Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Keeping History Alive

Meet Ernest.  He's the curator, collector and owner of a tiny little museum in the village of Tanolieu on North Western coast of Efate in Vanuatu.  Actually his place is hard to miss - outside the tiny hut are three flags: Australia, the US and Vanuatu.  Ernest collects war memorabilia: bottles, shell casings, aicraft propellors, old radios, mess kits, water bottles and a whole lot more stuff.
His treasure trove mostly comes from rubbish tips where, at the end of the Pacific War, US forces dumped what was not deemed essential enough to bring home.

Coca-cola or a hand grenade? While Ernest's collection is somewhat haphazard,
he was quite funny pulling these two completely different objects off of the shelf to show us:
a coke bottle and a hand grenade!
Ernest's collections includes medicine and perfume bottles, huge glass containers designed to hold acid for submarine batteries.
Military equipment is littered all over the Solomons and Vanuatu. Port Vila and Luganville in Santo were two of the largest staging points for the US as they pushed the Japanese North. Ironically once the way was over the Americans offered to sell the stuff they were not taking home with them to the British and French who showed no interest - thinking the Yanks would simply leave it anyway. Apparently not. Their bluff was called and most of the war materiel was dumped into the ocean rather than letting their allies have the benefit.
Besides coca-cola, beer was another commodity consumed by the military in vast amounts. Some of these bottles were made in Australia, others from the States.
The Yanks brought shiploads of Coca-cola with them for the massive troop build up during the Pacific Campaigns. In fact I read that the rise and rise of coke globally started as a result of the Americans setting up cola factories where ever their military operated. When the soldiers went home, the plants remained and the rest, as they say, is history. Each bottle has an identifying date and place of manufacture stamp on its base.

Casing that once housed a camera gun sight of the sort that was used for recconoitre missions.

A pair of Japanese naval binoculars in not quite working order.
Ernest standing in the doorway of his tiny beach side museum

No comments:

Post a Comment