- Swinden, Greg
- History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Adelaide I, RAFA Biloela
- June 1994 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On 18 October the Beach Base was a hive of activity as more tents were pitched and a galley, incinerator, wireless station and field latrine were set up. Several native carriers had been recruited and a number of native police also arrived at the camp. By nightfall 150 of ADELAIDE’s ship’s company were ashore at Beach Base.
There had been another interesting “incident” that afternoon as related by an ADELAIDE rating:
“During the afternoon Gunners Mate Sandy Lovegrove gave demonstration on how to throw Mills bombs. After explaining the technique to a large audience and stressing that after the pin was removed the bomb was thrown cricket ball fashion. Having removed the pin, Sandy let the missile land a few feet in front of him. In less than 30 seconds the audience had put a few hundred yards between them and the bomb“. Fortunately the bomb was only a practice one.
On the 19th a group of sailors were organised into No. 1 Platoon. With the new District Officer for Malaita and a number of native police (sometimes called police boys) they set off to explore the interior. After marching for three hours with full packs they had climbed over a thousand feet up in to the mountains and had progressed about three miles. For most of the journey the climb was almost vertical.
Another ADELAIDE sailor recalled that it was during this climb that one unpopular officer, nicknamed “guts” because of his ample stomach, became exhausted and was unable to continue. Much to the sailors’ delight he was sent back to Beach Base and replaced by another officer.
After another hour of climbing the expedition reached a small plateau where a deserted village, Furingudu, stood. Its inhabitants had fled to the coast in order to disassociate themselves from Bassiana and his men. Bassiana had previously claimed that the white men were inferior and would not be able to climb into the mountains, however, the arrival of ADELAIDE and her men had caused many natives to seriously begin to doubt his words.
The village of Furingudu was built on a flat area and the ground sloped away on all sides. This put any attackers at a disadvantage as they would have to attack uphill. The site was surveyed and a natural spring was found which would negate the need to carry water in barricoes to the site. The site was selected as Base B.
No. 1 Platoon returned to Beach Base to collect over 100 native carriers and returned to Base B. They arrived back at Base B at 1600 and began to set it up as a staging camp for further expeditions into the hinterland.
On 21 October the vessel RANADI arrived at Sinalagu carrying 28 white civilians who had volunteered to help “put down the native uprising”. This volunteer force was to prove to be totally undisciplined and incompetent rabble. The sailors called this group “White” force although one recent, and distinctly anti colonial historian has dubbed them the Breathless Army. It was also now nearly three weeks since the massacre and as yet there had been no confrontation with Bassiana or his followers. Also on the 21st two more platoons of sailors moved up to Base B.
The Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliary BILOELA, a collier, arrived at Sinalagu on the 23rd and more stores were unloaded including, according to the newspaper The Sydney Guardian, several tons of barbed wire to form entanglements to protect the camps. BILOELA also brought coal for ADELAIDE and the ship was coaled by those men left onboard. This was BILOELA’s last operational cruise as she was decommissioned on 14 November, 1927 as a collier was no longer required. In 1927/28 all the RAN’s coal burning cruisers were either disposed of or converted to oil burning ships.
The combined Naval and civilian force left Base B on the 26th for the village of Falavalo (known locally as Tafaanikona). Over 150 carriers were required to carry the provisions and equipment needed, however, it was soon found that the White force members had brought a great deal of personal gear with them, including alcohol, and that each man required two carriers for his gear.