Title: The Coast Watchers
Author: Feldt, Eric (Commander) OBE
Condition: Very Good
Edition: 5th Edition
Publication Date: 1991
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 424 pages
Comments: The history of the Australian Coast Watchers in the Pacific.
The Coastwatchers, also known as the Coast Watch Organisation, Combined Field Intelligence Service or Section “C” Allied Intelligence Bureau, were Allied military intelligence operatives stationed on remote Pacific islands during World War II to observe enemy movements and rescue stranded Allied personnel. They played a significant role in the Pacific Ocean theatre and South West Pacific theatre, particularly as an early warning network during the Guadalcanal campaign.
There were about 400 coastwatchers in all – they were mostly Australian military officers, New Zealand servicemen, Pacific Islanders and escaped Allied prisoners of war.
The Australian coastwatch organisation was led by Lieutenant Commander Eric Feldt, who was based in Townsville, Australia. Their actions were particularly important in monitoring Japanese activity in the roughly one thousand islands that make up the Solomon Islands.
Many personnel who took part in coastwatcher operations behind enemy lines were commissioned as officers of the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) to protect them in case of capture, although this was not always recognized by the Japanese military, which executed several of them. The coastwatchers’ numbers were augmented by escaped Allied personnel and even civilians. In one strange case, three German missionaries assisted the coastwatchers after escaping Japanese captivity, though Germany was an ally of Japan during the war.
Feldt chose “Ferdinand” as the code name for his organisation, from a popular children’s book about a bull, The Story of Ferdinand. He explained this by saying:
Ferdinand … did not fight but sat under a tree and just smelled the flowers. It was meant as a reminder to coastwatchers that it was not their duty to fight and so draw attention to themselves, but to sit circumspectly and unobtrusively, gathering information. Of course, like their titular prototype, they could fight if they were stung.
In June 1942, “Ferdinand” became part of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, which was under the South West Pacific Area (command) (SWPA). However Feldt reported to both GHQ, SWPA, in Brisbane and the Fleet Radio Unit in Melbourne (FRUMEL), which was under the Pacific Ocean Areas (command).