Christmas Island has a most interesting history with regards to World War 2. It’s a history that includes, and is not limited to, bombardment, murder, invasion, Japanese collaboration and archaeological sites.
I have a number of pages on the topic found in different sections of this website, but as I know many are interested in this particular aspect of the Island’s history, I have also placed them altogether here on the one page. They are as follows:
Historic newspaper articles and stories
1939 – 1945 – A teacup in a storm – Christmas Island in WW2 – Here is a wonderfully riveting article, by Ian Foster, about a very dark and frightening time in Christmas Island’s history.
1940 – World War 2 – A close call – Read how Christmas Island was nearly bombarded by the infamous German auxilliary cruiser “Atlantis” (a commerce raider) in October 1940. A close call indeed.
1941 – Christmas Island World War 2 letters found in attic – Whilst on Christmas Island in 1941 Captain George Kinloch wrote letters to his sister in Scotland. They were only rediscovered in February 2021 whilst an attic was being cleared out. Captain Kinloch was sent to the Island in command of installing the 6 inch naval gun, preparing defences and training the locals.
1942 – Japanese soldiers celebrating their invasion of Christmas Island – A very rare photo.
1942 – The Japanese invasion force arrives – Rare images from a war time magazine of the Japanese shortly after they invaded Christmas Island. Also, with an English translation of the Japanese commentary.
1942-1943 – V.E. Mathew and the Japanese occupation – An excerpt from Mr Mathew’s autobiography that focuses on the time he was on Christmas Island during the Japanese invasion and occupation.
1944 – WW2 – Allied attacks and intelligence party landing on CI – The Americans dropped bombs on the Island in early 1944. Later that year a British submarine fired upon fuel tanks and in 1945 a small party from SIA (Secret Intelligence Australia) landed on the south side of the Island to avoid the Japanese.
1945 – The lost Shinto shrine – Burning of the kami house – The lost Shinto temple of Christmas Island and why the Islanders were scared when it was burnt down after the Japanese left in 1945
1946 – Christmas Islander witness statements about a Japanese collaborator – Stories of threats, torture and rape in witness statements against collaborator James Kang after World War 2.
Documents (click on the PDF icon to read them)
From the collection of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: MP1174/1, 1129
This is a most interesting 61 page file spanning the years 1945-1946. In it you can read the reports of the re-occupying forces. It’s a first hand description of the island after the Japanese left towards the end of the WWII. It’s a wonderful snapshot and reading it brings some of the people involved back to life. This is their story in their words. The documents include, surveys of the equipment and sites, health of the islanders, population breakdown, food supplies, labour, education, petitions and complaints, law and order, medical and more.
From the collection of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: N1, DOXI6/1946
James Kang (1905-1947) was a collaborator on the island during the Japanese occupation. His actions were reported to the re-occuping forces in 1945. You can read these in the “Re-occupation of Christmas Island – reports” above. In 1946 James Kwang plead guilty to all charges.
Who was Jimmy Kang?
Jimmy Kang Tian Kwang was probably one of the most intelligent and most unscrupulous employees that the CIP Co. ever had. He was born in Malacca in 1905 and first came to Christmas Island in November 1925. He was a skilled engineer. In the 1930s he was accused of the seduction of a woman, found guilty and fined $100. He was fluent in Malay, eloquent, charming when he needed to be, and wrote near-perfect English.
His motivation for offering his services to the Japanese was simple; he wanted revenge. Early in 1941, Jimmy’s daughter fell ill. He asked the newly arrived CIP Co Medical Officer, Dr J Scott-Clark, to come to his home and examine her. Scott-Clarke allegedly refused, saying, ‘I don’t treat Asians.’ The girl died.
“Suffering through strength: The men who made Christmas Island” by John Hunt, page 188
19 Japanese World War II sites have been located on Christmas Island and featured in this thesis by archaeologist Helena van der Riet. It was completed in late 2018 and is a vitally important document for the island. Included in the thesis is a description of each site in great detail along with images and GPS co-ordinates. Helena states, “No systematic survey has been made of the archaeological remains of the Japanese occupation of Christmas Island, and no systematic record or inventory of sites exists … The thesis endeavours to bring together the oral and written histories of the Christmas Island war ordeal and to create an inventory of extant physical remains, this [thesis] sits at the intersection of archaeology and heritage studies.”.