province.
5. Beach Blue, Tulagi, Central Province.
6. Enogi Inlet, Munda
7. Fighter 1 and Fighter 2, Guadalcanal.
8. Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal.
9. Maruyama Trail, Kakabona.
10. Ichiki monument, Guadalcanal.
STOOD there in the heat of a Solomon Islands afternoon
with his head bowed, sagging slightly under the emotional
weight he was carrying.
his finger over the white words inscribed on the glossy
granite wall he took a moment and then stood back placing
his right hand over his heart.
left hand then went to his mouth, covering it.
himself, the man with cropped silver hair then bent
down and tucked a folded piece of paper in between the
base of the granite block and the white stones bordering
The words began “In loving memory of my father Charles
watched this moving moment I walked across to him and
quietly asked if he was okay.
nodded several times and said: “My Dad fought here.
He was a marine with the 1st Marine Division.”
unusual, I thought, Terry sounds Australian. And he
The 67-year-old was a retired public servant from Canberra.
His American father and Aussie mother fell in love when
they met in Melbourne where Charles was posted with
his fellow Marines in World War II.
Marines had just been fighting in the Solomon Islands
as part of the United States’ first counterpunch to
the Japanese invasion of the Pacific.
They initially landed on Tulagi, an island about 30km
north of Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. What followed
was a bitter, three-day struggle for control of the
From where I stood at the US Memorial, on top of Skyline
Ridge in the capital Honiara, I could see the island
of Tulagi in the distance.
was just a name to me, but we would soon visit Tulagi
and also the battlegrounds on Guadalcanal where Charles
and his mates entered into the bloody contest with the
were part of a group of 20 people – Australians, Americans
and a New Zealander - on Mat McLachlan’s Battlefield
Tours visiting the Solomons on a WWII tour.
Mat is an experienced battlefield historian and has
a deep knowledge of the Guadalcanal and Solomons campaigns.
having been on such a tour before – five days in total
– there was some uncertainty about who would be within
they be difficult? Know-it-alls?
There was no need to worry because the group was great,
well and quickly and Terry’s story helped in doing so
as we all took his journey with him. He had come on
the tour with his mate David, also from Canberra, who
was a Vietnam veteran.
wanted to – and I hate using the words – follow in Dad’s
footsteps. I wanted to see where he fought. I wanted
to actually see it.”
“When I hopped on the plane I was looking forward to
it. I was curious and excited.”
tour leader Mat McLachlan was excited for Terry as well.
He was able to show Terry where Charles had fought at
Bloody Ridge and explained to everyone how that battle
to defend the vital airbase at Henderson Field from
the Japanese played out.
on Mat’s tours you learn so much about the struggle
for Guadalcanal, a campaign that has become synonymous
with bravery, suffering, viciousness and hard, bloody
skillfully mixes the overall strategy with the on-ground
tactical events that happened at each battlefield and
wraps it all up with how the clashes made a difference
in the campaign.
while there are plenty of sites to visit, the schedule
is relaxed with plenty of time to talk over some really
great evening meals in Honiara.
battle for Guadalcanal was the turning point for the
Pacific War because after their defeat in the islands
the Japanese never again went on the offensive.
The men who fought there – on both sides - faced incredible
hardships and some 8000 men on each side paid the ultimate
At Bloody Ridge, or Edson’s Ridge as it is also known,
Terry came face to face with the cost of war.
Sitting in an overgrown foxhole dug by one of the Marine
defenders, possibly even his father, he looked out across
the valley from where the Japanese launched their attacks.
left him to his thoughts of the events of 73 years before
and afterwards he told me: “Sitting there I was sad.
dad was badly wounded by a mortar burst,” he said, although
Terry is not sure where. Terry said he was taken to
Melbourne and that’s where he met his future wife.
“A lot of bad things happened in WWII, but a lot of
good things too … me,” he added with a small smile.
the sadness in his eyes returned. “My Dad had four operations
over the years as they tried to get all the shrapnel
out of him. “He died 21 years later from the wounds
was only 39. I was 15.”
his pilgrimage to Bloody Ridge done, Terry had one more
important place to visit during the tour.
was our boat trip out to Tulagi where his Dad and the
Marines first landed in the Solomons.
The weather gods were kind to him as it was a beautiful
sunny day that showed off the Solomons’ stunningly clear
waters at their picture postcard best.
But Terry had other things on his mind.
“As we approached the beach where they landed I got
choked up. “I thought these guys were 18-year-old kids
who had never faced combat.
“All they see in front of them is the naval and air
bombardments of the Japanese positions they will attack.
could see the smoke billowing over Tulagi and knew that’s
where they had to go.
guys would have been scared as shit. For the first time
they realized they could get killed.
“Those poor 18-year-olds were heading to God knows what.
What would I do? What would I feel? Shit scared I reckon.”
Gathering himself once again Terry did something else
he came to the Solomons to do. He poured some of his
Mum’s ashes over the waters of the bay where his Dad
sat 73 years before waiting to head ashore.
He said it was her wish to be with him again.
On our return to the Honiara jetty Terry had one last
ceremony to perform. He had bonded very closely with
an American former serviceman Paul, whose Dad had fought
in the US Army on Guadalcanal.
pair shared an emotional rollercoaster as we toured
the battlegrounds where their dads had fought and they
had decided to “pour one out” for them.
On the jetty they stood and poured a beer each into
the sea, symbolizing the ones that should have been
enjoyed by their dead fathers.
were few dry eyes and not just from the duo.
It was a precious, privileged moment for all of us,
one that made the visit to the Solomons even more special.
Solomon Island Visitors Bureau website by clicking