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Western Pacific High Commission Archives in Auckland, NZ

Stephen Innes
Special Collections Librarian
General Library / Te Herenga Matauranga Whanui
University of Auckland

Ph. (649) 373-7599 ext. 8062
Fax (649) 373-7565

email: Stephen Innes

Special Collections home page


Change of filing system, 1941-1942

The method of assigning file numbers and creating indexes changed from a 'unit paper system' to a 'subject file system' circa 1941-1942. The bones file was created under the old system.

Loss of records in WW II

  • "A large proportion of the records of the British Solomon Isles Protectorate and of the Gilbert and Ellice Colony was unfortunately lost during the last war."[1] It seems that the 1941-42 Resident Commissioners' correspondence was lost for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP).

1952: Transfer of WPHC from Suva to Honiara

  • Both active and dead files moved with WPHC headquarters from Fiji to Honiara in 1952.[2]

WPHC Arrangements for the move to Honiara--General Considerations:[3]

Minute 1: "The documentary accumulation of years in these offices is very considerable and it may well be that some part of it could be destroyed and some left in Fiji for safe custody at least until such time as it is convenient to move it across. We do not want to clutter ourselves up with anything that is not essential to the smooth working of the combined Secretariat." H.E.[4] 19.7.52
P. 20 Minute A: to CS from FAS: "... it was decided that all records after 1920 should be regarded as 'live.' The remainder of the current records being provisionally 'dead.' In packing arrangements we should attempt to get the dead files out of the way and pack them separately. Current files should be packed last ..."
11 Oct 1952: 'Dead' files to be taken to Honiara, not left in Suva.
  • There was no difficulty separating the records of the Governor of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commissioner because there were always two separate offices. That explains why the Civil Lists for Fiji did not show any WPHC personnel.[5]

1954: Central Archives of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commission (Suva)

  • Dorothy Crozier started the Central Archives of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commission in 1954. She did the separation of materials: Kingdom of Tonga, Pitcairn Islands Colony, Consul-General for Western Pacific. She served until 1958. But note: it was the WPHC that chose what things to send to the archives. She organized what they gave her. Active files would have been kept for the use of the new branches of the colonial organization.[5]
"Crozier took better care of the files than she did of her appearance. She was the first European woman the native boys had met who didn't wear makeup. They were intrigued. They liked her and respected her."[6]
  • A. I. Diamond seems to have taken over the Archives after Crozier's retirement.

1976-1978: Closure and breakup of the Western Pacific Archives

By 1978, the archives were known as the Western Pacific Archives (WPA) and were itemized on the WPA letterhead as the "National Archives of the Solomon Islands, Gilbert Islands, New Hebrides, and Tuvalu."[7]

  • Tofiga had retired in 1972, but did many followup jobs for the government. He worked on closing the WPHC in 1978. The last files were packed in August of that year. Files that originated in Tarawa were sent to Tarawa. Files that originated in Suva went to London. The office was officially closed on 20 November 1978.[8]
  • Patrick D. Macdonald was in charge of boxing things up. "Both files and office equipment were crated for shipment. Lists of files were drawn up and typed. They were then packed in small archive boxes--no more than 5 files to a box. The small boxes were then stacked in a wooden packing crate. They fit perfectly, with no need of any kind of straw or other packing material."[6]
  • "The task of closure involved the shipment of -
124 cases of WPHC records to the FCO;[9]
 55 cases of New Hebrides records to the FCO;
 20 cases of Tonga records to the FCO;
  1 case of Pitcairn records to the FCO;
 60 cases of records of the Gilbert and Ellice
Islands colony, and of the Gilbert Islands, to Tarawa;
 61 cases of records of the British Solomon Islands
Protectorate, and of the Solomon Islands, to Honiara;
  9 cases of miscellaneous material, including some New Hebrides
records to Vila;
 15 cases of Ellice Islands' records to Tuvalu (Funafuti); and,
 16 cases of reprographic equipment to Honiara (for all of which
special sized and shaped cases had to be made).
"That represents a total of 361 cases in all, the cases themselves being supplied by courtesy of Suva's leading undertakers!
"Detailed lists, setting out the contents of each case, were also sent simultaneously to all recipients.
In addition to the records thus distributed, a total of 709 reels of positive and negative microfilm were also distributed--490 to the FCO (concerning the WPHC, Tonga, the New Hebrides and the Pitcairn Islands), 147 to Tarawa, 69 to Honiara, and 3 to Funafuti."[10]

Controversy over the Dispersal of the Western Pacific Archives

Macdonald criticized Bruce Burne for promising that the whole of the Western Pacific Archives would move to Honiara: "I hear there is now a row about the Archives building in Honiara and the Auditor wants to know who authorized such an enormous building, far too large for current needs or those in the near future. It was designed on the instructions of my predecessor, Bruce Burne, who most improperly promised that all the WPHC records (as opposed to the BSIP ones) would be sent to Honiara!"[11]

Burne and his supporters argued that the transfer of the WPHC files to England was "little short of a tragedy."[12]

"For eight years (1970-1978) the WPA [was in] an unassuming, wooden structure of wartime provenance in the Government House grounds ... The last permanent director of the WPA, Bruce Burne, was a meticulous and dedicated official who worked tirelessly to develop the archive's holdings and to assist researchers working in Pacific studies."
"The transfer of the WPHC files not only flew in the face of accepted archival convention--that, whenever possible, files should be housed in the area to which they relate--but robbed SINA of 80 per cent of its intended collection."
"SINA [Solomon Islands National Archives] is an archives almost bereft of records. Years ago Bruce Burne observed that it would be '... little short of a tragedy" if the WPA holdings were broken up and dispersed. Sadly, that is exactly what happened, and now, more than half a decade later, bureaucratic indifference and dithering have denied SINA and the people of the Pacific islands the records which SINA was originally built to house."
"What is more, SINA lacks another key element in its archival collection, microfilm of the WPHC files. Before the closure of the WPA, Burne's staff undertook the massive project--with Australian and Islands aid--of microfilming all the WPHC files down to 1927. They did so no only as a hedge against the possible loss of the originals, but as a way of providing universities in the region, interested in Pacific studies, with an invaluable new resource. Unfortunately, SINA does not have a copy of those microfilms, and the master negative microfilm copy of WPHC records, comprising 315 reels, was remitted to the United Kingdom without the consent of the participants in the project."

2003: Relocation of the WPHC Archives to Auckland, NZ

  • The WPHC files were shipped from England to Auckland and reopened to the public in 2003.

2003 Bones Search


  • I read all of the finding aids and called for as many files as I could read in the time I was in Auckland.
  • No file explicitly about the closure of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. There are some resettlement files--moving the inhabitants of Nikumaroro to Nikumaroro Village in the Solomons.
  • No hint of correspondence about exhuming Gallagher. This is an event that we know took place when the settlement scheme ended in 1963. It seemed to me like the kind of thing that should appear in the archives. Either something is wrong with the archives or with my thinking about what they should contain.
  • No bones, sextant boxes or records of inquests concerning the death of a castaway on Gardner Island (that is to say, none that I could find in 2003).

Filing systems

In the present system used by the Archive, every box has been given a unique number (e.g., "1230359" or "1229103").

The next identifier is the file number assigned under the pre-1941 system (the "unit paper system," with keywords in the file title) or the post-1941 "subject file" system.

See the article on how the numbering system was revised in 1941-1942.

The bones file was created under the old system. Its original file identifier was WPHC 4 Vol 2 IV MP 4439/1940 (G&E). In the current system, the call number is 1228414 WPHC 4/IV 4192/40-4510/40.

The indexing system was periodically revised and/or expanded:

  • 1-100 series, 1942-1954.
  • 100-200 series, 1954-1959.
  • 200-300 series, 1959-1967.[13]
  • 300-400 series, 1967-1971.

Finding aids, indexes, correspondence

The finding aids only list the files actually in the Archives. The indexes contained in the Archives (in theory) list of all of the files that were active in the WPHC. Many have been discarded over the years. So, for example, the index for series 100-200 lists "Phoenix Islands: GEIC. Station Diaries" (F.101/31/1), but that file may not be in the Archive.

The advantage of the volumes of outgoing correspondence have is that some material that has been winnowed from the files is still preserved in the letters.

The inward indexes mentioned in these notes are records of material received by the office. All incoming items should have been logged in the index, given an ID of some kind, and then have been associated with the file in which they would be stored.

Files read

The sub-headings here are organized according to the volume of the finding aids in which the files were listed (WPHC 9, WPHC 11, etc.).


Box # Folder ID Notes
1225969 WPHC 4/I Item 16 1941 Inward Index.
  • 4505: Gallagher, GB. Inquiry re next of kin.
  • 880: Catholics Roman: Exclusion of from Ocean [scratch that: Naumumanya (sp?) [Nanumanya?]] Island.
  • Two death certificates requested for GEIC. Both were for men.
  • 3072: Nimanoa. Request for reasons of wanting ... information re Gallagher's movements.

This register shows no trace whatsoever of the actions taken on the skeleton file in Suva in 1941.

1225970 WPHC 4/I Item 17 Temporary Index to WPHC MPs ca 1931-1941.
  • This is a tiny thing--only 1/4" thick.
  • Two murder cases listed: 1934, 1940.
  • 3072/40: Skelton. H.F. Offer of Services by.

No "Skeleton.Human:- Finding of ..." This shows how unreliable the indexes can be.

1227332 WPHC 4/II/34 Correspondence Register, 1941.
  • Massive volume! The "filed in" column shows that new correspondence often went into files from previous years, e.g. 3061/35.
  • Red-letter items must be confidential. File numbers are given, but no subject.
  • 3678/1941: From Secretary of State to Sir Harry: "Colonial Empire: Information required for post-war reconstruction of."
  • Gallagher, GB: enquiry re next of kin of. Filed in 3597/36. The telegram is item 4505/1941. The telegram about not being able to award him an OBE posthumously (5856/1941) went into the same file. Lots of other stuff filed there, too.
  • Documents in charge of late O.C. Phoenix Isls. SS., handed over to Ag.A.O., Funafuti; list of. F.3597/36.
  • Item 607/1941, Tele 75 "Human Remains on Gov't Vessel at Tarawa: Objection to ..." got filed in 4439/40. The secretaries are using "Human" as the keyword in this index. 783/1941, Tele 94 is from Verrier. Etc. One telegram was categorized as "Sextant," but it went into the bones file, too.
  • The two GEIC death certificates are here.
  • PISS: questions of an officer-in-charge for: F.4382/1941.
  • Catholics:- Request by Funafuti natives to prevent the landing of. F.3735/36.
  • M.B.C. 2582/1941 From People of the Ellice Islands. Isaac, Dr. L: Petition that he be permanently stationed in the Ellice Islands. Filed in 2896/37 (WPHC).
  • Gallagher stuff is strewn through many tabs. Misc.: O.C.N.Z. Military in Fiji. Gallagher, GB; message of appreciation of services of the late. Return of the personal letters of the late. All go to the same file.
  • Tofiga wanted to go home. G&E 5460/ 1941, Tele 616. F.3184/1937 (G&E). Replacement not available, 5870/1941 Tele 667.

So, it's clear that everything that came into the office got a number. They probably let a rubber stamp keep track of the next number to be issued. It took me well over an hour to go through just 1941. Gallagher stuff was everywhere. The "Human remains" items were a little more focused.

The office staff apparently did NOT use this book to keep track of where files went. They did that work in another index.

1227344 Secretariat Registry File Series 1954.

Just general categories & subcategories. Selections from different years.

1228414 WPHC 4/IV 4192/40-4510/40 The bones file.
  • Ballpoint pen under "Other Connected Papers":
    • R39
    • B946

Looks careless. Steve Innes did not recognize it as a call number. The numbers do not match any pattern from the filing system.

Natalie says the last note from Sir Harry looks like: "Seen. Pa." That matches the instruction from 1945 to use B.U. and P.A. for "bring up" and "put away."


Box # Folder ID Notes
1230365 WPHC 9/I Item 7 Card index to correspondence files. 1942-1954 series.
Vols I-III WPHC Secretariat Index to Files of General Correspondence (1-100 Series).

These are organized numerically: A: F1-32, B: F33-64, C: F65-89. These indexes are far more detailed than the card files.

Many files are marked "destroyed," e.g., "Aircraft accidents, civil, in Colonial territories."

  • "United States plane crashed on Sydney Island: Salvage of materials from." F4/4/1. Destroyed.
  • "Police: Persons Whereabouts in the Western Pacific Territories:- Information Regarding." Destroyed. (All similar files seem to have been destroyed: Section A F.19/5/1..14.
  • Section B
    • F.40/2: Criminal cases in GEIC. Lots listed.
    • F.49/26: Gallagher, G.B. (deceased):- Claims against the estate of.
    • F.49/114: Commissions of Enquiry:- Procedures in the submissions of reports of. Heading: Legal and Judicial Subject: Death Enquiries
    • F.49/139/1: W.R. Beddoes, Enquiry into Death of. (This is the only entry on this page. The file went to the Central Archives and may be here. It might be interesting to see how Enquiries were conducted.)
    • F.52/8 Minutes of CMS Advisory Board. Three volumes.
    • CF.52/8/1 Confidential CMS Adv. Board: Confidential matters for discussion.
  • Section C: Volume 3.
    • 66: Archives and Records
    • F.66/2 George Jones, Tongan stowaway:- Death by suicide of, in N.H.
F.10/10 Phoenix Islands:-- Settlement of by Gilbertese: Vols I-V
  • Vol 1 ends with H.E. compaining that a report should have had "Confidential" on it in red. The Secretary was persuaded by the G. printer that it was OK to print the word in black.
    • 25 March 1938. This volume seems to tell the story of looking at the islands and preparing for settlement.
  • Vol 2 ends with Vaskess asking questions about how Maude and Gallagher will divvy up the land.
    • 31 December 1938: "Full complement of 50 has now been landed in the Phoenix Islands comprising Gallagher and staff and 45 settlers including 11 women and 22 children."
  • Vol 3 ends with recommendation that Gallagher be given "substantive post of Officer in charge of the Phoenix Islands," effective 13 July 1940.
  • Vol 4 ends with "Excerpts from His Excellency" (Sir Harry Luke) entitled "My Phoenix Islands Tour," celebrating the release of the seven rabbits.
    • 22 October 1940: Gallagher inadvertently took away some reports by PMc & Maude. He shouldn't have done so. Get them back!
  • Vol 5 ends with remarks on accounts due as of 19 March 1954.
1229355 WPHC 9/II F.70/46 PISS Vol I: Grant & Progress Report

I just browsed a bit to see Gallagher's own reports. I can see no clues about where the clearing may have been going on when the bones were found. Gallagher says the kanawa wood is basically discarded to make room for the plantings.

1229108 F.10/18/2 Phoenix Islands District Annual Reports on 1945.

Photo 10 of Appendix X seems to show a European woman and child sitting on a large log with two natives. "Clearing operations on Nutirans forest." No other info given on the identity of the woman and child.

Clearing Nutiran forest.jpg

Ric says it is almost certainly Mrs. Laxton and her son, John. Paul B. Laxton was the Assistant Lands Commissioner for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony in the years following World War II.

"A Lands Commissioner from Mr. Cartland’s staff arrived on 1 January, 1949, and flatly presented this hard, realistic, Gideon-like policy. ...

"The island is covered, except where cleared for coconut, with the giant buka tree (pisonia grandis) and these, vast for a coral atoll with their eighty, sometimes ninety feet of height, are visible from the sea for fifteen miles or more. ... on Gardner Island the great buka trees were everywhere dominant and there were only a few hundred coconuts. ... The girls were Nei (or Miss) Temoua, Nei Terenga and Nei Teukinnang. My wife had chosen them from Sydney Island en route for Nikumaroro. ... Miss Terenga stood five feet two inches, with an impish, jolly smile; she became a first-class nursemaid, and our two- year-old son observed a schedule of clockwork regularity and spotless cleanliness under her care. He was also thoroughly spoilt. Miss Teukinnang was commonly called Miss Morning, to our early confusion. She is the daughter of the Island Magistrate of Sydney Island. She was very fat and a very good laundress. The girls’ wages were a mere gesture; they deigned to accept also their food and clothing. We gave them a schedule of duties to guide them, and thereafter really had little say, or at any rate little effective say in the running of the household. ...

"The buka forest grows tallest on Nuziran, and the entry to this forest from blinding sun always brought home, with sense of shock, this eerie feeling. Under foot the soil is dark brown, damp and silent with leaves. The great grey-brown fluted trunks of fifty feet high buka trees stand pillared, excluding undergrowth. Through it all a complete silence hard to break: and white fairy terns flutter, rising in scores about and above as one walks gingerly, careful of coconut crabs. After moments the strangeness of the silence is realised as due to the absence of even the sound of the roaring ocean surf, elsewhere omnipresent. ...

"We had merely to establish a road, set-off from it the area to be reserved for babai pits, and subdivide this according to the requirements of the people. While working on this area we drove a twelve-foot road through the thick buka jungle, bringing down several sixty-foot giants, linking with a survey crosstrack that came out to the ocean beach opposite the wreck of the Norwich City. This established cross-bearings for future check, should it be needed."[1]

Hotel operated by Pan Am on Canton built in 1939 and 1940 when the sea plane service was in operation. The Station Manager responsible was Mr. "Big Bill" Mulahey.

1229113 F.10/49/1 WPHC arrangements for move to Honiara 1952-1953.
1229114 WPHC 9/II F.10/49/1 WPHC Arrangements for the move to Honiara--General Considerations.

This file is arranged in book order.

  • Minute 1: "The documentary accumulation of years in these offices is very considerable and it may well be that some part of it could be destroyed and some left in Fiji for safe custody at least until such time as it is convenient to move it across. We do not want to clutter ourselves up with anything that is not essential to the smooth working of the combined Secretariat." H.E. 19.7.52 (H.E. = "His Excellency" = "High Commissioner" = R. C. S. Stanley).
  • P. 20 Minute A: to CS from FAS: "... it was decided that all records after 1920 should be regarded as 'live.' The remainder of the current records being provisionally 'dead.' In packing arrangements we should attempt to get the dead files out of the way and pack them separately. Current files should be packed last ..."
  • 11 Oct 1952: 'Dead' files to be taken to Honiara, not left in Suva.
  • 28th Oct 1952: Plans to bring the strong room door from Suva to Honiara.
  • Departure of High Commissioner for Honiara: 15 December 1952.
F.10/49/2 General considerations, vol II.
F.10/49/6 Movement of Records from Suva to Honiara
  • Calculates size of storage spaces needed to house current records, with room for growth. The strong room has only 300 cubic feet of cupboard and filing cabinet space and 400 cubic feet of shelf space.
  • 358 cubic feet for records from 1920 onwards.
  • Shipping inventory for materials sent to Honiara (18 pages).
  • Inventory of a camphor wood box labelled "High Commissioner's Office, Personal and Urgent."
  • One of the secret files: 41/2 Roman Catholic Mission.
  • List of Residual Files. [I don't know what that means. Seems to be stuff left behind for Suva. For example, Foua Tofiga's Confidential Personal File is left behind.]
  • Box lists for Files.
  • Box contents for ASP, Financial Secretary.
  • Packing cases contents ... Many other such lists ...

OK, I've looked at every page. I'm pretty sure they didn't ship the bones & sextant box to Honiara with this material. But they're not noted as left behind, either.

F.10/49/8 Residual functions of the WPHC in Suva ...
  • Printing, Receptioning, Artisans & Marine. P. 21: Continuation of survey of pre-1920 records ... p. 30 Finish physical transfer to the Fiji government of all the remaining WPHC property in Suva. "You should also arrange for the sale by public auction, or by tender, whichever appears to be likely to produce the best prices, all the equipment left in the WPHC buildings which is not to be taken over by Fiji Government, e.g., obsolete refrigerators, mirrors, etc." (Suva, 7 March, 1953).
  • Correspondence follows approving the sale of paving blocks, bedding, other furniture.
  • Item 43: List of office furniture left in WPHC Offices (20.3.53).
  • Residual Office closed 26 May 1953. Two keys to the WPHC archives & strongroom. The last thing to be sold is Marquand's refrigerator after he leaves town.
F.10/49/10 Shipping and Customs Arrangements in Suva.
  • Two or three motor cars and two bullocks will be shipped.
  • 17.5 tons of office records shipped.
  • The safe door weighed 1/2 ton.
  • 2 bullocks and six bales of hay.
  • 1 crate of hens.

The actual bills of lading are in this file. I just sampled the stack. It seems unlikely that a box of bones would be declared. Contents are listed very generically: household items, furniture, bullocks, etc.

1229226 F.44/4/6 Fishes, poisonous, in the neighborhood of the Phoenix Islands:-- Project for investigation. 1950-1951.
1229259 F.49/26 Gallagher, G.B. (deceased):-- claims against the estate of. 1942-1945.
  • Last entry: 2nd October 1945, GS Barrack pays the Hercules Cotton Company in Sydney, Australia. It took him 5 years and many letters to collect his 29-2-10.
  • The estate got charged for Gallagher's mess bill from his last trip onthe Viti in 1941.
  • H. E. Maude was the administrator of the estate (30 May 1945) according to D. C. McKee.
  • 24 September 1944: "Constable Esele makes a claim for the Gilbertese canoe on the grounds that five months before his death Mr. Gallagher said to him these words, "When I leave the Colony you shall have this canoe." Of course this is no legal claim, but meanwhile the canoe referred to is in the boat shed on Gardner Island awaiting disposal. The Ellice type canoe was given to Aram in trust for his son BENATI who was a kind of God-son of the deceased."
  • Last minute: C.A.? ARPPKC. AS(G) 8.4.48
  • Two lines below, initials or abbreviation that I can't decipher.
1227325 F.66/1 Vols I-III Documents of Historical Importance in WPHC Office:-- Preservation of. 1940-1954.
1229326 F.66/1/2 Archives WPHC Record of Archives transferred from Suva.
1229326 F.66/8 Reports, Annual, Colonial and Departmental. 1940.
1229326 F.66/11 Vol I-III Birth, Deaths and Marriages in G&EIC. 1938-1954.

1938-1954. Seems to be correspondence on this topic, not the complete register. No unknowns listed in the correspondence. There clearly are birth registers and death registers from which information is being copied or to which it's being written.

I suppose the registers themselves are held in GEIC (now Tarawa, Kiribati).

1229355 F.70/46 Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. (b) Progress reports on. 1938-1954.
1229377 F.74/5/3 Fiji and WPHC Combined Files:-- System of. 1945.
1229396 F.80/12 Phoenix Islands:-- Visit of M.S. Degei to, with staff and supplies, June/July 1942.


Box # Folder ID Notes
1230247 SF.10/9 WPHC Future of. 1948-1958.

Several files by Maude are not available. They are still held in London. It seems that they deal with sensitive issues about sovereignty.


Registers of Correspondence, Despatches and Telegrams

Box # Folder ID Notes
1230277 item 5 High Commissioner to Officers, Apr 1940 to Feb 1947.


Registers of Service 1910-1956

H. E. Maude: Administrative Officer GEIC 1935-1947; OBE, Resident 1947-1971.


Indexes, Registers and General Correspondence Files

Box # Folder ID Notes
1230369-72 WPHC 16/I, Item 14 100-200 series, 1954-1959.

Page 1: various indexes listed.

Each year has its own inward index.

Card found underneath other cards
"Index system. The entries in red type are not actual files but are the titles and numbers of file series and the black entries on these cards are file titles and numbers of actual files in the series. The cards headed in black type are normal index references. The two sets of cards are intermixed for ease of reference." May apply also to 1229050--although those 4x6 cards with red titles are NOT intermixed with the related 3x5 cards that seem to deal with normal files. 123072 holds the red cards; they also are NOT intermixed with the other cards, even though they are the same size.
A quick sample of the red cards shows that they seem to contain file headings that do NOT appear in the black cards, e.g., "Deaths of Prominent Persons" seems to have a long list of names that I don't recall seeing in the black cards. "Death of His Holiness the Pope" is on the list. For example, I didn't see the death of the King of Nepal in the black cards.
  • "Boards of Enquiry" (F.130/16/3).
  • "Alleged Cannibalism by Press" (CF.113/14/6).
  • "Corpses:- Policy re importation of corpses and ashes of cremated corpses into U.K." (F.125/2/3).
  • "Diaries: Station. Phoenix Islands: GEIC" (F.101/31/1).
  • "Graves:- Late Chief Headman Bambu (Eastern)" (F.101/24/5).
  • "Human remains:- Importation into the U.K." (F.125/2/3).
  • "Visit of Life Magazine Party" (CF .188/1/23). "Edition of Life Magazine (Publication)" (F.145/11/26).
  • "Missing Persons:- Enquiries re whereabouts" (F.175/1/1).
  • "Museums. Honiara: Upkeep and maintenance" (F.104/7/1).
  • "Phoenix Islands: GEIC. Station Diaries" (F.101/31/1).
  • "Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme: CD&W D.2047" (F.101/27/2).
  • "Pope. Death of His Holiness the Pope" (F.175/6/16).
  • "Radio Controlled Models" (F.141/10/2).
  • "Whereabouts of Missing Persons. Enquiries" (F.175/1/1).
1228462 F.105/7/5 Registration of deaths, GEIC 1955-59.


Box # Folder ID Notes
1230359 Item 8 "Memorandum from the High Commissioner for WP [Western Pacific?]... One copy includes proposals for the new file registration system. 11 November 1941.


Box # Folder ID Notes
WPHC 20A 202/17/21 Re-settlement of Pacific Islanders in British Solomon Islands Protectorate, 1965-1968.
1229804 WPHC 20A 211/5/7 Death and Fire Inquiries, I.
  • Related Files: F.175/6/17 Deaths of Natives BSIP
  • Cross-References: Inquiries

All for the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP).

1229797 210/10/3 Maps and Charts. Aerial Photography WPHC Territories. 1959-62.
1229799 211/1/4 Miscellaneous Enquiries re Missing Persons. 1960-1966.
  • Related Files: F.175/1/1 Misc Enquiries re Whereabouts of Missing Persons Cross-References: Missing Persons
1229800 211/2/5 WPHC Archives Transfer to Central Archives Suva. 1960-62.
1229800 WPHC 20A F.211/2/5 Archives and Records. General.

Preparations are being made to send materials to Suva in 1962, where Diamond is now the archivist.

This is a classic minutes & letters file--structured like the bones.

  • The file opens with a note about the finding of the BSIP Resident Commissioner's original war diary (circa 1962) and ends with a discussion of costs for the new Central Archives building in Suva in 1967. W.S. Marchant was deceased at the time the diary came to light.
  • AI Diamond's article on "The Establishment of the Central Archives of Fiji and the WPHC" is here.
  • Some census files and some naval reports have gotten lost ...
  • The war diary contains some uncomplimentary remarks about some persons still living. "The papers will haccordingly require to be handled with appropriate discretion."
1229803 WPHC 20A F.211/5/4 Registration of Deaths WPHC. 1960-66.
  • Closed: See 346/2/5
  • 5 March 1960: Ten men got fish poisoning. David Smith failed to recover from it.

As with the other file, this is correspondence asking for or issuing death certificates.

1229804 211/5/10 Deaths Exhumation of Bodies. 1965-66.
1229326 F66/1/2 Archives WPHC. Record of Archives Transferred from Suva.

Deals with land issues. Request for records from Dorothy Crozier on the topic of Native Lands.


Indexes to secret and classified files

I doubt our skeleton qualifies after looking at some other lists of secret and classified files. E.g., from WPHC 28, Secret Correspondence Files 200-300 series: Trade Unions, Native Tax, Coastwatchers Organisation, Japanese Immigration and Commercial Activities, Abolition of Death Penalty, naturalisation applications, etc.


Box # Folder ID Notes
1227571 Item 44 General Letters Outward. 2 January 1941 to 30 June 1941.
1227572 WPHC 27/XXVI/45 General Letters Outward. 1 July 1941 to 30 December 1941.
  • 7 July 1941: The rudder of the HMS Bounty has been located on Pitcairn and is to be shipped to Suva. (I think it is now in the Fiji Museum.)
  • 8 July 1941: Gallagher sends a letter about pressure lanterns, signed as Acting Assistant to the High Commission. He signed dozens of letters in July.
  • 19 August 1941: Thanks for donation of 17-12-6 to NZ war funds from sale of 47 cases of oranges.
  • 20 August 1941: Jack Pedro got some cash advances en route to Christmas Island in March 1941.
  • 19 September 1941: Vaskess is after some person to give back the binoculars and compass that belong to the Protectorate Goverment. It's not the first time he's written to try to get this stuff back.
  • 29 September: first letters about Gallagher's death.
  • 21 November 1941: What steps have been taken to rid Christmas Island of wild cats?
1227573 WPHC 27/XXVI/46 General Letters Outward. 2 January 1942 to 30 June 1942.

The new filing system is in place. On p. 8, Jan 10, 1942, the letter is categorized as P.F. 34. The next entry like it is on p. 15, 14 January 1942: S.F.9/6. The references to files vary like that through the whole volume.

  • 10 March 1942: Fleming is going on leave after a long spell of duty on Canton Island. He may return after taking leave.
  • Vaskess to the author of a cookery book: "My wife has settled down in a flat in Sydney, convenient to the boys' school, where she can have the boys with her at week-ends" (p. 367, 12 May 1942).
  • Message rec'd from Ocean Island to be relayed to Jack Pedro: "Taase sends her best wishes to Pedro and askes whether he would let her have 3 pounds. All well." Lloyed E. Ambler decided to give her the money and get it from Pedro later (21 May 1942).
  • D. C. I. Werham was appointed "to act as Administrative Officer of the Phoenix Islands District ... and to be Officer in Charge of the PISS" on 8 June 1942. He is to relieve Fleming on Canton; when Fleming returns Werhams is to "proceed to Gardner Island."
  • Purchase of Rabi Island for the Banabans: 29 June 1942.
  • Fleming granted six months of sick leave after an examination by Drs. Macpherson & Hetherington. This is a confidential note, P.F.82.5.71
  • Vaskess forwards a Last Pay Certificate on behalf of Sir Harry (20 July 1942).
1227574 Item 47 General Letters Outward. 1 July 1942 to 30 December 1942.


Box # Folder ID Notes
1230328 WHPC 29/I Alphabetical Index to General Correspondence.
  • Indexes and registers to 300-400 series, 1967-1971.
  • 29/I/5 deals with 300 series. UGLY! Little flimsy slips give file title, file number, related files, and dates referred to. They used to be held in a small, two-post binder.
1229047-50 Card files for 300-400 series.

The cards are in HORRIBLE shape--all beat up on top.

This index dates from the 60s--references to 25th anniversary of various Pacific battles.

The entries are reasonably detailed.

  • "Ashton, Mr. C.O. Permit to enter Hell's Point" (347/5/6).
  • "Arsenical Poisons" (319/2/12).
  • "Biscuits: Kwan How Yuan" (CF338/16/18).
  • "Kwan How Yuan Pty. Ltd. Protected Industries--Biscuits" (338/16/8).
  • "Burial: Cremation and Burial of Human Remains" (346/1/7). Sounds like a policy document.
  • Cross-ref in C's: "Cremation. Burial of Human Remains" (346/1/7).
  • "Stray Dogs--Honiara" 301/5/3.
  • "Enquiries. Missing Persons" (306/10/3).
  • "Fish Poisoning. Ichthyosarcotoxism" (358/6/11).
  • "Gardner Is. Lands and Survey: GEIC--General" (330/3/1).
  • "Handing Over. Secretariat" (370/13/19).
  • "Personal Efects. Shipment" (370/4/9).
WPHC 29/I/6 Agriculture, fisheries, and forestry.
WPHC 29/I/7 File Series. Listing of categories.

No entry for Gardner Island in the G's.

No entry for Gallagher. Nothing on exhumation of Gallagher. These cards cover that period, more or less. Of course, that could have been done under the aegis of the GEIC Resident Commissioner.

No Earhart.

  • Deaths: Exhumation of Bodies WPHC F.211/5/10 Two inquiries: 1960 & 1966. The procedure is so rare that it took almost a year to figure out who could give permission and under what conditions.
  • "H.H. Vaskess (Proprietor). Fairview House, Suva Fiji" (Box 1229049; File 370/2/1).


Indexes and registers: card files for 1967-1971.

Trivia noted

As I was reading the indexes and files, I collected odd samples that show how detailed the records were that the WPHC generated and kept. Much of the material above illustrates this point. The following are taken from the indexes and are from files I didn't read.

  • 2510/1941: Fraser, the Honorable P., Prime Minister of New Zealand:--
Congratulatory message to Fraser on his escape from serious injury in recent desert motor accident.
  • 3082/1941: Typewriter of Officer-in-Charge, Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme:-- Repairs to. 1941.
  • F.10/63: Cannibalism in the New Hebrides
  • WPHC 10, p. 272: Can only import dogs from N.Z. and Australia into GEIC.
  • WPHC 19 1220357 Item 14: "Transcript of Evidence taken at Commission of Enquiry

concerning the Casualty to the Motor Vessel 'Joyita'."

  • 1229326 F.66/11 Vol I-III Birth, Deaths and Marriages in G&EIC: William Thomas Arthur Allen and Isobel May Allen died as a result of stab wounds illegally inflicted on 27 April 1944.
  • Favorite topic (most entries and variations): Jonfrum Cult, a.k.a. Naked Cult.


  • Not read: annual inward indexes for 1954-1959.
  • Were Gallagher's diaries collected by the WPHC? If so, where are they? WPHC 16 index (100-200 series) has "Phoenix Islands: GEIC. Station Diaries" (F.101/31/1). But I don't think that file is in the Archive. It may be in the microfilms that Bruce T. Burne had made before the Western Pacific Archives were broken up. Does the Auckland Archive have a copy of the microfilms? If not, who does?
  • What kind of archive does the Fiji government (or the British government) have for the Governor's Office (opened: 1952 or thereabouts?). Perhaps the bones (or the next bone file) went with that part of the office instead of with the WPHC. I didn't notice any files on the topic of how the two functions of the High Commissioner were split. Bruce T. Burne: There was no difficulty separating the records of the Governor of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commissioner because there were always two separate offices. That explains why the Civil Lists for Fiji did not show any WPHC personnel.
  • Talk to Richard Overy, Wellington. Nat'l Archives? He is an archivist and should be known by the folks in Auckland.
  • Check death records in Tarawa the way Roger did in Suva?

References and notes

  1. A.I. Diamond, "The Central Archives of Fiji and the Western Pacific High Commission," The Journal of Pacific History, 1 (1966) 210.
  2. 1229326 F.66/1/2 Archives: WPHC Record of Archives transferred from Suva.
  3. 1229114 WPHC 9/II F.10/49/1.
  4. "H.E." probably means "His Excellence," i.e., the High Commissioner at the time, R. C. S. Stanley.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Moleski's 2003 interview with Bruce Burne, who had served as the WPHC archivist in the 1970s.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Moleski's 2003 interview with Foua Tofiga.
  7. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PMB) 1189 Sir Colin H. Allan (1921-1998): Papers on the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Seychelles, 1881-1993; PMB 1189/60. USP, Archives, P.D. Macdonald. C.H. Allan's correspondence with the University of the South Pacific, the Western Pacific Archives, Paddy Macdonald and others, 1978-1985.
  8. Macdonald to Sir Collin, 1 January 1979, PMB 1189/60.
  9. "FCO" means "Foreign and Commonwealth Office." "The Western Pacific Archive: Introduction to the Documents."
  10. Macdonald to Sir Collin, 27 November 1978, PMB 1189/60.
  11. Macdonald to Sir Collin, 29 July 1979, PMB 1189/60.
  12. James A. Boutilier, Ph.D., Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, B.C., Canada, "Little Short of a Tragedy...", Pacific Islands Monthly, January, 1984, p. 43.
  13. This is an interpolation. I made explicit notes on the other three series.