Western Pacific High Commission

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Notes from Bones II

  • The WPHC provided a High Court for the region.
  • Some WPHC things were crated up and stored in two sites during the war, but not the whole office. The WPHC had a concrete strong room that they figured was adequate for all but a direct hit (Tofiga; confirmed by size of door for the strong room--it was a half-ton; figure given in shipping manifests for the move to Honiara).
  • The numbering system for files changed during the war. Vaskess didn't like the change (Tofiga). If a paper came in and no old file was found, a new file would be opened. Perhaps there is a second bone file from after the changeover in the numbering system. Some files were given new numbers, some weren't.
  • The WPHC files were split between Fiji and the Solomon Islands when Britain appointed a Governor of Fiji (circa 1953). The WPHC moved to Honiara on Guadalcanal in 1952. After the split there were two archives and two archivists.
  • Foua Tofiga 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 Hanslope Park and then to Auckland.

Patrick D. "Paddy" MacDonald

  • MacDonald appears in the bones file as the person who carried the bones to Hoodless.
  • He was the person who was in charge of the WPHC Archives when they were packed for shipment to England.

Bruce T. Burne

  • Burne worked with MacDonald early in the process of packing the archival materials for shipment.
  • Foua Tofiga said that Macdonald did long lists of all of the materials to be packed.

British High Commission in Fiji

  • The BHC is quite confident that there is nothing at all about the case in their records. They effectively said, "Please go away and don't come back."

WPHC Chronology

Date Event
1877 Founded by an Order in Council.
1900 Solomon Islands, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, the New Hebrides, Tonga and Pitcairn
1941-42 Resident Commissioners' correspondence lost for GEIC & BSIP because of Japanese capture of Tarawa.
1942 Sir Harry Luke leaves Fiji.
1944 The British Return to Tarawa.
1945 Peace in the Pacific (GBG’s trunk).
1952 WPHC Moved to Honiara (an "outpost of nothing"--Gatty).
1954 * Central Archives Open in Suva, Fiji
* Records Destroyed at FSM by Acting Director (!)
1970 Fiji gains independence.
1972 GEIC removed from WPHC.
1973 New Hebrides removed from WPHC.
1976 * Archival process begins ( Paddy MacDonald in charge).
* Kirbati and Tuvalu split.
1978 * Archives separated: GB, Tarawa, Honiara, Funafuti.
* Tuvalu independence.
1978 11 July 1978: WPHC expired.[1]
1979 Kiribati independence.

High Commissioner & Governor General of Fiji

1942 Sir Harry Luke left Suva on July 20.
1942-1945 Major-General Sir Philip Even Mitchell, KCMG, MC, appointed Governor of Fiji July 22, 1942. "I came out here not to govern but to wage war." That's all he did. He didn't last long. They appointed another High Commissioner when the war moved away from Fiji.
1945-1947 Sir Alexander William George Herder Grantham appointed Jan 1.
1947-1952 Sir Leslie Brian Freeston, KCMG, OBE November 22, 1947 until Jan 29, 1952.
1952... Sir Ronald Herbert Garvey, KCMG, MBE. Governor-designate. Took office on February 5, 1952.

WPHC Numbering System

There was a significant rearrangement of the WPHC filing system during the war years.

Notes on the Move to Honiara

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

RCS Stanley was the H.C.

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: They're planning to bring the strong room
door from Suva to Honiara.

Departure of HC 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

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 hauls outta

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.

WPHC Archive in Auckland, NZ

Transfer of materials from Honiara to Suva (1962)

1229800 WPHC 20A F.211/2/5 Archives and Records. General.

Preparations are being made in 1962 to send materials to Suva, where A. I. 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.

A. I. 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 accordingly require to be handled with appropriate discretion."


  1. "The Western Pacific Archive: Introduction to the Documents," vii.