Australian First World War casualties rest in Bita Paka War Cemetery

Commonwealth service men and women who died in military operations in New Britain and New Ireland, or who died in the area while Prisoners of War (POWs) are buried or commemorated in Bita Paka War Cemetery in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

9 July 2020

Bita Paka War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea (Photo: Calum Howarth)

Bita Paka War Cemetery was established in 1945 on the site of one of Australia’s first military engagements in the First World War to allow fallen Commonwealth service men to be buried in a cemetery that would be properly maintained.

It contains 1,155 graves, 505 of which are of unidentified service men and women. A total of 442 Australians are buried here. This includes 30 casualties of the First World War.

The First World War military engagements by Australians here took place some seven months prior to the landings at Gallipoli. A memorial within the cemetery commemorates the losses of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary force during the initial months of the First World War.

Bita Paka War Cemetery also contains commemorative plaques for three Australian service men who are buried in Old Rabaul Civil Cemetery, but whose graves have been lost.

There are 620 Indian service men buried at Bita Paka, just over half of whom have been identified. These service men were POWs captured in Singapore, Malaya and other South East Asian battlefields who were put to work during the Japanese occupation of Rabaul, digging miles of tunnels in the cliffs surrounding Rabaul Harbour.

Also buried in the war cemetery are 35 service men of the United Kingdom, 34 from Fiji, 20 from PNG, two from the Solomon Islands, one from the Netherlands and one from New Zealand.

The cemetery and its gardens are maintained by a crew of six locally engaged grounds staff.

Bita Paka staff: (left to right) Alphonse Romen, Ada Dickson, Albert Terom, Noel Oni, Greg Taliva; absent, Endap Tumeng. (Photo: Calum Howarth)