Reconnaissance for future operations

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Mark Doran (author and photographer)

Location(s): Shortland Island

Topic(s): HMAS Diamantina (M86), HMAS Huon (M82), Operation RENDER SAFE

(L-R) Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Inspector Kevin Maisa, of the Central Police Station, and Royal Australian Navy officer, Commander Etienne Mulder, Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, discuss the Shortland Islands while aboard HMAS Diamantina on 2 October, 2016, during an extended reconnaissance in the Western Provinces of the Solomon Islands in search of explosive remnants of war as part of Operation Render Safe. (photo: Corporal Mark Doran)
(L-R) Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Inspector Kevin Maisa, of the Central Police Station, and Royal Australian Navy officer, Commander Etienne Mulder, Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, discuss the Shortland Islands while aboard HMAS Diamantina on 2 October, 2016, during an extended reconnaissance in the Western Provinces of the Solomon Islands in search of explosive remnants of war as part of Operation Render Safe.

Operation RENDER SAFE 16 has come to a fitting end in the Solomon Islands following a reconnaissance mission to the Western Provinces that will pave the way for the future destruction of explosive remnants of war.
 
An enduring annual Australian-led mission, this year the operation destroyed over 10 tonnes of Second World War munitions in the central islands.
 
Two Australian mine hunters, HMAS Diamantina and HMAS Huon, and the New Zealand diving support vessel, HMNZ Manawanui, left Port of Honiara on 1 October to begin the search.
 
The ships separated to search areas in New Georgia, the Shortland Islands and Choiseul to determine the presence or absence of explosive remnants of war for potential future clearance operations.
 
Commander of the Task Force, Commander Etienne Mulder, was aboard Diamantina during the reconnaissance mission and said many islands in the Western Provinces had not been searched in past RENDER SAFE activities.
 
“Some of these islands were at the centre of fighting between the Allies and the Japanese during the Second World War and places like the Shortland Islands were heavily engaged by aircraft and artillery,” he said
 
“The Shortland Islands was the location of Japanese supply bases and airfields which were consequently taken over by the United States and their allies and as a result there is a lot of explosive ordnance lying around, which poses a dangerous threat to the locals.”
 
During their exploration, the crew of Diamantina located Japanese and United States relics, including airfields, concrete bunkers, wrecked aircraft, vehicles and artillery overgrown by jungle or covered in water, as well as explosive ordnance of different calibres.
 
The Japanese airstrip at Balalae Island, which is close to Bougainville, has a grim history as it was where many British Army prisoners of war died during its construction.
 
The airstrip is still in remarkable condition and is regularly maintained for use by island traders.
 
Commander Mulder said the ordnance in these areas had been untouched for 70 years because they were rarely visited.
 
“New Zealand’s Operation PUKAURUA is similar to RENDER SAFE and they plan to potentially operate in this area, which is why HMNZ Manawanui conducted a reconnaissance around Munda in south-west Choiseul,” he said.
 
“RENDER SAFE is not just important to the Solomon Islands, it’s important to all the people of the south-west Pacific."
 
“These countries did not choose to be involved in the war between the Allies and the Japanese and it left the legacy of explosive remnants of war."
 
“We are here to help the Solomon Islands to clear that deadly menace.”