- Wright, Ken
- Biographies and personal histories, Naval Intelligence, WWII operations, History - WW2, History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2009 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The following day strict orders were issued that there were to be no attacks, no matter how tempting on the Japanese until the next day. It was a precaution so as not to draw attention to the group of men making their way to the coast and the rendezvous timed for 6.30 pm, an hour after sunset. A signal flash of light, the dark shape of a boat in the darkness and a small fast landing craft raced on to the beach and figures began jumping out. As time was of the essence, there were quick handshakes all round and whispered goodbyes. Lou Seale would remain behind to make sure that the newcomers were fully briefed about the organisation and the situation. Wright, Williams, the natives and four Allied airmen who had been brought to the Coastwatchers base a few weeks earlier were quickly taken out to board two American PT boats for the journey to Cape Cretin near Finschhafen and then to Australia. On 25 March 1944, PT boats extracted Peter Figgis and seven downed Allied airmen whilst landing the replacement teams.
On 8 March 1946, Lieutenant Malcolm Wright RANVR was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross at Parliament House, Brisbane, by the Governor of Queensland for great daring and enterprise. Leslie Williams, Peter Figgis and Lou Searle were each awarded the Military Cross. Simogan was awarded the British Empire Medal.
Australia’s ‘Cloak and Dagger’ men, who operated behind Japanese lines during the war, were honoured on 15 August 1959 when the Minister for the Australian Navy, Senator John Gorton, officially dedicated and lit the Coastwatchers Memorial Light at Kalibobo, Point Madang Harbour, New Guinea. The memorial was dedicated not only to the Coastwatchers living or dead but to the Europeans and natives who took part in the wars most hazardous spy operations. Altogether, thirty six Coast-watchers lost their lives. At the base of the memorial light, one of the three plaques lists the names of the fallen men. The inscription beneath their names reads;
‘They watched and warned and died that we might live.’
The author would also like to thank Christopher Wright for permission to quote from his father’s book, ‘If I Die.’ Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1965.