- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories, Naval Intelligence, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1984 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The night transmitting session was the most hair-raising, because the crocodiles became active at dusk. Spotlights would sometimes reveal the evil eyes gleaming like two orange lights in the dark. In fact a number of dogs and cats were killed and fowls perched under Ruby’s residence were often seized by the crocodiles.
In one horrifying incident before the war, Ruby tells of a Solomon Islander whose whole breast was bitten off while she was in the water. On the lighter side, Ruby has seen crocodiles in the Solomon Islands, basking on the river bank, their mouths wide open and birds going flat out cleaning the croc’s teeth as the crocodiles have no tongue to clean their own teeth.
In September 1942, the US Carrier Wasp was torpedoed while covering a Guadalcanal Troop Convoy. The burning carrier sank with the loss of 193 sailors, leaving during that month the USS Hornet as the only operational undamaged US Carrier in the Pacific. The Hornet was to meet her end in the Battle of Santa Cruz, in October 1942. In the same engagement, the Japanese carriers Zuiho and Shokaku were damaged. This battle took place very close to the Island Group of which Vanikoro was part, and Ruby’s transmitting, and relaying coastwatching and weather reports were of great value to the United States aircraft and ships operating in the area, as the Battle of the Solomon Islands raged unchecked.
Ruby recalls: After sending the usual weather report, an English-speaking Japanese voice came crackling through. ‘Calling Mrs. Boye, Japanese Commander say you get out.’ The message at this point was jammed by other coastwatchers and she was informed later the rest of the message was unprintable.
Japanese aircraft dropped pamphlets to the Vanikoro natives telling them to work for the Japanese and report the whereabouts of Europeans. On Guadacanal coastwatchers found the bodies of nuns and priests bayonetted to death by the Japanese. As a result of the Japanese threats, it was considered desirable that Ruby should be in uniform for the sake of her own protection, as if she was captured by the Japanese she could be executed as a spy. Accordingly, at 51 years of age, she was appointed an Honorary Third Officer in the WRANS and her uniform was dropped by parachute.
If the Japanese had landed, Ruby and her husband intended to head for the jungle, and if it came to the worst take their own lives rather than be captured, tortured and interrogated. They could not afford to divulge coastwatching secrets and thus place the lives of many colleagues in jeopardy.
One night a powerful motor was heard, followed by lights flashing just outside the reef. The motor noise may have come from a Japanese vessel looking for the only safe entrance along the coral reef. The reef entrance was not well charted and the Boyes hoped the Japanese would not try to invade Vanikoro by ship. Students of history would remember that the French navigator, La Perouse, in 1788, vanished with the crews of his ships Boussole and Astrolabe after the two ships were wrecked on the reefs of Vanikoro. A landing barge was seen off the Island and upon investigation it was found to be adrift and unmanned.
At times US Navy seaplane tenders, including the USS Curtiss, were based at Vanikoro to refuel and service Catalina flying boats after returning from their patrols. When ashore the Americans would have their photos taken with a bare-breasted native murderess. When a flying boat alighted in the lagoon and a group of American Naval Officers landed, Mr. Boye was greeted by an Admiral who said ‘My name is Halsey. I’d like to meet that wonderful lady who operates the radio here.’ Admiral William A. ‘Bull’ Halsey was the C- in-C of the South Pacific area at that time and was probably America’s most popular World War II Admiral. He had such a high regard for Ruby that he arranged for a US Naval Catalina Flying Boat to take her south for medical treatment for shingles. While Ruby was on sick leave, she was replaced by four US Naval Radio men, two on duty and two off.
In 1943 the Japanese withdrew from Guadalcanal, the place they called Island of Death, where 30,000 soldiers had lost their lives. So many warships were sunk off Guadalcanal they called it ‘Iron Bottom Sound’. In the cruiser Juneau the five Sullivan brothers and almost all the crew of close to 700 were killed when their ship blew up on ‘Black Friday’, November 13th 1942. By late 1943 the Allies were on the offensive, heading north, leaving Vanikoro behind. The island, once again, was left to Mr. and Mrs. Boye and their 80-odd natives. At one period they went for ten months without fresh supplies. There was no flour for bread so they had to live on fish, chickens, sweet potatoes, pineapples and bananas.